I've had a secret hardon for Siwhe for a number of years. Don and I were driving up to Lillooet once around 10 years ago and we stopped at the pullout across from the Intlpam Reserve and binoculared the NE ridge. Looks pretty good from there to me. Of course, access is supposed to be a bitch. I heard thru the grapevine that Jia had climbed the west face and when I emailed him about it I got tales of 15km approaches and multiday hikes with gear to get to the base. Not really a weekend deal.
Fred T climbed Stein and Siwhe via some big traverse and that didn't sound too fun either.
When my summer Wadd Range trip fell through Bruce told me that Mike Kennedy (the Lillooet mountaineer, not the Alpinist editor) had told him that the NW ridge might be a good route. That's what I went up to check out a few weeks ago. I went too far east and wandered around above Skimath Creek but I got a good look at the mountain and sussed the approach.
So then Doug fixes his feet and wants to go in the mountains for literally the first time in a couple years. We are making plans.
"Bro. Some alpine rock? Maybe a FA? Looks kinda wet on the Coast. So somewhere dry... Sloan? Siwhe?"
Doug picked Siwhe. Then the question of how many days comes up and the other question of how much pack weight can Doug's tenderfeet handle. Measuring it out on Google Earth I get 11km from Texas Cr to the summit. Yee haw. Maybe we should go super fast and lite and try a daytrip? Nope. Sanity prevails and we plan on a 2-dayer. Fast and light, bivi in Cottonwood, bag that thing and head home. Super good plan, amirite?
Left Chwk early Saturday morning, switched it up by taking the ferry and the west side road, and left the car at the end of Texas Cr around 1130ish.
Treeline in 30 minutes. First pass in one hour. Doug's feet feeling pretty good. All those things that don't change, come what may.
We saw a marmot battlecage in the meadows. Two snaffles enter, one snaffle leaves. Roly poly cute and deadly.
On the ridge above the Stein we heard mooing and sure enough, saw the cattle herd of Cattle Valley Creek. Not wanting to be mistaken for rustlers, we discussed what we'd do if a couple of cowgirls came riding up the trail. Our final plan was to invite them to a steak BBQ and bareback ride. Cowgirls like those things, I've been told.
We kept hiking along the ridge, past an unnamed lake, over a bump, down through a meadow, around and over some rockslides, past some more meadow, and eventually came to a stop at a little tarn where we found some flat areas and even two ancient fire rings. Must be home, has all the hot and cold running comforts. Although it was a wee bit short of our proposed final destination for the day, we decided it was better. Also there were no bearshits so we felt a little bit securer than otherwise as we had forgotten the foodbag hoist line.
Now, this is a Provincial Park and all that, and campfires are forbidden in the summer, so we didn't have one. Also, serious athletes regard their bodies as temples, and not temples of Bacchus either, so we didn't pass around any firewater. We made a highly serious dinner and chastely spooned in Doug's one-and-a-half-man honeymoon tent until the alarm went off, far too early in the morning. Doug snores something awful but I, out of consideration for his sore feet, refrained from kicking him too hard to make him stop.
After a quick and nasty ichiban breakfast we started pounding the scree to the NW ridge. From camp we went up a rubbly ridge to gain the main ridgeline. Then we followed the ridgeline for a little ways until it became more efficient to sidehill towards Siwhe along the flank. There were lots of boulders of every conceivable size to hop on. Most of them didn't move too much.
After a couple hours of that we got close enough to Siwhe to put our helmets on as the terrain turned from scree hiking to 3rd class and then to 4th. Most of the rock was OK but some of it was solid and about the same amount was friable or mobile. Seems there's been some metamorphosis going on here. It's not really gneiss yet, but there are definitely a lot of sheared bands, some with mafic minerals and some with almost pure porphyritic feldspar crystals with the long axises all aligned the same way. Great looking but shitty in terms of rock quality unless you are looking for a bowl of breakfast crunch. The black lichen was pervasive too. Ideally climbing is done on clean rock but the clean patches of rock here were only clean because they were a recent rockfall scar.
Eventually, and at about 4 hours out from camp, we ground to a halt at what my internal altimeter said was just over 2600m. (It later turned out I was right.) The climbing was just in the process of changing from hard scrambling to easy climbing and at that point where one would get out the rope we came to the conclusion that our rope was most likely going to suffer from the fate of the common earthworm, except without the larger piece surviving to regrow. Chopped in half, both pieces would writhe and then die. Possibly with us attached. Overall the north face of Siwhe is some of the worst, broken vertical gravel I have ever seen. The west face looks nice and solid. The northwest ridge, then, is a little too north and not enough west.
See the nastiness in all its splendour. Barf.
Le Dug is happy to bail today even if it means walking out on bloody stumps. Bloody stumps are still living limbs.
Now you gotta put a spring in your step and a tiger in your tank, and make lemonade out of all the lemons life hands you, because every dark cloud has a silvery-coloured lining, metallic or Dacron, can't be sure. What I'm getting at is that even chosspiles are good for something, especially when there's a vertical 700m drop off one side. Yes. You know what I mean: Archimedes talked about a place to stand and moving the earth. Well, brother, did we ever have a place to stand, and how the earth moved. Mostly downwards and at great speed. Yee haw. I'm certain that lower moraine is measurably larger after our repeatable scientific efforts to verify Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation.
Neither of us felt we had the sac to stand on that diving board, by the way. Too many other rocks had surprisingly parted company with their brethren so far this day for us to believe that this one wouldn't jump at the chance to do likewise.
So. Back to camp and out. We didn't see any cowgirls but we saw fresh horse hoofprints and heard what could have been chainsaws from down Devils Lake way. I guess the fall cattle drive is coming up. That must be a sight to see.
On our way out I was a little ahead of Doug and succumbed to temptation while passing by a tarn. When he caught up to me I was right in the midst of some much-needed ablutions. Nothing like a tarnbath to keep you shined and happy. The water was even warm. Word to the wise, I had been sweating like the proverbial pig, so bring your water filter if you plan to drink from this particular declivity in future.
As you can see, it got pretty smoky on the way out.
We were back at the car around 7 and in Lillooet scarfing down Teen Burgers before closing time and home before midnight. It's always kind of dispriting to spend a few days humping your rack around the back of beyond with nothing to show for it, but this is such a cool area I feel like I had a good time anyway. Probably at some time I'll go back in to have a crack at the west face, especially if I can find out from Jia where his route goes, and also probably if I ever need some roughage in my diet, particularly roughage of the dry black sort. Still not sure if the fast and light daytrip idea is going to work or not. Maybe with bivy at the car it would be viable, maybe not. The meadow camping is pretty tempting, so dragging the bag that extra few hours isn't as much of a losing idea as it seems.
Overall I'd give this trip three stars for scenery, no stars for rock quality, and five stars for trundling. Don't let the good from afar looks fool you, some of these rigs are far from good.