Salal Peak

June 25, 2021


Salal Creek / Upper Lillooet FSR, BC

“Salal Peak” is the only unofficially-named one among the 5 peaks in the close vicinity and easily accessible from Athelney Pass somewhere 50 km NW of Pemberton. This is also the easiest of the five peaks that requires no mountaineering knowledge although the approach to Athelney Pass itself is not a trivial fair. “Salal Peak” and Ochre Mountain are lower than the nearby Mt. Ethelweard, Icemaker Mtn. and Mt. Guthrum but are both easier and more scenic, such that these two peaks get a lot more ascents on the internet in the recent years. For Brayden and I the other three peaks were the primary objectives and after finishing them in the morning of Day 2 we found ourselves a whole afternoon/evening ahead to kill. We chilled at camp for about 4 hours but it’s too hot to literally do anything, so by 4:30 pm we decided to embrace the heat and slog up these last two peaks in the evening. I figured that the evening lighting could make some really good views and I was correct.

Athelney Pass Group of peaks slam – GPX DL

Because we did not camp right at Athelney Pass our first business was to wade across Salal Creek, which was thigh deep. We waded at a spot where the water was mostly stagnant as otherwise the fording could be very difficult. We then aimed at a “rib” that I had spotted earlier on that theoretically could provide an easy passage to the upper slopes of Salal Peak without much of bushwhacking. At this point we were not following any existing beta as all other groups camped farther up the valley. The rib that I planned on worked out perfectly. There was some choss and some steep snow but as expected, no bush. The grunt was exhaustingly hot as expected but there’s a stream and snow nearby to wet our hats (as advised by another friend) so it wasn’t too bad.

The beautiful Salal Creek at near Athelney Pass
The rather stagnant section of the creek that we opted to ford
Right after fording the thigh-deep water, looking back at Mt. Ethelweard
Reaching the base of the gully/rib that I planned to ascend
The scrambling started off with choss under massive heat
Higher up we merged onto the snow finger

By the time we reached the middle section of Salal Peak we could finally stare at the summit. It appeared close by but I knew the views were foreshortened. We still had over halfway to go which was quite depressing. Brayden volunteered to carry our pack the whole way up this first peak so I went ahead breaking trail. The snow was generally supportive except for near the rocks. We also had to slog up a few patches of choss because we didn’t want to do significant detouring around them. Eventually after what seemed like an eternity we made to the ridge and dropped the pack.

Onto the middle bench now, looking sideways into Athelney Pass
Upwards and onward. It’s a massive slogfest
Most of the time we were on snow but sometimes we had to slog on rubble
Looking towards “Athelney Peak” and Downton Lake in the far distance
Brayden kept grunting up.

The summit was still a decent ways away and I knew it because I kept looking at the GPS maps. There was a total of 700 m elevation gain from our camp to the summit… As soon as we started the ridge plod we could see a few “summits” and sure enough, the true summit was the far one on snow so we had to get there. The ridge traverse was quite scenic. There was also a cool breeze blowing from the north and that was definitely refreshing.

Finally we made to the ridge and time to ditch the pack.
The true summit is behind that obvious rocky tower behind the north glacier
Around the corner we suddenly got to see Mt. Athelstan
Summit Panorama from Salal Peak. Click to view large size.
Looking across Salal Creek and Lillooet River towards Manatee Range
A closer look at the north face of Mt. Athelstan
The north face of Plinth Peak and Mt. Job showed up for us
A zoomed-in shot of Manatee Peak with Elaho Mtn. barely poking behind
“Red Sail Peak” in the foreground eluded us in this trip. Not enough time.
A very zoomed-in shot of Downton Lake in Bridge River valley
Me on the summit of Salal Peak

We wasted no time on the summit because the time’s ticking and we must finish the traverse towards Ochre Mountain and descend back to camp, ideally with spare daylight to cook our dinner. After dashing down the ridge to the ditched backpack we continued the gradual descent towards a couple partially-thawed lakes near what’s called “Salal Creek Volcanic Complex”. We did not bother to ascend that nor the unofficially-named “The Elephant” and instead, we aimed at the ridge top just to the north of “The Elephant”, and once there we resumed the traverse towards Ochre Mountain.

This is looking down the broad south ridge of Salal Peak
Brayden bypassing that rocky tower on the descent.
Mt. Ethelweard and Athelney Pass
The massive west face of Mt. Guthrum
Descending towards Salal/Ochre pass
This lake looked to be in a volcanic crater…
A partially-thawed tarn at the broad Salal/Ochre pass.