Selish Mountain

November 6, 2021


Merritt, BC

Selish Mountain is one of the few peaks in the vicinity of Merritt that boast over 600 m prominence. The access of this peak is relatively easy as it locates right next to Coquihalla Highway. A major logging road goes up the northern flanks from Comstock Road exit and multiple spur roads extend to within 300 vertical meters from the summit. In summer months one can easily drive to the very end of these roads but even if one has to walk the entire road system from the highway (ie. in winter), this peak can still be done in a reasonable day from Vancouver. I chose to save this one for the “off season” simply because it’s doable in this time frame.

The weather forecast for this Saturday had been a real crap show but Angela and I still wanted to go for a hike somewhere. Unlike most hikers Angela is actually quite excited about snow. The forecast for Merritt area was mostly cloudy with a few cm’s of snowfall. I’m mostly only a “fair weather hiker” but with good company I also don’t mind some hikes in less-than-ideal weather, especially if not on a regular basis. I was unsure how far we could drive on those logging roads so we left White Rock at 6 am to give us more than enough time contingency. The snowline had dropped down to the ground level at Coquihalla Pass but near our exit the ground was still bare. The main Comstock Road was in an excellent shape. We did not encounter snow until around 1250 m but the snow soon became continuous. We turned onto the spur road system on the NE flanks of Selish Mountain. If I were here to solo I would park my truck right away upon hitting continuous snow but there were fresh tire tracks suggesting that someone else had driven further. I eventually managed to drive to 1470 m elevation and parked only 1 km from the road’s end. The previous truck had been pushed beyond this spot but the tracks suggested that they had put tire chains on. This was Angela’s first hike on snowshoes and also her first off-trail hike so I preferred to not make it longer than necessary.

Selish Mountain from Comstock Road. GPX DL

Angela wanted to strap microspikes on for the road-walk but I said no as she needed to practice walking on icy trail/road without those spikes. Indeed, Angela did very well walking on the icy road without any added traction and in no time we had made to he cut-blocks at 1550 m elevation. I made the decision to ascend into the cut-block right away as the final kilometer of the road would gain marginal elevation and seemed rather inefficient. The cut-block was more difficult than anticipated. The snow depth was not deep enough for “proper” snowshoeing but the post-holing was slow and tedious. I would indeed prefer to use snowshoes but snowshoeing in these conditions would be far from “beginning friendly”. I could handle the post-holing so I insisted on doing that until the snow really started to bother me. We kept making a rising traverse out to the left to aim at the highest end of the cut-block and this was a real slow process.

The start of our short road walking
The only view towards Stoyoma Mtn. on this particular day
Angela plodding up the icy road without microspikes.
Iron Mountain immediately to the north that I bagged in 2016
This is looking down into Merritt’s rolling hills
Another photo of Angela on the icy road. Note the aggressive tire chain tracks…
The start of the cut-block. Behind in the background is Promontory Hills

From the edge of the cut-block I thought we could finally start to ascend faster but the old growth forest was also far from “easy”. Asides the annoying snow depth we also encountered some snow-covered bluffs and bushwhacking. There were fields of pick-up sticks and bands of small, but dense and stiff trees to push through. The micro-terrain had become extremely confusing at around 1750 m with lots of up-and-downs that weren’t shown on my maps. I had to consult with the maps multiple times to make sure we were not doing circles. Somewhere in this zone of confusion I made the call to use snowshoes even though the snow depth was still insufficient. This proved to be the right decision. At first it was a difficult task for Angela but she picked up the skills fast. With the faster pace we soon attained the true summit of Selish Mountain but boy the views sucked.

Entering the old growth forest
One of the many sections of dead-falls.
The first of the few bluffs on our route
After this bits we decided to use snowshoes
Bushwhacking on snowshoes.
Me on the summit of Selish Mountain

Since there was nothing to see we soon started the descent. The forecasted snow had finally arrived and in short time it was starting to puke heavily. As mentioned earlier this actually made Angela excited so we had some fun time on the descent playing in the snow. We retraced our exact route as I was already sick of route-finding on this mountain even though we didn’t take the most efficient path through that up-and-down zones. We kept the snowshoes strapped on our feet all the way down to the logging road and overall I would say this was much faster and easier than post-holing. Once back to the road I told Angela that she could use microspikes and she took the offer. I thought for the descent it’s better to be on the safe side as this was at the end of the day when she’s already tired.

Starting the descent. Note the bluffs and micro-terrain
As typical as the forested descent went
One of the few open slopes
Angela’s already able to make some plunges on snowshoes by now..
Angela posing in the light flurries
Me leading down a steeper bluff
It’s Angela’s turn to descend this bluff with snowshoes on
I think this was a great first snowshoe trip for her. Not too easy, not too hard..
Me playing in the snow…
The flurries had transitioned to periods of snow
The forest just above the cut-block was steep and tricky
Back to the cut-block. We did a bit of variation on the descent
Me back to the logging road.
Taco did great on this day getting us 200 vertical meters higher than snowline
Angela finishing the road-walk

Our round trip time was over 4.5 hours which was a tad slower than expected, but the fresh snow had made this dumpster-ish peak a fairly eventful outing, which was not bad. Not doing much lingering at the truck I soon turned on the engine and drove out of this place. The snow was already accumulating on the road. Overall I was happy about my truck’s performance on snow but that doesn’t mean I will start to drive on snow from now onward… We eventually got back to White Rock at 6 pm right in time for dinner.

We stopped briefly in Hope as the clouds and lighting were really cool
Chawuthen Falls in the mist