Chris M. at Semaphore Lakes:
“Six of us in 2 cars went up the newly opened Hurley FSR to Semaphore Lakes for the weekend. The trail in took a little over an hour and had patchy snow sections. We found a nice rocky plateau to set up camp on and then we all headed up towards Locomotive Mountain. Except for the final ridge the entire hike up was still on snow. Ino, Colleen, (another) Chris & myself went the easiest route possible while Cara and Mark tried out a more direct line. There were plenty of fun slides on the way back down. That evening, we enjoyed a variety of beverages while waiting for the stars to appear. The next day, 3 of our group made it to the summit of Face Mountain. Two of us went part way and then returned to camp and relaxed with our 6th member. The hike out was easy.”
Chris N. on Waterfalls Plateau:
“The lack of 4wds on Wanderung showed as I couldn’t scare up another driver and the ensuing logistical complications meant that only 2 of us left Vancouver at 7 am on our way to adventure and discovery. The Hurley was pretty awful – really in need of a grading. There was a huge pack of cars at the Semaphore Lakes trailhead as we passed – almost as many as you see at the Keith’s Hut parking area. The first 7 km of the Hope Creek FSR were in pretty good condition with some minor rutting left over from a recent wet spell. The east branch was definitely 4wd with frequent short but sharp waterbars needing good clearance and a 1 km stretch of close alder. We parked at the Beaujolais / Mystery scrambling parking area. The bushwhacking was moderate and short and we would encounter the odd flagging but didn’t find any specific trail except animal routes. Most of the route to Noel Pass was in narrow, heathery meadows. A tarn at the pass yielded almost-frog tadpoles, a newt and a multitude of water boatman bugs. We also encountered signs of winter sled traffic – shredded beer cans. We side-hilled into Noel encountering much krummholz and steep forest. Climbing the first side valley on the west brought us onto the rocky plateau that I had hoped would be more vegetated. But we found good camping spots near a tarn that was still melting out. On the middle day, we rambled west and found even better camping spots as we went and plentiful tarns. We interrupted a ptarmigan party, watched raptors hunt and eavesdropped on pika conversations. At one point, we spotted what may have been a wolverine! Returning to the car on the Monday, we descended due south through meadows and an old burn encountering some old flagging tape on the way back to the road. Along the way, we swashbuckled moptops and discussed the prevalence of walrus-mounted alpine mammals.”
Zoltan at Semaphore Lakes:
“Ciaran, Will, Amy, and myself hiked to Semaphore Lakes on a clear, sunny day. The drive was long but beautiful. Passing Whistler Village we continued to Pemberton and beyond through the country side. We finally approached a long drive up Hurley River FSR, and eventually reached the trail head just 3 hours after leaving Vancouver. The hike up to the lakes was relatively easy. After an hour or so up through the woods we reached the meadows. The colours of fall were everywhere, even in the alpine. With only a few other hikers up there, we had a nice, quiet lunch, enjoying the views, with no distractions. Then we hiked around the meadows seeing the lower and upper lakes. Locomotive and Face Mountains were a dramatic backdrop at every step we took. We all agreed that this place is stunning and it would be well worth it to come back to summit one of the mountains. Driving back down, we got a close encounter with a black bear, as it crossed the road and then stopped for us as we passed it to snap a few pictures. Also, a bit further down the road, we had the same experience with a deer. Overall, this hike is very nice and I encourage everyone to try it once.
A side note about the FSR. It’s not that bad, considering my Honda Civic made it up. Your driving time (on the FSR) will be cut in half, however, if you drive a 4×4. I personally would not recommend going up there with any car if there is snow.
More pictures of the hike are on Flickr“
Evgeny on the Semaphore Lakes peaks circuit:
“When I made a call out, Vlad (one of my companions on this adventure) proposed to make an extra detour to bag also Handcar Mountain if the time would allow. So the plan was settled to climb Face Mountain, then proceed along the ridge to Faceless Mountain, then optionally to make a detour to Handcar Mountain, which is a bit on the side and about 1.4 km straight to the southwest of Faceless, and get back to the ridge between Faceless and Caboose Mountains, then continue to Caboose, Tender, and Locomotive Mountains before descending to the lakes and getting back to the car.
Due to the long driving to the place in the early morning, three of us started hiking at 8:13 am and reached Semaphore Lakes at 9:00 am. From the lakes we headed to Face Mountain crossing a creek in the process. Scrambling Face was fun and in the morning it was warm and sunny to provide some spectacular views on the Train Glacier and the Locomotive Mountain. Route finding is rather straight forward if you are following the book description or a guy who’s been there before. 🙂 At 11:45 we’ve gotten to the top of Face and enjoyed a food break with some amazing views of the surrounding area.
The weather deteriorated a bit and as we started scrambling along the ridge towards Faceless Mountain. It became really cold at some point and we had to put jackets on to prevent freezing. We left Faceless summit rather fast and two of us headed to Handcar Mountain and one stayed to rest on the ridge. Me and Vlad went initially over the ridge between Faceless and Handcar. It was a lot of scrambling but, at the end, we had to descent all the way down the valley. It was a scree fest. Vlad was blazing through it and I was lagging behind. Nevertheless, we summitted Handcar. The weather improved and the sun showed up once again. Vlad went ahead to provide Colin, who stayed on the ridge, company while I was catching up. Amazingly phones worked in the area and Colin managed to call me to ask what’s taking us so long.
After I finally ascended to the ridge and joined the group the remaining 3 peaks were easy with small elevation changes. We summitted Locomotive, the last summit of the group, at 6:20 pm. After a short break there we descended back to the lakes trying to use snow for fast boot-skiing and butt-sliding. We’ve got to the lakes right before the sunset. When it became very dark we already were withing 10 min hike from the car.
At 8:45 pm we were back at the parking spot. The hike itself took us about 12 hours 30 minutes from car to car.
A more detailed report and images can be found on Live Trails.
Ben at Semaphore Lakes:
“The time of year was near perfect for a trip to this area. While the lower portion of the trail was very muddy, the ground in the bowl containing the lakes was nicely frozen. There was a light blanket of snow varying from sparse patches in the sunny spots to several inches in the shade of the ridges. It was just enough to add beauty to the alpine scenes without making travel difficult. After establishing camp we made our way up Locomotive Mountain. We followed the gentle southern ridge which cannot be seen from the lakes. The route was mostly snow-covered talus and easy to follow. On the summit, the air was cold and clear, and the views were exceptional. Although the sun set well before we made it back to camp, the half moon was bright on the snow and we had no problems. After a very chilly night we were happy to see the sun crest over the ridge at around 10:00. On this day we went for a nice walk along the ridge to the east, and then meandered our way around the lakes and back to the trail. Thanks to Bill and Mazy for joining me and contributing to this great trip.”
Chris on McGillivray Ridge:
“Cam, Cara and I spent 4 days on and around McGillivray Ridge on the edge of the Bendor Range with a mix of thunderstorms and smoke haze. Smoke kept the big animals away but we saw many ptarmigan families and marmots and a few pikas. The Hurley is in rough shape (washboarding and exposed rocks) but still 2wd. The East Hurley to Bralorne and the Kingdom Lake FSR are also both 2wd (and in nicer condition). We parked at the start of the McGillivray Pass road and hiked up. The alders at the start of the road are growing in again but it’s still easy to maintain hiking speed. There’s a few blowdowns on the road as well. We left the road for the high trail and found that, once you hit the meadows, the trail is hard to follow due to non-use and I was working off memory most of the time. We camped on the ridge near where the trail crosses over and used melting snow fields for water. There’s still lots of snow as we found on the second day when we continued along the ridge: at one point we encountered an 8-m-high drift. We found and packed out some old garbage including a leg-hold trap embedded in the tundra. We made a try for Whitecap Mt on our third day by following the horse trail down into Connel Creek. This part of the trail is in better shape but still disappears in lush meadows. We passed the Chilcotin Holidays cabin (in poor shape because there’s no door to keep wildlife out). The meadows beyond were the lushest I’ve ever seen – up to our waists in flowers and couldn’t see our feet. There were remnants of the trail heading up a creek to the west of Whitecap but too hard to follow. We ran out of time with 400+m still to go but with the steep part of the climb (40 degree slopes) done. On our last day, we bypassed McGillivray Mt and headed NW along the ridge – much narrower than the eastern half before dropping down, sidehilling around Royal Peak and down the ridge to the Piebiter roads. Most of these roads had been cleared for ATVs perhaps last year but those that aren’t are slide alder hell. Crossing Piebiter Creek (knee-height), we checked out the old Piebiter cabin (sturdy but in need of a good clean-out) before heading down to the car again.”
Chris in the Spruce Lake area:
“Cara, Mike and Ribeka joined me on a trip of mixed weather and great hiking in the Spruce Lake area of the Southern Chilcotins. The Hurley Road was about average – bumpy but still 2wd-able. The Slim Creek Road was in better shape even after the work done to put in fire breaks due to the Tyaughton Lake fire (almost out). There’s a couple new spurs and the road forms part of the main fire break. We parked at Jewel Creek bridge and saw only one group of horse wranglers the whole time we were there (usually you have to hop off the trail to let bike trains and horse trains by). The trail was dry and dusty. The snow pack was 20% below record lows and melting fast – almost a month ahead of schedule. For day trips, we climbed up to Sheba Ridge and the ridge south of Windy Pass. Saw many deer but only one black bear. The only signs of grizzlies were a couple of the biggest tracks I’ve ever seen.”