Watersprite Lake - a good destination.
I’d spent some time exploring the Watersprite Lake area (AKA Mamquam SW Summits) in times past with Martin East Peak being my last visit a few years back. Over the last year that mountain got re-named to Gibson Peak and a few other 1800m+ peaks in the area were given other guitar themed names (Epiphone, Fender and Washburn) courtesy of Bivouac.com. As I’d never been to the lake when not snow covered and with some newly named peaks to check out, I was happy to have a shorter drive and upgraded road access due to the Skookum Creek IPP.
Turning off Mamquam River Main on to the Skookum Creek Road I saw a bunch of vehicles and people who were from the BCMC and were heading up towards the dam to continue their hard (and excellent) work on the trail to Darling Lake. I took a spur road after nearly 3km (large candy-cane shaped ventilation shaft nearby) and followed that a short way to a large landing and parked there. A large group of people were camped out here with 4x4s, dirt bikes and quads. I talked with them for a while about the area and they mentioned another group of people had headed up towards the lake earlier. There is also a new sign posted by the parking area stating No Motorized Vehicle use beyond on the old access road (was called R-Line but on Bivouac is now named Watersprite Spur).
I walk nearly 5km up this road – brushed out to ATV width for the most part and easy on the feet – into the Watersprite Creek Valley and find the trail on my left that starts in a large cross ditch and is marked with flagging tape along with an arrow posted on a tree.
The trail/route is easy to follow as it drops down, skirting some marshy areas. Well flagged with a trailbed in most places and a couple of log bridges across creeks. Dave S. and others (I think from BCMC) have put some good effort into this route over the past while. Some boggy sections (at the moment) and talus slopes along with a bit of forest travel get me up to the lake where a future sanctioned cabin may sit.
Watersprite Lake and Tower. I’m heading for the low spot on the skyline.
I boulder hopped around the west to south side of the lake then started up the bowl which is full of glacial till. I soon noticed a more appealing ramp/gully just south of Watersprite Tower that had better rock and some snow cover so I went up and over and ascended that. Some yells were heard across the valley and I could see a few people atop the bump between Martin East (Gibson) and Martin West (Martin). As I hadn’t taken a break yet, I paused for a drink and some cookies then continued up my pleasant ramp.
Good quality snow and decent rock.
Gaining the ridgeline NNE of Gibson Peak I get my first views on the peaks I want to visit along with some other nice views but the cloud is getting heavier and some distant peaks have already vanished. I’m now on the Watersprite/Martin Valleys Divide.
View back down to Watersprite Lake with the Tower at right. A tricky notch reportedly separates it from the ridge.
More voices could be heard to the west and I spot some people on the northeast ridge of Martin Peak.
Where I’m going: Epiphone Peak and it’s near as high south ridge along with Fender in the distance. Part of the Pinecone Peak area way back.
Washburn Peak across the Upper Martin Creek Valley. Pinecone Peak in the clouds rear left.
From here I traversed over from this ridge to the short northwest ridge of Epiphone (Crawford/Martin Valleys Divide) then dropped down slightly to the base of the peak.
Upper Crawford Creek Valley with Mamquam Mountain in the distance and Crawford Peak just visible above the cliffband at right.
The scramble to the peak was quite easy on heather and good quality rock or snow. The longer southern summit looked very close in elevation so I took a GPS reading then continued onwards. Map elevation has the peak at 1856m.
Southern summit, melt tarn lower left and Pinecone Peak (and just about Seed Peak too) reveals itself.
Gibson and Martin Peaks from the summit. The clouds are getting lower and darker.
Ridge walking around here is very enjoyable even with the diminishing views as I drop a little then ascend the southern summit where a check of the elevation has it maybe a metre lower. I paused here for some more food and drink along with some pictures.
Looking back along the ridge and Dreadnought Peak finally comes out of the clouds. This was the only time I saw it fully. Pyramid and Spire along with parts of Mamquam in the distance.
Cotard Peak to the east was looking fine.
Fender Peak approach.
“Martin Lake” below and Gibson Peak above. I came over from the Watersprite Valley just out of picture right.
I stayed with the ridge leading to the base of Fender on its northwest side. Things were pretty steep and hindsight says I may have been able to drop down the right side and contour over to the west ridge (right side of Fender approach shot). However, I noticed a chimney/gully that bisected the NW face with decent rock on climbers right so upwards I went. First part was on the right then I traversed over to the chimney (which was damp and some moss/grass) to work my way up that. The top part didn’t appeal so I went right again and scrambled up a rock face with nice holds to gain the summit ridge next to a gnarly old tree (I’d rate this climb as stiff class 3). I’d packed my rope based on previous experience in this area (and looking at topo lines) so this tree could be useful on the descent.
From here it was an easy stroll to the summit of 1843m. No cairn atop this peak (or the other one) so I built a small one (didn’t on the other one). In decades past this peak looks to be an easy ascent from Crawford Creek logging roads but they are well grown in by now. Time for some more food and drink but as I did that some rain starts to fall and the clouds moved in blocking all views.
Looking back towards Epiphone as the clouds gather.
Socked in summit shot.
Not content with limiting my visibility and creating slick terrain from the rain, Mother Nature decides to add some hailstones into the mix. I’m cursing the unperfect timing as I hastily repack my bag, grab my rope and hike back over to the old tree.
Quick shot looking down the chimney/gully (wide angle makes it not so steep).
I put the 7mm rope around a sturdy tree limb and drop both ends down over the rock face and into the gully where I can see slushy collections of hail building up. Carefully I back down about 25 feet and realize the rope is not long enough to safely get me past the steeper parts so I climb back up. Pulling the rope back I tie off one end to the limb so that I’ve nearly doubled its usable length and toss it back down.
Very carefully I downclimb, the rope wrapped around my arm in a couple of spots for support as I search for foot holds. I took my time and safely reached the end of the rope in less steep terrain. There, I held it a moment longer and thanked it for many years of good service before letting go and downclimbing the rest of the gully to safer ground.
Hand over the camera trying to keep the rain off the lens – looking back up the gully/chimney. My sacrificed rope up there somewhere.
The rain carried on for a while as I started my way back towards Epiphone with the less lichen covered bedrock not too slippery. Things did ease off atop the sub peak and the sun even tried to come out. Meanwhile in Vancouver, folks were enjoying another sunny day.
Fender at left, Washburn at right.
Crawford Peak appears for a short moment.
Fender Peak – I went up/down in the area where the yellow arrow is (route not visible) and the black arrow suggests an approach to the west ridge at right but the rock looks bluffy.
Clouds continued to swirl around and showers came down along with a sucker window here and there as I followed the ridge back to the summit of Epiphone. I spent a few minutes up there then started back to Watersprite Lake.
Epiphone summit shot.
I didn’t take the nice ramp down towards the lake but checked out the main bowl which has loose talus, some scree and is generally less preferable but it got me down just fine.
Looking up the main bowl.
The terrain improves as it nears the lake (see first picture) and soon I’m back around it and starting down the trail. My right knee that had hurt plenty during my last few trips was this day doing well. Showers continued on and off even with the sun mostly shining by now.
An idea of part of the trail lower down. Trailbed not always there but flagging usually is. Some sections may require a little casting around to find the next ribbon (or cairn if you’re on talus).
Back to the road and an hour or so later I reach my vehicle, chat briefly with the campers then drive down the road a bit and enjoy a beer and chat with some BCMC people who were heading out too.
Map of area and route.
Update: as of early July 2015 the rope has been recovered.
My other Mamquam SW Summits TRs: