Exceptional Alpine Area at end of long ridge separating Furry and Britannia Valleys. This is North Shore Mountains at their best: many peaks to scramble and countless alpine tarns with good swimming this time of year. Well placed BCMC hut at west end of Mountain Lake simply begs for overnight visit, and it was my home for 2 nights.
Only problem is fairly involved approach- answering few questions marks is main topic of this TR. First I direct you to very accurate CT Trail Wiki entry
, courtesy of guntis. If the gate on top of hill above Furry Creek is open and if you have 4WD, it is smooth sailing all the way to Cyrtina spur roughly 11km up on Furry FSR. Reports say how the road is "mostly 2WD drive-able". Problem is with the word "mostly". Long stretches of this road are flat and gentle - you could even pick up speed! However there are 3 rough and steep hills inside first 5km that might be problematic. First is only about 2km from the gate- my engine was already overheating and I decided to park here (which left me with about 9km of road walk!). Second, around 3km mark is probably most challenging - soft surface that requires good traction. Finally last around 5km mark is also the longest; if you can make it up past this one, the rest is very smooth sailing. Furry FSR approach map (GPS turned on at 2km):
There are several junctions. "Left2" (5km up) is probably most confusing- it was perhaps more logical to go right, so I was thankful for CT instructions. "Right1", around 8km mark has Sinkhole warning ("Proceed at your own risk") - but there were no such things, and whole thing is very safe. Tired from 1 1/2 hrs of walking under hot sun this is where I took my 1st break in bit of shade: Ahead I could see where I had to get up, which still looked quite far at this point:
Finally just before 10km mark wide spur descends to the right ("Left3") on map above; you continue straight, and road narrows. There are few waterbars, so this would be good place to park if your low clearance 2WD made it this far! Otherwise drive-able conditions continue for another km, till crossing of Cyrtina creek. Large pullout about 100m before is the parking lot. Finally few words about cycling: I inquired privately with guntis, but his answer was not conclusive. Now that I've walked whole Furry FSR twice I will strongly advise to bring your bike. Going up you will push on mentioned 3 steep hills; but long stretches of flat road will save tons of time, although descent might shorten the life span of your brake pads.
Mountain Lake is 2 1/2 - 3hrs of moderate pace from here; 8km and about 750 vertical:
Initial stretch continues for 15-20 minutes along quickly deteriorating Cyrtina spur. At clearing, cairn and old wooden table with almost unrecognizable letters "To Mountain Lake Hut" direct you uphill. Next 20-30 minutes are the worst; very overgrown, and at times you can not see your feet - I was thankful for the flags. The higher you go the better it gets, and after couple of switchbacks you come to Wind Lake Trailhead; about 1hr 15min and 550 vertical from 4WD parking. Rough and narrow forest trail brings you to sub-alpine. Cairns mark the way through boulder field and gap leading to Wind Lake. From here things are incredibly scenic! 4 alpine lakes in succession, each prettier from the other. Camera went around the neck and stayed so for the last hour to the Hut. Images - some of which are from the other day - don't do justice:
Final bit leading to BCMC hut is bit of ups and downs - about 20 minutes from "Lakes Plateau". Outflow from dam on west end is best place to get water; this is also starting point for scramble route up Mt. Sheer (as well as some more ambitious destinations, such as Ledge, Sky Pilot, Nai - search CT). Utopia Lake can be seen at top of Britannia valley below; I learned later there was an old trail leading down which presumably still had solid footbed. Hut itself is great - built in 1970, lower floor with couple of desks and chairs, then upper sleeping lot with pads and room for 4-6 people perhaps. Outhouse is nearby looking at south ridge and one of "Bens" (ask simonc, he has climbed all of them):
Hut is unlocked and doesn't see that many visitors judging by the guest book. I had it to myself on 1st night, then company of another solo hiker on 2nd night - very knowledgeable and experienced guy; was pleasure to improve my North Shore knowledge from his expertise.
Second day was for full exploration of this wonderful alpine area, ending with scramble of Ben Lomond
. I had more ambitions, but heat and swarms of mosquitoes took their toll, so last day was used for descent only. To conclude with quote from mick range: "This area is highly addictive; you will be back". I believe I will!