Sheba Peak & Drone Peak

Elevation Gain: 1,838m
Distance: 33.27km
Total Time: 7 hours 17 minutes
Date: May 2nd, 2024

Drone Peak is a relatively obscure North Shore summit that’s nestled deep in the Furry Creek area at the headwaters of Downing Creek. It’s located almost two valleys in form the ultra popular Brunswick area and while logging roads run close to its base, a key is required to access these roads. For these reasons, it doesn’t see visitors very often as one must arrange for access from the BCMC or bike/walk ~13km up steep logging roads and then bushwhack from there. All of this came to light while I was scrolling through maps on Bivouac and I was never particularly keen on the long approach. However, I recently acquired an e-mtb and knew this would be the perfect peak to trial it out on. Despite it seeing few ascents, there’s good beta online from Russell Coffin and Simon Chesterton on their respective trips and I knew I wouldn’t have much issue reaching the top.

Andrea was keen to join me and had even rented an e-bike to make it happen. Our plan was to head up the east side of the nearby Sheba Peak and then traverse over to Drone Peak. Time permitting we’d head over to Appian Peak as well.

We arrived at the Britannia Creek/Furry Creek entrance around 7am and started our way up the road. Unfortunately, we hit a snafu only 3km in. Andrea’s rental bike started to leak air in the front tire and just 100m later it was completely flat. Both of us paused on the road to figure out a plan. There was still at least 10km of road left and nowhere close enough time to do that on foot. Andrea still wanted me to go ahead and try out the new bike and in the end she made a huge sacrifice and opted to let me continue on. She’d take my truck back to Squamish and do a run up the chief instead. A little bummed about the early end to our day, I eventually got moving on and we parted ways.

Britannia Creek entrance
Decent road conditions, albeit quite steep at times

The remaining sections of road were quite steep, but very manageable with the e-bike and I was soon at the end of the activated part of Downing West Main. I thought that would be the start of my walking, but to my surprise, there was a maintained trail beyond the activated part of the road. This bought me another 6-700m of biking before I finally had to lock it up and start on foot.

Capilano Mountain appearing out of the valley
Some interesting pinnacles on Capilano’s north east side
Nearing the road end. Drone Peak is still not visible here, believe it or not
The end of the activated road

From this point onward the road grew progressively more overgrown, with not much snow until the very end. I exited the road and into the old cutblock and quickly started post holing in the patches of isorthermal snow. The choice now was between post-holing intermittently or wear snow shoes and walk on dirt patches every 5m. Ultimately the snow shoes won and thankfully the snow cover picked up a few hundred meters later. I made two small creek crossings and then traversed into a forested bowl on the east side of Sheba Peak. This bowl lead me to the ridge line and the col between Sheba Peak and Chanter Peak.

Easy enough to bike!
Drone Peak is finally visible. Looking at the north face here
Getting uglier now
End of the road
Patchy snow, but it gets better as you go
Onto much better terrain now
Aiming for that ridgeline directly ahead
Looking back down the valley
At the Sheba-Chanter col

Now, I had to ascend up some typical steep north shore ridge line to gain the summit of Sheba Peak. The snow was deteriorating quickly in the sun and I wasn’t keen on returning this way. I made the call then that I would try to find a route down the north side of Drone Peak where the snow was staying firm in the shade. After climbing for nearly 200m up the sun soaked ridge line, I reached the summit at last. Despite being forested on most sides, it offered amazing views to the east and I was happy to have added it on to the trip.

Chanter Peak about 2km as the crow flies
Heading up some steeper sections to the summit of Sheba
Looking back down. The trail breaking was a bit tough here
One last steep grunt to the top
Ben Lomond stealing the show
Just below the summit
Ben Lomond, Mamquam Mountain and Bagpipe Peak
Downing Creek valley. Mineral Peak at center
Drone Peak to the West

I was now feeling some time pressure to out pace the deteriorating snow conditions. From the summit, I dropped down the ridge line heading west and then trended south around a minor point at 1250m. The forest was quite steep in this part, but I managed to pick a reasonable line that landed me at the col for Drone. Looking up at the route ahead, the most obvious path up the south east ridge was looking sub optimal. While it was mostly treed, I had some concerns for avalanche danger and most of all deep post holing in isothermal snow.

I should have grabbed something for scale, but this tree was unbelievably big! Old growth on the north shore?! Who knew!
Skirting around these bluffs on the south side
At the col after losing a decent amount of elevation

I made the last minute decision to traverse across the north facing bowl and up the north ridge to avoid the most sun affected snow. There was one short section of steep saturated snow to exit the bowl and then I was on the ridge proper. This proved to be the right call as the snow was still in good shape, albeit with some powder to trail break through. I was gassing out a bit by this point, so took a few pauses along the way, but eventually I reached the summit block on the north east side. I skirted around a few steep rolls and then made it to the top without issue.

About to start my traverse to gain the ridge on the right
Looking back with Sheba Peak at centre left
This gully would have been easy to ascend under better snow conditions
Onto the north east ridge looking back
The summit ahead
Capilano Mountain
Breaking trail up the ridge
Skirting around this steeper section
Zoomed in shot of the Lions, Macklin Peak, Mount Harvey and Brunswick Mountain
Seed Peak area
Appian Mountain looks better than I expected
North Shore Panorama from the summit

Now came time to figure out a way down the typical bluffy north shore terrain. I had spotted what looked like a tame route following Downing Creek, so I reversed my tracks down the north ridge and towards the drainage. I stayed on the left side of Downing Creek until about 1090m where I became cliffed out on all sides. Not wanting to ditch snow shoes or downclimb bluffs, I climbed up ~40m and found a perfect creek crossing. Now on the east side of Downing Creek I found straightforward slopes all the way back into the cut block.

Heading down
Hard to tell but there’s big gorge here and then cliffs all around
Cliffed out here too
Easy creek crossing just 40m above
Tame slopes back to the cut block

From the cut block I traversed along the 900m contour to reach the road again, but cliffed out for a second time. A deep 20m ravine blocked the way where I thought a tame creek would reside. Again I had to ascend another 40m or so to find a way across and then linked up with the road shortly after. Before long I was back at my bike and on my way down the FSR. Andrea was still on the chief, so after reaching the gate I biked down to Britannia Beach and drank iced coffee and lounged out until she was back. All in a super fun adventure, albeit a bit less fulfilling without Andrea to join along.

Back in the lower forest
Hard to see, but this is another gorge I had to navigate around
Looking back at Sheba Peak
Familiar tracks
One last look at Drone Peak on the way out
My bike stash
Pleasant road ride on the return

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