Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Getting Denis' truck unstuck. Photo: dru.

Mount Baker and the North Cascades.

CJB, happy. Photo: dru.

Team Cat. Left to right: Denis, Doug, dru, Scat, Rose T. Cat.

North Nesakwatch Spire, 2008

South Illusion Peak Death March and Gear Walk -- 7 July 2008
(trip report shamelessly cut-and-pasted from

[ members] Dblair, burndug and I seem to be in a race to thrash our way up some of the steepest trails in Southwest BC. Two weeks back, we had the implausible idea of climbing Pelion Mountain from Sigurd Creek in a single day, a trip which, even when shortened by relentless dive-bombing bugs, bear scat, and the realization that six hours of mountaineering on top of ten hours of relentless elevation gain, slide alder crossing, and deep, fast-flowing creek crossing makes for a less than awesome day. The Sigurd Creek Valley is full of enormous old growth mountain hemlocks, waterfalls, and, according to the nice First Nations lady who signed us in at the Ashlu IPP gatehouse, two grizzlies. It is one of the most amazing places I have visited in SWBC, but I was not really able to enjoy it at the time due to, a/ exhaustion, and, b/ hordes of mosquitoes, black flies, etc. etc., and, c/ totally trashed knee.

We took last week off to recover.

This week, we headed out to the Chilliwack Valley with Dru and Dblair's pickup truck in tow. Our destination was "the poor man's Yosemite" of the Illusion Group, a long granitic ridge just north of Mount Rexford on the divide between Nesakwatch Creek and Centre Creek. The Illusions see little traffic; the small cairns on their summits suggest they are climbed only once every few years.

The Nesakwatch Creek road is pretty heavily cross-ditched. Denis' truck was useful in getting us back to the Mount Rexford trailhead, about 5km. in from the Chilliwack Lake Road. In particular, there are several major washouts and one huge, tank-trap style waterbar to contend with.

The Rexford Trail makes the Lake Lovelywater Trail look like a walk around the Seawall. It begins up a spur road, then ascends steeply through a clearcut, which at 9am was dripping with dew. We all got wet. At the top of the cut block the trail traverses south into old growth, crosses a creek (mega-views of huge, implausibly steep overhanging granitic walls high above), and then ascends steeply up a ridge (windfall; blowdown; unrelenting elevation gain). Soon enough you emerge into a rocky basin below North Nesakwatch Spire. The trail works its way up alongside a huge granite wall on the north side of the basin. Still lots of hard snow here, which was not suitable for boots and poles. We made our way up through rocks and scrub, then boulder-hopped our way across the huge boulder field of the upper basin to arrive at a col between North Nesakwatch Spire and the unnamed 2010m. bump to its north. We left the trekking poles here.

We traversed the bump, then descended into the steep gap between the bump and South Illusion Peak. 3rd class, minor routefinding difficulty, some exposure, lots of loose rock and hungry krummholz, which ate Denis' ice axe and helmet right off his pack and didn't want to release them. The easiest route we found was to drop off the right hand (eastern) edge of the bump, and to then cut back west (left) heading down. Lots of exposure on both sides of this non-technical line!

From the col, South Illusion Peak is another half hour of 2nd class boulder hopping and snowfield traversing. There are two summits on the ridge. The south summit is higher, but we climbed them both just to make sure. The full scramble of the ridge is intensely scenic and not hard.

North Illusion Peak is separated from the South Peak by a steep nasty gap. A supposedly aesthetic mid 5th-class route involving some rappelling exists here, but by now there was no gas left in the tank and we had no desire to descend the Rexford Trail by moonlight. Back to the col, up to the bump, down the boulder field, down the trail, through the clearcut, home to Chilliwack. The Vault Pub was technically "open," windows blacked-out, due to some live musical event. Friendly Mike's Pub has cheap good grub but isn't.

Some random notes:

1. Ibuprofen worked really well on my trashed left knee, enabling it to bear weight throughout the day. "Sore but not painful."

2. Ropes and climbing gear are heavy. Carrying gear-filled packs up steep slopes builds good physical fitness for more demanding trips.

3. Trekking poles and hydration bladders look pretty silly, but work really well.

4. A helmet and an ice axe might not be a bad idea for this scramble.

5. No bugs!

A great day out with good friends.

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