|Mitla Spire from Centre Peak.|
Rod Szasz, Val Wootton and myself arrived at E&B’s helicopter base in Gold River at noon on September 5 (Friday) and within half an hour we were in the air. First we flew over Matchlee Mountain where earlier in the day the pilot had flown in 8 people as part of Island Alpine Guides (IAG) mountaineering course. After heading across the Burman River we next got a call on the radio from a friend who had flown in 2 days earlier and said he was on the summit of Hygro Peak. A quick fly-by to snap a couple of photos and then we continued south past The Scissors and Scimitar Peak to a small lake we had seen last year from the summit of Splendor Mountain. Fifteen minutes after
taking off from Gold River we were dropped in the middle of nowhere.
A satirical novel published in 1872 by Samuel Butler came to mind called Erewhon. Erewhon being an anagram of “nowhere” even though the letters “h” and “w” are transposed. It is the name of a fictional utopian country, however, we weren’t in a fictional country but it sure felt utopian. We set up our tents and then decided to climb a small peak immediately to the south of Scimitar Peak and about half a kilometre east of us. An hour and a quarter later, we were on the summit and decided to call it Centre Peak (1401m) because it was in the centre of all the peaks we wanted to climb over the next 5-6 days. There was not a cloud in the sky and a whole array of peaks surrounded us some of which had only been climbed once before while a few, as far as I could gather, were unclimbed. This area isn’t easy to reach with no logging roads nearby for access. That evening a beautiful alpenglow flashed its reds and oranges across the rock faces on The Scissors and Scimitar Peak.
Another cloudless day! Although Scimitar Peak is the highest in the area we decided to head west to a chain of unclimbed/unnamed peaks. A short burst through some old growth trees and we were soon on open ridges where travel was easy. The route we chose to the peaks was easy and after 2 hours we were at the base of the final wall. A few manky bushes to crawl under then a final gully put us on the summit with just a 2 metre block to climb to the highest point. We chose the name Sabre Peak in keeping with The Scissors and Scimitar Peak. We pulled the GPS and noted the elevation – 1455m. With 3 more distinct summits along the ridge we headed west to Sabre 2 (1423m). Here we deeked off the ridge to the scree below and angled across to the final summit. We turned it from the west and had one small nasty gully to cross before we found an easy scramble to the summit of Sabre 4 (1451m). An easy scramble off the summit and down to a col before heather benches took us up to the summit of Sabre 3 (1432m). Satisfied with the day, we returned to camp for a swim.
|Mitla Peak (left) and Mitla Spire from Scimitar Peak. Lone Wolf Mountain in the right background. Abco Mountain in the distance behind Mitla Peak.|
Today we chose to climb Scimitar Peak. It was first climbed back in 1993 by Sandy Briggs and one other and since then has only received one other ascent by Darren Wilman and Alana Theoret a few years ago. They had come in from Lone Wolf Mountain to the south and climbed Scimitar’s South Ridge. It was this ridge we could see from our camp that we wanted to climb. From camp we angled up and around Centre Peak and an hour later we were on the saddle below the ridge. Although it didn’t look difficult we could see some gnarly bushes on the route and some loose scree gullies to negotiate. Two hours later we were on the summit taking in the view of all the mountains that I was familiar with, and there are a few. On the descent we decided to make a number of rappels as this would be quicker than down climbing the loose sections one at a time. There were always trees to use as anchors and by 3 p.m. we were back down on the saddle and an hour later back at camp. That evening we went up onto the ridge and watched a beautiful moon rise behind the ridge on Mitla Spire.
There was a lot more cloud in the sky today but the forecast wasn’t predicting anything disruptive so we chose to have an easy day and climb a peak we dubbed Sabretooth Peak which was to the north of Sabre Peak but on the same connecting ridge system. We scrambled through the trees and up onto the open ridge again. An easy walk brought us to the final scramble up onto the summit – 1404m. We enjoyed an hour on the summit and then dropped down to a beautiful little basin with large gravel flats and a small stream meandering down the middle. Another hour and a half relaxing in the sun and eating lunch in this utopian country! By 3 p.m. we were back in camp, lounging around some more. There were 2 more peaks that we wanted to climb and they would be on the agenda for tomorrow.
This morning we were up earlier and moving by 7:45. I knew that both Mitla Peak and Mitla Spire had been climbed but only once by Darren and Alana. I had talked to Darren a couple of years ago and received the climbing beta so I knew that they were both doable. Again we angled up and around Centre Peak only this time we went around the south side to another saddle below Mitla Spire. We scrambled up some beautiful rock which put us on the North Ridge of the Spire, however, we decided to head across to the Mitla Peak first. Some scrambling over scree slopes put us on a col between the Mitla Peak and the Spire. This climb looked a more challenging so we decided to leave what we didn’t need at the base, however, we found that we completed the climb without the need to use the rope. On the summit (Mitla Peak 1544m) we found a cairn and inside it was a canister left by Darren and Alana but unfortunately it was wet and full of water. We didn’t have anything with us to leave so we just enjoyed the view. On the descent we did 2 rappels but could have easily down climbed the route. Back at our packs we moved over to a small pond and had lunch while we looked at the route Darren and Alana had done on Mitla Spire. It looked doable but it didn’t look pleasant. Rod decided to sit this climb out so Val and I headed over to the base of the route on the east flank. It still didn’t look very nice so we made the call to check out the North Ridge which we had initially approached the two mountains by. At the base of the final ridge we put our harnesses and helmets on and I slung the rope and climbing gear over my shoulder. Although the route was steeper we found the rock to be perfect and we were able to reach the summit in 15 minutes (Mitla Spire 1522m). This was the most enjoyable climb on the trip. We called down to Rod to come up but he was happy chillin’ out below. After 20 minutes we tore ourselves away and headed back down the ridge to Rod. A feeling of contentment came over us as we walked back to camp. We had climbed everything on our agenda and could now fly out tomorrow morning satisfied, however, I had seen a lot more to climb on future trips both to the south of where we were and out to the west on the Pierce Range.
We packed up and then before the helicopter arrived we filled up a few canisters with wild blueberries. Flying out I couldn’t stop looking at the peaks that I knew I had to come back to climb next year.
|Sabre Peaks: the highest summit is on the right (1455m) then Sabre 2, Sabre 3 and Sabre 4 to the left (1451m). Pierce Range behind.|
|The Scissors (left) and Scimitar Peak.|
|Rod Szasz approaching the summit of Scimitar Peak.|