This is a double header TR, as Ray wrote up his perspective as well- posted at the bottom.
This one had been on my radar last year and seeing that multiple groups had managed to summit earlier in the summer, I moved an attempt on Breakenridge and possibly Traverse Peak off the back burner. I proposed the idea to Ray and Jim and to others, in the end only 3 of us could commit.
We left Vancouver Friday night at around 6pm and arrived in Harrison around 8, picked up a pizza and some beer and continued down the Harrison East FSR. The road was in good shape aside from all the people. 42km later and we reached the fork for the English main and take a left continuing up where we come the right turn off and the road gets nasty. The cross ditches were manageable but just barely, 4x4 HC needed- tougher in the dark to navigate- Ray helped spot. We continued along and reached the fork for the North spur- Set up camp here. Had a few brew and KO'd for the night.
Set out in the morning under bluebird skies, the heat already bearing down. Followed the deactivated FSR as it switch backed up until we came to a point where one road goes left and the one were on continues down and straight.. we unfortunately took the left and followed it to its termination shortly after.. then thinking that we were already at the top of the cut block we started bushwhacking. 20 mins of swearing, falling, pine needles, sweating and we pop back out on the road. Shoot. Well we continue up the road which switchbacks and takes us much higher and eventually to the top of the cut block i believe at about 1000m.
Then the real fun begins. The bugs were just terrible for the next 4 hours through the trees, under brush, creek crossings and finally into sub-alpine meadow. It took us awhile to bash our way through.. felt great to be through it.
We ate lunch and chilled near a tarn at 1600m for a bit, then continued up heading for the larger lake noted on the maps/gps.
Arriving at the lake gave us a great vantage of our ascent route options, we ended up choosing the snow filled gully furthest to climbers right.
The water was amazingly clear. We tried to bypass the lake low, but one section of rock outcrop prevented us so up around we went, steep heather, talus and snow brought us to the base of the gully.
Looking up the snowfilled gullies.
Ray's legs no longer working.
We fill water, the second time, all 3 of us having drank at least 4L already and still 900m to go. Up the gully we ascend.
SW2 from the gully.
After topping out and reaching the basin below Breakenridge we make a decision to drop our packs and go for the summit, thinking that we would be camping in the basin. After reaching the col, 95m below the summit we found a perfect bivi site complete with melt pool. Perfect. Daylight was fading So after some deliberation we decide to descend to our packs, bring them up to the better bivi site and summit Breakenridge and SW2 in the morning at sunrise.
Ray chose an interesting way to get back down.
Climbing the same 200m again with bags was a bit of a drag but we made good time and soon had camp set up. We ran into our next issue when the stove wouldn't light. We assessed it as a fuel delivery problem and took it apart multiple times eventually using a plastic toothpick to clear some debris out of the fuel nozzle. A little late, but hot food never tasted so good. A little wine and conversation then off to bed.
5am my alarm goes off and we all slowly arise from our tents, eat some snacks and make for the summit. The climb is mostly shale-like talus, the last few meters a steep frozen slope. We spend a good hour or so on the summit watching the sun rise and the sky change colours.
After descending to camp and eating breakfast, we decide that an attempt on Traverse would be possible but pushed our time limits too far. Wanting to be back at the truck before dark we decide on summiting SW2 instead.
The walk over is short and pleasant, the snow field and ridge in excellent shape. In 40 mins we are standing on SW2 looking down on Harrison Lake.
We make it back to the bivi site and nap in the sun for an hour before taking down camp and beginning the dreaded descent into insect territory. The descent is far more efficient and faster than the climb up, we avoid unnecessary gains and losses and burn our way through the thicket of flies and brush reaching the truck at 5pm, 5.5 hours later.
This was a great trip, I was a little disappointed we didn't get to Traverse but just making the summit of Breakenridge itself was worth all the bugs and bush. Thanks to Jim and Ray for the good company!
TR from Ray's perspective:
Abuse on Breakenridge
The abuse started on our Toyota 4x4. The culverts had been pulled on the approach road
and the skid plates and hitch were well in use, not so much fun doing this in the dark.
However, a couple of red racers and all was quickly forgotten as the Friday night camp
next to the vehicle started.
Saturday morning started with bird blue skies and placing one foot in front of the other
for Jim, Ray and Rob. There was no trail head and we were feeling our way up the
continuation of the old culvert less logging road. Blue berries were
abundant amongst the head high saplings. There was a funny fall and inability to get up
afterwards and an unfortunate loss of sunglasses. But, after finding the correct logging
road a quick ascent to 1000m followed, then at the end of the road, a much dreaded
and abusive bushwhack started. Up through the most bug infested piece of land ever
conceived (mosquitoes, black flies and horse flies). Traversing marshy areas, creeks,
and heavenly regular forest, then straight up to a lake through small trees, blooming blue
berry and huckleberry bushes and heather.
Once the breeze picked up a little bit and the alpine snow covered areas started, the bugs
lessened. Happily now walking on snow and finally making some good time up the
mountain, we trekked. jim and I put crampons were on and up we went, pausing only to catch our
breaths or look at mountain goat and 'mountain moose' footprints(unconfirmed). Now, after hundreds of
meters of elevation gain, we dropped our bags thinking that we were going to bivi on the
snow; however, this idea was false and after a further 200m in elevation gain we found
a beauty of a flat surface at 2300m. But not all was bad, the unoriginal idea of sliding
down backwards on your back was rediscovered along with normal butt sliding. Later, in
our collective ingenuity we managed to remove a particulate blockage from the camping
stove so dinner could be served at the base of Breakenridge peak. Pasta, tuna and cheese
never tasted so good.
At one point over wine the idea was been launched for a sunrise ascent of Breakenridge.
With torches on our heads up we got and away we went. Talus gave way to a very
steep frozen slope and BOOM we were at the peak awaiting the sun. Beautiful clear
sunrise! A quick descent, snack, and a mostly snow covered ridge walk to SW2.
More breathtaking views of Harrison Lake during a quick break at the peak.
After a nap/break we packed up and started to dread the bushwhack and bugs that
were awaiting us. Some more butt sliding and boot skiing down the snow and a slightly
different and quicker route got us to those unfortunate things. Even though we picked
our way down very quickly, finding shortcuts and falling, irrational bolts for clearings
were still made at the attempt to be out of the bugs and bush! Also avoided on the way
down was the first, completely unnecessary bushwhack.
The rewards for getting through the abusive forest and bugs were perfect high alpine
conditions and views. The sunrise Breakenridge peak will always be remembered along with
all of the laughs that occurred during the entire hike. The post effects of such a trip are
everlasting and soooo worth it. However, I would never like to take so much pleasure in squishing
bugs ever again.
Cheers to Rob for setting up the idea and driving, and also usually leading up the snow