July 14, 2014
Golden / Spllimacheen River, BC
The recent weather was somewhat okay – sunny but very hot and smoky. Hot and sunny has been the trend for nearly 10 days already; smoky because of the wild fire in David Thompson Country. Eric and I were planning a trip on this past Monday and Tuesday, but it was difficult to finalize the objective. We wanted to take advantage of the sun but at the meantime, away from the smoke so we figured it might be better to drive way far southwest into the Purcells. At least that’s very far away from David Thompson Country. Were we correct? Nope, I think the smoke problem has become an issue for the entire BC and Alberta…
After the intense mountaineering trip last week I wasn’t very keen on difficult objectives so we decided to hike up Bald Mountain and Copperstain Mountain. These two peaks are directly to the west of Sir Donald/Illecillewaet Neve across Beaver River Valley, therefore, guarantee to have fine views. We got the idea from skimming through Hikes around Invermere and Columbia Valley guidebook. The approach would not be from Rogers Pass though, instead we had to drive southwards from Golden to Parsons, and then drive 55.7 km one-way on Spillimacheen River FSR followed by turning onto a very narrow and rough side road for the last 4 km. To make the trip more enjoyable we decided to do it over 2 days. Well, based on the statistics we could certainly do it in one day, but given the potential afternoon thunderstorms with extremely high temperature we wanted to play a bit more conservatively. There would be many prime bivy sites and we also wanted to take advantage of the morning/evening views.
Eric did a great job driving all the way to trail-head in dark and we got there at about 3 am in the morning. Catching up a couple hours’ sleep, we woke up at about 7 am and started our trip shortly after. We easily hiked the remaining section (very rough) of this logging road to the real trail-head, and then down to Spillimacheen River and followed it to the major crossing of Baird Brook. More than half of the volume of Spillimacheen River comes from Baird Brook and we had to carefully select a line through. It was knee deep at the toughest section and the cold water was flowing fast. After this bit of excitement we were back to the long boring hike. There’s little to see on this approach except for the marshes and meadows (and the notorious mosquitoes). It’s 12 km one way to an old campground which is also the fork between Bald Mountain and Copperstain Mountain. We ditched heavy gears at the campground and proceeded towards Bald Mountain – our objective for the first day.
A good trail led us easily to the ridge crest, and just before the ridge top we passed Purcell Lodge – a great remind that this is also a popular heli-hiking area. Speaking Bald Mountain itself, it greatly reminded me a trip I did last year – Rockypoint Ridge. The objective itself was just hiking but the views towards west were phenomenal. For Rockypoint Ridge it was the full panorama of Bugaboos and Vowells and for Bald Mountain it was the full panorama of Sir Donald Range and giants south of Illecillewaet Neve including Dawson Group, Wheeler Group and Sugarloaf Group. We then hiked easily northwards to the true summit of Bald Mountain, overcoming two bumps along the way. It was quite a long walk actually, but given the views we wouldn’t complain anything about it.
While soaking in the views from the summit, we noticed some weather approaching from south so we didn’t linger long. This proved to be a good call as we started hearing thunders just after descending back into the trees. We speeded up a bit but still got beaten by the storm. Fortunately it wasn’t very heavy yet by the time we got back to the campground. I quickly set up my tent and hid inside until the storm passed by. I also took a involuntary nap during the waiting.
Once the sky cleared up again, we quickly packed up the gears and started the trudge towards Grizzly Col. That would be our bivy site for the primary objective in this trip – Copperstain Mountain.