Overseer Mountain

August 22, 2017


Harrison Hut / Lillooet South FSR, BC

Not far from the VOC cabin Harrison Hut sits the highest peak on Pemberton Icecap and therefore the status of Overseer Mountain does not need a lot of introductory. This is also included in Matt Gunn’s Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia and draws significant attention from everybody, whether you are weekend-worrier scramblers, explorers, skiers or even snowmobilers. It also draws attention from the American peak-bagging community because this peak is an “ultra” (a peak with more than 1500 m clean prominence). The standard route is mostly a Class 2 or 3 scramble on broken granite with an easy glaciated approach, but the access is what deters most from planning this trip.

The access has gone some significant changes over the past decade thank to the deactivation of some logging roads. A critical bridge was either pulled or washed out but then there’s a new trail being cut from spur roads branching off from the Lillooet South FSR. For most parties it takes a full day of hiking to reach Harrison Hut and from there Overseer Mountain can be done as a day-trip. For Adam (Gimplator) and myself that would be too lame as a plan. After some detailed research we concluded it’s possible to bag everything in this area over the course of two days by making a loop traverse. On the first day it only took us 5 hours to reach Harrison Hut. We skipped the hut as it’s too low to be used as a base camp so carried on, up and over Frozen Boot. And then we ascended Zygo Peak and Madhorse Mountain to make the full use of that day. The camp on Madhorse Glacier was cold but the views were dramatic.

Overseer et al. around Harrison Hut. GPX DL

The first business in the morning was descending and contouring around the N/NW side of Madhorse Mountain to Madhorse/Overseer col. This looked tame on paper but involved fair amount of glacier travel. There’s at least a couple small crevasses which we had to either step across or detour around. To gain the SE Ridge wasn’t easy neither. The rocks were horribly loose that we sent lots of microwaves down. After gaining the ridge we realized we probably had picked a wrong spot (too far south) that to correct this mistake we had to negotiate a section of exposed 4th class knife-edge. To be honest this was actually the scrambling highlight on this peak such that on the way back we opted to down-climb it just to have more fun. And then the lower SE Ridge/Face was a tedious grunt with some loose rocks.

Our camp on Madhorse Glacier

Not a bad morning. Just about the time to pack up.

Descending around Madhorse’s NW flanks

And then re-ascending back to Madhorse/Overseer col.

Lots of cool glacier scenery around

Much of this stage was on Madhorse Glacier.

Finally reached the col

After bashing up a shooting gallery we were on the SE Ridge now

Adam on a short, but fun 4th class section

Upwards and onwards now. Terrain is mostly class 2

As typical as it gets

Looking sideways across the south face. We were getting higher and higher.

After a long while the terrain transitions to steeper but blocky and solid granite. We picked a more direct line up dealing with 3rd class steps here and there. Going up further climber’s left would be easier but with more scree bashing. This section of fun scrambling ends at a high plateau feature. The summit block appeared to be pretty fearsome but actually not too bad. The scrambling never exceeds “low 3rd class” while attacking from climber’s right side. The summit offers some of the best views I’d ever got so we took a long break soaking everything in.

Scrambling on granite with glaciers below. Life doesn’t get better than this..

Gaining a high plateau now, looking ahead

The imposing summit block of Overseer Mtn.

Adam checking out the exposure down the west face cliffs

Summit Panorama from Overseer Mountain. Click to view large size.

Looking down the Lillooet River Valley. Mt. Sampson on the skyline

The immense Pemberton Icefield now all below us

More about the Pemberton Icecap with the distant Clendinning area behind

Mt. Athelstan and then the remote Mt. Ethelweard to the north

Mt. Whiting, Mt. Boardman and others in the remote Clendinning area

Elaho Mountain

Manatee Peak and Wahoo Tower area

Mt. Dalgleish, Mt. Tisiphone and Lillooet Mtn. behind Pylon Peak

The elusive Mt. Daphnis behind Capricorn Mtn. and Mt. Job

The iconic Mt. Tinniswood poking behind Mt. Oswald

This is the iconic and elusive Mt. Albert, behind Mt. Ralph

That impressive peak is Longspur Peak

Mt. Meager and Plinth Peak in the foreground. Lillooet Icefield behind

Uriah’s Heap is that lowly scree bump in the foreground

Spidery Peak in the foreground – our next objective

There are endless glaciers and glacial-fed lakes in this area

Adam and myself on the summit of Overseer Mountain

Another panorama from Overseer Mtn. Click to view large size.

After carefully descending the summit block we stayed further to the skier’s right on scree. This served pretty well on the lower face. I had thought about bailing onto the glacier earlier but we had our backpacks ditched earlier in the day plus that section of 4th class was pretty enjoyable so we just reversed our exact route. While surfing down the choss pile we sent one or two refrigerators down and thankfully they didn’t roll onto our backpacks…

Down-climbing the summit block

Descending the lower SE Ridge

Lots of scree surfing oppurtunities here

Adam carefully down-climbing the slabby bit on our off-route section

This step has so much fun.

A review shot of the SE Ridge of Overseer Mtn.

Back onto the glacier our next stage was to descend a long ways on the edge and then re-ascend the valley between Uriah’s Heap and Spidery Peak. This section has more descending than we were hoping for and then the initial 100 m getting out of the glacial valley looked pretty terrible. But what else we could do….

Descending on the edge of Madhorse Glacier

Going down and down and down.. It was frustrating..

Finally could stop losing elevation

But then we had to ascend this

Let the fun begin..

At least the views were good. This is looking back at “Frozen Boot”

Having enough fun yet?!

You gotta love boulders. At least half of them are loose

At least the backdrop makes for good photos

Finally could take a break from the boulders. Spidery Peak behind

Negotiating a section of dry ice en route towards Spidery Peak

And then the day continues with ascents of Spidery Peak, Uriah’s Heap and then Pika Peak.