If you happen to drive up Downton Creek FSR be aware that the marmots on the upper roads will (maybe) find your vehicle interesting to explore.
I'd been saving Nraiteskel for the time that Vlad could join me on a trip to the Downton Creek Valley. We had 2 days to spend there with me wanting to knock off a few more peaks and him finally getting up there to bag some himself.
We didn't see a cougar driving up the road this time but did see a young bear then a doe and fawn followed shortly after by a stag. Getting to about km 15.8 on the mainline we parked next to a dammed pond where the aforementioned marmots were hanging about. Not many mosquitoes around but blackflies are all over the place.
From there we walked further up the road for 5 minutes then headed into the forest traversing above Downton Creek for a short while before dropping down and approaching a lake in the bush infested lower bowl.
The lake, Vlad, bush and the headwall in the distance we need to ascend to gain the upper bowl.
We thrashed (not too bad as bushwacks go) over to near the creek again then ascended to the headwall where a couple of ramps were spotted. Taking the lower one we worked our way up easily enough to emerge on the edge of the upper bowl where we got our first glimpse of Nraiteskel.
Looking back down to where we came from. Melvin Peak rear left.
And the view ahead to where we want to go.
This upper bowl contains 2 good sized lakes of different shades. It's also the headwaters of Downton Creek. As such, the other peak above the bowl has unofficially been named Downton Peak.
Lower lake with Downton Peak above. muskeeto could well be up there when this shot was taken.
His Downton TR
Passing by the lower lake we paused at the creek running into it from the upper lake and took a break before continuing onwards past the upper lake to boulder hop, snow walk and scramble up towards the Downton/Nraiteskel col area.
Vlad on one of many ledges/ramps utilized on this day.
The 2 lakes in the upper bowl with the Melvin area at rear.
From here the views are getting good as we can now see into the upper Lost Valley Creek valley. The southern ridge of Nraiteskel stretches out above us and does look a bit imposing. The northwest ridge of Downton Peak not as much but there looks to be some steps and badly slanted ledges.
Haylmore Peak on the other side of Lost Valley Creek.
Vlad and the southern ridge of Nraiteskel.
What came next was a enjoyable scramble with plenty of class 3, some class 4 and maybe a couple of low 5 moves as we made our way upwards. One spot had Vlad give me a hand up as his superior height allowed him to get up a tricky section. A few cairns were noticed for help in route finding and we went a little left and right occasionally off the ridge crest to bypass any cliffs that barred the way. We stayed out of any major gullies.
1. Looking up.
2. Looking down.
3. Looking up again.
As the pictures above show, the rock was pretty good throughout and route finding not difficult but this is a reasonably challenging scramble.
After about 50 minutes of fun we gained the summit with it's large cairn and took in the views, had some food and drink and discussed the possibility of looping over Downton Peak as time was good.
1. Lost and Found to the north of us.
2. The top end of Lost Valley Creek with Crystal above it. Elliott far left (Asherah behind it) and Joffre Group, Wedge area (way back) along with Marriott in the distance.
3. 2653m summit shot. Found and Tenor behind us with the Seton area in the far distance.
4. The 2 lakes below, Downton Peak at right with Melvin SW2 to the left.
We'd packed a rope (and also brought iceaxes and crampons) but didn't need it for the descent. Everything flowed just right with no issues.
This rock reminds me of the Nesakwatch/Rexford area.
I could not get enough of this view.
Casper the friendly hiker.
The northwest ridge of Downton Peak.
We continued down the ridge past where we gained it heading towards Downton Peak but were soon blocked by a large step with no easy way around it without dropping down a long way on either side. Past this though the ridge up Downton looked tricky as there was plenty of blocky rock and the need to traverse to the right to avoid a minor knoll on the ridge. The traverse on a ledge didn't have a good slant and if you fell there it wouldn't end well but if you could get past the step it could work.
What it looks like.
I'm still digging the view this way.
Backtracking slightly we found a good spot to drop off the ridge then headed back towards the 2 lakes. A quick traverse over found a long snow slope that was utilized for a fast ascent downwards and a few more smaller ones came in handy to avoid some boulder hopping.
The long slide.
Back at the lower lake it was so idyllic we spent over half an hour there relaxing.
Wild flowers, the lake and some Melvins.
Vlad found a flat rock to stretch out on, remove his boots and chill.
Continuing on we headed back to the top of the headwall and found the right place to descend to the lower bowl where we followed a minor debris field almost down to the lake there then did a quick bushwack around to easier terrain where we stayed out of the forest until Downton Creek and it's ravine drew near.
Minor debris field we followed down to near the lake.
5-10 minutes of forest walking and we reach the logging road and wander down that to my vehicle where we see a marmot skulking around. I go behind a bush to grab my cooler which had been knocked over but not opened then enjoy a beer whilst a couple of marmots sat and watched us. Paw prints were then noticed on the passenger door, the hood and on the windshield.
We checked under the car but there were no leaks or obvious chew marks. However, when I started it there was a 5 second whirring noise and the ABS and 4WD warning lights came on. Checking the engine compartment and under the car more thoroughly still didn't show anything amiss but something was obviously wrong and we were pretty sure who the culprits were.
Checking the manual it informed me that the ABS would not be working but the brakes would (checked the fluid levels and that was fine). Same with 4WD (good thing this road and Branch 2 are pretty easy going). We drove back down the road to the landing near Branch 4 and made camp.
A good fire was lit and we enjoyed dinner as the sky darkened and night set in. Vlad retired to his tent and I sat up a bit longer before going to bed but sleep as usual for me when car camping was elusive. Vlad woke early, poked his head out of the tent and saw another marmot hanging around under my vehicle. After I got up there was no new problems so we broke camp then drove up Branch 2 to the Holly Lake Trailhead where he took off right away to go bag more peaks (that I'd already done) whilst I had breakfast then followed.
Leaving the trail at the first open area I went up and soon was in the alpine with a couple of peaks to bag and a route further afield to scope out for a later visit.
4 peaks that Vlad traversed from the other side of the Holly Lake Basin. TR to follow.
Rough idea of Nraiteskel route.
I have my vehicle booked in for a check up tomorrow and hope it's nothing too serious or costly (ICBC will cover if necessary).