Five short companions and I conquered Suicide Bluffs, the newest addition to the Bagger Challenge.
Although not marked on official Mt Seymour trailposts, and cautioned on various maps as an “undeveloped route”, the route is easy to find.
Two approaches: north of the Dog Mountain terminus (trail easy to find; leads to three steep climbs to the three highest bluff viewpoints); and off the main Seymour Mountain Trail, in a clear trail past a boggy tarn before Brockton Point.
The trail makes a good loop trail with the ‘official’ Dog Mountain trail. The quick-and-dirty approach is an out-and-back via the Seymour main trail. The longer and more satisfying climb goes via Dog Mountain, past pleasant views of Vancouver, the Seymour River valley, Cathedral, Grouse and other peaks, multiple small murkish lakes, bolete mushrooms, and some impressive old-growth cedars and Douglas Firs.
The peak is the second peak, immediately north of Second Lake.
It is not an easy climb for children, but my companions (those on foot aged 8 to 12) survived with minimal grumbles, with pride and joy at the viewpoints. There are fearsome cliffs at the north side of the peak, into the Suicide Creek Valley, that children should not approach.
After Mt Gardner, the two other Bowen Island peaks are Apodaca (SE) and Collins (NE).
Both have easy ways and hard ways to their summits. On their easy ascents, they make pleasant bike-and-hike adventures.
Apodaca’s intuitive but difficult way is from the west, and then along the ridge. The crack team of Jackson, Conroy & Crerar had a soggy nasty time climbing over massive blow-down, cliffs, and deer cadavers.
The easy Apodaca way to to take Grafton Road (Bowen’s main artery, flowing from the ferry to the west side of the island) to Harding Road. Cross Grafton and go south and uphill. Another access point is just to the south of Harding, at a gate marked “1042” with a junkyard and abandoned trailer on a grassy meadow. From there, a network of logging roads of various widths leads up to the forest proper. Then a gentle bushwhacking past a few steep bits and cliffs will lead to the peak, marked by a lovely carpet of multihued moss, a considerable tree rootball, and a pointy rocky cairn. Through the trees one can see Gardner.
|Gambier Island’s fourth peak, Burt’s Peak (GBU), is located in the northeast quadrant of Gambier Island, above Brigade Bay, to the north of Mt Artaban. It is a decent 525 metres tall, with a prominence of 485m from Mt Artaban.
Although a lightly-flagged trail exists, the peak is little visited or known. But it is a worthy and enjoyable climb.
You can access the peak either from the south or the north.
From the south, take the well-established Burt’s Bluff Trail (faded green trail markers), which climbs uphill to the north from the connector trail between Mt. Artaban and Camp Artaban. After a steady climb, the trail travels along an old logging road running between two bumps: the scenic vista of Burt’s Bluff (left) and Burt’s Peak (right). Travel another 200 metres or so along the logging road, past some cliffy bits, until you see a natural route jagging sideways up the rock. Travel upwards on a steep but manageable slope (very minor bushwhacking: there is minimal undergrowth). Pass over three flattish washes that look like old logging roads. This will lead to another pair of uplands: go left (although the right also has flagging). This leads to an obvious peak, covered in the beautiful and abundant moss that Gambier is rightly famous for. From the sunny and tranquil peak, there are pleasing views of the Howe Sound Crest Trail mountains. Map.
From the north, a (now) well-flagged ridge climb starts at the north end of Lost Lake. Climb steadily southwards to the peak.
Instead of risking your neck on a snowy peak, go to Gambier and do a circle tour of Burt’s Bluffs, Burt’s Peak, and beautiful Lost Lake. The amazing Gambier Island Trail network map will be invaluable.
The ambitious can combine it with an ascent of Artaban as well. Take a water taxi from Horseshoe Bay to Halkett Bay ($25: Cormorant Marine) for Artaban or to Brigade Bay (probably a little more expensive) for Burt’s Peak.
More travel options:
Mercury Launch & Tug has regularly-scheduled trips to various points at the south end of Gambier Island, and back to Horseshoe Bay. 604 921 7451
BC Ferries runs a small ferry between Langdale, Keats Island, and New Brighton.
Gambier Water Taxi (based in New Brighton) can ferry you across to Langdale from Gambier Island: 604 740 1133
I did a post-Challenge bag of West Lion yesterday. As glorious as the views and day were, the climb is not recommended for casual baggers without climbing experience and/or ropes and psychological fortitude. It would be crazy to attempt it in anything less than perfect weather conditions: a hint of rain or ice would make the traverse very unpleasant and dangerous.
The scariest part of the climb is at the base, where one must traverse east along a series of 75 cm-wide shelves that slope gently towards a near-certain deadly fall on the rock slopes 45 metres below.
Until October 2009, there was a fixed steel cable line along this portion. Although it would have been foolish to lean on the line for support, it provided some reassurance. The line was cut down last October: http://www.clubtread.com/sforum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=33107&SearchTerms=wes…
As it is no longer within the target range (“peaks requiring a non-technical class 3 scramble or less, with minimal exposure for a careful person in good conditions”) it will be removed from the contest next year (or at least demoted to unofficial status).
Nothing more glorious than returning from a triumphant bagging adventure down a steep slope that is a bit technical, but not too technical, on a surface that consists primarily not of rocks and roots, but of wonderful duffy decayed cedar. Gravity and duff combine to emulate a slalom descent.
The newest bagging peak, de Pencier Bluffs, is a very pleasant adventure for the younger bagger or a bagging trail runner alike. It makes for a very agreeable post-work bag, ideally on a sunny day. The eastern side of Seymour, with lakes, tarns, bluffs, and blueberries, and a rabbits warren of runnable trails, is not often explored but well worth it.
De Pencier Bluffs is the easternmost peak in the Seymour area: two peaks to the east of the Mystery Peak Chairlift, and due south of de Pencier Lake. A Seymour area map can be seen here at the DNV’s reduced but still useful mapping website: www.geoweb.dnv.org/maps/map.asp
Avoid the typical boring approach up Seymour via the gravel road. Instead, start just to the right, in the trees, on a well-marked single-track path up to Mystery Lake. Say hello to the salamanders, venture forth on Salamander Island, and eat some blueberries, before continuing NE around the lakeshore and up slope along the same main trail. After a while, a smaller but well-flagged trail heads up and to the east: from here, it is an easy ascent to the summit of the Bluffs. There is an unusual view of Indian Arm and Bunzten Lake, as well as fine views of Mt Baker, Vancouver, dePencier Lake, Mt Seymour, and Brockton Peak. You can make it a loop by heading back to the main trail, and then continuing NW to the bottom of the Brockton Chairlift, and beyond to the Mt Seymour main trail.
The Most Rev. Adam de Pencier, Bishop of New Westminster and later Metropolitan of British Columbia, 1910-1940
As a multi-day heavy-pack hike, HSCT is a nasty multi-hump-backed monster.
As a peak bagging adventure artery, it is essential.
As a trail run, it is spectacular. There are few finer trial-running stretches than the single-track swoosh down from Hat Pass to Deeks Lake, past azure lakes, waterfalls, giant trees, and glorious peaks.
One tip: old HSCT goes down, down, down, east of St David Peak, descending towards a lake, and losing and gaining almost as much elevation of would be done via the peak itself). Surely more interesting to go over St David Peak, along the new route? If you are heading N-S, pay attention at the mini-meadow at the foot of the Harvey clearcut (presently a glorious food bar of all varieties of blueberries): the trail splits between the two options (with the St David Peak path, right, being the more obscure one). Heading S-N you also have to be on your toes: at a small tarn, do not follow the dominant (old) path, but look up for a narrow but obvious trail (with flags) heading up.
Lions (L); St James Peak (M); St David Peak (R)