Botanie Mountain

Elevation Gain: 1,100m
Distance: 20.47km
Total Time: 8 hours 24 minutes
Date: March 2nd, 2024

The words “Special Avalanche Warning” were printed in big unavoidable text all across the AvCan site this weekend. A pernicious weak layer coupled with high snow fall diminished any big plans. I still couldn’t complain though. Unusual mid winter snow conditions had been good enough to permit winter ascents of: Snazzy Peak, Pyroclastic Peak and Nursery Peak. Now father winter was calling to collect and I didn’t mind a period to dial things back anyhow. With virtually the entire coast under this special warning, it begged the question: were there any interesting summits that were still safe to climb? Well for me, a peak doesn’t have to be technical to be interesting. Exploring a new area, seeing interesting views, learning new skills in any combination is enough to keep me happy. Getting out during a “SPAW” might also be a good opportunity to see a particularly touchy snowpack up front; so long as we picked conservative terrain.

Andrea and I decided to combine a day of ice climbing in Lillooet with a day in the mountains to get the most out of the weekend. That had Andrea searching along the highway through Lytton for a peak we could safely ascend. She initially picked out Mount Moore, but I had just been a few ridges down on Blustry Mountain the weekend prior. We finally settled on Botanie Mountain just North of Lytton. It’s mostly a walk up on forest service roads, but with all the recent snow I was hopeful we might actually get some fun cutblock skiing.

As we drove up the Fraser Canyon, the clouds hung low in the valley and our chance of getting views was looking unlikely. Unbothered, we continued up through Lytton and then into Botanie valley where the road was plowed right up to Botanie Lake. Unfortunately our roue up, Izman Creek FSR, was snowed in, but the plus side was we’d be able to ski it’s entirety on the way back. We parked at the lake and then skinned down a few hundred meets to the FSR before starting our way up.

Driving down Botanie Creek Road
Izman Creek FSR
Andrea breaking trail

The skin up was rather uneventful until we reached about 1350m. Here each step, no matter how small, would lead to a collapse of the snow layer and the distinct sound of whumpfing. It’s a bit startling to hear as it almost rattles your chest cavity. Thankfully our route would avoid any avalanche terrain so we felt comfortable to push on and get the opportunity to see what such delicate snow conditions looked like.

We veered off the main road at around 1500m and up an old cut block to avoid taking an unnecessary switch back ahead. The road terminated around at around 1620m so we found our own way through the densely replanted trees and rejoined with another road a few hundred meters over a small knoll. From there it was more road walking until one final cut block at around 1800m. The instabilities continued to surface with whumps that would knock snow off up to 6m away from us. Certainly the touchiest snow pack I’d seen in person yet!

Heading down the old cut block spur
I did a small test to see how unstable things were and… the results speak for themselves
Getting near the end of the cutblock
It was a bit dense in this part

Andrea lead us through the final cutblock and then we meandered through remains of the Botanie Creek forest fire all the way to the summit. A large green radio repeater marked the top and clouds continued to obscure the surrounding mountains. Our route back involved a long section of undulating terrain that made skiing down somewhat impractical. Nonetheless, we came here to ski and ski we would. We skinned off the summit to the first section that was steep enough to descend and off we went.

Back on the next section of roads
Skinning up to the final cutblock
Looking back at that second to last cutblock
Off the road and up the ridge now
Andrea in the heavily burned area near the summit
It was still quite picturesque all things considered
Just below the summit now
Andrea posing in front of the almighty radio repeater
The fleeting view we had from the summit

As expected quite a few sections required an awkward penguin shuffle, but otherwise we had smooth sailing back to the cutblock and a final road descent. We donned skins for this last section to regain the knoll and then skiied by cutblock and road continuously all the way back to the car.

Skiing down
One last section of skinning and we’re back

Having snowshoed many many kilometers of roads on descents, there are few better feelings than skiing past hours of terrain you’d be forced to plod along in snow shoes!

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