This was intended to be a summer visit to the old TV station above Whistler, from the Callaghan Valley. It was also a chance to have a look at the new trails in the area as reported by Mitch Sulkers.
This was also a follow up to the visit to the towers in the winter, and an unsuccessful trip last fall.
We drove past the Canadian Snowmobile Adventures base in the Callaghan Valley, and turned up the Northair Mine road. This road has a pretty rough surface and some obstacles that will challenge sedans. Just past the old mine site, and since last fall, someone has positioned some boulders to prevent larger vehicles from going any further. If you're going there, you may want to first check the width of your vehicle against the Grand Vitara's specs. Beyond that problem the road is narrowed by encroaching brush that will scrape your vehicle, and various protruding rocks etc. that will test your traction and clearance. It continues to the top of the clearcut, and then climbs up through the old forest to the snowmobile cabin. Though the last section looks like an ATV road now, I'm sure Jeeps could reach the cabin.
On the Oct. /2013 trip here with the Escape Hybrid, I was stopped near the top of the clearcut by a combination of snow, summer tires and a steep hill. I don't know how far the Vitara would have made it as we chose to park a little short of where the Escape reached. There is an obvious large flat place to park, and it's the last before the top of the clearcut. Up in the woods there are a few places with room to park. Probably the Vitara and Escape could have reached the cabin without damage, if we'd tried.
First we visited the cabin, then walked back down the road for a few minutes to where many trails branch off it. These various trails range from ATV tracks to little more than flagged routes. Not knowing which was the correct one, our guess was one that started out as rutted mud and then became a route flagged with yellow ribbons. We saw a more elaborate one nearby, but it looked like an ATV road. More on this later.
ATV/Trials Bike ruts at start of yellow flagged route
Canadian Snowmobile Adventures cabin
This is very convoluted terrain. The marked route twisted around and eventually intersected a much more established trail. This we followed to the ridge overlooking Gin and Tonic Lake. We followed this trail, marked with pink/red ribbons, almost to the top of a peak that we thought was Sproatt. We should have been paying more attention to the maps, because it turned out to be Tonic Peak. From it we could see Sproatt and the TV station very far away, with a considerable drop in between. The heat of the day was starting to sap our determination. So we went down to the large lake near the low point, where the hike ground to a halt. This is pretty much where I reached on the 2013 ski trip.
I put this in because as you are hiking east, you come to a point where there are three visible trails ahead. Take the northernmost one off the picture to the left, with red/pink flagging. Don't take either of the ones in the photo.
Sproatt ahead. Sproatt's summit is in line with Weart. The TV station is on the end of the ridge to the east of Sproatt. The lake is where we turned around.
On the way we'd seen a tent beside a pond, and we met a couple exploring the area. One of them had a golf club sticking out of his pack. Turns out he likes to drive a few balls off summits. We didn't ask if he retrieves them. On the way home we heard an ad on Mountain FM about a contest for which the prize was to be helicoptered to the top of Mt. Currie to drive a few golf balls. Nothing like a worthy reason to use a helicopter.
There has also been discussion about the sport of trials biking. Trials bikes are basic motorcycles designed to slowly navigate difficult terrain and for stunting. It looks like the pink flagged route is mostly used by them, but they don't stay on the route. The area around the lake where we turned around had track marks all over the place. Trials bikers say they leave no evidence of their passing, but perhaps that's with the exception of where there is evidence.
After plenty of rare alpine napping, we headed back. We did not attempt to find the yellow flagged route and instead stayed on the main, pink/red flagged trail. Near the cabin this abruptly turned into a very top-quality trail under construction. There were various pieces of machinery and many "Trail Closed" signs. This new trail follows the route of the well-traveled pink/red flagged trail.
What would be the purpose of the yellow flagged route then? It includes cut trees and bush, and there are sections where a narrow footbed has been grubbed out. I'd guess it's an alternate route for the trials bikers while the deluxe new trail is built.
Until the trails are done, and despite it looking like this is a fairly flat area, you'll find it's an energy-intensive area to hike.
When the new trail is built, what will be done about the road access? It seems someone is trying to limit use of the road, and few hikers will be willing to walk up from the old minesite. Does the pink-flagged route continue past Tonic? We were pretty sure it must continue over to the east side of Sproatt, but we couldn't find evidence of it. It also makes one wonder why there's no money to fix the disgraceful wrecks of trails on the North Shore Mountains when there are resources available to do such a fancy job in a place far less used.
Outside of the social issues, and despite the area not having access to dramatic peaks, the completion of a trail network will provide fine alpine rambling.