Skihist May 8, 2020
Hello, long time reader, first time poster. I am unable to post my photos. I will look for help with this and edit this post once successful with images.
I will try to keep this post succinct and factual but please excuse any tangents I may take. I have been known to do that.
We opted to loop the route. At the summit we were hopeful that we would have less bush and difficulties by descending the south face, passing over the Anitomony/Claimpost col, and descending past Antiomny Lake to Kha Lake and KC FSR
I've been watching for conditions to tackle SW BC's largest peak for a long time. We were about two weeks late for the absolute sweet spot this spring, but we still had it pretty good. We parked at 4:20am at 750m just before the North Kwioek Creek (NKC) FSR turnoff, where an avalanche was blocking the road. It only cost us 1km extra which was no big deal for this odyssey. Road to this point is HC 2wd.
This is the road-blocking avalanche from a recon trip I did a couple weeks prior
Immediately upon leaving Kwioek Creek (KC) FSR onto NKC FSR we encountered substantial alder. Easy to walk through but definitely not driveable. Alders to 2" diameter sprouting from middle of road, substantially tangled with each other. At 2.5km (elv 1070m), we were faced with the mandatory North Kwioek Creek ford. The river was knee to hip deep and not very powerful, an easy crossing. The road beyond the ford is completely impassable to any type of vehicle so there is no point in anyone attempting to drive even this far, let alone past the ford. For the next 9km (to km 11.5 elev 1390m), we were battling through incredibly difficult bush. Mostly alder, some devils club (not yet in bloom so easy to bash through without personal damage). When the "road" crosses back to the south side of NKC we opted to follow the spur that stayed on the north side. This spur eventually ends before the FSR rejoins it but by this point we were committed to the savage bushwacking and it didn't make much difference whether it was once a road or not. The valley also contained several very marshy areas. We were fortunate to have these frozen. Later in the spring these will pose an extra level of difficulty that we were not burdened with.
At km15.5 (elev 1550), we easily crossed NKC creek dry by hopping on rocks, logs, and snow muchsrooms. The road after this point had enough snowpack that alders were no longer a problem. We were cruising on beautiful wilderness with mostly firm snow beside a calm, beautiful creek.
(NKC snow pic)
At km 15.5 this hike becomes good
Not much to say at this point. When you set out from home to climb a mountain, this section (km 15.5 elev 1550 to km 22.3 elev 2968) is what you are imagining and hoping for. Just beautiful views in every direction and relatively easy travel on mostly firm snow. In researching the route, I had determined that we will not need to walk directly on top of either glacier. We passed below the bottom of the lower glacier and spitting distance below the seracs of the upper glacier. We were on seasonal snowpack for our whole route. The first crux was the snow ramp between the rocks and the upper glacier seracs. We were not expecting the steepness of the snow ramp, and we were expecting more "support" from the rock band below us. When I studied the route on Google Earth, it appeared that the rocks are slightly above, forming a natural back-up should the snow fail and you slide down. This was not the case. Those rocks are pure cliffs and there is exposure through this section.
At the top of the glacier there is a windlip which was completely bridged over forming a crevasse-style feature. Our bypass to climber's right was easy and firm however this feature may require more caution depending on your exact snowpack. Above the glacier is a straightforward traverse towards Skihist true summit. We were above the freezing level so the snow was powdery but supportive below knee depth. No crevasse evidence and the bergschrund visible on Google Earth was completely invisible.
(summit cruz move)
There is one more small crux a few steep steps to gain the true summit. Alltrails shows one of the southeast bumps as the true summit however in person it's obvious that the northwest end of the ridge is the true summit. There are simple 2/3-class steps joining these bumps so getting from one to the other is easy albeit a little exposed.
At the summit we decided to descend the south face, pass over the Antimony/Claimpost col, descend to Antimony Lake, and exit via KC FSR. Here comes one of my famous tangents: I'm not stupid. I don't just roll out of bed and decide to go for the biggest mountain in my region and hope for the best. I have been extensively researching this entire region for weeks. I have read what I thought was *credible* beta about the region. 4x4 clubs, fishing forums, peakbagger, instagram (literally when you look at skihist as a location tag there's a hipster picture of some random mountains (not skihist) tagged as skihist, passing this airplane view off as experience), etc. Lots and lots of information. However I can guarantee there has not been a motorized vehicle at Kha Lake this millenium! People on facebook, and the internet in general, attempt to make themselves look good by pretending they have experiences that they don't. They rely on the fact that no one will cross-reference their experience and expose their lies or embellishments. As an example, someone may drive up to Kwioek Lake, do some fishing, have a campfire, then come home and say they drove up "the entire valley, checked out all the lakes, got some decent fish, seen some amazing wildlife, had a sick campout, came home." They drive 130km out of a 140km trip and just "make up" the last 10km. Ok, I'm getting grumpy so I'll wind this tangent down. Back to facts.
(Antimony Lake pic)
We climbed 300m from our lowest point up to the Antimony/Claimpost col, and descended easily (glissading) on thorough snowpack all the way to Antimony Lake. Antimony Lake was beginning to thaw at the edges and it was 5pm at this point (km 28, elev 1850m). At the south end of Antimony Lake we were hoping to find flagging or a signs of even a route, if not trail. The snow was still very deep here (over 2m of snowpack), so it was easy to bomb down along Antimony Creek. The Antimony Creek drainage is steep and there are waterfalls towards the bottom so we stayed quite hight on the descender's right bank. At km 31 (elev 1750m) we were on a south-facing slope so the snowpack had completely disappeared and we were descending in repulsive destroyed forest to km 32 (elev 1150m). Above the clearcut, the trees cannot support each other so any puff of wind knocks everything down. There has not been a fire in this valley for a long time so there was a massive blowdown throwdown including new living blowdown and aincent blowdown, all sorts of unsorted sticks and branches, loose rocks, the occasional tiny snowpatch, etc. This slope was extremely steep as well. Unless there is a built and maintaned trail that we missed, I do not believe it to be possible/practical to attempt to ascend from Kha Lake to Antimony Lake. This was wild, difficult backcountry travel and we were fortunate to only have to go down it.
At km 35 (elev 1130m) we easily crossed Kwioek Creek Between Kha and Klept lakes (we crossed approximately 30 meters east of the old removed roadline/bridge). We were at the day's last light and were eager to hit this 2wd friendly road I had definitively read about in the last 6 weeks. We hit the road line and were met with an unbelievable mess of alders and snowpack (the valley sides were completely bare up to 500m above us yet the valley held a rotten snowpack knee-hip deep with alders in all states of burial. Each of us got several alders to the face/hands/shins/groins as they sprang up unexpectedly as we disturbed the adjacent snow. We were 15 hours into our outing and ready to cruise the last few kms. We were not mentally prepared for this level of challenge at this point in the day. With failing light, we dug deep and pounded through the awful dead old road like our lives depended on it (fact). At km 36 (elev 1140m), we actually lost the road due to the severity of the bush. With a map check we quickly found and corrected our mistake. One more crossing of Kwioek Creek just east of John George Lake brought us to the furthest driveable point of Kwioek Creek FSR (though no-one would drive through as much alder as we had yet to face for such an unremarkable place). From km 36 (elev 1140m) to km 45 (elev 900m) we continued to deal with a random mix of smooth gravel road (rare), flooded muddy sections of road, light-to-heavy alder cover, and snow patches up to knee deep. At km 45 (elev 900m), we only had to deal with 5 last km of 2wd friendly clear gravel road. Back to the truck over 16 hours moving time (20:00 total) and nearly 50km later (because of fondling my phone too much, I paused the recording a couple times and lost some stats), and we were off for home.
Sorry about the no pictures and hope I can improve this post with some nice media very soon. If any mod wants to contact me and help out, I would appreciate it thanks! first name (.) last name (@) gmail (.) com
Parting thoughts, lessons learned.
Kwioek Creek Valley is dead upriver of Kwioek Lake. Do not attempt to go there. North Kwioek Creek will put you on Skihist summit with 23km (each way) and some difficulty but nothing any BC hardman / hardwoman can't deal with. The best time to climb this mountain is late winter to early spring, basically as soon as you can drive most of the way up KC FSR. The more snowpack you have the better the alder will be smashed down and the less chance of bear encounter (we saw one set of tracks in each valley, no encounters). It's a real shame how under-utilized this area of our beautiful province is. People are so protective and so un-sharing of beautiful places that entire regions get forgotten and overgrown. Hikers hate off-roaders but you know what? We need them to keep the roads to the beautiful places passable. I wish there was a group of Jeepers having a campfire at Kha Lake after they cleared the whole road in. For two days after this adventure, I truly felt this area is "dead and closed," however as the scabs heal I am coming around and wanting people to go out and experience what Iliya and I experienced. And hopefully the offroaders will also reconnect with this valley and clear the road for future parties. Good luck if you go for this mountain and prepare for a tremendous amount of work. I have done Glacier Peak in WA as a single push (55km, 3500m) and this mountain was substantially harder. It would have been comparable in difficulty to Glacier Peak if we went up and down our NKC route. Please feel free to post any questions, I'll be happy to answer. Hope I can get those pics going soon. Iliya Kolodeznyy has a gorgeous post on the Chilliwack Hiking Group on facebook going. But once the years go by it will become impossible to navigate from one to the other so I'll amend this post with pics at some point.
Last edited by Matt Juhasz; 05-17-2020 at 05:23 PM.