Whole Lotta <s>Love</s> Bens and Lakes. Couple of photos; descriptions inside:
Detail Report: Full day of wondering in this amazing alpine. Had no real plan except that I should eventually manage to get up Ben Lomond; I've been curios about this 'tooth' ever since I saw pictorial from old NSH winter-time trip.
First I'll describe normal approach route, regardless of whether you are coming from Wind or Mountain Lake. First goal is to reach low col between Ben Lui and Ben More. This is easiest done by traversing prominent grassy shelf circling around Ben Lui. This ledge is best accessed from 2nd tarn above Wind Lake; set of cairns lead the way:
If coming from Mountain Lake, this is most natural way. If coming from Wind Lake it might look too roundabout, but right (east) side has some non-pleasant micro-terrain so do yourself a favor and continue following trail for ~10 minutes till you reach cairned turnoff. This shelf provides some great views of Wind Lake as well:
Route crosses rocky basin just under Ben Lui col, then continues along Ben More ridge directly towards Ben Lomond. Ben More can be ascended without much trouble from here as well. I followed cairns for a bit, but really wanted to take a look at Omer Lakes in valley under Red mountain. Brief 10 minutes detour led to these views:
Day was hot and there was little breeze. I was already running out of water. These sparking lakes just looked too inviting. From recent report I knew Paul and Guntis
were able to trash up Ben Lui from lower Omer lake. Way was not obvious from my vantage point (always harder to routefind going down), but I was confident I'd find the way. So I abandoned cairned ridge route and started descending. If you ever do this, correct gully will be 3rd one counting from Ben Lui col (first two end in cliffs lower down). It is still not too pleasant - steep rocky creekbed, and swarms of mosquitoes made life quite miserable - but after about an hour I was down at lower Omer lake for well deserved lunch break:
If going for Ben Lomond as day-hike from Vancouver, this would be indeed unnecessary and roundabout route. But I had all day and I was glad I took it; the valley is simply amazing with bubbling stream, meadows and boulders and finally upper Omer lake reached in some 20-30 minutes of easy hiking. Even prettier, and better swim hole. There is actually depth right at the shore. Nobody around and I donned my birthday suit. 20+ years of hiking in western Canada, and this was the first. I dislike cold water and fully expected banana to come out as peanut, but water was so warm- felt like 23 or 24 Celsius. I did laps for at least 5 minutes - amazingly refreshing! Only thing that spoiled it were mosquitoes once I was out - fast chicken dance to put on my clothes on still wet body before I bleed to death.
Refreshed, it was time for a scramble! Rest of the way up Omer valley towards the peak:
More easy hiking leads to the base of the peak; this is where "high route" via Ben More ridge joins in. Coming from Omer Lakes the easiest way is to continue straight up the talus then angle right towards the col under summit buttress. If coming via Ben More, one can probably continue along the ridge line in order not to loose elevation, although that seems to have some slabs. I did not go and check, but I suspect this is where Paul and Guntis turned back:
I expected to find some cairns or even bit of trail at the col, but nothing. I suppose some would tackle head on, but easiest way is traverse at base of cliffs heading east to 2nd chimney slicing up to summit ridge. This chimney has blocky steps and can be scrambled without much trouble. Cairn on top indicated my route-finding skills were spot on. If you go, do make mental note of this cairn though to be able to identify point where you come down off the ridge on descent:
From top of chimney summit is reached in another 10 minutes of easy scrambling. Only problem is bit of cliff guarding the top; it can be ascended directly up difficult chimney, but easy way is to traverse a bit right (south). Summit has large cairn and offered unexpected surprise: Views of seldom-seen Loch Lomond, with Bagpipe peak rising above. I found deep blue color of Loch Lomond most amazing; the image is not edited. Length of Seymour watershed eventually leading past Cathedral to Seymour Lake in LSCR could also be traced:
Bagpipe was intriguing; but considering the involved approach I was almost certain I'd not find any reports on CT about the ascent. But there is one, and it is usual suspect(s)
- although the ascent was done in winter. Finally, tracks of my (roundabout) route from Mountain Lake Hut:
For return I planned to head up Ben More- but looking at Omer Lake I could not pass up yet another swim! So it was back the same way, this time with a dip in both upper and lower lake. Phenomenal alpine day, but heat and bugs took their toll and I did not do all I planned. Gives me excuse to come back, hopefully in the fall when air is crisp and bugs are long gone. Amazing alpine, and highly recommended for 2nd or 10th visit.