Month: October 2014

Shadowfax, Gandalf and Aragorn Oct 8-10 2014

Shadowfax – Oct 8th 2014 On the UBC Varsity Outdoors Club site it states that the use of the Brian Waddington Hut (an area called Phelix Creek near Birkenhead Provincial park – an hour + drive past Pemberton) is discouraged from August 15-October 15 every year because although use is not prohibited during this time it is discouraged as it may be a disruption to the bear feeding activities. We wanted to check out the area in mid September, but decided against it to respect this voluntary closure. We figured it was days away from October 15th and it was a choice of now while the weather permitted, or wait until next summer. So off we went. We have a Rav4 AWD and so we managed to get the vast majority of the way to the trailhead. We parked before a major waterbar and just before the last bridge before the trailhead. I took my shoes and socks off to walk through the water (it was brrrrrrr freezing cold). Shawn walked along a log that was placed to the left of the below picture, it was high enough that a drop would have ended badly and I’m not a fan of crossing on logs.


The trail was overgrown and flattish along the valley, a minor bushwack in parts. Then it began to become a steep uphill and quite the slog with overnight backpacks.

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We crossed a metal temporary bridge to the right of the lake (there was a sign that said to take it down when the snow hits because it would not make it through the winter), which I did not enjoy one bit! It was quite narrow, a drop would have been wet, hurt a lot (probably broken bones) and it was shaky. I shuffled along it very slowly. Shawn of course walked across it like it was nothing. We could see the Brian Waddington Hut across the lake. The reflections of the mountains in the lake were awesome!

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We got there in 3 hours from the trailhead. The hut was awesome! What a great place. Thank you UBC Varsity Outdoors Club for putting this hut in and maintaining it!


We quickly dropped all our overnight gear, packed up our day packs and headed off to do our first peak, Shadowfax! It was a steep bushwack up to the left of a waterfall, we did come across trail up intermittently. Once we got to a lake, we found some cairns and followed benches up. It was steep and wasn’t too bad a scramble. Definitely had to lift myself up in some parts. It seemed to take forever to get to the top (2.5 hours from the hut up). We saw a ptarmigan on the way up. DSC02078 DSC03669 DSC03671 DSC03672 DSC03679 DSC03687DSC02141 DSC02149 DSC02152 DSC02159DSC03697 DSC03702DSC03708 DSC03722DSC03730 DSC03744DSC03750 DSC02176 DSC02180 DSC02189

We headed back down to the hut just as it became dark. The view from the hut as night fell: DSC03766

We made some dinner, and off to bed we went. It was a warm night, no freezing my butt off! Screen shot 2014-10-10 at 7.32.11 PM Screen shot 2014-10-10 at 7.30.36 PM

Mount Gandalf and Mount Aragorn Oct 9th 

Next morning we found that mice had gone through the stuff we’d left on the table. They were obviously looking for food, unsuccessfully cause we left nothing out. They did poop in our plates, which was annoying. We figured they were making their way into the hut through a crack on the bottom of the front door. We witnessed one wiggle it’s way in through there and when we put a cardboard into the hole overnight, a mouse had tried to niggle its way out that way (so must be the only way in and out for them). We had breakfast and two day hikers who were going to check out the lake below Shadowfax came by. We headed along a faint trail to a long lake and then it was a boulder field all the way up. I carefully boulder hopped up, scurrying after Shawn. There was one point we thought it was going to pour rain (it only drizzled) and we found an overhang to hide under.  Thankfully, the weather became much nicer after the minor drizzle.

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I did not enjoy this “crux” (two photos below) very much but I felt relatively safe as the trail was wide enough so the drop on either side wasn’t so apparent.

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We carried on to Aragorn, which was basically an easy hike there, though it was steep and a bit of a slog. We had lunch at the top of Aragorn. I was so happy to tuck into my sandwich, banana and an apple.

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We had read a trip report from another hiker who said the col between Mount Aragorn and Mount Gandalf was “unpleasant” and would have chosen another route down. So, we headed north after Aragorn to see if we could find an alternate way down. There was another route; however, it meant some dodgy scrambling moves. Views from the alternate way down were amazing. DSC03878 DSC03881 DSC03882 DSC03883

So, because of the over my head scramble moves needed, we turned back to the col to give it a try. It was extremely steep, with slippery sand. The other alternative was to go back up Mount Gandalf and go back the way we came. We were running out of daylight. So down we went. Shawn had to coax me and instruct me on every step. I am not ashamed to admit it, but I shed some tears. I was absolutely terrified. I never want to take a route like this again! One could argue that I successfully made it down in one piece and that I “did it” and well done. But, frankly, that was way over my head. It was not fun and it’s not something I want to do again. It sucked! Someone who wrote about their own descent experience online called it a “dirt and boulder hell chute straight to mordor”

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After the ugly descent we crossed boulder fields and meadows to the hut. We witnessed a very large rock dislodging from the top of a mountain nearby tumbling down. It was loud and amazing to watch it catch speed as it descended.


We made it down to the hut quite quickly, just minutes before it got pretty dark. Had dinner, went to bed in our sleeping bags.

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Next morning we packed up and hiked on out. It only took us just a little over 2 hours back down to our car!

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These two days exploring this area for the first time were incredible. Beautiful in all directions, the terrain was challenging and fun (except for a few spots) and I loved it. Highly recommend anyone checking it out.  One thing I must add before I close is that I would not have been able to do these hikes without Shawn. He was there to give me encouragement when I was scared and to offer guidance on safest routes up and down. He’s basically a goat when we hike and I’m the scardy cat – quite the contrast in abilities. I’ve been able to venture far outside my comfort zone and see mountains I never would have otherwise seen thanks to him and I appreciate that more than he knows!


Jim Kelly, Illal Peak and Spiral Peak Sept 27-28 2014

Sept 27 2014 – Jim Kelly and Illal Peak

Had always wanted to check out Illal Meadows which is off the Coquihalla Hwy, near a number of popular hikes (e.g. Needle Peak). We headed off and got onto Tulameen Forest Service Road and after 19 kms we reached a deactivated road, decided to see what our Rav4 could do so we headed up it. We went for 2kms and found a good spot to park. There was still another km of road, but we didn’t want to risk it as by then the road had gotten too dodgy. Because it was starting to get dark, we slept in the car (the night of Sept 26th). We were up and on our way the next morning at 8am. 1kms walk along the road, then it was flat for a little while longer – then it got steep.

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In 2 1/2 hours we were at Illal Meadows. We put our tent up and had lunch.  It was around noon by now. We noticed two young guys and one of their dad’s hike by, they were on their way up Jim Kelly.  About 10 mins later we were on the trail heading up Jim Kelly as well. For me it was scary on a lot of levels. Shawn helped find the safest route up. It was no longer hiking, it was scrambling. I was using my hands to haul myself up quite a bit and the rock would give way under my feet. The scariest part was that at times, I was above the dad of the other group hiking up and I worried that I’d loosen rocks that would descend down onto his head. I had bought a helmet awhile back which I brought with me and put on, as there were others ahead of me who could loosen rocks that could tumble down. I felt like I was a “professional” with that helmet on. Like I was an expert or something. The truth is, I was frightened and scared out of my mind. But one thing I try to always do and that is to push myself through fear. It’s only when I push my boundaries that I find myself growing as a person. Of course, having said that – there are some boundaries that I won’t push. If this mountain had been any steeper than it was, I would have probably passed on going up it. As it was, it was beyond my current mental ability to do – but only just… so I pushed myself through it, but any more than that and I would definitely have taken a pass.

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I was so excited to make Jim Kelly peak!! I was very proud of myself. The descent was slow going. Once down, we headed off to Illal peak, which to be honest, was very simple. Just a hike. We were there in about an hour after making it down from Jim Kelly. Beautiful scenery everywhere!

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Sept 28 2014 Spiral Peak

We had planned to do Coquihalla Mountain, but decided we’d give Spiral Peak a go first. First some beautiful sunrise shots that Shawn took:

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We walked by a few tarns and then we ended up on side stepping on a mountain (Illal Mountain being one of them) going over a boulder field as we headed towards Spiral Peak. The beautiful Fall colours were everywhere, it was stunning up there. DSC02674DSC01703 DSC01704 DSC01705 DSC01708DSC01712 DSC01713 DSC01720 DSC01722 DSC01725 DSC01727 DSC01731DSC02689

We reached the steep slippery rock field up to the peak. On the way up, I asked Shawn who was further ahead, if he thought it might be over my head and that maybe I should stop and wait for him there. He said “take a few steps up and give it a try and decide then”, he encouraged me to keep going. Which I did. I was scared for sure and there were points where it crossed my mind that I might slip and slide down the side of the mountain. I kept aiming on a route up where there were obstacles (dead trees on their side, stumps) that would stop me sliding all the way down. Honestly, I don’t know where it came from – but I got emotional when I got up and down this mountain. I had initially figured when I had first started going up, that I would not make it – and the fact I did (with encouragement from Shawn of course) meant a lot to me. It was another day of pushing my limits. I was very proud of myself.

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Once we got down, we headed straight across the valley and followed a goat trail much of the way, with a little bit of bushwacking. Shawn took a quick dip in one of the tarns and we had a leisurely lunch in the sun. It was so awesome! DSC02744 DSC02745  Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 12.08

Because we ran out of time, we decided we’d save Coquihalla Mountain to another time. A really memorable two days for sure!! Loved it. Can’t wait to go back!