Mount Murchison

June 28, 2020


Squamish, BC

Not to be confused with the majestic Mt. Murchison in the Canadian Rockies, this one is much less iconic, on the west side of Squamish River overlooking the Woodfibre pulp mill. From a local perspective this is still a sizeable peak with multiple summits and more than one vertical mile of relief above Squamish River and Howe Sound, and is rarely ascended due to the access difficulties. Apparently parties had attempted this peak from Woodfibre mill in the past but the south side approach involves considerable amount of bushwhacking. The ferry to the mill is now shut down so it’s even worse. The summit routes are a bit obscured too but with some thorough digging I still managed to put all the pieces together. I thought the much-better access would be from Mt. Lapworth as the connecting ridge appeared straightforward. There are three summits on Mt. Murchison massif with two of them roughly at the same height. One photo essay on bivouac says the more obscured south summit is likely slightly lower in elevation so that’s a good news for us.

To get to the summit of Mt. Lapworth traditionally one needs to canoe or packraft across Squamish River and hike up Echo Lake trail. It’s not an easy task but at least there’s a trail to access the treeline and from there it’s an easy scramble to the summit. For Alex, Vlad, Marius and myself the task was even easier as we simply just flew to the summit of Mt. Lapworth from Squamish airport. We encountered some route-finding challenge to get off the west ridge of Mt. Lapworth but generally speaking there’s minimal difficulty to traverse to the north ridge of Mt. Murchison.

The traverse from Lapworth to Roderick. GPX DL

The north ridge of Mt. Murchison had fair a bit of unknown but our worrisome proved to be unnecessary. The first step was attacked head-on (one move of stiff 3rd class) but on the descent we found an easy bypass on snow. We then traversed up and over a few subsidiary bumps to just below the first of the three major summits. Vlad opted for a bushy bypass while I strapped crampons on, and climbed the snow arete head-on. Alex and Marius followed without even using crampons.

Me on the lower north ridge of Mt. Murchison. Photo by Alex R.

Alex plodding up the north ridge. The first peak ahead, north peak on right

Looking up the upper Mill Creek drainage towards Mt. Sedgwick

Alex and the low clouds in Squamish Valley

We could a really old ice axe on this ridge

Me, Alex, Marius ascending the snow arete.

Alex topping out the snow arete.

Vlad and Alex plodding up with Mt. Lapworth and Mt. Garibaldi behind

The traverse from the first peak to the north (true) summit appeared narrow but actually not. There was some transitions between rock and snow but the terrain never became exposed and the scrambling never exceeded “easy 3rd class” that in short time we were on the summit. It seemed like traversing further to the south peak would be straightforward but since it has either the same, or slightly lower elevation we didn’t want to waste time here. The weather was clear but windy so after taking some photos we soon retreated.

Vlad descending off the first peak after a rock step

Alex hopping across a snow-to-rock transition

Mt. Sedgwick, our main objective in this trip

The Red Tusk, Mt. Dione and Serratus Mountain

The south face of Omega Mountain.

Rainy Mtn. and Tetrahedron Peak in the background

The massif of Mt. Garibaldi

The Howe Sound with North Shore Mountains on the left

Mt. Wrottesley at center is another tough one to access..

Me on the summit of Mt. Murchison

Another photo of me on the summit of Mt. Murchison

Our group shot on the summit of Mt. Murchison

We all put crampons on and down-climbed the snow arete on the way back and then followed our own tracks traversing up and over the few bumps. Vlad led us down a snowy bypass to avoid the lower tricky step and then we ascended another few bumps with some snow, a bit of bushwhacking and a bit of route-finding. The aim was a snowy ledge on the south slopes of Mt. Conybeare but we knew it’s still a long ways to the summit of Mt. Conybeare.

This is looking down at Alec Lake on the east side of Mt. Murchison

The lower first peak and the connecting ridge

Marius down-scrambling

Vlad, me and Marius with the summit behind. Photo by Alex R.

This is looking down at Echo Lake and Squamish Valley

Down-climbing the snow arete

Me with Echo Lake behind. Photo by Alex R.

A bit of fun rock scrambling

A closer look at Mt. Garibaldi/Atwell Peak massif

Descending on snow was always faster than on rock

Looking back towards Mt. Murchison

In the foreground is Mt. Thyestes across Fries Creek

Vlad leading some rock and bushy scrambling

Marius plodding with the vast terrain behind.

After a few more bumps Marius decided to call the day there and let Vlad, Alex and myself to carry on. We found a nice and flat spot for him so that we could pick him up on the way back, and continued onward towards Mt. Conybeare.