Canadian Border Peak

July 23, 2017


Tamihi Creek / Chilliwack Lake Road, BC

Deep in the headwater of Tamihi Creek of the Chilliwack River Valley straddling the U.S./Canada border rise a group of infamous rocky towers officially named as the Border Peaks. Canadian Border Peak is the smaller tower on the north side of the border. There is no easy way up this intimidating rocky horn and the “standard route” goes at mostly “BC 3rd/4th class” leading towards a 5.6 crux pitch, and to further complicate things this group of peaks have arguably the worst rock quality of the whole area and there’s no wonder why they are seldom climbed. In addition to that, the access had become an issue in the last 10 years or so as the Tamihi FSR has been regularly gated and/or washed-out leaving at least an additional 15 km of bike ride each way. With very little information there’s only one way to find out.

This objective would not happen without Alex, Ben and Matthew’s recent exploration up the Tamihi Creek Valley and to our surprise, the road was in an excellent shape and there’s no gate anymore whatsoever. As soon as the status of this road was confirmed an ascent of Canadian Border Peak (CBP) instantly bumped up the list. And then there came this past Sunday. With recent rain and clouds on Saturday we couldn’t do much in terms of overnight exploration but a “clearing trend” late in Sunday afternoon suggested we did have a chance to give CBP a shot. The morning was gloomy and overcast as Matthew volunteered to drive us towards Chilliwack. The Tamihi FSR was indeed in an excellent shape and we had no issue making to the “drivable end” which was roughly 1 km before the switchbacks.

Canadian Border Peak ascent route. GPX DL

All geared up we soon started the trudge and in time time we entered the mist. There seemed to have some recent maintenance of this road with the alders all cut. An hour or so later we knew who did that as two dirt-bikers zipped past us just like snowmobiles in winter time. The switchback section was very long and monotonous and then the vegetation was heavily damped. None of us was looking forward to the bushwhacking stretch but we had to face it. Our pants got soaked through in literally just one minute although my brand new La Sportiva Trango Ice Cubes kept my feet bone dry. The new boots performed so far, so good and I figured this was an ideal trip to test them out before bigger rock objectives later in the season. In the bush we kept a diagonal traversing bearing but soon got tired out the horizontal travel and instead, went more-or-less straight up the slope to hit the ridge earlier than we hoped for.

The entire approach was done in typical weather like this…

A group of dirt bikers showed up how to do this approach properly..

Bushwhacking in this condition was miserable. Soaked to the bone.

The downside of hitting the ridge too soon is that we now had to ascent up and over a hump with some elevation loss. This turned out to be not an issue at all however the bump did involve some classic BC type of vegetation scrambling. On top of the bump we took a lengthy break and meanwhile the clouds started to lift up and we got a brief glimpse of the objective ahead. It’s probably a good thing that we didn’t see the full scale of it as it looked downright intimidating a couple hours later. Descending into the saddle we utilized snow for as much as possible to save our knees, and then up the opposite side we let the terrain guide us, diagonally up climber’s right side into the lower gully.

Ascending the grassy ridge now. The weather was still like this..

A brief glimpse of our objective sets the tone

Another brief glimpse shows part of Tomyhoi Peak

Matthew scrambling up an optional step for a bit of warm-up.

There’s a triangular snowpatch in the lower, broader gully which was our general bearing. Upon hitting the snow we ascended on climber’s right side and then overcame some loose 3rd class (avoidable) sections which brought us to a notch/shoulder marked by a huge cairn. The route ahead wasn’t obvious at all but that cairn assured that we were on-route at least right now. After that the route traverses back and forth across some ledges (exposed with pebbles on top) before ascending a series of slabs and ledges paralleling a huge corner to the left. There are many ways to attack this upper gully section but no matter what, loose rock, route-finding, exposure and 3rd class scrambling in unavoidable. This long stretch eventually brought us to a pile of boulders and then the base of the crux.

Upwards and onwards into the mist

Another step in the lower gully before the saddle/notch

Alex seems like having lots of fun

The weather finally clears up a bit.

We had to decide where to go next.

Ben and Matthew scrambling up the typical terrain

Ledges, slabs and pebbles with considerable exposure

Alex scrambling up

An imposing tower that we passed by

We were a bit off-route here and opted to do another loose 4th class step

Alex traversing over to the correct line

Above the clouds surely felt great.

By far the route is more Rockies like than BC and having just ascended the Patterson’s Spur on Mt. Robson certainly helped my confidence on the foot placements in this kind of chossy ground. The crux pitch, however, appeared slabby and solid and a little bit wet too. At this point Matthew opted to try out the “scramble route” while Alex, Ben and myself geared up at the bottom of the pitch. The route Matthew took goes at exposed and awkward “4th class” and although he didn’t like it, he got over with it much faster than the rest of us. I volunteered to lead the 5.6 pitch mainly because I needed this to prepare for a bigger project in the near future. The slabby nature of the rocks meant I’d use rock shoes instead of boots but even so, it felt really hard. The gear placement was sparse although with some creativity you can get in a small cam or a nut. Thankfully the hardest moves were at the bottom and after that it was cruise sailing to the 2-piton anchor and then I brought Ben and Alex up. Nobody felt it “easy” at all.

Ben building a lower station

Me starting the lead. Photo by Alex

Me 2/3 of the way up this pitch. Photo by Alex

From above the crux pitch, looking down

Now the game was not over yet as we still had a section of stiff 4th class climb to reach the summit. After completing the crux pitch all of us was already in the “rock mode” so the decision was to ditch rope and gears and solo the rest. The fact that Matthew already reached the summit helped the confidence that the rest of the route would “go” as well. It turned out that the 4th class section wasn’t easy by any mean, but with some positive holds I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Great views now from the top belay station

Looking down the route to show a sea of clouds

Alex starting up the 4th class pitch

Ben climbing up

It’s not easy as you can see in this picture…

Finally the summit in sight

Tomyhoi Peak

Mt. McGuire

The fang of Slesse Mountain briefly showed up

The neighbouring American Border Peak. Photo by Matthew

Our group shot on the summit of Canadian Border Peak

The summit stay was relatively short and before realizing we were already on our way down. Down-climbing the 4th class pitch was again, not easy but quite enjoyable and then we all opted to rappel off the crux pitch. There wasn’t much to document about reversing the long section of that 3rd class gully other than extreme caution (in a group of 4) as well as patience. It’s going to be longer than you want it to be and rockfall hazard is high throughout.

Alex and Ben descending from the summit

Alex and Ben down-climbing the 4th class chimney

View from the rappelling station

Looking down

Me rapping off. Photo by Matthew Baldwin

Matthew rapping off

Alex rappelling

Looking sideways across towards Tomyhoi Peak shows the steepness as well

Looking back towards the summit block

Matthew and Alex with the Tamihi Creek valley behind

Ready to descend the choss

Matthew down-climbing next to the rock wall.

As typical as it gets..

Exiting the upper gully

Into the lower (wider) gully, looking back

Alex descending next to the snow patch

Onto easy terrain now. Note the clouds pattern

Can’t get enough of the views

A bit of narrow spot on the ridge

Canadian Border Peak behind

We took another well-deserved break on top of the bump and meanwhile the sky finally completely cleared up. Looking back at our objective was quite a fearsome sight but the good thing, we never have to go back up here again. The rest of the descent was painful and monotonous but at least now with the views it didn’t feel that bad.

Another look at Tomyhoi Peak

Looking back at our objective, now in clear show

Ben down-climbing a 3rd class bush step

Into the clear-cut

Onto the logging road now

It’s a long road walk back.

The headwater of Tomyhoi Creek into the state of Washington

Hiking out

More about the hike out

The Border Peaks and Mt. Larrabee

Overall this was a tough little peak with lots of shitty terrain and a challenging crux. Personally I didn’t feel it being that terrifying mainly because I came from a strong Canadian Rockies background, but nonetheless Canadian Border Peak is not an objective I’d recommend and especially not in a large group..

Make sure to take a look at Alex’s video.