I have done a bunch of trips to Valhalla Provincial Park in the West Kootenays over the years and all of them have been to Mulvey Basin. I wanted to go somewhere else, so this year my friend Graham and I decided to check out the Devils Range, the next range to the north.
Some past trips:
Access is via the popular Gwillim Lakes trail. Although, to most easily get to our base camp at Cauldron Lake, you turn off the Gwillim trail at Wicca Lake and bushwack northeast for a couple hours, descending to cross Gwillim Creek and then ascending to the destination.
Many of the peaks in the Devils Range can be scrambled, but a couple pretty much require technical climbing to summit, and then, there are a lot of unclimbed faces and cracks and features too. The guidebook to the area just got an online update, which you can find on the Kootenay Mountainm Club website. And David Lussier, local guide, was kind enough to share with me via Facebook message a couple details that didn't make it into the guide. All of which was kind of moot because although we climbed 7 peaks in 6 days, we didn't make any first ascents of any new routes. But I figured I should acknowledge these resources, since they were helpful.
I'm going to divide this trip report up into a number of posts, one per day, each with its own pictures, in order to keep things organized.
Day 1 - Saturday August 13.
Not a lot to say about Saturday. We drove from Chilliwack to the Koots, and got to the trailhead. We made dinner and split an alpine growler of beer. I slept in the back of the truck and Graham pitched his tent next to it. No snafflehounds molested us in the night.
Day 2 - Sunday, August 14.
We got up, packed, and wrapped the truck in chicken wire. We had brought a couple rolls of our own, as there is some at the lot but it's popular so there's never enough for all the cars that need it. One car had gone on a different tack by just leaving an economy size bag of mothballs under the car. Supposedly they keep porky and ground squirrels away too. I had heard this technique laughed about before, but I'd never seen anyone actually try it! Their car was gone by the time we got back so I still have no idea if it works.
We had way too much stuff so we had to do some selection at the trailhead to fit it all in our packs. We ended up leaving some stuff behind including, inadvertently, any form of reading material. No books, no magazines, no phones, no e-readers. Nada. All that we had was a 10-page printout from the online guidebook and a 1:80000 scale TRIM map printout. This was a little undersupplied for a 6 day trip as it turns out as it took about 10 minutes to read from end to end. Still, it was very conducive to memorizing all the route details for the Devils Range.
We hiked to Drinnon Lake and got the first view of our objective. We went through Drinnon Pass and past Warlock Lake. Before we got to Wicca Lake we saw what looked like a faint climbers' trail heading off into the bush towards our objective "Aha," I said to Graham, "this must be where we go."
Well, it wasn't. It soon petered out into head-high azalea. We thrashed down a bunch of steep rockslides and eventually made it to the valley bottom, and crossed Gwillim Creek. Then we thrashed up the other side of the creek, which was steep and hot and not very much fun with a heavily loaded 95L pack full of climbing gear. Eventually we made it to CauldronLake. I think it took Graham around 4.5 hours, and me at least 5, but I did stop and take a meadow break about half an hour from the top, during which I lay in the meadow and saw how many different species of horse flies, deer flies, mosquitoes, and noseeums I could kill with a single swift blow to my own face.
I must admit, when we got to camp and got camp set up, it was a pretty idyllic place except for the bugs, with great views of the north sides of Mulvey Group and Prestley Group, and plenty of hot and cold running snafflehounds of all species.
The limitations of our no-books mistake became immediately apparent because there were too many bugs to hang out easily outside the tents while inside the tents there was pretty much nothing to do but stare at the wall or attain Zen oneness with everything. This was going to be an interesting 6 days for sure.