Ashlu Mountain

August 1, 2020


Squamish / Ashlu-Elaho Divide, BC

Ashlu Mountain is one of the more sought-after objectives in the loosely defined region of SW BC, for the inclusion in Matt Gunn’s Scrambles in SW British Columbia, the inclusion in the SW BC Prominent Peaks list, the fact it’s an iconic pyramid that simply stands out from the surroundings and also for the views. The standard east ridge is nothing more than a class 2-3 scramble but the south face of this peak also attracts alpine climbers and offers routes into the 5.10 grade. In the old days one can drive to pretty much the base of this peak via logging roads in Ashlu Creek valley but nowadays the roads are deactivated, that a trudge of 23 km and several troublesome creek crossings is required just to reach the place where climbers used to park their trucks. At least one particular creek crossing (Pykett Creek) is a dangerous fair that a slip means straight death. In the summer of 2020 this particular creek was bridged by a few pieces of alders and wires by volunteers in the community but in the fall of 2020 I’ve heard that “bridge” was washed out.. In other words, the access of Ashlu Mountain is not just unpleasant and complicated, but also uncertain.

My plan of this area was definitely to bag Ashlu Mountain, Porterhouse Peak and Amicus Mountain in one trip because I’ve already done Icecap Peak as a day-trip a few years ago. My plan for the Ashlu-Elaho Divide was to do Ashlu/Porterhouse/Amicus together in summer, and then do Pykett-to-Buck traverse as a leisure, 1-day heli-assisted ski or snowshoe trip. This meant that leaving either Porterhouse or Amicus behind wasn’t an option. I was not interested in walking 46 km on a road AND dealing with the creek crossings uncertainties so tried pretty hard to find 7-8 people keen on using a helicopter to ease the access issues for this group of peaks. The waiting game had undergone over a month with one last minute bail due to concern in weather for the fly-in. The helicopter could only take 5 people but I needed a few more partners to make sure we definitely could have five on board. In the end it was Alex, Winnie, Sean and Nathan and myself flying into the area in August long weekend. We planned to spend a night there but the trip shouldn’t take more than 24 hours Squamish-to-Squamish. On the first day we flew in at 5:30 pm and scrambled Porterhouse Peak right away. We camped at 2300 m, watched a gorgeous sunset and set the alarms at 4 am. We estimated that Ashlu and Amicus would take 5 hours each so needed that early start.

Ascents of Porterhouse, Ashlu and Amicus. GPX DL

Our landing spot positioned us really well for Porterhouse Peak but less so for the other two. From camp we had to traverse/descend a long stretch of steep snow to Porterhouse/Ashlu col and once there, we had to descend another 300 vertical meters down to the base of Ashlu Mountain. This stretch involved some route-finding on a fractured glacier but Nathan again did a great job leading. I took the rear end again, lagging behind on purposely to take photos of our team in the morning setting. At the base of the peak we ignored the scrambler’s route and went straight into a long gully of snow. We had to take ice axe and crampons out but that’s still much easier than dealing with talus.

Our camp at 4 am..

Our first view of Ashlu Mountain in the morning.

Our group descending the glacier towards the base of Ashlu Mountain

Nathan, Sean, Alex and Winnie descending the glacier

We had made to the far side of the glacier now

Looking back at the fractured glacier

Morning glow on Porterhouse Peak – our previous objective

Nathan leading up the never-ending snow gully

Looking back to see Chimai Mountain in the morning sun

This snow gully brought us pretty much to the start of Ashlu Mountain’s east ridge. We ditched ice axe and crampons there and scrambled on some very loose blocks to the col. Getting out of the col had the most challenging scrambling of this entire ascent (class 3 on loose rocks) but pretty soon the angle mellowed out and in short time we arrived at a plateau feature looking at the upper ridge.

Nathan plodding towards the east ridge col

Winnie scrambling up with Porterhouse Peak behind

Nathan scrambling up the lower ridge

Sean scrambling with a sub-summit behind

Another photo of the scrambling on lower ridge

Onto the broad plateau separating the lower with the upper ridge

Nathan posing for a shot high up on East Ridge of Ashlu Mountain

Another view of Chimai Mountain

Another view of Porterhouse Peak and the complex glaciers around it

Nathan leading towards the upper east ridge of Ashlu Mountain

To reach the upper ridge we actually had to lose a bit of elevation and then the upper ridge itself was a very pleasant scramble on generally solid rocks. The upper sections had a few route-finding problems on class 3 terrain but the exposure was minimal. We all got to the summit in about 2.5 hours from the camp and took a fairly lengthy break on the summit. I did not find the views to be that exciting, probably because I’ve done too many peaks already in this area including the Clendinning to Elaho/Jervis Divide traverse a mere week prior…

A view of the south face of Limelight Peak

Our group marching up…

Nathan studying a trickier stretch on the upper ridge

Sean and Winnie scrambling up.

Sean approaching the final summit ridge

Partial Summit Panorama from Ashlu Mountain. Click to view large size.

Partial Summit Panorama from Ashlu Mountain. Click to view large size.

Mt. Alfred et al. on South Powell Divide

The Clendinning Range behind Limelight Peak

This is looking over the distant Pemberton Icefield

Amicus Mountain et al. on Ashlu-Elaho Divide

Behind Porterhouse Peak is Mt. Tantalus

Chimai Mountain

Mt. Albert looms behind Ponor Peak

Mt. Tinniswood et al. in Clendinning area.

A closer look at Mt. Tantalus behind Porterhouse Peak

The massif of Mt. Garibaldi pokes behind Amicus Mountain

Rugged Lake on the south side of Ashlu Mountain

Me on the summit of Ashlu Mountain

Our group shot on the summit of Ashlu Mountain

The descent back to the east ridge col was uneventful other than managing rockfall in a group-of-five. We determined the snow was soft enough to boot ski so I packed away the ice axe and crampons and went for a fast ride down. A few sections were a bit too steep and icy for my like and I even took a slip and had to self-arrest on bare hands, but it was still fun. At the bottom of the route we picked up the harnesses and slogged back to Ashlu/Porterhouse col following our tracks, and the next objective would be Amicus Mountain.

Winnie starting the descent

Looking steeply down the north side of Ashlu Mountain into Limelight Creek

Alex and Sean on the upper east ridge

Descending the typical terrain on the upper east ridge

Back onto the plateau

One last look at Limelight Peak

Sean scrambling down with Porterhouse Peak as a backdrop

Nathan plodding down ahead

Alex down-scrambling the tricky bottom part of east ridge

Back onto the snow

We just had a fast boot-ski /plunge down this gully

Slogging back up onto the glacier

Aiming for that high shoulder in this picture

Nathan leading the way again.

Alex, Sean and Winnie plodding

Nathan and the glacier we had to reascend

Looking back at Ashlu Mountain from the flat part of this glacier

Sean and Winnie plodding up

There are lots of big holes on this glacier

Sean and Winnie just past a big sagging

Yep another hold to avoid

Winnie back onto Porterhouse/Ashlu col with Ashlu Mountain behind