While browsing through Rick Collier's old TRs on bivouac.com last winter, we decided that we were going to give his route for Block Mountain a shot sometime in 2015 (http://bivouac.com/TripPg.asp?TripId=5299
Rick completed this ascent in 1991 as a 12 hour, 40 km day trip, and classified it as an easy scramble. It is a pretty straightforward ascent, and I won't re-write his TR here, but mainly want to provide some pictures of the area (see my flickr album - link below) and some updates on the condition of the ascent valley he/we used.
After scrambling Outlaw Peak and Banded Peak on Saturday, we decided to hike up Johnson Creek on Sunday afternoon and set up camp to prepare for an assault on Block Mountain on Monday morning. We got pelted with rain on the hike in and hoped that the forecasts for Monday would hold true (clear skies and no precipitation -- ya ok).
A chilly and clear Sunday night led to a cloudy Monday morning. After getting up at 7 AM, it was obvious that our clear skies were not going to materialize. It rained all morning (with the odd snowflake flying through the air) and by the time it let up enough for us to get out of the tent and embark on our journey up the valley, it was nearly 11 AM. We knew we would be cutting it close on time and that Block Mountain (nevermind Noetic Peak at this point) may not be attainable.
Once we reached the ascent valley which Rick described as "the highlight of his trip", it was clear that it would not be such a highlight for us. Initially, there is a faint trail on the left/west side of the watercourse however, soon you are left with kilometer upon kilometer of flood-damaged creek to deal with. I'm going to assume that when Rick completed his ascent of Block Mountain as a day trip in 1991, this valley was in significantly better shape. Today, it is somewhat of a mess, with downed trees and rocks strewn about. After hours of creek crossing, bushwhacking and sidehilling, we finally reached the meadows near the head of the valley. We set our sights on the col at GR 811/903, and knew that that would be our objective for the day due to time limitations. At this point, we accepted the fact that this trip was going to have to be classified as a recon trip for a future attempt on Block.
The upper valley is indeed beautiful and reaching the col overlooking the Block Basin is a treat in itself. This area is so rugged and rarely-visited, and I can't wait to return. In Rick's old TR, he mentions an iceberg lake in the Block Basin and wonders if it is still there (it is). If you can manage to haul your bivy gear that far up this valley, that tarn would be an amazing spot to set up camp (or in the upper valley as well although it's prime grizzly territory up there).
From the col, we studied Block Mountain, and it does appear to be a straightforward scree slog. Now that we are familiar with the messy ascent valley, I'm sure we could shave some time next time we head up there (and hope that we actually get those clear skies we were promised by mountainforecast.com). However, due to limited time and spotty weather (continuous drizzle all day with some snow starting to fly at the col), we didn't have a chance to even attempt Block on this day.
On another note, if anyone reading this has any route info for Noetic Peak, could you share any beta please? Before this trip, I found a couple distant photos of this peak from other TRs, but no online beta on it whatsoever. The only info I found on this peak was from the "green bible" or Rocky Mountains of Canada: South. Here, you're given the first ascent info (FA in 1890) as well as a brief description of the route taken (ascended via a Johnson Creek tributary). I'm assuming the Johnson Creek tributary is the valley/watercourse we trudged up. But I thought I'd ask anyway to see if anyone out there knows more about this peak.
Like I said, my pictures (with captions) from this trip are all posted to my flickr account, here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/969819...57657749926668