I've been aware of the South Chilcotins as a destination for a few years but decided to prioritize it this season. My hope was to be able to do some long running loops in the mountains but without much familiarity in the area and the somewhat complex gravel road access, it has been a bit of a learning process.
Last week, Nick and I went up for two days. We used Matt Gunn's Scrambles guide to get started in the area. After a relatively late (9am) start from Squamish, we drove up the Slim Creek road and followed the Scrambles route up Dickson Peak. Definitely an interesting area with a relatively short logging road access, followed by an interesting old abandoned mining camp, and then you are in the alpine, first a big glacial meadow and then ENDLESS talus hopping to the summit. Not exactly a 5 star scramble but interesting and cool views of the Chilcotins. Much more of a coastal feel with mostly forrest and then talus on big granite blocks. That evening we camped at the Carpenter Lake FRS - very nice.
Our second day, we drove up past Tyax and parked at the main intersection for the Mud Creek FSR, then ran back up the road to the Cinnabar Creek Trailhead and up the ridge. Once we popped into the alpine, we continued along the ridge crest over sub-peaks along to Harris Ridge, then descended scree slopes to the meadows below Eldorado Pass, up the pass and down the Taylor Creek Trail for a nice loop. This area had much more of the interior feel I was expecting of the Chilcotins. Big broad ridges with nice single track trails. Easy running and really fast travel.
My takeaway's from the first trip were:
1) It's all about choosing good access points and then getting into the alpine on the ridge crests and travelling around from there.
2) The place is huge. We barely scratched the surface of the edge of the map. It's conducive to BIG trips - 50-100k runs would be no problem.
3) Despite that, it's logistically challenging. Out and back trips are fine but doing loops seems like it will require either lots of time running on a logging road or major bushwhacking. With this in mind, I suspect the best way to do it is either floatplane drops (expensive at $1200 to Lorna Lake) or by coordinating with friends and doing a car drop (two groups meet in Gold Bridge and swap cars, each parking at the other's finish and then crossing each other in the middle).
4) This seems like a good area to make use of "fastpacking" techniques - more or less trying to run/jog with an ultralight overnight backpack.
So this week, my girlfriend and I decided to head back up and try out our fastpack systems with a single overnight in the Paradise Creek area.
We parked at the decommissioned bridge at the end of the Paradise Creek Road and jogged to the end where we turned up to follow the Teepee/Relay Ridge Route directly into the alpine. Teepee Peak is an interesting one with big basalt columns and was a easy scramble that we traversed over the top of. From there we had nice running down the ridge towards the col and then started the grind up towards Relay Peak. There were tons of fossils that slowed us down significantly. This is also about when we started to notice the smoke plumes growing, coming from the Williams Lake fire.
Relay peak was a fairly simple scree slog from the North side and the top still has some relay equipment. We interrupted a mountain goat's nap near the summit, then descended the opposite ridge towards the Relay Col. This side had some loose rock steps that we skirted around on the right side.
At the Relay Col, we dropped down nearly to treeline to find a campsite and set up our tarp shelter. We are still refining our ultralight system but and in the dusty ground, regretted not having a better ground sheet. We spent the evening eating dinner and watching a grizzly cruising up and down the ridge crest below Cunningham Peak, a little too close for comfort... Overnight, smoke from the fires blew into the valley and we woke up with sore eyes and throats.
Day 1 Route
The next morning, we were out of camp quickly and down to the Paradise Creek Trail where we cached our sleeping bags and shelter before heading up Castle Pass. This branch of the creek is quite nice and the trail follows scree slopes just above the creek. We caught a group of three mountain bikers at the col before they started their descent into Tyaughton Creek. Andrea waited at the pass while I scrambled up towards Castle Peak. The final pitch to the summit looked very unpleasant with very loose rock. Lots of signs of goats but none in sight. I bailed and we ran back down to our overnight gear and then continued down the Paradise Creek Trail. It's a bit hard to find here and there (we lost it a few times and then had to schwack back to it) and not nearly as well trod as the Taylor Creek Trail. From the trailhead, it was a quick jog back to the car and then we pinned it for Tyaughton Lake and a swim.
Day 2 Route
I'm psyched to keep exploring, especially some bigger days that cross the park. We have still just explored barely the edge of the map/park and there's lots left. I think for running, the areas that the mountain bikers use the most would be best for fast travel. The Paradise Creek area definitely felt remote and much of the trail network was just flagged 'route's that required some concentration.
Our Fastpacking experiment was mostly a success. We used a tarp/mosquito net combo that worked quite well. Our stove was a MSR reactor that was definitely a bit heavy. Our sleeping bags are light but for summer camping, a bit overkill. Our packs were Ultimate Direction Fastpack20s that worked well.
I'm sorry I can't be bothered to fit the images in with the text. They are at the bottom.