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post #1 of (permalink) Old 08-23-2016, 11:43 PM Thread Starter
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Default Six Days in Valhalla with the Devil

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.
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Last edited by Dru; 08-25-2016 at 05:23 PM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 08-24-2016, 12:02 AM Thread Starter
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Day 3 - Monday August 15. Devil's Dome!

Devils Dome is allegedly the highest peak of the range, and also one of the ones with no easy route up. The simplest climb is a Grade III 5.6 route up the Southeast Buttress. It was also the peak that was directly above camp so we figured it was the best climb to do on our first day of climbing and we'd branch out from there.

We left the lake around dawn and headed up a boulder-choked gully above camp to a higher lake, then up another boulder gully above that to the base of the dome. Some of the locals came out to meet us and to comment on our progress and what they thought of it. I saw enough pika-chus that I had to check to make sure I wasn't playing Pokemon.

One handsome fellow named Bill had white hair and horns and a beard and may have been the cloven-hoofed prancer who gives the range its name.

As we approached the peak we got a chance to scout the south face and look at the other route established there. Originally done in the 70s, in the 80s some other climbers who found it too hard claimed it hadn't been done, and as late as 2007 people were still claiming that it was fake. A big rockfall did occur from it in the 2000s but Dave Lussier re-established the climb after the rockfall and found pretty strong evidence that the 1970s party did indeed climb it, which makes all the naysayers look pretty foolish, at least to me.

The southeast buttress takes the right skyline as seen from the approach, and begins up a gully full of loose scree and chockstones, which it is best to exit on the left as soon as possible and get onto more solid rock. We started up this in our boots and found the climbing over the chockstones to be pretty butch, in fact probably the hardest move of the whole day was bouldering around one of the chockstones, and we both found it unexpectedly taxing. We put rock shoes on at the first belay and things went better thereafter.

The original Southeast Buttress line does a bit of zig-zagging off the buttress crest in search of the easiest line, but the rock is so well-endowed for climbing, with solid knobs and good cracks, that it's pretty much possible to climb almost anywhere, and we climbed more or less directly up the buttress crest. There are a number of fixed sling and piton rappel stations on this buttress because it's also the descent route from the peak and we went pretty much directly station to station.

Once on the summit, which was pretty much bug-free, we were in no hurry to get down so we spent the better part of two hours lounging and watching another distant party of 4 doing a traverse of some peaks to the west, and scoping out all the other climbs and summits in the area. It was a great vantage point. All too soon we had to descend. The rappels went smoothly, and we only had to add webbing to two of the five stations. Another party had done the same climb just a few days before us and they had already beefed up some stations.

We went ripping back down the boulder gully to camp and had a three hour tent nap to stay out of the bugs. Then we made dinner with masks on, and went back into the tents for a while. But sunset was too beautiful to stay in the tents for, and it was worth getting bit, with a nearly full moon rolling up directly over the pointy pyramidal summit of Asgard

That's enough for tonight. I will get to days 3-6 tomorrow.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 08-24-2016, 12:09 AM
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I sure miss that area. The Devils Range with Devils Couch is quite spectacular. I had my first look at it when I bushwacked up behind Mt. Prestley many years ago. I guess the road must be in good shape since that car with low clearance made it.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 08-24-2016, 04:35 AM
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Effing bugs eh! That's a great Pokemon shot. 6 days without anything to do, and the bugs being so bad that you have to hide in your tent. I can't even comprehend what that's like. Sweet looking trip otherwise though. good call on the growler.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 08-24-2016, 11:17 PM Thread Starter
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Day 4- Chariot Peak

Chariot Peak is an enormous, sprawling boomerang of a ridge with three separate high points and moderately large, loose walls on its sides which divides the western and eastern points of the Devils Range and provides a barrier that prevents easily getting from east to west. On our second day of climbing we resolved to go light (no gear, no ropes) and scramble up Chariot to see what the access further east looked like.

From Cauldron Lake, one must contour almost exactly dead-east to avoid running into bluffs, hopping talus while end running over several subsidiary ridges, and several times climbing up scree chutes or dirt gullies in order to flank bluffs, then immediately lose that elevation again on the other side of the ridge, to get past Chariot. In the morning this wasn't bad - later in the day with hot sun and bugs it was not entirely pleasant.

We eventually got to the point where we could begin to ascend,m and got up into the broad cirque between the arms of Chariot, and hiked all the way to the col with Banshee. Banshee is pretty impressive but also seemed like a long way to lug climbing gear from Cauldron Lake on a hot day, a factor which played into future decisions.Banshee also has this enormous vertical chimney corner on its northwest flank, a feature which, in the spirit of the Kootenays mythological naming traditions, might well one day be called Yoni Of the Universal Mother Goddess.

Turning our backs on Banshee, we had a very enjoyable couple of hours traversing all three summits of Chariot along the ridge from east to southwest, a scramble that never got above Class 2-3 and had good views in nearly all directions. We stopped many times for photos, munching, or just general reclining and gazing at the views.

On our way down from the traverse, which pretty much required that we retrace our steps from the cirque back across the long boulder-hop sideslope to Cauldron Lake, we stopped at the largest tarn in the cirque for a swim. No sooner had we stripped down and plunged into the water than we bounded right back out - it was cold. And we heard the distant sounds of a helicopter, too.

Me: "Mmm-mmm-maybe (teeth chattering) it's a helicopter full of supermodels, come for a photo shoot?"
Graham: "If it is I hope they brought their microscopes!"

Of course, any benefits from cleaning off the sweat in the lake were negated by the long sweaty, bug-ridden slog back across the talus to camp. Thus endeth day 4.
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Last edited by Dru; 08-24-2016 at 11:19 PM.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 08-24-2016, 11:44 PM Thread Starter
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Day 5 - Traverse of Mephistopheles, Rosemary's Baby, Trident and Lucifer

For day 5, we went the other way from camp - west. Mephisto, Trident and Lucifer form a ridge of three peaks along the divide west of Devils Dome. Rosemary's Baby is one of the bumps of the Trident that somehow got its own name. We had seen distant climbers doing this traverse on Monday and also read a couple TRs of the Mephisto to Trident portion. The guidebook said something about two 5.3 pitches on the southwest ridge of Trident to avoid a scree gully but it all looked pretty easy from camp and no one seemed to mention a rope in their TRs so we took no gear or rope.

We hiked up the other big gully at Cauldron Lake, which passes west of False Devils Dome, and eventually leads right to Mephistopheles. A little bit of snow got us to the notch and ten minutes of hand-in-pockets type Class 2 scrambling saw us summit Mephisto, where we paused to enjoy the cool breeze keeping the bugs at bay and check out our upcoming traverse, which looked like really enjoyable ridge scrambling.

We headed back down to the col at the base of Mephisto and set off along the ridge, which was mostly deliciously solid scrambling on solid rock with large holds and occasional sections of boulder hopping. And it all went like clockwork - Rosemary's Baby, check, other bumps of the Trident, check, up to summit of Trident, check, down the southwest ridge of Trident, ummm, errr...

The southwest ridge of Trident got into real 3rd class on zigzagging ledges below the summit pretty quickly and then got steeper. I was in front of Graham working our way down and came to a spot that I didn't really want to solo down - slopy holds and huge exposure. I was just commenting to Graham "I think this is the easiest way but it doesn't feel all that secure" when he pointed out a large rappel sling around a block I was standing right next to but hadn't seen. Oh well, hmmm.

Now we could see the NE ridge of Lucifer a fair bit below us and it seemed pretty obvious that what we needed to do was go back, descend on the west side of Trident, and just walk over to connect up with that ridge. So we retraced our steps back to the col with R'sB and dropped down on the west side. Here we followed a sloping ledge which gradually got narrower and more slopy and narrower and more slopy as it cut around the west side of Trident. Eventually it ended with a steep sloping ramp/downclimb of fractured slabs towards a steep snowfield some 60' below us, with the ridge we wanted to get to on the other side of the snowpatch. Best of all some poor sods had been here before us and had tied a hank of crappy blue polypro rope (the kind you use for boat mooring) to a wobbly block as a kind of hand line, I guess. And it only made it half way down to the snow. I gingerly ventured down to the bottom of the rope and couldn't see a safe,stable way down to the snow without just jumping and hoping for the best - "Hey Graham I guess this doesn't work out either!"

So, we went the very long way around, all the way back to Mephisto col, down onto the high scree ledge below R's B east face, and along that below Trident and all the way over to the southeast ridge of Lucifer and up that, many hours later than we'd planned on being, to the summit of Lucifer.

I must say I was pretty impressed with Lucifer, by the way. It's right above Gwillim Lakes and has a trail to the summit, which also requires some quite exposed 3rd class scrambling to outflank a gully and then cross a perched chockstone at the head of another gully. The logbook is full of people's stories, including those of the guys who left the blue polypro rope behind, 7 yr old kids summiting, 40th wedding anniversaries, and other stuff. Seems like a well loved peak.

At any rate, after spending as long as we could on top of Lucifer, we headed back to camp once again, to avoid the bugs by lying in our tents staring at the walls. This no-books no-alcohol stuff was beginning to get a bit grating. Enlightenment was nowhere to be found, contrary to certain media claims.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 08-25-2016, 12:02 AM Thread Starter
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Day 6 - False Devils Dome

Feeling like we needed a little bit of a rest day, we decided to head back up towards Devils Dome and climb the neighbouring but slightly lower False Devils Dome, a sharp fin of rock with a mixed 4th and 5th class route to the top on the south ridge. The initial approach was the same (no goats this time) and then we veered out west onto the south ridge and made our way up through some krummholz to the start of the Real Climbing (TM).

The Real Climbing started off pretty good with a traverse, a steep pitch up somewhat solid chickenheads, and then another exposed traverse around a gendarme. This put us in the smaller of the two big dihedrals that split False Devils Dome's east face. Going right up the dihedral seemed to involve a lot of grass and chockstones so we found an airy traverse and climb up the left gully wall that abvoided the whole thing. From this point the clibing tailed off into super exposed, but easy scrambling onwards to the summit.

One of the best things about the summit was that it had the original summit log complete with the FA record as well as the record of other significant ascents of the peak. All told there were only about 10 ascents recorded in the book, although there have been one or two others that I'm aware of but who didn't sign in.

All too soon it was time to leave and we retraced our steps along the scramble and partway down the grass gully. We made two rappels, the first one going over the chockstones, making a short traverse south from the end of that rappel, then down the steep pitch with chickenheads we had originally climbed. The anchor on this, around a sturdy krummholz, wasn't in the greatest spot and the rope got stuck for 15 minutes on the final pull despite our best efforts to prevent it. Luckily we got it free without any jumaring and without pulling boulders down on our heads.

It was a quick romp back down the talus gully to camp where as we sat in bug masks making dinner, the conversation was all about what to do tomorrow? The two options were a long traverse to climb Banshee and points east, or to pack up and leave. We really couldn't decide what to do and eventually chose to set the alarms for an early start but decide in the morning what to do. Some weather rolled in that night and the dark clouds added to our uncertainty, although despite the threatening weather, lightning never developed.

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post #8 of (permalink) Old 08-25-2016, 12:13 AM Thread Starter
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Day 7- The Retreat

We got up early, like 4:30 AM. I ran out of gas while cooking breakfast. Graham still had some, though. As we slurped our oatmeal and the stars faded, we tried to decide what to do. Ultimately I was about 40% in favor of climbing and 60% in favor of leaving, and Graham felt roughly the same way, so the majority decision (1.2/2) was to leave.

We packed up and headed down to Gwillim Creek. Having had several days to scope the line, we finally knew where we were supposed to go, and it didn't take that long to pick up the trail again at Wicca Lake. Overall we were about 3 hours to the trail and just over four back to the parking lot, where we enjoyed some well-earned beer and clean, non-sweaty clothes.

Probably the best parts of the hike out were the friendly doe that we met in the valley bottom, and the overly friendly snafflehound at Drinnon Lake who insisted that he was overdue for a selfie. If planning to camp at Drinnon Lake I don't doubt that you and your food bag will meet this critter. Unfortunately, there is a bear cache at Drinnon Lake campsite, but someone had left the lid open when we were there. It has no drainholes and was tip-top full of rainwater, which would require some serious bailing if you wanted to actually cache your food in it

All in all this felt like a pretty successful first trip to the Devils Range. I would definitely like to go back to climb Banshee and certain features on some of the other peaks in the area - maybe when there is more snow still on the ground and you can glissade more and boulderhop less, and/or when the bugs are dead.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 09-17-2016, 12:03 AM
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That is one very impressive multi-day trek. Lots of rock and climbing, the both of you were in your element, a sort of heaven of rocky mountains. Some of those places are truly majestic.


Hiking is what keeps you young of mind and heart. When the going gets tough, the tough get going..............
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