In early September I headed up to the South Chilcotins for a solo five-day hike that included a traverse along Sheba Ridge. I had originally planned this hike for early August, but decided to postpone due to the awful wildfire smoke that was blanketing the region at the time. Unfortunately the smoke made another return to the region during the second half of this hike, but at least I got a couple of clear days with spectacular views before the smoke rolled in!
Day 1: 9/2/17
After a long drive, I arrived at the Jewel Bridge trailhead in the early afternoon on the Saturday of Labour Day weekend. I did not get off to a very good start.. I walked into the outhouse at the trailhead, only to find it infested with wasps! Got stung plus I lost my eyeglasses in the bushes while I was trying to flee! After wasting a good forty minutes trying to find my glasses, I gave up and hit the trail. My first day was spent hiking up the Gun Creek Valley towards Deer Pass. The trail was so dusty and dry compared to my visit here last year, when I was walking through mud much of the time. The Gun Creek Trail was quite busy with mountain bikers that weekend. For whatever reason the South Chilcotins don't seem to be a very popular backpacking destination.. I ran into many mountain bike groups and a few people on horseback on this trip, but no other backpackers.
I made pretty good time and got far as Trigger Lake by nightfall. The Hummingbird Lake campsite that I had passed earlier was completely empty, but at Trigger Lake I shared the campsite with a group of bikepackers that night.
Views along the trail:
Trigger Lake next morning:
Day 2: 9/3/17
My objective for Day 2 was to explore the west side of Sheba Ridge around Mount Solomon. I ascended up to the ridge the via the Deer Pass trail.
After reaching the little pond at Deer Pass, I left the trail and continued on up through the scree, and by 3pm I was on top of Mount Solomon. From here there was a fabulous view of the surrounding mountains plus the Lizard Creek area way down below. The glacial waters of Lizard Lake and the aquamarine tarns below looked very enticing, and I briefly considered heading down there to camp for the night. That would've meant another exhausting climb up to the ridge again the next morning, so I decided to leave exploring that area for another trip.
Eventually I headed back to Deer Pass where I set up camp for the night. Shortly before sunset the first haze from wildfires began to appear.
Day 3: 9/4/17
By the next morning the haze had not gotten any worse yet, and I woke up to sunny blue skies. I continued on along the high ridge towards Mount Sheba. Bugs were not too bad at this time of year, but there were still enough horseflies remaining on the ridge to be mildly annoying. Three and a half hours later I arrive at the small lake at the base of Mount Sheba.
Water sources along the ridge are pretty scarce. The water in the lake was of questionable quality, but about 200m west of the lake I found a small stream that I used to fill up my bottles. I then dumped most of my gear by the lake and scrambled up to the west summit of Mount Sheba. The mountain sure is crumbling away.. there is plenty of loose, unstable rock on the way up, but the view from the top is worth every step!
I camped back at the lake that night. The near-full moon illuminated Mount Sheba and the entire ridge.
Day 4: 9/5/17
A smoky sunrise:
Next morning I woke up to much smokier skies. The smoke looked even worse towards the east, the direction I was headed. I packed up my gear and continued on along the ridge. There was not much of a view anymore so I was glad I had summitted Sheba the previous day. From the top of Open Heart you could barely even see Spruce Lake... it was as if a thick fog had settled over the area.
I made my descent from the ridge through this desolate and smoky Mordor-like landscape.
Eventually the rough mountaineering route joins up with the Open Heart Trail. I continued on down to the Spruce Lake North campsite only to find it completely empty. There was a lot of helicopter activity at the south end of the lake that afternoon, which I later found out was a Parks crew installing a new pit toilet at Spruce Lake South camp.
Day 5: 9/6/17
After a night a Spruce Lake, I woke up to see that the smoke situation had not improved at all.
The hike out back to Jewel Bridge was quiet and uneventful. Even with the smoke, this was a very satisfying trip. I can't wait to get back to the South Chilcotins!
Total distance: 80km