July 14-15, 2014
Golden / Spllimacheen River, BC
Copperstain Mountain is one of the not-so-significant summits in the Dogtooth Range in the northern Purcells. While it’s not very popular to the scrambling community, after finishing the ascent I’d say it deserves more attention. I think the 60 km one-way drive on a logging road together with the long approach has distracted most people, but on a clear day you’ll get a full panorama view of the giant peaks in the Selkirks including Rogers, Sir Donald, Dawson and Wheeler. There’s also a well defined trail leading all the way to Grizzly Col (a high col in the alpine just to the southwest of this summit). The approach and the ascent route is well documented in Hikes Around Invermere and Columbia Valley book.
Copperstain Mountain was the primary objective of our trip in this past Monday and Tuesday. On the first day, Eric and I also bagged the nearby Bald Mountain, and on the way down from it we got caught by a thunderstorm. After descending back to the campground we hid in our bivy sack/tent until the storm passed by, and once it did pass by we re-packed the gears and started the trudge towards Grizzly Col. Our plan was to bivy at Grizzly Col, wake up at 4:30 am the following morning and watch alpenglow on the summit.
The trail to Grizzly Col wasn’t that obvious if not paying attention, but since we had the detailed instruction from the guidebook, we located it with no problem. It’s about 25 m after crossing two streams on two bridges, while going back (towards parking lot) from the campground along the main trail. Once we located the trail, it’s very easy to follow. There was minimal dead fall nor other obstacles, however, the mosquitoes were just beyond insane. I had to spray myself with a lot of DEET… The warm and humid air was also nearly intolerable and it was quite a grind to drag ourselves (with the overnight gears) up this steep trail. On the upside, the upper part of this valley was quite scenic with lots of running streams and meadows.
As planned, we pushed to Grizzly Col to set up our camp. There was quite a few prime camping spots at this col, with running water reachable within 2 min of walking. The view was already great from the col, with Sir Donald Range towards west and Moonrakar Peak and other peaks in Dogtooth Range towards the other side. It was an awesome spot to hang around in this evening and the mosquitoes weren’t quite chasing us up this high and that was a bonus. However, just after having a well deserved dinner, we noticed some dark clouds approaching at a rapid pace from southeast… Oh well, another thunderstorm was coming. There weren’t that many BOOMs nor a lot of rain, but the wind was crazy. My Fly Creek UL 1 was certainly not designed for this harsh weather. If not because of the big rocks it would certainly get blown away, but good thing it wasn’t.
After the storm everything went back to peaceful and we woke up at 4:30 am in the morning. There weren’t even one piece of cloud so we were all in great mood to get going. So after a quick breakfast (2 apple pies for me), we started the ascent – via the obvious ridge crest. The ridge was straightforward and we stuck more-or-less close to the ridge crest. There were a couple steps could be bypassed on the left side, including one snow slope and two rock bands. We got to the summit right at sunrise time. The smoke prevented the alpenglow but gave us a very reddish and then orange sunrise… We stayed there for maybe 1 hour to soak in the views.
Then we leisurely descended back to camp, broke camp, and started the long slog back to the parking lot. The descent from Grizzly Col to the low campground went by fast, but after that the rest of the return was flat and boring. The thunderstorm from previous night dumped a ton of water on the brushes and our boots were soaked wet quickly. I was glad to have brought my iPod up. Music did help on this boring hike-out. The river crossing did add a bit to the overall variety but not by much, and after that we had to deal with an up-hill section which was brutal given the heat…
All in all, it’s been a while since my last “easy” trip and I really enjoyed it (apart from the mosquitoes, the heat and the thunderstorms). We thoroughly took our time to enjoy this wilderness area and spent a night at a beautiful col. The Dogtooth Range in the northern end of Purcell Mountains is a great place to explore with some great views.