Widgeon Lake to Mamquam Valley

This trip was initially intended to be a traverse from Widgeon Lake to Darling Lake with DanielJ, however, due to an injury in my foot we ended the trip in the Mamquam Valley, exiting out via Mamquam Pass and the heinous E-100 FSR into the valley. Despite the abrupt end and bad weather near the end, this trip was highly successful and a great adventure close to Vancouver.

Day 1: Peneplain 

We got dropped at the east end of Widgeon Lake at 930 on Saturday June 4. Within the first hour we would be off course and Dan made our first and only rappel of the trip. We took the wrong drainage from the lake and battled our way back to the proper route where we were greeted by a black bear and a massive waterfall pouring over raw granite slabs.

Once back on track we battled to the south ridge of Peneplain with 8 days worth of food in our bags. We were travelling fairly light so both bags came under 40 lbs. but it was still a struggle to gain the alpine. Sketchy scrambling and steep rotten snow brought us up to the south sub peak of Peneplain and then some stiff 3rd class scrambling brought us to the summit, around 7 hours after leaving the lake.

View of Widgeon from the summit of Peneplain.

I napped on the summit only to be awoken by the constant buzz of helicopters. We left the summit around 5PM, dropping down the west side and then traversing to the north ridge.

Dan descending the north ridge from the summit.

We followed this broken ridge (a common them in this area) to a 1600m knoll NW of Widgeon Lake where we made our first camp.

Sunset over Peneplain and Coquitlam from camp.

The classic Howay and RR shot at sunset, this time just a bit closer.

The Five Fingers Group from camp.

I slept under a massive gnarled krumholtz that must have been ancient, and Dan slept on a heather bench under the stars. A great first day and night on the divide.

Day 2: Sharkfin to Consolation Dome

We wake early with the sun and eat some breakfast. For some reason I cant do oatmeal anymore, even when it is 50% brown sugar, pecans, and chocolate. Anyway, we head out to the peak to our east and directly north of the lake in search of some views and a wreckage we heard rumours of. We got grand views of Golden Ears peaks and Pitt Lake, but the wreckage was still under plenty of snow.

Views down to Pitt Lake.

We did stumble upon a neat old prospecting camp under a large boulder. They had built up some small rockwalls and shovels, picks, and pans were left resting behind.

We found this hiding under another large boulder atop a knoll on the ridge. (Add that to the 4 balloons we found on the trip!)

We returned to our bags and began our day moving along the ridge. What appeared from a distance to be troublesome snow slopes below the Sharkfin were easily bypassed along heather ramps at there base.

Traversing snow just past the Sharkfin.

We bypassed the Sharkfin and hiked instead to the highpoint of the ridge for some views of the peak. Bivouac incorrectly lists this highpoint as the summit of Sharkfin (I think). From here we continued up and down, traversing snow slopes, passing numerous frozen lakes, arriving at the base of Obelisk Peak.

Dan along the ridge.

Below Obelisk Peak.

We climbed easy snow slopes and rock to the summit for great views of the divide and the Five Fingers Group to the north.

We left the summit and took a break at the bags. We finally dragged ourselves up and made the final drop and climb to Consolation Dome where we made our second camp.

We pitched Dan’s tarp for some shade on an outcrop south of the summit, where we rested and feasted for a bit. Views over to the Five Fingers were superb, and looked like a great objective for tomorrow.

Hiding from the sun atop Consolation Dome.

Dan on top of the Dome checking out tomorrow’s route.

After lounging for a bit we headed over to Mount Lou. It was a quick scramble and some snow climbing to reach the still heavily corniced summit. I was hoping to find the old summit register on the peak but it was still buried under the heavy snow pack.

Heading to the summit with Coquitlam Mtn and Peneplain back right.

On the summit of Mount Lou looking east. Consolation Dome on the left and Coquitlam Lake on the right.

Five Fingers Group from Mount Lou. Our route takes that beautiful snow ramp below the Fore Finger.

We returned to camp and enjoyed another spectacular sunset over Garibaldi and Mamquam Massifs and peaks stretching from Mount Pitt to Robie Reid and the northern Cascades.

Looking back on our route from camp 2 at sunset.

Sunset over the Tantalus, Garibaldi, Mamquam and the northern stretches of our intended route.

Cool clouds and evening light on Judge Howay.

Sunset on Garibaldi and Mamquam.

Day 3: Five Fingers Group 

We packed up our camp early and headed up and over Consolation Dome, dropping down on a perfect snow ramp below The Fore Finger. Here we left our bags and geared up to climb the peak. We startled a family of psychotic goats, with a very young kid, who struggled to keep up to its parents as they climbed vertically away from us. We climbed The Fore Finger and Dan climbed the small sub summit just south of the peak. I dubbed it The Wart. The views of Middle Finger were great, but unfortunately we could not drop down to the col to reach the SW ridge.

Dan scopes out the potential route to the col.

We returned to our bags and dropped around the north side of the Fore Finger. We dropped our bags again and climbed low angle snow to the Middle Finger-Fore Finger col. We saw the goats again here, dragging their kid up a crack in the NW Face of the Middle Finger. An initially bushy scramble led to fine rock and heather ledges to an awesome summit!

Standing on the summit of Middle Finger!

We found a BCMC register on the summit with one entry from 2009. There was an old compass on the summit as well.

View of Pitt Lake from the summit. The Thumb is in the foreground.

We hung out here for a while and then began the descent to our bags.

Back at the bags, the same family of goats entertained us on another ledge as we snacked on salami and cheese. The kid was unsuccessfully trying to get up off a ledge for more than 20 minutes. Unfortunately they were too far away to get any decent photos. We packed up and headed off and I still don’t know if that kid got off that ledge…I hope our presence did not disturb them too much.

We were aiming to reach the lake we had named “Upper Coquitlam Lake” for our third camp so we packed up and headed north down the divide.

Dan enroute following the Five Fingers section. We took the snow ramp down just right of the Fore Finger (double summit). We had to loop around and up to the MF/FF col to reach the Middle Finger’s SW ridge.

We headed up and down over three substantial sub –peaks along the ridge and past numerous lakes and waterfalls. The route was often bushy and cliffed out easily but we reached the lake by 730 PM.

One last close view of the Five Fingers from the sub-alpine before we dropped down thick forest to the low point of our trip.

The old growth was fantastic, but the bush took a while to warm too. I took a dip in the lake and we cooked up some dinner. I pitched my tent for the first time this night as we were expecting a bit of bad weather, although none would come for a few days.

This lake was our low point and represented our exit from the northern Coquitlam – Pitt Divide. We were now venturing into the alpine of Bonnycaslte and Meslilloet Mountains and onto the headwaters of the Mamquam River.

A great exploration of the northern section of the Coquitlam-Pitt Divide, managing to climb six peaks along the way.

Day 4: ‘Upper Coquitlam Lake’ to ‘Cliff-bound Lake’

We woke late and lounged in the old growth, not breaking camp until 10 AM. We walked around the lake on its west side for 10 minutes and then headed up boulder fields to gain a drainage coming down off the ridge where we hoped there would be a weakness.

It took us nearly 4 hours to climb 400 meters out of the lake and less than 1 horizontal km.

It took a while to reach this creek surrounded by old growth forest!

Finally, a view from the ridge: Dan looks out over Old Pierre and Remote area across the Pitt River Valley.

When we dropped back down to a small mossy plateau covered in small lakes and crystal clear waters we stripped down and lounged in the sun, eating like kings: meat, cheese, and potato chips !

Food fit for royalty!

The mossy lakes which would make a grand campsite.

From here we followed a ridge system past two small lakes east of Meslilloet Mountain to a large cliff bound lake NW of the summit. We camped at the low col before Meslilloet’s east ridge with grand views down the valley to Bonnycastle.

Looking down to our last campsite, at the low point just above the large lake on the right.

If we had good weather the following morning we would attempt Bonnycastle from here. We lit a small fire on our granite outcrop and pitched our tents as the sky was beginning to cloud over.

Dinner every other night: pasta with chorizo, proscuitto, mushrooms, tomatoes, and all the cheese one could long for.

Enjoying a small campfire below Meslilloet Mtn.

Sunset from our last alpine camp.

Day 5: Meslilloet Mountain

We woke to somewhat clear skies, but it looked like it would change soon. We weren’t set up properly to wait out a storm so we left Bonnycastle and headed for Meslilloet.

Bonnycastle from camp in the morning.

The glacier here is awesome and is quite large for being so far south and so low in elevation! We crossed the eastern section to the ridge north of Meslilloet’s summit block.

The eastern half of the glacier.

We dropped our bags here and headed for the summit across the glacier.

Gearing up for the summit.

Nearing the final scramble.

The final summit block was class 3 and it started to rain just as I reached the summit. It was a great summit with awesome views of our entire route and down to Indian Arm and the Lower Mainland.

Steep scrambling near the summit.

Dan tagged the summit and we headed back in increasingly bad weather.

Dan on the summit.

View south from Meslilloet summit.

One last look down Meslilloet Creek from the north ridge of Meslilloet Mountain before dropping from the alpine for good.

The north ridge is scattered with large cairns and claim posts and has some cool geology. We continued down to two lakes north of the summit and set up camp in the rain.

Day 6: Log Jam Lake 

We wasted this day away playing cards and and an Evil level Sudoku. It was rainy and gross, but were kept entertained by sucker windowns and waterfowl. This was the first day we saw no goats!

Log Jam Lake with a brief weather window at sunset.

Day 7: Mamquam Pass to the Valley 

The weather was worse today than yesterday, but we decided to head out, down the E-100 and to the Mamquam Valley.

We reached Mamquam Pass via the ridge north of Log Jam Lake where there is an open meadowy pass, studded with ancient old growth. The trees are massive in the sub-alpine below pollen peak and the stumps along November Creek are testament to some of the giants that once dominated this valley.

Dan elected to head up Pollen Peak in the clouds while I joined up with the Boise Trail (or what is left) and followed it through a clearcut, across November Creek to the E-100 FSR. This road is evil and extremely over grown and choked with alder. I do not recommend going this way except in winter. The Boise Trail and Fool’s Gold Route seem to be hard to access at the moment.

The clear cuts along the E-100 are massive and a sad reminder that we are back near civilization.

I waited for Dan at the junction and then hobbled down to the Mainline where my girlfriend Lindsay was waiting at the washout at Bridge 5 for us. She had received our non-emergency Spot and was fully kitted up and ready to come grab us. The first time in 3 years I have pressed that button!

Despite the weather at the end and the early end due to a stress fracture in my foot, the trip was a grand success in a remote and wild area that sees few visitors!

Hopefully we will be able to complete the northern section (Pinecone Lake to Darling Lake) and southern sections (Coquitlam Mtn to Widgeon Lake) some time this year.


2 thoughts on “Widgeon Lake to Mamquam Valley

  1. Hi – I love your trip report. Very few people venture into this area. I’m looking into climbing Peneplain from the north west side of Widgeon Lake. The link below is a photo of the routes I am looking at. I am contemplating between the route it sounds like you guys took (red), and another route that traverses over some boulder fields and up a gully that other groups have taken that is longer but looks less technical. Do you have a GPS file for your route, and do you have any opinion on the best way up?
    https://photos.google.com/album/AF1QipNDx465YLjV5rrNQttV3fFvXk4-tQTClibRvnOp

    Like

    1. Hey szoschke, sorry for the late reply, when you messaged we were just in the middle of transitioning life to Read Island again for the summer and internet (and time) is limited here! I managed to get a gps file from Dan whom I did the trip with. Please note, as mentioned in the report, we were very off route on our initial approach and i would not recommend our route. The area is amazing though, good luck with your trip; would be interested to know how it goes. I know many groups have not had success in the area. Cheers, Anthony

      https://scontent.fyyc6-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.15752-9/107142195_2621278534795485_8126795173695159353_n.png?_nc_cat=111&_nc_sid=b96e70&_nc_ohc=2Z9-hRwe2R8AX-4FCHy&_nc_ht=scontent.fyyc6-1.fna&oh=5cd3a7deff0f8cc344e42a739ccdf2d5&oe=5F38A46C

      https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/1/viewer?ll=49.491858786208276%2C-122.69881921764957&z=12&fbclid=IwAR1LGSUqTjWjDEhVXRpktDLVa8GNXTUPFoYX0bZLj90E3S_74z8Y9WtKkm8&mid=117IntKAvSETL_jtVJjiY7yjF6Pk

      I also have the raw data file, but not sure how to attach a file here. If you want it, shoot me an email at: anthonymallinson@gmail .com

      Like

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