Dickson Peak

August 28, 2021


Gold Bridge, BC

Gold Bridge is a tiny community on the boundary of the area known as the “South Chilcotins” in Bridge River valley. There’s no cell services and the access is only by logging roads system. There are two ways to get in. The more common way for us Vancouverites is to use the Hurley FSR, about 50 km of bumpy road that connects Pemberton Valley to Gold Bridge whereas those living in the interior will drive in from Lillooet along Bridge River and Carpenter Lake. That access is mostly on a paved road, but long and contrived for us living in the Lower Mainland. Either way this is a remote area that requires a long drive to get in. Dickson Peak is one of the more prominent peaks in the immediate vicinity of Gold Bridge and is also documented in Matt Gunn’s Scrambles in SW British Columbia. The standard route ascents the easy south slopes from Roxey Creek drainage. There’s no technical difficulty but this route involves substantial amount of hopping on somewhat unstable granite boulders.

Alex, Vlad and I had been talking to finally give this area a visit and naturally we picked Dickson Peak as the primary objective. We together had two days plus an additional half-day for the drive-in so we picked Mt. Penrose as the secondary objective. Christine opted to join us at the last minute but she had done Mt. Penrose. Christine’s not keen on repeating this secondary objective so she decided to drive separately and do something else on the second day. I left White Rock at 2 pm on Friday afternoon and picked up Alex and Vlad from various parts of Metro Vancouver and didn’t make to Sea to Sky Highway until 4:30 pm. The drive up north to Squamish wasn’t bad, but there’s some paving work going on near Whistler that caused over an hour’s delay. We eventually made to Pemberton at dinner time. After grouping with Christine we drove up the Pemby Valley FSR and then Hurley FSR together. Parts of the Hurley was freshly graded allowing a much faster passage but some parts were still a horror show of washboards such that I had to crawl at 20-30 km/h. Overall this section was better than anticipated but there’s also substantial amount of driving (almost an hour) to get to Dickson Peak from Gold Bridge. At the junction of Roxey FSR with Slim Creek Road we discovered the spur road was surprisingly wide open. There’s a sign saying the “trail was closed” but there’s no gate so we simply ignored it, and drove another 2 km to the end of the new Roxey Road just before the first crossing of the creek. It was already dark so we decided to car-camp at this spot and evaluate the rest of the FSR in the following morning. It looked too narrow for my like, but Christine was keen to push further in her 4Runner.

Dickson Peak scramble route. GPX DL

The night was clear and cold such that our tents were fully soaked with dew by the time we woke up at 5:45 am in the dark. We quickly packed up the wet gears, ate some cold breakfast (mine being Save on Food sushi) and piled into Christine’s vehicle. The “road” beyond this new logging cut appeared “fine” so down into the creek crossing we went. The 4Runner made the ford easy. The road was entirely a single track with only one spot to turn-around for the entire stretch between the two crossings of Roxey Creek, which was about 2 km long. We had a lot of slow crawling on rocks but honestly this road was better than expected such that it did not impose any problem to the stock 4Runner. We drove across the upper crossing as well and parked right beside the abandoned cabin.

Car-camping on Friday night
We rose early in the morning and this was Christine ready to drive the last 2 km
Alex and Christine’s Runner ready to roll in the early morning
Christine’s 4Runner parked right beside the old cabin at driveable end

It’s apparent that Adam and John’s GPS track stayed entirely on the north side of the creek so they did not do this upper crossing, but right beside the cabin we saw a path and some flagging. We consulted with Matt Gunn’s description and in the end we opted to take a gamble on this path. We soon realized that it’s an actual trail that went into the alpine. While the others all had just one pair of footwear I decided to wear trail-runners and carry the mountaineering boots even though the approach was only half an hour long. This was because of the morning dew such that I was 100% sure that whatever footwear I used would get soaked right away. The “trail” was not very bushy but we did have to constantly touch the (wet) branches so I thick I made a good call. I wore the trail-runners passed a few boulder fields and ditched them at basically the last vegetation. The dash down the upper Roxey Creek valley was incredibly scenic but then we faced a long stretch of shitty slog on mostly unstable boulders at the head of this valley to access the upper mountain. We followed Adam’s GPS track to stay mostly in the middle of a gulch feature with a creek running underneath. We came here expecting some of the worst boulder-hopping but probably because of the low expectation I actually found this section not as bad. About 1 in 10 boulders we touched would come loose. Towards the end of this section we had to scramble a short stretch of 3rd class (probably off-route) and then the terrain became flat. This upper valley actually had a dry glacier above so we had plenty of water sources to load up the water bottles.

Me leading us out of the trees on this very short approach
We were out of the forest in literally 20 minutes
Our first view of Dickson Peak
Christine and Vlad hopping across one of the many streams
The treeline and alpine of this valley gave a pretty good Chilcotin feel
Looking back from the same spot.
Me, Alex and Vlad plodding up into the head of Roxey Creek valley
Halfway up this foreshortened gulch feature we were finally in sunshine
Vlad plodding into sunshine
We scrambled a section of 3rd class beside this waterfall
Alex and Vlad plodding up the loose upper headwall section
Into the upper basin now, looking ahead towards Dickson Peak’s south slopes
Vlad ascending into the upper basin

We easily hopped across the glacier’s outflow and scrambled about 200 m of choss to get onto the upper SE Ridge. This stretch might be the steepest of the entire ascent and most of the rocks were loose. The upper SE Ridge/S. Face started off easily with plodding on solid ground but once the terrain angle steepened towards the uppermost 200 m we were back into that game called “boulder hopping”. The upper route was nothing but gigantic boulders, some being car sized, but at least most of them were actually solid. It was quite a slog to reach the summit but the view was as expected, pretty damn awesome. I could recognize most peaks on the southern horizon but the northern peaks into the Chilcotins were all new to me.

Plodding across the upper basin towards more boulders…
Alex grunting up that loosest section above the basin
Looking back we could see this unnamed and dry glacier
Alex hitting the SE Ridge now with Mt. Penrose behind
Me hitting the SE Ridge, looking ahead
Alex on just one microscopic section of the upper slope’s boulder fields
We got very close to this sub-summit tower
Partial Summit Panorama from Dickson Peak. Click to view large size.
Partial Summit Panorama from Dickson Peak. Click to view large size.
Alex reaching the summit of Dickson Peak
Carpenter Lake and Shulaps Range
Mt. Vayu is that iconic peak at center shot
Mt. Sheba is that light-coloured peak center shot
Mt. Sloan in black-and-white
The north face of Mt. Sampson looming on the southern skyline
Mt. Athelstan and Mt. Ethelweard
Relay Mountain right of center on the skyline into the South Chilcotins
Taseko Mountain is that dark massive on left horizon
A wider shot looking towards Mt. Ethelweard in the distance
This is looking towards Bridge Glacier and Lillooet Icefield in the far distance
More about the South Chilcotin view
Me on the summit of Dickson Peak
Vlad reaching the summit with Mt. Penrose behind
Christine just about to hit the summit looking towards Mt. Sloan
Our group shot on the summit of Dickson Peak

It seemed like a band of high clouds were moving in and it started to become very cold, so we didn’t linger too long on the summit. I led the group retracing our tracks down the upper mountain and then into that shitty gulch of loose boulders. Vlad took a line skier’s right of us staying away from the gulch and proved his route to be the better way. Alex, Christine and I just simply sucked it up. Nothing’s really worth noting as nothing’s difficult, but we did have to pay attention to every single damn step forward. Eventually the boulder-hopping came to an end and we had a leisure descent back to the 4Runner.

Descending the upper slope’s boulder field
Christine’s version of me and Alex descending the endless boulders
A bit lower down, terrain’s getting easier but still lots of boulders
Me descending that very loose stretch under the SE Ridge
We were almost down into that basin where we filled up water
Christine looked tiny in that gulch feature of loose boulders
Down into the flats of upper Roxey Creek
I climbed a boulder and looked back
Our group descending into one of the bushy stretches, on trail
The treeline meadows zone with Harris Ridge group behind
Vlad, Alex and Christine descending the last boulder field
Alex walking back across the trail not far from the road
The old cabin at the end of Roxey Creek FSR

Our round trip time was about 6 hours which none of us was expecting. We came here expecting to walk from Slim Creek FSR all the way up. The first surprise was the night before when we discovered the lower parts of Roxey FSR had been fixed and the second surprise was this morning when Christine actually managed to drive us to the cabin. This shaved us almost 5 km each way and 700 m elevation gain. We actually finished the trip by noon and none of us wanted to just kill the rest of the day in camp. Alex and I threw out an idea to hike up Mt. Zola which is the smallest summit in the vicinity. None of us had done any research about it but there’s a trail on Gaia map that goes to the summit.

Driving down the narrow section of the upper Roxey FSR