–submitted by Bill Jackson
In the fall I posted a July trip to the Hinde. Greg Deabler offered to co-lead, which made the thing possible. Even with that much lead time, and even if Covid hadn’t interrupted hiking, I’d have trouble preparing to lead that serious a trip. Later a suggestion was made to change the plan to a traverse. John Young would lead a traverse from Elk River to Buttle Lake, ascending the Hinde along the way, and our group would do the same in the other direction. We conferred with those who were down for the trip that was originally planned and the decision was a “go”.
As it turned out, we didn’t complete our objectives but it was a great time in the mountains.
Day 1, July 18
The two groups met at 8:30 at the Augerpoint Day Use area. John’s team left for the Elk River trailhead while we paddled across to Phillips Creek and the long switchbacks to Marble Meadows.
En route we met three hikers who had been spooked during the night by a bear scratching at the side of Wheaton Hut, so we decided that we’d make our first camp a few kms beyond that area. We followed a trail from Wheaton Hut towards Morrison Spire and camped on Wheaton Ridge with a peek-a-boo view of the Hinde. Spectacular views across the valley that we’d be descending the next morning.
Saturday took us across the limestone cap, a lunar landscape where the limestone is very broken up and, obviously, the same under patches of snow that needed to be crossed. One of our party did drop through the snow, luckily with no more serious consequences than the loss of a water bottle. The route down the back side of Tibetan Mountain to our camp site on the col was steep enough that the heather meadow at the bottom was slippery even when dry. For that matter, a lot of this route would be slow going in the rain. Good tenting areas in the col, and it drew enough wind to keep the flies away some of the time.
We started the day going up a snowfield to a class 3 scramble. The scramble wasn’t the only
way; it was a more direct route choice. Then over Mt Judy to the col and down to Schjelderup lake.
It was a steep drop, with some route-finding, to the north end of Schjelderup Lake, then up to a very attractive campsite on the north end of Burman Ridge. (This is the third descent option when taking the Phillips Ridge route to the Hinde). By this time I was trailing the group enough that when the route wasn’t obvious, someone would wait until I hove into sight. I knew that I’d be holding the group up more seriously if I didn’t take a recovery day, so decided to stay in camp while the other three attempted the Hinde in the morning.
With the weather threatening to obstruct visibility, a joint decision was made to bail from the second, less defined, part of the traverse, and exit via Phillips Ridge.
Greg Deabler kindly offered to do the write up for the summit attempt, since I spent the day lollygagging in camp. Which I rather enjoyed, once the breeze came up and blew the bugs away. And heeerrre’s Greg!
On GH summit day our group of 4 became a group of 3; Bill making the wise and perhaps a bit envied choice to take a rest day.
From our camp midway up the North Burman ridge, we dropped down into the Burman trench and spent a few minutes erroneously following the bottom of the trench towards the lake. Realizing our mistake, we backtracked and picked up the trail as it climbed out of the trench. A lovely, snaking granite ridge made for easy travel up to the tarn in the southeast bowl, and taking care for hollow snowfields we crossed to the scree cone spilling down to the lake. We all picked a slightly different line gaining the beginning of the exit gully from the bowl, where we made a stop to don our helmets. Soon the lower snowfield was in front of us, and another stop was made to add crampons to our boots for a longish rising ascent across the snowfield. The snow was not soft enough to get solid iceaxe placements for the most part, and even Michel’s two handed plunges were not gaining a lot depth. Even though our crampons made the crossing feel secure, we made for the rocky finger reaching down through the snowfield and moved onto the rock where possible. The scrambling was reasonable, and care was taken to note the line we took up the rock for the way down. We were approaching the upper, steeper gully around 1 pm when 3 younger men blew past us and took 2 different lines to approach the summit from climber’s left. The visible line followed an exposed ridge angling up the face before disappearing around the corner of the drainage running up to a higher col. The second line followed the moat along the edge of the snowfield in the drainage. We decided to traverse around to the right to look at the snowfield that I think is the standard snow and ice route up. The snow was hard and steep enough that we weren’t at all sure that a slip could be held by self arrest, and having just a 25m 6mm static line, no pickets for an anchor, we made the decision to not take that route. We went back around to look at and discuss the rock options as the weather began to change around the summit block. I think a combination of not knowing what was ahead, the obvious 4th class scrambling ahead of us to summit, knowing we would have to downclimb the same, coupled with visibility quickly collapsing, conspired to dampen our enthusiasm to keep going. And so we turned around at 2075m and carefully made our way back down, feeling that our decision, although conservative, was the right decision. The mountain isn’t going anywhere, and since the Elk Pass approach still beckons, there may be another opportunity!
Pics are Greg’s
Needing to meet up with John’s team, we went up to the high point of the return trail in the cool of the morning and waited at our leisure.
When they arrived we gained two members and lost one. Andrew went back via
Marble Meadows with John and Michael; Paul and Ashley returned with us. We made an unhurried 3 days of the return trip to Westmin.
The route along the side of Schjelderup Lake follows the water’s edge. One boulder strewn area was covered with snow, seemed a bit risky, but there’s a route around it. The camp site at the north end of Carter Lake offers good tent sites, swimming opportunity if you’re so inclined and a nice stream coming down from Burman Ridge.
The route around Carter, like Schjelderup, follows the lakeshore.
From the south end of Carter, back up onto Phillips Ridge. A few scrambly bits, especially near the top, but nothing difficult. Well, nothing difficult going up dry rock and dry greenery.
The Phillips Ridge-Westmin route is well described by many people. To sum it up, lots of up and down, lots of beautiful mountain scenery. Right at your feet, and as far as you can see. Phillips Ridge is well worth doing on its own.
We camped at a group of small tarns not far from Arnica Lake. Several good tent sites. Flies? If you’re vegan you may want to screen your coffee mug.
The trail down to the mines is switchbacked to a gentle grade, which of course makes it pretty long. Preferences vary but, for me, when going downhill the extra kms are better than the toe-boot impact of long, steep grades. Greg and Michel went on ahead a bit faster to try to arrange a ride back to our vehicles, and when the three of us arrived at the bottom they were already back with our ride.
The only thing left was to retrieve the canoe when John’s group got in. In the meantime, temptation beckoned and I went looking for a hamburger. By the time I returned they’d come and gone, and the canoe was safely secured at the edge of the parking area. Thank you!
Midway on this trip, I was thinking I’d bitten off more than I could chew, and wasn’t interested in trying again. Before it was over, I was starting to consider that idea more positively.
The pulp western writer Louis L’Amour said that adventure is a romantic word for trouble. We had a pretty good adventure with no regrettable trouble, so that’s a win.
A memorable week in an outstanding area, with good weather and great company. Thanks John, for getting it to happen.