Note: all vague references, outright references, double meanings and poor puns are purely unintentional. Also, no glaciers were crossed in this report.
The original plan had been to try for Mount Lockwood (Skagit Valley) but Stoyoma caught my eye and looking at a broad map of that area I couldn't help but notice The Nipple. This clicked something in my memory and I recalled Dru and Burndog feeling this one up last year. Further clicks reminded me that JustB had recently been in this area as he started just south of it on his high country backpack trip from North Bend to Spuzzum Creek.
Dru and Doug had come in from the north via Powder Puff FSR. My goal was to try from the southeast by way of the North Bend FSR and The Speyum Creek spur. A chat with Justin gave me an idea of the road status and he mentioned a cliff collapse blocking the road at some point. He also said that from their lofty advantage atop Schist Cap the upper roads in Speyum Creek Valley looked pretty good...
Justin's awesome photos TR.
Dru's boobalicious TR.
Now that I was seemingly abreast of things I brought along my mountain bike and early Saturday morning I drove up The Fraser Canyon to Boston Bar, crossed The Fraser River and followed Chaumox Road (Westside Road) for about 5km and then turned left up North Bend FSR. Steep in places with some rutting and mild waterbars but no difficulties for me to get to where it crests and then starts a mild descent after km 9 or so.
Overview of area, North Bend FSR in pink. The top spur off of it is Speyum Creek Spur (minor roads off of both roads are not shown).
The waterbars get a bit bigger now and after a tricky one (partial washout) at about km 9.5 I go another .5 of a km and get stopped by the cliff collapse/blocked road (marked on map above) - 1260m el. A quick walk first around the blockade offers up a view of the mountains I'm aiming for way off in the distance.
Carrying the bike over the rocks I start cycling downhill and in very short order run into a shitload of alder. I manage to continue downwards for a couple of hundred metres bashing my way through until some small humps stop me. Climbing up one of these I can see further down the road to where it crosses a branch of Nepopulchin Creek and then starts to rise through some forest - it's all alder covered.
Now I was questioning if I was actually on the right road. I was under the impression it would be a little better than this. I walked the bike a bit further (the alder got worse) and then the second guessing began so I turned around and headed back. At another open area I got into the third guessing and decided to dump the bike right there and turn around again to continue on foot. Things did look right on my hand drawn road map but I had no topo of this part of the area.
Continuing downwards I bush-bash to the creek where the bridge had been removed, cross that and start upwards through more alder and plantlife and soon cross over another fork of The Nepopulchin Creek on a collapsing bridge and then pass the overgrown Nepopulchin Valley spur road. Still rising I keep going north for a while to around 1400m elevation and then go west and start dropping again into the Speyum Creek Valley.
The road is still pretty overgrown with a few open areas here and there but as I descend with steep terrain on my left I get to a section that has been resloped (road pulled back) and it gets bushy with some tricky sections and a faint track in places. Beyond that an excavator has dug a parallel to the road ditch and piled up the dirt/rock/gravel parallel to that. Bit tricky here too on the uneven terrain but it's only for a short while and then the untouched old road continues downward to cross Speyum Creek on a good bridge.
Staying left at a junction just after the bridge I start rising again and with lots more alder (and some huge bear scat) I continue up the road heading west up The Speyum Creek Valley. One section of alder was super dense but otherwise there was usually a bit of a gap to make travel easy enough along with a couple more open areas.
After a while I finally get to the upper reaches of the logging road (with less alder) and take the top left short spur to it's end (1630m). I had looked at heading up through a small stand of trees just before roads end but decided to go through the cutblock and head up on the edge of it as it looked reasonably open there. The distance from here to the east ridge of Laughlan was about 450m in elevation and earlier views showed it to be a mixture of forest, bush and steep meadow.
Heading in a NNW direction I soon left the upper cutblock behind and made good progress on mostly open under the forest terrain. Things were a little steep between 1800-2000m but there was no difficulties and as the terrain became more open and rocky I started to place small cairns to help with the return later.
Gaining the ridge a little shy of 2100m I turn west and start to follow it up towards the peak. Nice open terrain now and at a small knoll at 2117m I get a view upwards as well as a good look at The Nipple and some good views to the south.
The route to Laughlan.
A lookover of The Nipple.
And a view southwards. The Old Settler and Urquhart prominent. Cheam Range visible back left of OS and Baker behind Urquhart.
A very pleasant ramble from this point on and soon I'm standing atop Mount Laughlan (2283m) with a brisk wind blowing and some nice views in all directions. Quite a bit of high cloud off to the south and west is a precursor of a breakdown in todays good weather.
1. A zoom southwards on a unnamed peak with Scuzzy Mountain the big peak just behind it. Urquhart and Baker in the distance.
2. Southwestern view towards Breakenridge, Traverse, Vista, Surprise and Cairn Needle.
3. A broad view to the northwest showing the Mehatl/Kumkan/Kwoiek Needle area to the Skihist/Petlushkwohap area.
4. Northern view to some peaks of The Cantilever Range (Nikaia and Klowa probably in there somewhere).
5. The Nipple - plenty of time to squeeze this one (in).
I wandered over a bit to have a look down the north ridge of Laughlan and check out the route. Kind of steep but looks doable.
Zooming in on Kwoiek Needle and Skihist.
Big zoom on Surprise and Cairn Needle (northern Breakenridge Group).
Bit of a zoom towards The Mehatl/Kumkan area. I think Mount Skook Jim and Klackarpun are far rear left. Pretty cool as I was looking at Skook Jim from the otherside (Anemone - Lizzie Lake area) earlier in the week.
I've done my best with IDing the mountains of this area. Please correct me if I have incorrectly named or missed any other substantial ones (there's a Whistlepig in there somewhere).
Leaving my pack I put my small camera in my pocket and start to make my way down to the col (or cleft) between the 2 peaks. This involves an elevation drop of about 260m and involves some steepish terrain that is a mixture of blocky rock and large talus. Class 2 for most of it with a bit of class 3 here and there and a tiny bit of scoping out the best route.
The ascent from the col is easier and less aesthetic as I rise on talus, sandy dirt with a bit of krummholz thrown in. Cresting the broad west side of the summit plateau I hike over pleasant open terrain for a few minutes before another quick talus scramble up to the top.
On the plateau and the route to the summit.
Once there I reach out and tweak the near 2m high Nipple cairn and can't help but notice that landscape of the summit area is a nice mixture of grass with a bit of rock. Quite firm and yet supple at the same time. It was also nice (to) rack up another couple of peaks.
The peak is also augmented with a small shack with some solar panels and antenna. Inside is a radio set up and some writing about The Ministry of Transportation and snow avalanche. There's even a mike so I guess I could have made a few calls. Maybe I could have asked for a lift.
A look inside the small hut.
1. The view down the NNW ridge of The Nipple. This I believe is the route Dru and Doug took.
2. 2099m summit shot - I'm feeling a little perky. Plenty of wind up here too. ENS for some I would imagine.
3. Southeastern view: The Nipple's east ridge at left, Laughlan's east ridge centre to right. Where I came from is the clearcut area above the left side lake (2nd ridge above it).
4. The broad summit and a view back towards Laughlan (left), Scuzzy around centre shot and Breakenridge/Traverse rear right.
5. Can someone identify these flowers near the summit?
Another view to the NNW showing Kwoiek Needle near left with Antimony/Claimpost area just rear right of it. Skihist is the big peak followed by Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter to Petlushkwohap (above the boulder) and a sub peak of it at right.
With time getting on and more clouds forming I start to head back to Laughlan.
Laughlan and the route taken from there to here and back.
A view of Laughlan's steepish north ridge.
This ridge has a few loose rocks but is otherwise a good scramble and I top out on Laughlan for the 2nd time today, grab a drink (I only brought a litre and could really have done with a couple of jugs) and take a few more pictures before packing up to head back.
Laughlan S1 is just over there. Skhist Cap (first peak Justin did on his backpack ridge walk) barely visible on it's right shoulder. Unnamed and Scuzzy behind centre middle distance. BTW, Dru has the first recorded ascent on S1 and Skhist Cap
Laughlan S1 was also named The Vulva (some kind of theme here) by some ascenders (Dru?). Also known as Vx.
Laughlan summit area shot. I have some kind of sly grin on my face which also seems to be keeping with the theme of this area.
One last look at Breakenridge and Traverse with part of Justin's ridge walk peaks in the foreground. Kootomin S4 the angled flattish top below Traverse with McEwen the flat topped peak left side middle distance. The Snyder area is behind that leading out of picture left. The Nursery/Grainger area could be the mountains way back far left.
The wind (and lack of movement) on the summit area cooled things down enough for me to wear a sweater. Other than that I spent the rest of the day in a T-shirt as it was quite warm. I said my goodbyes to both peaks and started the journey downwards and followed my small cairns until they disappeared in the meadow and forest.
No issues though - I can just see the road.
I thought I give the stand of trees I'd ignored on the ascent a go but they were just as bushy higher up as from the road and I found it easier to descend through the cutblock.
Looking back up the cutblock. The small open patch just below skyline is where I came from.
Now I have the long walk out on the logging road and once again I pass some impressive sized pieces of bear poo. Some lumps were nearly 3 inches wide - I did not want to run into that bear. Back at The Speyum Creek crossing I refill my near empty waterbottle and grab a few scarce (this year) blueberries.
Up the resloped logging road, around the corner, back down to Nepopulchin Creek and then a bit more bushwacking up to reach my bike. Pushing that for a few minutes I then ride a couple more minutes through the alder and get back to the rock/cliff slide. Reaching my vehicle I load the bike and decide I want to get that tricky waterbar out of the way first. The last thing I needed was to go tits up way out and up here.
I stop there, get out and take a look, pick a line and make it through okay (felt good to get that off my chest). Parking nearby I then pull out my handy new Leatherman (courtesy of work) and crack off the cap of a well deserved beer (not what work had in mind for it's use I'm sure).
I'm gonna really enjoy this.
Very satisfied after that I pack everything up and drive out. An East Indian family out hunting was passed (I also saw some native berry pickers on the drive up) and I also saw a Chevy Astro van quite aways up the road (impressive to get that far though I'm not sure if it was the AWD version).
I stop off in Hope for some Coffee Commotion (milk drink - go figure) and then do the long drive back to Vancouver with no Highway 1 construction slow downs. Total distance was around 20-22km with a cumulative elevation gain in the 1900m range and a time of just under 7.5 hours.
Not being able to produce a map showing final access roads from BC Topo I've copied The Backroads map of the area and drawn in the route.
Red is road by vehicle, blue is walking and yellow the hike/scramble.
Nothing fake about this trip - it was real and it was spectacular. I'm glad mother nature endowed some pleasant weather inwhich to grab these beauties