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Steventy 01-09-2011 07:27 PM

Opal Cone Lava Flow – Jan 9, 2010
The Opal Cone lava flow is interesting because it is easy to miss when you are standing beside it but it's blatantly obvious when seen in satellite photos.

“Opal Cone is a cinder cone located on the southeast flank of Mount Garibaldi in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. It is the source of a 15 km long broad dacite lava flow with prominent wrinkled ridges. The lava flow is unusually long for a silicic lava flow.”

We drove down the Mamquam River Main to within one or two km of the Mamquam L Line (old logging road.) The road was snow covered with ruts. We were in an Outback with aluminum skid plates and decided to stop once we were continuously scraping the bottom. It shouldn't be a problem for anyone with a 4WD truck and decent tires to get to the start of the L Line at this point in time.

With our limited time budget, we stayed to the L Line and got to within a few km of the end. I'd be interested in going back one spring when there is a deep snow pack and going to the end of the L line and then dropping onto the flow itself. Based on Google Earth, It looks like once the flow turns the bend, the trees thin out and travel may be easier with deep snow cover. I'm not sure how much closer you could get to the Cone in those conditions before there is too much avy danger but it looks like you could get pretty high. The spots we saw from the ridge varied from dense trees to more open rocky areas with light snow cover. Neither option looked very fun so I'm glad the road was easy to travel on.

A primary goal of the trip was to get a good look at the flow and in particular, the amount of vegetation/rocks.

Travel was fast. We had to wrestle with some slide alder but nothing excessive. We topped out just below 800 m. With snowshoes we were only sinking 1-3 inches. We started and finished the hike in boots.

Being on top of the south-east ridge, we got a few good views. When time ran out, we took a small detour to a view point for lunch and then made our way back to the car. My tea-lights in a tin can are working great for keeping fingers warm over lunch. If you are into geology, it's a neat area to check out.

Stats: 5 hours, 14 km (total), 350m

sansell 01-09-2011 09:58 PM

Interesting idea for a trip! I've noticed it on the satellite images as well, but figured the view from ground level probably wouldn't quite as spectacular unfortunately

weedWhacker 01-09-2011 10:44 PM

I got lost on an early Neve traverse (1977), and wandered down the east side of Opal Cone by mistake. - Big mistake. The terrain is extremely steep and consists of one deep ravine after another. We ended up taking our skiis off and booting steps up and down the walls of the gullies. That traverse took five days. 01-09-2011 11:02 PM

If you want to hike a lava flow, you can always take the trail from Garibaldi Lake to Price/Clinker - looks really cool on Google Earth, but hard to tell when you're actually on it.


Mauricio 01-09-2011 11:43 PM

I was just checking on this and realized that Google Earth finally got some decent imagery of Garibaldi Park. Some of the views are really a good representation of the landscape, like standing on the saddle in front of little diamond head, or the barrier. You can also see the trails very clearly. Real nice stuff.

Stoked 01-10-2011 12:14 PM


quote:Originally posted by Steventy
I'd be interested in going back one spring when there is a deep snow pack and going to the end of the L line and then dropping onto the flow itself.
I did that on skis one time. The snow could have been a lot deeper. The trouble with lava flows in this area (Clinker, Culliton, Opal) is they are incredibly lumpy terrain to follow. They are continuously up and down. A much better bet if you want to explore the Opal lava flow is to take the wooded ridge on its east side, which is basically the same ridge that L Line runs along. With snow on it, it would be much easier travel.

There's actually a disused trail on the other side of the ridge from the flow that goes up towards Mamquam Lake. It's easy enough to follow at least at the outset. I lost it in snow late June one year a ways beyond Zig Zag Creek. I imagine you could find it like I did by bushwhacking around but, if you want, I can tell you where it is.

Hiker Boy 01-10-2011 02:34 PM

*caution, incoming geeky geology post*

I have always found Opal Cone and it's lava flow to be fascinating because of the type of lava (hornblende-biotite dacite),the shear volume of it produced, and the length of the flow down Ring Creek. 4.5 cubic Km of lava! Imagine what sort of peak that would have been created, had it been a little more viscous. Most dacite flows are not as long or as fluid. Curiously, flows of the same type of lava were happening during the same time down the west side of Atwell Peak which I guess makes Opal Cone a parasitic vent since they obviously must share the same magma chamber.

Volcanology has always been an interest of mine and I haven't had a vacation in years that hasn't taken me somewhere on the side of one volcano or the other. We are so lucky to have such interesting geology so close to us.

KARVITK 01-10-2011 05:16 PM

Very interesting read on this report and comments. Thanks for posting.


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