Flora Peak

April 12, 2019


Chilliwack Lake, BC

Flora Peak guards Chilliwack Lake immediately from the north on an undulating but wide alpine ridge system. The famous Flora Lake Trail loop ascends to, and traverses at about 200 m below the summit hence this is a very popular hike in the summer months. The same route is seldom done in winter because of significant avalanche hazard, but the W/SW Ridge offers a safer alternative, albeit not without avalanche terrain. Because of the easiness in access I had been on purposely saving Flora Peak for a “morning exercise”. Despite the required 1300 m elevation gain I was confident to sneak this peak in, drive back home and take a power nap before showing up at my afternoon/evening work. The Friday of last week saw the only brief break in a prolonged stretch of wet weather and Mel and I were keen to get out even though the weather wasn’t a dominator high pressure system. Iliya joined the team at the last minute.

Because of the time constraint to get back home by early afternoon we agreed to leave White Rock at 3:30 am in the morning. Half an hour later Mel and I picked up Iliya from Abbotsford and then in another hour we arrived at the trail-head. The proper trail-head was closed for the season but we could just park on the shoulder of Chilliwack Lake Road. I had my doubt on the forecasted “sunny” weather and sure enough, we saw no star in the sky.

Flora Peak winter ascent route. GPX DL

Headlamps on and up we went anyway with Iliya leading in front. We made quick work linking the several pieces of logging roads at the start (checked GPS several times). After gaining some elevation we picked up the Flora Lake Trail traversing a long ways due east on the lower flanks. The mountain was drier than expected with no snow encountered until above 1000 m elevation. Above that elevation zone we encountered fresh snow from the recent wet and cold weather and the amount increased as we ascended higher. The weather was very foggy with absolutely no view whatsoever but I expected we would at least break the first layer of low clouds. Iliya did an excellent job breaking trail all the way to where the winter route branched off the main trail. The post-holing was knee deep and it’s time to don snowshoes. Mel and I took over the lead once the snowshoes were strapped on and meanwhile the clouds lifted revealing decent views. The Chilliwack Lake showed up and our stoke level was high.

Hiking up Flora Lake Trail on fresh snow.

Our first glimpse of the mountains nearby. This is Mt. Webb

A zoomed-in shot towards the south end of Chilliwack Lake and North Cascades

Mel and I snowshoeing up. Photo by Iliya K.

Iliya snowshoeing up.

This is looking at the south bowl that the summer trail traverses across.

After a while the view finally opened up completely. Chilliwack Lake behind

For the next while we ascended straight up on the open slope until joining the broad SW ridge of Flora Peak. I was expecting this stretch to be the most hazardous but that was actually not the case. A gendarme feature higher up on the SW ridge required detouring onto the steep south face and traversing some 40+ degree slopes on snowshoes. The route-finding was a little bit complicated with no obvious “easy” line to attack.

Mel breaking trail on the winter route

Mel and Iliya snowshoeing up with Chilliwack Lake behind

Another photo of Mel and Iliya snowshoeing up.

This was the first time we got hit by sunshine. On the SW Ridge now.

We gained elevation quickly. This is looking at the unnamed bump to the east

The fresh snow suggested we were back in winter wonderland…

Looking at Williams Peak with the ridge of Goat/Porcupine Peak in front

The north side was engulfed in clouds the whole day.

A closer look at Williams Peak

Looking at the obvious gendarme ahead. We had to traverse right.

Looking back from just below the gendarme

Very steep trail-breaking leads to the base of the gendarme

Me ascending the steep south side of gendarme. Photo by Iliya K.

Looking back at Mel and Iliya traversing the big slope

The clouds added to the scenery. I’m not complaining.

Mel finishing that steep stretch bypassing the gendarme. The terrain’s big.

Once we all got above that sketchy step the terrain mellowed out again but unfortunately the clouds rolled back in. The last 100 m elevation gain was done in a complete white out and we saw nothing from the summit other than ourselves. There was also a false summit to traverse over that kinda surprised us.

Me heading for the (false) summit. Photo by Mel O.

Iliya approaching the summit of Flora Peak

A partial “rainbow” from the summit…

After a while we saw the tips of Mt. Rexford and Nesakwatch Spires poking through

And then there went the tip of Slesse Mtn. poking above the clouds

Mel, Iliya and myself on the summit of Flora Peak

After staying there for about half an hour we realized there’s little chance we could get any view from the summit, so started the descent. Not to our surprise as soon as we went down the views were back. After losing ~200 m elevation the sunshine came out again and we had some really nice view down towards the lake. The plunge on snowshoes was fast and fun, and once joining the summer trail we took off the snowshoes and trail-ran back to the parking lot. Our round trip time was exactly 5 hours and that was a bit faster than I thought.

Starting the descent. This was doing down to true/false summits col.

Mel plunging down from the false summit.

Iliya having a ton of fun plunging down powder snow on snowshoes

Mel taking in the views

Another photo of Mel posing on the hike down.

Me snowshoeing down that steep gendarme bypass. Photo by Iliya K.

Mel going down. It’s very steep here..

One last look at Chilliwack Lake.

This is a huge slide path.. You don’t want to mess up here…

Mel carefully making her way down the steep gendarme section.

This picture looks more like December than April..

Iliya plunging..

Almost running out of snow here. Still haven’t got down to the summer trail yet.

Hiking down along the summer trail.

As much as the snow-free parts went.

Mel volunteered to drive my truck back home again and I greatly appreciated the extra bits of rest before the afternoon work. We got back home before 1 pm and I certainly earned more than an hour’s of napping time.