It's Sunday morning and the clouds are all around. 2 days earlier I'd lucked out on the weather during a trip to Little Diamond Head and with no plans for this afternoon I checked a bunch of forecasts and decided to go out as the weather for the next couple of days would be plenty of rain.
I hadn't been back to the Mountain Lake area (just south of Sky Pilot) since a bunch of trips up that way in 2006 where Ben Lomond, Red Mountain, Mount Sheer, Ben More, Ben Lui and The Ledge were all done. Ben Lomond is the only official "Ben" in that area with 4 other Ben peaks (Ben is Scottish or Irish for mountain) being so named on Bivouac.com due to the Scottish theme of this area and the nearby Loch Lomond to the east (Bagpipe and Haggis are 2 unofficial peaks near there). Chanter Ridge (part of a bagpipe) is another theme named peak south of Mountain Lake. Mick Range and I had a good time up there back in 2006 too. Drone is another theme named bump too further south.
Overview of area (pink squiggle is Cyrtina Creek Spur - one way to access the Mountain Lake area.
Ben Vorlich and Ben Avon are 2 high points on a southwestern running ridge above Mountain Lake which I'd never visited and with the mixed bag weather looked like a good place to spend an afternoon.
Access to this area by way of the Furry Creek Road system is currently pretty good as there is a Run of the River project further down Furry Creek, mining exploration and active logging. You can also approach from Britannia Creek roads but things get pretty bushy further up. There are also 2 newer spurs/cutblocks near Cyrtina Creek (parking area) and when I was there that section of road was really muddy (4x4 with clearance needed).
I leave the house around 11am and drive up the Sea to Sky Highway, go up the big hill past Furry Creek golf course and then turn right on to Britannia Creek Main. Half a km later I go right on the Furry Creek Main and follow that for about 10.5km to near Cyrtina Creek. Plenty of hunters seen along this road.
No other vehicles parked here and I set out with loppers in hand, cross Cyrtina Creek and head further up the valley. Someone has been doing a good job keeping things pruned back and no further trimming was necessary though I did a little bit higher on the Cyrtina Spur - which I soon got to and followed upwards to the last switchback where a rock cairn and ribbons mark the trail to Mountain Lake.
This trail traverses under Ben More and it too was in good shape. I soon reached Wind Lake and couldn't help but think that this place has a Gates of Shangri-La feel to it as you pass through some big boulders and enter an alpine playground full of small lakes, bluffy peaks and many scrambling choices along with some great views.
The "gates" to The Mountain Lake area. Ben Lui at rear, Wind Lake just visible below it.
I pass by a still mostly frozen Wind Lake and wind my way past a few other small tarns following a cairned faint at times trail heading towards Mountain Lake. Starting off earlier there had still been a lot of cloud around but now as entered the alpine things were looking clearer in some directions.
The west side of Ben More from next to a small tarn. Good granite for scrambling.
After dropping down slightly I leave the trail where is winds it's way around the end of a ridge and ascend this ridge to a small rocky view point just south and above Mountain Lake. This is the ridge I'll be following for the next while.
The drop and the ridge above which goes to Ben Vorlich - top centre shot. I'm gaining this ridge out of picture right.
From this rocky bluff I get a good view down at the lake and off towards some nice looking mountains nearby that aren't blocked by cloud. Further afield most other peaks still have cloud obscuring them.
Mountain Lake below with Mount Sheer rising above it and Sky Pilot, Ledge etc in the distance. Nice colouring on the lake.
Following the ridge on a mix of rock, heather and some trees/bush I get to the base of Ben Vorlich and head steeply up that. This is mainly forested and the top section required a bit of thought and then a short scramble on mossy slick rock aided by tree branches to achieve the summit area.
The Mountain Lake <s>Church</s> hut from the ridge.
Elevation here is 1599m. The views are nice and I get a good look further along the ridge to Ben Avon. I spend a while up there enjoying the sunshine.
1. Summit shot.
2. Eastern (mountain playground) view with Red far left, Ben Lui in the middle and Ben Moore at right. The tip of Ben Lomond visible between them.
3. Cloud billows up out of the upper Britannia Creek Valley towards Mount Sheer.
4. A look at the ridge as it extends southwest towards Ben Avon.
5. Zooming in on Ben Lomond.
Pulling out my other camera I took some more shots as more cloud came out of the valley and started to cover Mount Sheer. A rare thing then happened as a bright aura appeared in the valley below me as the sun hit the cloud down there.
Check out the lower left corner.
The peak I was on was being shadowed below and the sunlight on mist created a interesting effect. I don't think this is a Brocken Spectra as that relates more to a person seeing their image (I did wave my arm about and zoom in but the shadow is 150m in elevation below me and too far to discern), but it is the same type of effect. I think Dru has a proper shot of it somewhere. Either way, it was cool to see.
Here's a close up.
Packing up my gear I continue along the ridge which has a few ups and downs. I stayed mainly on the northside of it and bypassed a couple of minor bumps but there were a couple of bigger ones to go over.
Nice view down to Condor Lake from just before a bigger bump.
A bump. I went far right then cut back left.
Some really pleasant open areas on this ridge (and a faint track in parts) but most steep parts involve trees and bush or damp moss covered rock. From the bump I drop down through bush to a small meadow. The straight up approach from here is barred by steep cliffs so I go left slightly and start up another treed ridge. There were a couple of breaks in that which had some more scrambling to get by (short class 3 kind of stuff) and then I top out on (ding dong) Avon. Some older people might get that joke.
The "peak" doesn't have a spot height on the trim map but my GPS measured it at 1630m (it was off by a few metres for Vorlich). Less cloud around now and more views - I spent over half an hour up here taking things in and being glad I'd come out today.
1. Park Lane Lake and it's dam (overblown part that flooded Britannia Beach 20 years ago not visible).
2. Goat Ridge and Sky Pilot area.
3. Me with Sky Pilot et al above and Park Lane Lake visible low right.
4. Best view I got all day of Meslilloet.
5. Looking back along my ridge route to Ben Vorlich (centre left area). Sheer at far left with Red, Lui and More centre to right.
Zooming in on Sky Pilot, Ledge and a wisp of cloud.
A zoom on Ben Vorlich. Pinecone Lake area peaks at rear.
And a close up of Mount Sheer which at some angles has a noticeable Tuskiness to it. Pinecone Peak rear right.
With the afternoon well getting on I packed up again and followed the ridge back. No problems with the couple of cruxes as convenient tree and bush branches replaced my handline that I didn't bring. For some reason I forgot to resize a couple of those pictures so I'll add them later. I also forgot another picture of Sky Pilot (you can never have too many of those) and some snow/melt water.
I'd forgotten that Mountain Lake had a dam on it too.
I took a different descent off the ridge once past Vorlich and soon picked up the trail again. Going past a small tarn I noticed more clouds had dispersed and did a quick detour for a look. Mamquam looked nice along with peaks south to southwest of it. I erred in labeling them though and will post later on when fixed.
Cotard area at left, Pinecone Peak at right. Possibly Misty Icefield Peaks way back in and out of cloud.
The sun's getting low in the sky and more cloud is coming in from the west.
Back on the trail I go to the old road and then follow that down with a few small trims along the way. Arriving back at my vehicle at dusk I relax with a beer for a bit and then head out with a spot of deep rutted mud to give my X-Trail a nice brown coat and soon get home as it's not a long drive.
This is a really nice area close to Vancouver and access right now is pretty good (I'm not sure about current logging operations though). The hut is run by The BCMC and doesn't have a stove I think. Either way it's got lots to offer day tripping or overnight.
Map of route and area.
Edit. Here are the forgotten thumbdrive pictures:
Looking down to the notch on the ridge below Ben Avon.
Snow, blue water on the ridge with Sky Pilot at rear.
Looking up the scramble just below the summit of Ben Vorlich.
Correctly (I hope) labeled shot taken from a viewpoint near Ben Lui.