Forum Index > Trip Reports > Attaining Mosquito Zen: 6 Days in the Slim Creek Headwaters (South Chilcotin, BC) -- 4-9 Aug 2019
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BeardoMcGrath
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PostMon Sep 09, 2019 8:25 pm 
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Background and Introduction

This trip came about thanks to two factors: a long running desire to get into the South Chilcotin and a group of people who wanted to get out for a week of backpacking. I first became aware of the Slim Creek Headwaters/Griswold Pass area thanks to this detailed trip report and narrative from 13 years ago, and around the same time (2010) looked over at that region from Ochre Mtn., a summit above Athelney Pass, another scenic destination in the Coast Mountains. Over the past few years I’d read up on the access and rambling opportunities in a number of Bivouac.com TRs, and just needed the right opportunity to head up there. This past winter, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to backpack in Alaska, and I managed to steer them towards the concept that the Slim Creek Headwaters was as exciting. So, with one person on board, I was able to eventually pull together a group of 4:
  • Beardo McGrath: Our fearless leader and local navigation expert/trip planner
  • A: A friend from Boston, who originally spawned the backpacking trip concept
  • J: A friend from LA, an Eagle Scout, and the person with whom I had backpacked to Athelney Pass 9 years previously
  • E: A friend and former roommate from Seattle, who was excited but had never been backpacking before!
I hoped that despite the remote area, the landscape (wide open valleys, easy-to-scramble peaks, and general pleasant rambling) would make for a nice destination for our group of varied experience.

We coordinated taking the first week of August off (as a perpetually weather-focused outdoorsperson this seemed the best bet for dry weather), and after some uncertainty regarding J’s broken wrist and recovery timeline, we were all staged in Seattle the first Saturday in August. We drove to Vancouver, staying with some family friends in Deep Cove (Vancouver), giving us a chance to stock up and do all the food planning, before enjoying a Deep Cove Honey Doughnut the next morning and heading north on BC-99.

Day 1: Slim Creek Trail to Leckie Creek
Weather: Warm, a few cumulus

When researching our trip, it appeared most parties accessed the pass from the east, up Slim Creek. It’s about 10 mi along a gentle sloping valley that way, but with a number of wet swamps along the way. Some more recent trips indicate the shorter, if steeper, access is via the upper Bridge River Valley, at the end of the active logging/mining road. Going in this way would cut 4 mi off the access and put us closer to some of the more interesting destinations. With the most recent reports indicating the road was open, we headed north along the always-scenic highway to Whistler, stopping in Pemberton for a final fuel-up, and then up and over the Hurley Road to the Bridge River Valley and the old mining town of Gold Bridge. We turned left onto the Bridge River FSR before reaching the town, which heads narrowly above Downton Lake. This area was quite pretty, with views of the mountains and the striking lake, fed by the Bridge Glacier and Lillooet Icefield.


The Bridge River FSR is pretty narrow and probably not so fun to meet a logging truck on. Being the BC Day long weekend we didn’t see anyone. After an hour or so we reached the end of the lake and the Bridge River Delta (which is protected by a small provincial park), crossed McParlon Creek, and switchbacked up the hillside. Right around here we reached an unfortunate scene: large logs across the road!

Road block on the Bridge River FSR
Road block on the Bridge River FSR

Whether they came down from the slope on their own or were left to be yarded after the weekend was unclear, but we certainly weren’t going to move them. Fortunately, I had checked on the Slim Creek FSR alternative access beforehand and had it as a backup. So we turned around, headed back all the way to Gold Bridge, and then back up the Slim Creek Valley. Finally, around 3 PM, we reached the end of the easily drivable road (about 0.4 mi the bridge over Slim Creek) and parked.

After doing a bit of final packing and making sure nothing in the car needed to come with us (sadly I forgot to eat my leftover half a honey doughnut before departing) we were on our way at 3:30. Being on the east side of the Coast Mountains we started at a nice high elevation of 5050 ft, amongst extensively beetle-damaged forest. Much of the active logging along the road previously looked to be of the salvage variety. While a small washout stopped my CR-V from making it to the end of the road, the rest of it looked pretty drivable and less brushy than past reports indicated.  It took about half an hour to reach the end of the road, which featured a rather dilapidated looking trailer, ostensibly property of the local snowmobile club. There was a little other signage in the area indicating this is a popular snowmobile destination in the winter.

Deluxe accommodation
Deluxe accommodation

Beyond here the trail narrows, before crossing a talus field above the creek and then some toppled avalanche debris. There are cairns and flags marking the best route through this section, but once the trees have gotten a little more rotten it will be a little tricky, especially with heavy packs. Immediately beyond the debris an obvious footbed became visible, which we happily followed.

Talus and Slim Creek
Talus and Slim Creek

The first portion of the trail is non-descript, with occasional open sections along the swamp adjoining Slim Creek, and views across the valley. It quickly became obvious anytime we stopped that these swamps were home to some voracious mosquitos, a fact we would not soon forget during our 6 day outing. A commented that they should’ve put their bug net at the top, rather than the bottom, of their pack.

It wasn’t long before we were heading in and out of the more open sections of the valley, offering greater views of our surroundings. The downside was that the trail tended to disappear in these areas, necessitating a keen eye for the orange or pink flagging that was present. At one point I plunged into some deeper brush following the trail out of the open area, noting as I did so that the footing was a little wet. Turns out I should have opined louder as my friends quickly wondered why I didn’t warn them, walking right through it. Fortunately, avoiding getting one’s feet wet in this section didn’t matter considering the expansiveness of the swamps farther up the valley. Around 5:15 we arrived at a narrower portion of the creek and the cable crossing that can be used to access the West Fork of Slim Creek, between Sorcerer Mountain and Nichols Peak. Luckily we didn’t have a need to cross it!

We still had a ways to go to make it to my preferred camp location at "not" Leckie Creek (the actual Leckie Creek drains the next valley north), so on we went, occasionally making an acquaintance with the odd mudpit. There was a large looking bear print in one of them that I pointed out to the others, much to their consternation. As the route turns the corner to the north, the footpath gets less distinct and the flagging more confusing, such that we followed it into a swampy section and lost the trail for a bit. We learned later on that, when in doubt, head down towards the creek and the trail would reappear. This section often had flags heading directly across swamps, indicating they were more useful for snowmobile routing in the winter than for backpackers.

After some wandering around, we were back on the well defined path and then to the SE end of the “big swamp” at 5700 ft at 6:15 PM. Here we spotted our first nice patches of wildflowers, and took a break to rinse off by the creek. Until this point we had been moving along pretty quickly through the woods thanks to the mosquitos. The swamp is visible on satellite; running more than a mile along the valley bottom. Up on a hillside we spotted a small shack, which apparently holds a first aid kit for winter snowmobilers. A veritable development in a non-developed area! In the late afternoon we got great views of the surrounding mountains, including Ursus and Tillworth back down the valley, Slim Mountain across the way, and the Slim Creek Headwaters area we’d be reaching the next day.

First of the open swampy areas
First of the open swampy areas
Slim Creek at the cable crossing
Slim Creek at the cable crossing
Start of the "big swamp"
Start of the "big swamp"
First hut visible below Gait W3
First hut visible below Gait W3

Any attempt to keep one’s boots dry was proven pointless in this section, as the entire valley bottom was wet, even where there was a small slope. Considering we still had a couple miles to go, and any attempt to slow down invited the buzzing denizens of the swamp, we accepted wet feet. The upper portion of the swamp was, however, carpeted in places with paintbrush--a consolation.

Looking back across the swamp
Looking back across the swamp
Looking up valley
Looking up valley
Wildflowers and Slim Creek
Wildflowers and Slim Creek

The final hour got us out of the swamp and rolling up and down small ridges on our way to "not" Leckie Creek. We were pretty tired at this point, and were happy to hear the rushing water of the creek at 7:30. We found a nice flat spot just downstream of the Not Leckie/Slim confluence to camp, and cooked up what was better-than-expected gluten-free pasta for dinner. J put his Eagle Scout skills to work and built us a small fire, which helped (to a degree) in keeping the bugs away. Being right by the creek, it cooled right off as the sun went down, and so after an eventful half hour where three of us worked to hang our 6 days worth of food on what were some rather lackadaisical trees, we headed to bed. The sound of the rushing creek helped those of us in the party ignore any mysterious rustling in the bushes we might hear.

Stats: 7.6 mi, 1200 ft gain, 4 hrs

Evening at camp
Evening at camp
Wildflowers at camp
Wildflowers at camp

Day 2: Leckie Creek to Slim Creek Headwaters Base Camp, and a climb of Mount Steve
Weather: Sunny and hot

We woke to a cool but sunny morning, complete with heavy dew on everything thanks to our location creekside.  Combined with the fact we chose a spot without a whole lot of morning sun, it looked like we would be packing up wet. After a rather leisurely morning, giving everyone a chance for their coffee and to pump water from clear "not" Leckie Creek, we headed out at 9:45, immediately crossing the creek on some slippery logs.

Morning at camp
Morning at camp
Crossing "not" Leckie Creek
Crossing "not" Leckie Creek

While flagging continues for a short distance further up the valley, the forest begins to thin out quickly and so the route is relatively straightforward, excepting the occasional line of trees perpendicular to the easiest path of travel. While there were a few more uphills in this section than the day before, the gentle nature of this access was appreciated and a reasonable exchange for the still-present swampy bits.

We took a break at the edge of the creek at 11 AM (6300 ft) for a snack, only a short distance east of where we’d be able to see into the Sorcerer Glacier amphitheatre. While we had enjoyed an occasional breeze up to this point, it was absent beside the creek, which meant more nuisance mosquitos. With the trees thinning, however, we were getting a good sense of the expansive nature of this region and the various rambling opportunities we’d have while up here.

Near our snack spot
Near our snack spot

After a half hour we were on our way again, the final 100 vertical feet to the pass. We soon were across from the massive moraine of the Sorcerer Glacier, which has obviously retreated significantly since the end of the Little Ice Age. During our stay in this area I noted how expansive some of the old moraines were, even though most of them were not particularly tall. As one might expect the main stem of Slim Creek originates from this glacier.

Sorcerer Glacier
Sorcerer Glacier
Nearing the pass
Nearing the pass

Some older topo maps indicate there are a couple lakes at the top of the pass, however they do not appear to exist, or at least have filled up with sediment. We passed around to the north of them, appreciating the now-abundant paintbrush and lupine. Combined with the lazily meandering meltwater streams at the top of the pass (which is almost flat) we had really begun to enjoy the scenery.

Top of the Nichols-Slim Pass
Top of the Nichols-Slim Pass

My goal was to find a good base camp at the west end of the pass, as we’d likely be conducting most of our day trips in that direction. After taking a group photo on a big, rectangular rock, we arrived at the west side of the pass at 12:45 PM, our home for the next few days. Our campsite featured easy access to a nearby clear tarn for water, a running stream from the glacier to the south for cleaning, and an unobstructed view of the area. While the ground was rather hummocky--a term my friends were convinced I made up--it seemed like a great spot. While I had some concerns about the lack of cover (it seemed like it could get pretty windy) the perfect weather we had all week meant we had no worries, and in fact the constant daytime breeze kept the mosquitos away.

Tarn by camp
Tarn by camp
Braided creek above camp (draining glaciers on Stanza Peak)
Braided creek above camp (draining glaciers on Stanza Peak)

While A was content to hang around camp for the remainder of the afternoon, we decided to tackle the nearest and easiest summit, Mount Steve, a rounded peak just to the north. We figured we’d get a good view of potential daytrips while up top. Since the top of this peak is so broad, we planned to climb up the SW side, and then descend the SE side. On our way up we got the first taste of how an area so broad can be misleading in terms of distance and steepness; my friends joked that Steve wasn’t as easy as it appeared. Despite the hot afternoon sun, we were treated to a veritable carpet of wildflowers; I’d heard that the South Chilcotin was known for them but this was beyond what I’d ever seen in the Cascades (or anywhere, really). It undoubtedly helped to be there right in peak season.


We soon turned NE along the summit ridge, reaching the top at 3 PM. There really isn’t a “peak” to Mt. Steve, but the summit area is quite expansive and sandy, so we took time to wander around, looking at all the potential objectives for the next 3 days. I mentioned that Griswold Pass to the NW was a worthwhile daytrip, and if we were feeling energetic heading to the SW to Glacier View Peak or at least that area would be fun, for both the many lakes in that area and the great view across to the Lillooet Icefield.

Lepton and friends
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Lepton and friends
Sorcerer
Sorcerer
Summit area
Summit area
Griswold Peak
Griswold Peak
Griswold Pass
Griswold Pass
Leaving the summit
Leaving the summit

We spent half an hour on top, before descending along a more talus-filled route to the SE back to camp. I was falling behind the others on the way down as we dropped back through the fields of wildflowers, stopping for photos.

Down Slim Creek
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Down Slim Creek
Sorcerer close up
Sorcerer close up
Crossing the creek near camp
Crossing the creek near camp

We were back at camp at 4:15, and we enjoyed the first of an eclectic assortment of dehydrated meals for dinner, at a nice cookspace down by the tarn where any food detritus would be sufficiently far from our tents. There was also a good rock to act as a windbreak for our stove. While there was the ever-present possibility of bears around, we had thus far only seen one of the many marmots that were generously sharing their domain with us.

Not a bad dinner spot
Not a bad dinner spot
First of many
First of many

After dinner, E, J, and I headed a short distance up the ridge to the south to get a view of the sunset. Along the way I was interested in the upper portions of the creek above our camp, which magically emerged from boulders along the mountainside. After further investigation it appeared the creek drained through a moraine higher up on the mountain. We got a nice view of the sunset, although there wasn’t much alpenglow. There was however a nice set of reflections on the many small tarns in the western section of the pass. As the sun was going down the wind died and the mosquitos returned with a vengeance, chasing us back into our tents before it got dark.

Sometime in the middle of the night I heard a little yipping up on the shoulder of Mt. Steve, which turned out to be the only nighttime noises we heard on the trip.

Stats: 8.0 mi, 1825 ft gain, 6.5 hrs

Emerging creek
Emerging creek
Camp from above
Camp from above
Dusk
Dusk

Day 3: Hike to Tuber Hill and Glacier View Lake
Weather: Sunny and hot

It was surprisingly chilly at night, although perhaps camping at 6500 ft meant even with warm weather the nights would be cool. The morning dawned clear, and I spent a bit of time wandering around getting some good morning shots across our tarn to Lepton Mountain. As we discovered during our stay, it was briefly cool enough in the morning before the mosquitos came back out, after which there would be a short, unpleasant, overlap between the mosquitos and horseflies before the wind picked up and kept the former at bay.

Morning at camp
Morning at camp
Nightime snack for a local rodent
Nightime snack for a local rodent
Breakfast time
Breakfast time

Today was our big trip out to the area around Glacier View Peak, where we expected a good vantage over to the Lillooet Icefield. In particular I was interested in the condition of the large Bridge Glacier, one of the large outlet glaciers of the icefield on the east side. We were able to get going a little earlier, around 9 AM this time, and headed west towards the shoulder of Mt. Steve. We were able to once again enjoy the expansive wildflowers as we traversed north and above of the east fork of Nichols Creek, which drains west from the pass where we were camped.

Despite its gentle appearance on topo maps, there is a significant amount of micro-terrain on the SW side of Mt. Steve, and we had to climb up and down repeatedly before descending past a small tarn (the likely site of our basecamp had we entered via the end of the Bridge River FSR) around 10 AM. The last hillside down to Nichols Creek had yet more wildflowers, mostly paintbrush. It was hard to take photos that did the area justice.

This is the tarn we would have camped at if we'd come the other way
This is the tarn we would have camped at if we'd come the other way
Looking to Griswold Pass
Looking to Griswold Pass
Nearing Nichols Creek
Nearing Nichols Creek

We reached Nichols Creek just below the inflow from the large glacier south of Lepton Mountain around 10:15 AM. While A and I chose to remove our boots and ford the frigid water, E and J headed a short distance upstream where it appeared one could leap across a narrow point. While it was technically feasible they both got a little wet not quite clearing the whole channel, but with the day quickly warming up we didn’t have much to worry about. The ford was easy, only about knee deep and not fast flowing.

At the creek
At the creek
E and J crossed at the narrow spot--not totally dry
E and J crossed at the narrow spot--not totally dry

Looking at the map, Nichols Creek forms a pretty deep valley that prevents an easy straightline route between the Headwaters of Slim Creek and Glacier View Peak. On the way there I intended to stay high once across Nichols Creek, contouring below the slopes of Lepton Mountain, a longer route but less elevation gain and loss. While this looked good on the map there were a few areas of steeper talus that made for occasional slow going. The side benefit was crossing a number of streams draining the snowfields and glaciers above us, a few of which made some nice waterfalls.

Climbing from Nichols Creek
Climbing from Nichols Creek
7
7
Talus below Lepton
Talus below Lepton
Waterfall
Waterfall
Nearing Glacier View Lake
Nearing Glacier View Lake

The second half of the traverse was easier, but we were once again reminded how the distances were deceiving, finally arriving above the major lake below Glacier View Peak around 12:30 PM. From the slopes above we got our first good views across to the icefield, as well as the odd, almost perfectly flat, plateau to the south of Mt. Loes. We descended to the lakeshore, where we stayed only briefly due to the lack of breeze and return of the mosquitos, before climbing a bit to some of the tarns above the largest lake for lunch at 1 PM. While some previous trip reports refer to the lake as “Nichols Lake”, this is a rather poor name as it doesn’t actually drain into Nichols Creek, so we decided Glacier View Lake was a better name (and accurate!). This area would be beautiful to camp in, which we had intended to do our first night, had we accessed it from below on the Bridge River FSR.

Glacier View Lake and horsefly
Glacier View Lake and horsefly
Lillooet Icefield
Lillooet Icefield
Next to the lake
Next to the lake
Mt. Loes
Mt. Loes
Snack by a tarn
Snack by a tarn

After a quick lunch I was worried we might not have quite enough time to make the Glacier View Peak main summit, but its nearby subsummit (sometimes called Tuber Hill) seemed close enough if we made good time. We avoided the ridge proper at first, but climbed up generally good talus to the ridge at 7200 ft before following it south to the summit at ~7590 ft, less than 50 ft below the main summit, arriving just after 2. From there we got a fantastic view of the Lillooet Icefield and Bridge Glacier, as well as the high peaks to the SW, and back towards Griswold Pass and the Slim Creek Headwaters. Of note was the lack of icebergs in the big proglacial lake at the foot of the Bridge Glacier, this is a significant change from just a few years ago (see this trip report). There was enough of a breeze on the summit to keep the bugs away, so we stayed up there for over half an hour. Accessing the top the way we came presented no technical difficulties.

Climbing away from the tarns
Climbing away from the tarns
Ascending to ridge
Ascending to ridge
Prospecting posts--there is supposedly an active mine at the bottom of the western slope of Glacier View Peak
Prospecting posts--there is supposedly an active mine at the bottom of the western slope of Glacier View Peak
Climbing to summit
Climbing to summit
Lillooet Icefield
Lillooet Icefield
Mt. Loes
Mt. Loes
Low glacier below Muon Mtn.
Low glacier below Muon Mtn.
Outlet glaciers below Mt. Dodds
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Outlet glaciers below Mt. Dodds
Bridge Glacier and lake. This lake was much smaller a decade ago and the glacier has few glaciology articles written about it
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Bridge Glacier and lake. This lake was much smaller a decade ago and the glacier has few glaciology articles written about it
Stanza Peak across Nichols Creek
Stanza Peak across Nichols Creek
Flat plateau below Mt. Loes
Flat plateau below Mt. Loes
Athelney Pass peaks. J and I climbed Ochre with my Uncle in 2010.
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Athelney Pass peaks. J and I climbed Ochre with my Uncle in 2010.
Monmouth Mtn is the highest peak at the north edge of the Lillooet Icefield (10,440 ft)
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Monmouth Mtn is the highest peak at the north edge of the Lillooet Icefield (10,440 ft)
True Glacier View summit. Tuber Hill is only a little shorter
True Glacier View summit. Tuber Hill is only a little shorter
Our route up
Our route up
Back towards Griswold Pass
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Back towards Griswold Pass

Sadly it was soon time to head down, if we wanted to be back at camp before sundown. We descended quickly the way we came, to the northernmost of the tarns east of Glacier View Lake just before 4 PM. Here we stopped for a swim, the water was easy to get into and less frigid than our crossing of Nichols Creek had been. The tarns are really nice and clear, and with the strong summer sun it was comfortable after getting out. On the way to the tarns we saw some pretty big hoof prints; we debated whether they were sheep, elk, or moose.

Descending
Descending
Back on the rolling terrain
Back on the rolling terrain
Tracks
Tracks
Our swimming tarn
Our swimming tarn

After taking the high line on the way to Glacier View, I realized cutting some of the corner off would likely be a better route, both to avoid the steeper talus and cut some distance. So we headed slightly downhill, avoiding the thicker copses of trees, to the West Fork of Nichols Creek, which drains much of the area SE of Lepton Mountain (we had circled around the headwaters in the morning). The small valley with this creek was scenic, with an interesting vertical wall on the east side. E scoped out an interesting looking cave in that direction. We crossed the creek and followed it a small distance upstream, where we angled uphill to gain the plateau separating the West Fork and main stem of Nichols Creek.

Some lupine
Some lupine
Approaching West Fork Nichols Creek
Approaching West Fork Nichols Creek
The wall
The wall
Downstream
Downstream
Mixing of the waters
Mixing of the waters
More wildflowers
More wildflowers

After crossing the plateau (which featured some interesting stretches of sandy pumice, likely from the Bridge River Cone volcanic area to the SW) we dropped down to Nichols Creek again, just upstream from where it enters a narrow gorge, at 5:20 PM. I had been worried about crossing late in the day, but the creek is wide here with multiple branches so it was no problem, though the water was certainly ice-cold.

Some different terrain
Some different terrain
Back down to Nichols Creek
Back down to Nichols Creek
Looking to cross
Looking to cross
Below here the creek enters a gorge
Below here the creek enters a gorge

Now all that was left was the slog across the shoulder of Mt. Steve, this time a bit lower down than we had come in the morning. Heading uphill from Nichols Creek with the hot sun at our backs quickly led us to forget the cold creek crossing. While the microterrain was no more fun in the afternoon, we were treated to a large number of marmots scurrying about, calling out as we made our way through their various communities. Closer to camp I stopped to use the wilderness facilities, and one of them kept an eye on me from atop a nearby knoll.

Wildflowers...yawn
Wildflowers...yawn
Returning home
Returning home
Rodent and Ice: a rendering
Rodent and Ice: a rendering

Soon we were back at camp (7 PM), of course not before J stepped deep into some mud at the last possible moment, just before getting to our tents (this would be a theme of the trip). After the long day we each enjoyed a full dehydrated meal, I in particular thought the Chili Mac with Beef was tasty. Before long the sun was going away and so was the wind, and we quickly retreated to the tents to avoid the mosquitos. By this point we all looked to be in various stages of a pox-like illness, thanks to our insect friends.

In the middle of the night we got up to look at the stars; as one might imagine there’s little if no artificial light in this area and we even got a few good meteors (the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower was only a few days later).

Stats: 14.5 mi, 2775 ft gain (and loss), 10 hrs

Our everpresent dusk companions
Our everpresent dusk companions

Day 4: Dayhike to Griswold Pass and Microscope subpeak
Weather: Still sunny, less hot. Windy in the afternoon

I woke up around the same time, again to clear skies and calm conditions. I spotted E in his orange jacket wandering around our local tarn, as he’d gotten up before me. It was becoming a bit of a morning ritual to see various members of our party walking around, especially heading up to or returning from the dispersed toilet areas high above our camp. It was fun to watch the big shadow of Slim S1 move across the slopes of Mt. Steve early in the day.

Another beautiful morning
Another beautiful morning

Today’s destination was Griswold Pass, a classic must-see destination according to most of the previous reports from this area. A decided to stay back at camp to relax after our long day previously, so the rest of us departed northwestward around 9:30 AM. The first part of our trip was similar to the previous day, heading through the wide stretches of wildflowers on the SW slopes of Mt. Steve, this time higher up to cut the corner towards Griswold Pass. The high route seemed to have fewer undulations, and we soon crested the west ridge of Steve and headed downhill towards the creek draining between Steve and Griswold Peak. We were across this creek by around 10:30, which had a few nice waterfalls and small tarns. It looked to be a quite pleasant spot to camp.

Wildflower traverse on Mt. Steve revisited
Wildflower traverse on Mt. Steve revisited
Down again
Down again
Tarn near Steve/Griswold Creek
Tarn near Steve/Griswold Creek
Crossing the creek
Crossing the creek
Lepton S1
Lepton S1

Beyond the creek I had intended to stay a bit higher above the upper portion of Nichols Creek, but it ended up being easier to angle downwards right to it, at which point we passed by the imposing slopes of Griswold towards the pass proper. Along the way we passed some interesting grassy growths, as well as the first piece of plastic garbage we’d seen on the trip (at first we thought it might have been left by a hiker, but after further thought it seemed more likely to have been deposited by a snowmobiler).

The last portion to the pass is flat, except of course for the big rock wall that forms the moraine of the glacier between Baryon and Meson Peaks. Despite its size, the glacier remains unnamed on the map, and with the particle physics theme for the nearby peaks, we thought the Subatomic Glacier was a suitably amusing and appropriate name. While the wall looks a bit intimidating at first, there is a big gap in the middle which we easily scrambled through.

Griswold and Griswold S1
Griswold and Griswold S1
Baryon Peak
Baryon Peak
Smiley grass
Smiley grass
Approaching the moraine
Approaching the moraine
Through the gap
Through the gap

Immediately on the other side we were treated with a great view of the glacier, as well as Meson Peak and a number of shallow, moraine lakes. We walked around the edges of them, to a sandy isthmus and some rocks where we enjoyed lunch at 12 PM. There is a bunch of glacial till and gravel here, and at one point we were walking along a ridge of it that looked like a veritable animal superhighway! I mentioned that this was likely a popular way for them to cross through the mountains, and if we were to see a Grizzly this would be the spot. Unfortunately the loose sand didn’t allow for any good prints, but from the size of some of the disturbances a bear or two looked to have passed by some time recently.

During lunch I enjoyed a quick dip in the lake, the bottom of which was covered with very slippery silt. It was actually tricky to get out again, as any place too steep on the edge was impossible to walk up. A strong breeze blowing from the south kept me cool during lunch afterwards.

Like our visit to Glacier View Lake the previous day, Griswold Pass suffers from a bit of nomenclature inconsistency, as it’s actually the pass separating Nichols and Duane Creeks (Duane Creek also flows into the Lord River so the Nichols-Lord Pass is another more accurate name). The true Griswold Pass is up another level, just north of Griswold Peak at the head of Griswold Creek.

Moraine lakes at Duane-Nichols Pass (Griswold Pass)
Moraine lakes at Duane-Nichols Pass (Griswold Pass)
Navigating the tarns
Navigating the tarns
From our sandy lunch beach
From our sandy lunch beach

E had never seen a glacier up close, so we felt obligated to wander over to the edge of it after lunch. The glacier is much smaller than is indicated on most topo maps, and in fact had noticeably retreated compared to some of the photos I’d seen from 10 years ago. The recent deglaciated terrain was as expected, with a large assortment of big granite boulders. As we got closer to the ice we noticed a very strong wind flowing down the glacier itself, no doubt a local weather feature. During our entire trip there was a strong westerly breeze during the day, which made me wonder what sort of influence the nearby icefield had on the local weather. The cold wind was compounded by the fact I was still “refreshed” from my lunchtime swim.

As always it was fun to get up close and personal; it was warm enough out that we watched as small pieces of ice sloughed off the edge of the glacier from time to time. After we all accidentally stepped in some glacial mud, we descended slightly to the creek flowing out of the glacier, or the headwaters of Duane Creek on newer maps. By this point in the afternoon the water was really rushing out. We enjoyed investigating an orphaned piece of glacial ice, which had recently split revealing a clean, faceted surface underneath. As usual, this particular landform did not disappoint!

Subatomic Glacier pano
Subatomic Glacier pano
Approaching the glacier
Approaching the glacier
Up close
Up close
Outlet stream (headwaters of Duane Creek)
Outlet stream (headwaters of Duane Creek)
Looking toward Microscope Peak
Looking toward Microscope Peak

It was only a little after 1 PM after our Subatomic Glacier investigation, and I had in my mind the idea it’d be great to climb up onto the ~8370 ft peak immediately across from the terminus of the glacier, as it would offer a great view of all the Subatomic Peaks. It seemed at least somewhat likely getting that far might not be possible, so the backup was the subpeak immediately above the “real” Griswold Pass, at ~8040 ft. None of the peaks heading north between Griswold and Mt. McClure are named, but “Microscope Peak” seemed appropriate based on its location observing the Subatomic Glacier.

We headed quickly across the sandy outwash plain of the glacier, looking back to appreciate its hulking appearance. We then had the steep climb up to the “true” Griswold Pass to contend with, which in no time enabled me to forget how cold I was standing next to the glacier. On the other hand, another south facing slope meant another cornucopia of wildflowers.

Leaving the glacier behind
Leaving the glacier behind
Griswold Peak and outwash
Griswold Peak and outwash
Lunch lakes
Lunch lakes
More wildflowers
More wildflowers
Climbing
Climbing
Griswold's icy side
Griswold's icy side

We churned uphill, E and J not exactly sure how far I had indicating we were going. The SW slopes of the Microscope subpeak are rather steep so we corkscrewed around counterclockwise, gaining the ridge only a short and easy scramble below the summit. Despite being a few hundred feet shorter than its parent, our little peak was much more airy than yesterday’s, with a perfect view down to the glacier and pass, as well as the surrounding area. We could see across to our route from yesterday, the many lakes on the north side of Griswold, and the high peaks of the northern Lillooet Icefield. To the north and east were the drier parts of the Chilcotin, including a number of very reddish peaks that contrasted with those were were standing on. Of additional note was the giant high plateau between our peak and Microscope, which according to the color and weathering appeared to have held a large but quite shallow glacier in the recent past. While we could have pushed onto the higher peak, we contented ourselves to spend an hour here, where I was able to take a short nap on the lee side of the peak (it was pretty breezy on top).

Microscope Peak
Microscope Peak
Athelney Pass peaks
Athelney Pass peaks
Lakes of Griswold
Lakes of Griswold
Stanza
Stanza
Subatomic group pano
Subatomic group pano
Contrasting peaks
Contrasting peaks

It was just after 3 PM and so we resigned ourselves to the longish trip back to camp. We dropped down the talus slope to the “real” Griswold Pass, which had a few nice tarns and would make yet another good campsite. To save a little time we stayed high on the slope of Griswold Peak as we headed south, enjoying a good view of the broad moraine and lakes below the Subatomic Glacier. We also passed a family of ptarmigan.

Back down
Back down
Nearing the real Griswold Pass
Nearing the real Griswold Pass
Ptarmigan
Ptarmigan

We angled slightly downward, rambling through the microterrain to the Griswold/Steve Creek at 4:45, where we had a quick rest and I dipped my feet in the cool water. As we noted in the morning this particular spot also would make a great camp, with clear water and a few small tarns.

Then it was back up and over the shoulder of Steve, something we were now considering a bit of a nuisance. We kept a slightly lower line than in the morning, which worked out just fine and brought us back to camp just before 6 PM. A had had a nice day napping and catching up on their Kindle, and we enjoyed another dinner down by the tarn. I hopped in the water for a second swim, which was doing a lot for keeping me relatively clean after a few days on the trail. We were able to enjoy the evening a bit more thanks to a stronger breeze, but as usual it came down around sunset and we quickly returned to our tents. I woke up in the middle of the night to enjoy the stars for a short time again as well.

Stats: 11.9 mi, 1700 ft gain, 8.5 hrs

Nice spot along the Steve/Griswold Creek
Nice spot along the Steve/Griswold Creek
Creek and Musket SW2
Creek and Musket SW2
Back up and over
Back up and over
Another good day
Another good day
Moon
Moon
Alpenglow
Alpenglow

Day 5: Dayhike to Stanza Peak (loop)
Weather: Pretty much the same as yesterday (sunny and somewhat less hot)

Our third morning at basecamp dawned much like all the others, clear and sunny. After months of worry about the weather we (well, I) was joking when we might next see a cloud. The others in the group were interested in a slightly shorter trip today, but with the opportunity to climb to a real, named, summit. After debating heading north to Musket SW2, or maybe Gun Peak, we settled on the closest peak, Stanza, just SW of our camp. Stanza would offer the highest point we’d climbed so far, and according to a previous report we could turn it into a ridge walk loop.

Another great morning
Another great morning

All four of us were off again at 9:45, our starts getting a little less early as the week was moving along. We traversed uphill to the large basin below Stanza, which holds a few unnamed glaciers that provide the majority of water to the East Fork of Nichols Creek. We were all happy to not be climbing over the shoulder of Steve for a change. At the side of the basin we decided to conduct the ridgewalk clockwise, as I wasn’t 100% sure about the route onto the ridge and better to get stuck at the bottom rather than the top.

Across to Duane-Nichols Pass
Across to Duane-Nichols Pass
Broad moraine debris, summit out of view to left
Broad moraine debris, summit out of view to left

While the likely climb up onto the ridge looked a bit steep from afar, as we headed up the basin the line looked quite doable, contouring above a snowpatch diagonally to a low point of the ridge. It’s always nice when the route looks less steep as one gets closer! After a recommendation to the others not to hang out under the potentially loose overhanging rock, we made quick work of the talus and made it up onto the ridge at 11:15 AM. A reflected how our climb so far had been much nicer than the Colorado Rockies scree she had encountered a few years ago.

Route climbs diagonally from left to right above snow patch below ridge
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Route climbs diagonally from left to right above snow patch below ridge
Peeking to the Lillooet Icefield
Peeking to the Lillooet Icefield
Approaching the scramble
Approaching the scramble
Scrambling
Scrambling
View from the top!
View from the top!

We had to climb over a few more bumps to get to Stanza Peak, which looked a little steep from this side but at this point we’d learned looks can be deceiving. After a quick snack on one of these peaks, and observation of an interesting spider high up in the alpine, we dropped into the final col, keeping a bit to the south to avoid the steepest and loosest talus, before climbing to the summit of Stanza at 12:15 PM. Aside from a few wobbly rocks, the route was straightforward, and less annoying for E after the trip I took him on to the Teanaway back in the spring. At 8491 ft, we had a mostly unobstructed view of our surroundings, including the Lillooet Icefield, peaks of the Athelney Pass area, all the peaks around Griswold Pass and north into the drier interior and beyond. Of particular note were the nice multicolored lakes between Sorcerer Mountain and Nichols Peak, which drain east to Slim Creek and can be accessed by the cable crossing we’d seen on the first day.

Climbing bumps, Stanza summit in left background
Climbing bumps, Stanza summit in left background
Summit ridge
Summit ridge
Final climb
Final climb
Ascending to summit, Sorcerer behind at right
Ascending to summit, Sorcerer behind at right
On top!
On top!
Looking north
Looking north
West to the icefield
West to the icefield
Nichols Peak and surroundings
Nichols Peak and surroundings
Nice lakes in the upper West Fork Slim Creek
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Nice lakes in the upper West Fork Slim Creek
Across Loes Glacier to Monmouth area peaks
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Across Loes Glacier to Monmouth area peaks
Summit pics
Summit pics

We spent an hour on the summit, enjoying lunch and the view. I commented that I could see a couple lonely cumulus over by the Manatee Range far to the SW==the weather must have been changing!. The summit area has two large cairns, but no register at either of them, which was too bad. There was a breeze on top but it was generally pleasant. Though it was the third full day in the area there was still lots to see we wouldn’t get a chance to visit!

Again it was time to go, following the ridgeline to the west. While there is a big cliff down to the glacier to the north, the south aspect is much more gentle, with the exception of a narrow portion we crossed heading to a western subpeak. At first it looked a little tricky but it was easy to stay on top or skip just a little bit to the right, and the other side of the subpeak was straightforward. Heading down to the junction with the ridge south to Strophe Peak we got a great view over to the Lillooet Icefield, and at the edge an impressive view down the cliffs to Nichols Creek. E had commented going up those slopes looked difficult two days ago on our way to Glacier View Lake, and our opinions weren’t changing looking down from above.

Leaving the summit
Leaving the summit
Narrow section of the ridge
Narrow section of the ridge
Not as difficult as it looks
Not as difficult as it looks
Back to summit
Back to summit
Dropping off the western subpeak
Dropping off the western subpeak
Glacier View Lake and the icefield
Glacier View Lake and the icefield
Athelney Pass peaks in the distance
Athelney Pass peaks in the distance
Dirty glacial fragment
Dirty glacial fragment
Long way down
Long way down

To save some distance we dropped off the NW ridge to the right, descending to the left of a small glacier. Part of this descent was unpleasant loose talus, but eventually we were past that and onto the never ending moraines, saving some effort by glissading down the few remaining snow patches.

We were easily able to cross the braided outlet of the main glacier below Stanza, before climbing a final moraine and creek to our original route, after which it was a simple descent back to camp. Everyone was happy to back a little earlier, this time at 3 PM.

Looking back to the western peak
Looking back to the western peak
Not so fun talus
Not so fun talus
Down the moraine
Down the moraine
Stanza Glacier
Stanza Glacier
Approaching East Fork Nichols Creek
Approaching East Fork Nichols Creek
Stanza glacial basin
Stanza glacial basin
Our original route gained the ridge upper left
Our original route gained the ridge upper left
Back down to camp
Back down to camp

After a relaxed afternoon and an evening of ever-less-exciting dehydrated meals, I did take time to explore a bit more around camp, getting some good evening photos of the moon over the various Stanza ridges, and the little creek that circles around the tarn below our tents. While the creek comes within a few feet of flowing into the tarn, it does not and so the water in the tarn remains clear. Really, it was a beautiful area we’d be leaving the next morning.

Stats: 5.4 mi, 2225 ft gain, 5.75 hrs

Close to mixing
Close to mixing

Day 6: Exit via Slim Creek
Weather: Sunny to start, hot with high clouds and cumulus at car

Our final morning dawned sunny again, I got up a little earlier to get some better photos of the dawn alpenglow. After days of not seeing much besides marmots and a hawk, there was a solitary loon on the tarn below, occasionally making an appropriately haunting call.

Early morning
Early morning

We all tried to get moving earlier the final morning, and even though we waited a bit to dry the tents out, we were able to get moving by 8 AM. We said goodbye to our pleasant home for the past four nights, passing back through the broad pass at the head of Slim Creek, with another view of Sorcerer Mountain and its grand glacial moraine. We weaved in and out of the subalpine trees beyond and below, generally higher up than our ascent (again--ended up in some deeper brush as a result which helped keep our mantra: closer to the creek!). We arrived at our original campsite at Leckie Creek at 10:15 for a snack, but were moving again quickly when we became reacquainted with the mosquitos.


We passed back through the big swamp a little less muddy, staying a little higher on the hillside, and generally were able to follow the trail more effectively through some woodsy and swampy areas where on the way up we were more off route. We had another snack by the cable crossing at 12:15, before making the final press through a few more muddy and brushy sections to the familiar avalanche debris, and then the final road walk back to the car, which we were happy to see just a little after 1:30 PM. There was now a pickup parked next to us, though we had not seen anyone on our way out. It was pretty hot at the car, and we were happy to sit down, change our clothes and enjoy the scenic ride back out along Carpenter Lake to Lillooet (where it was close to 90˚F). Since we got out pretty early, we decided to make for Seattle all in one go, stopping only in Hope for some tasty hot food at Rolly’s Restaurant.

Stats: 12.4 mi, 1800 ft loss, 5.75 hrs

Overally, a fantastic trip to a scenic and remote area, made better by the perfect weather and peak wildflowers. Surprisingly no larger mammals sighted (bears or wolves, both of which are supposed to be common). I have a better understanding why some people try and visit in the fall (post-bugs) but compared to the beauty of the area this could be overlooked. Lots still to explore as well, and would be happy to return.

Trip overview
Trip overview
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Gimpilator
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PostMon Sep 09, 2019 8:47 pm 
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So glad you posted this.  Blows my mind.

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Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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Brushwork
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PostMon Sep 09, 2019 10:52 pm 
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Wow, what a beautiful area!   Really enjoyable to read and see your photos.   Thank you for posting.

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RichP
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PostTue Sep 10, 2019 5:26 am 
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Wow! Gorgeous area and completely off my radar until now.

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Without obsession, life is nothing. John Waters
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gb
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PostTue Sep 10, 2019 9:38 am 
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Pretty amazing trip. I had been in the Manatee area a couple of times years ago and had looked to the Bridge Icefield. Also, 103 hikes had a trip farther east in the Chilcotin and I had thought it appealing but never went.

The entire area looks so arctic (and it must have been in the recent past). Seems like you could wander anywhere and it would be hard to choose. Great place to get lost, though, without a GPS or compass skills if socked in, which must sometimes happen.

I am not surprised about the mosquitoes, though. But with the wildflowers, it seems most beautiful at the same time the bugs are most likely.
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BeardoMcGrath
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PostWed Sep 11, 2019 4:17 pm 
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gb wrote:
Pretty amazing trip. I had been in the Manatee area a couple of times years ago and had looked to the Bridge Icefield. Also, 103 hikes had a trip farther east in the Chilcotin and I had thought it appealing but never went.

I've always wanted to make it there too, I've seen those peaks on a couple occasions. Access is pretty tricky though from what I've read.

gb wrote:
The entire area looks so arctic (and it must have been in the recent past). Seems like you could wander anywhere and it would be hard to choose. Great place to get lost, though, without a GPS or compass skills if socked in, which must sometimes happen.

Yes lots of huge moraine areas, and being on the east side of the Coast crest I bet it's cold in the winter. The fact it's so wide open is what made it really great for wandering around. Agree that poor visibility could be an issue.

gb wrote:
I am not surprised about the mosquitoes, though. But with the wildflowers, it seems most beautiful at the same time the bugs are most likely.

That was my thought as well. At least what we kept telling ourselves while we there haha
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cascadetraverser
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PostThu Sep 12, 2019 2:42 pm 
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Amazing trip!  Thanks for the detailed and interesting post to a place few visit...
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Brushbuffalo
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PostFri Sep 13, 2019 12:04 pm 
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What a spectacular area! It reminds me of some parts of central Alaska, with a  recently deglaciated tundra  landscape, ice- bound peaks as a backdrop......and mosquitoes gallor!
BeardoMcGrath wrote:

I love your pictures like this one.....such vibrant  colors.

That was an ambitious first backpack for your friend E.. What did he or she think of it?

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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PostFri Sep 13, 2019 2:55 pm 
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I have to agree with BB that the photos remind me of Alaska as well(Particularly Wrangell St Elias NP).  Did you see any evidence of humans??
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BeardoMcGrath
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PostFri Sep 13, 2019 4:48 pm 
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Brushbuffalo wrote:
That was an ambitious first backpack for your friend E.. What did he or she think of it?

He and everyone else had a great time! I've brought him along on some more difficult dayhikes in the past couple years here in WA (Bills Peak in the Teanaway this spring for example) so fitness was not an issue. Having a basecamp and otherwise splitting the weight was a nice way to start. I only worry anywhere else we go now will be less spectacular!

cascadetraverser wrote:
Did you see any evidence of humans??

Surprisingly, yes. A couple pieces of plastic I assume from snowmobiles. Some of the mountain peaks had claim stakes as well, a large portion of the area to the north and west has seen various mining activities over the decades.
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iron
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PostSun Sep 15, 2019 12:36 am 
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thanks for this TR. pretty remote!

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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Attaining Mosquito Zen: 6 Days in the Slim Creek Headwaters (South Chilcotin, BC) -- 4-9 Aug 2019
  Happy Birthday Karen², Midnight Slogger!
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