Mount Penrose

Elevation Gain: 1,538m
Distance: 10.7km
Total Time: 1 day + night
Date: May 21st, 2023

Heading into the May long weekend Andrea and I had been floating around a couple of multi-day traverses. Finally, on Thursday we settled on a set of summits down the west Lillooet river area and started some final packing and preparations. Then, in the last minute on Friday evening, we found out the access road was now closed due to flooding. I scrambled around for a suitable alternative and found an interesting traverse idea in the Dickson Range. The downside was we had limited time to research, but I figured we could improvise with a few different route options.

On the Saturday, we woke up early and drove ~4 hours out towards Gold Bridge and then up the Slim Creek FSR. We started on our planned route, but already there were signs the trip may go awry. For one, we hoped to cross Slim Creek on the route and it was clear the spring melt-off was going to dash our hopes. The sheer volume of water coming down Slim Creek was both spectacular and disheartening. I had a back up plan to avoid crossing and instead head up the Slim Creek valley area. However, we quickly found flooded plains and bog-like terrain. Nonetheless, we persevered for nearly 10km through watery trails and bogs. We reached the middle of large marshy area somewhere around 4:30PM and finally made the call to turn back. Facing an additional 10KM to find a crossing point and the prospect of camping in the marshy forest, we decided cutting our loss was the best option.

Driving down the Slim Creek FSR
Heading into the valley on foot
Typical terrain for ~90% of the journey
Lots of flooded sections like this
About to enter a large stretch of marshy terrain. “Carbine Peak” visible down the valley and Mount Steve just visible at the very end.
Looking back from our turn around point. I believe that’s Tillworth Mountain on the closest ridge line and Scherle Peak in the background.

We hiked out and headed into Gold Bridge to find some wifi for our salvage operation. The Gold Bridge Hotel was kind enough to give us their wifi password and we started looking into some options. The new criteria was: a summit that we could still get some alpine camping on and after the bog dilemma something a bit drier and less involved.

Andrea had noticed a neat summit called Mount Penrose on our drive back into town and I started with that. It rose prominently above Gold Bridge and seemed to offer some outstanding views of the trio of lakes. After a quick search I found it had a well built trail all the way to top, created by a local named Gerry Wood (thanks Gerry!!). Furthermore, my friend Steven already had a trip report on it. This fit the bill perfectly, so we headed to the Gun Creek Campground to crash for the night and would start the following morning.

On the Sunday, we drove around Gun Lake and up the Dale FSR to the trail head. The road was in good condition and soon enough we were headed up the old ATV track that marked the start. The lower section was well marked with a clear foot bed and we made a leisurely pace up towards the Penrose Creek crossing. From up high it looked like a crossing that may involve a sketchy snow bridge. However, we found it was just an old avalanche run out with nothing in particular to worry about.

A bear and her cub on the road to Mount Penrose
The trail start
Andrea near that famous old car
Getting some views towards Mount Fergusson
Crossing Penrose Creek
Heading up the forest on the other side

The route steepened here and we had to navigate through a dense cluster of dead fall at around the 1700m mark. Thankfully, most of it had been cleared with a chainsaw but this whole section of forest felt like it wanted to tip over. After that we continued to follow the generously marked route up to a sandy section below the ridge line. The foot bed grew fainter now, but the flagging kept us on track.

This would be an awful section to travel without the maintenance that’s been put in
Looking towards Mount Truax

Somewhere around 4:30PM we hit the ridge line where a relay station for the James Creek power project was situated. The views were already exceptional and we paused here for a longer snack break. To the East, near Mount Truax, I could see large cumulus clouds building and starting to appear like a thunderstorm. So far it seemed to be forming far away from us, but the high afternoon temperatures were starting to look like a good recipe for lightning storms.

Mount Sloan behind Andrea
Andrea ascending up the ridge line
Our first view of the summit
At the relay station now

With that on our minds, we decided to cut the lunch break short and get to the summit before it was too late. The ridge above was almost snow free with a few of the flat sections requiring some post holing to reach dry rock again. As we climbed we found a mixture of chossy terrain and solid ridge line and the route never exceeded 2nd class save for a few short 3rd class moves. Exposure was limited to none, but the steepness of the ridge meant unobstructed views of the expanse below. We reached the summit around 5:30PM and hung out for awhile to enjoy the vast mountain ranges all around us.

Heading up
Looking down the valley. Mount Vayu is the prominent peak on the left; which I climbed it last year with Elise and Derek
A closer look at the ridge
Neat rock on the way up. Almost like Jade
Another shot of Mount Sloan.
Myself ascending with a bypass-able gendarme just above
Andrea scrambling up a short steeper section.
Bypassing the gendarme to the left
Another shot of Andrea coming up
Final stretch to the summit
Andrea on the summit
Mount Dickson now visible
Mount Sheba, which Andrea and I climbed last year
Relay Mountain which we also climbed as part of the same trip
Leckie visible as the highest summit on the right. Our original objectives not quite visible beyond the prominent peaks in front
Summit Panorama
Another shot of Mount Vayu. One of my favourite trips to date
Looking towards the Shulaps area
Some familiar names

By some luck it looked like the storm situation had subsided to the East and we felt more comfortable about establishing camp on the ridge. We headed back to the relay station to get dinner started and setup for the night. Andrea built a small flat spot on the rocky ridge while I got to work boiling some snow. By 8:00PM we were finishing up the last of our dinner and noticed the weather had started to turn again. Now dark clouds were building closer and closer to us and rain was hammering the area across the valley.

Andrea heading down
Some big rain fall across the valley
Big clouds to the East

We were concerned about being exposed to lighting high on the ridge so I opted to use the weather feature on my In-Reach. A quick ping back and I saw that we were in for a night of rain and cold temps, but at least no lightning. That prospect wasn’t too great either, but it was too dark/late to pack up now so we figured we’d just wait it out in the tent. By 9:30PM we were both settled into the tent and about to fall asleep when the first few drops hit the tent.

Sunset views over Mount Sloan
One last look down the Bridge River
Myself at our camp site
Our camp site
More clouds building
Nearly upon us

Slowly the precipitation began to build and then a rush of wind came across the ridge shaking the tent in a dramatic fashion. For the next 3 hours we had to deal with a constant battering of the wind, which at times folded the tent onto our faces and made sleep all but impossible. Initially, I was a bit fearful about the strength of the storm and worried we might get blown off or something. Half way through the ordeal, I had to get out and pee and face the storm head on. Upon exiting the relative safety of the tent, I discovered this violent affair was nothing more than a few strong gusts with a slight amount of snow. Really, the tent was just being extra dramatic, flapping about, and that finally put me at ease.

The wind and snow finally subsided a few hours into the night and a fell asleep some time after as I anticipated a strong gust to pick up again any minute. When we woke up in the morning, we discovered just a light dusting of snow on the ridge line and a mix of sun and clouds. However, we packed up quickly to avoid the next round of forecasted snow.

A light dusting of snow in the morning
A mix of sun and cloud for the descent
Time to head down
A brief intersection with the clouds

Our return journey was a quick one thanks to the easy trail and short distance. By 11am or so we were back on the truck. Despite the initial set backs on our original plan, Mount Penrose offered an excellent back up option. We were really happy to get some alpine views in the end, although we’ll settle for a more sheltered spot next time.

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