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Exploration In The Alnus and Lick Creek Valleys With an Ascent of GR 359157 ("Beeline Ridge")

Difficult Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
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YDS Difficulty: 
None, Yay For a Cleared Trail
Monday, September 26, 2016

Early fall trips this year have been very hard to time.  With snowstorms blanketing the hills in blasts of winter chill and then a few more warming winds of summer extending the season it has seemed that any week might be the start of ski season!  With that in mind, a decent forecast for this weekend tempted Eric and I to ramble west of the Fryatt Valley aiming for Alnus Peak, a prominent but not exceptionally lofty peak at the head of the Alnus Creek Valley just east of the Hooker Icefield.

'Alnus' is the genus of the alder plant so picking a line that avoided the horrifying sounding Alnus Creek seemed very prudent!  Glancing at the map it seemed like a decent line could be to head up the Fryatt Valley to the Sydney Valence Hut and then carry on westwards up the col north of Mount Olympus and then picking a line westwards towards the peak.  Having only three days to commit to the plan required everything to go right to make a summit - push possible.  Having gone up to the Fryatt Hut earlier in the year I was adamant that bikes would be a good idea for the lower part of the approach  (11km to the Lower Fryatt campground) and they indeed proved quite handy!
Getting a reasonable but not excessively early start around sunrise we set off peddling down the trail from the road.  Eric had an array of bike packs to strap to every which bar and plate on his bike while I would stick with the ol lats - stressing regular backpack.  Even loaded down, the trail was quite pleasent to bike with a few pushing sections near the end as we approached the campground.

Setting off from the Fryatt Valley trailhead.


Eric at the one good viewpoint before hitting the Lower Fryatt Campground.

There were a few other bikes stashed at the campground so we wouldn't be the only people wandering around the valley (no real surprise as we had considered booking the hut for the second night but it was already at full capacity!).  Compared to earlier in the year the trail from the campground to the hut was in fabulous shape.  Parks had done a wonderful job clearing deadfall and brushing away dense clusters of foliage which made for a brisk pace working our way upwards.  This was Eric's first time up the valley and the first sight of Brussels Peak close up was surely an impressive moment for him!  Fryatt lake was its usual lovely self and a good viewpoint before starting the grunt up to the hut.

Just past Brussles Campground, looking frosty higher up!


There may be a few too many cairns up around here...


Getting a glimpse of Fryatt Lake below the scree-field.

The headwall itself didn't seem that fearsome this time around (likely just due to the fact that the hut was only a brief stopover rather than a destination!) and before long we were grabbing a late lunch on the patio getting rehydrated before the rest of the push up and over the col.  Last time up the valley, my Mom and I didn't venture too far from the comfortable warmth of the hut so the upper terrain was new to both Eric and I.  Following a well beaten trail lead up to a really neat cave where the creek disappeared into and then the first of many lovely tarns.  From the tarn the trail started to grow less distinct and before long we were clambering up (dry :)  ) boulders with the occasional cairn in view heading up towards the col.  Generally after ascending every rockband a new tarn or two would appear keeping good views ahead of us.  The last slope before the col is glaciated and we took a bypass line along scree on the climbers right to skip the first bit before booting up the last few meters on the snow (there is a decently deep shrund near the top to contend with).

The mighty headwall, the Headwall Campground is just at the other side of this avi clearing.


Near the top of the headwall looking back down at the lower Fryatt Valley.


The upper Fryatt Valley has a great number of interesting terrain features.


Approaching the large tarn above the hut, the col is in sight in the centre-left.


Zoomed in towards the col.


Looking back down at the tarn, it is certainly worth visiting if you are at the hut!


More mini-tarns higher up the valley towards the col.


The glacier below Mount Belanger in view.


Eric getting ready to head up the snow to the col.

From the col there are fabulous views of the chain of peaks that ring the Lick Creek Valley; all big fearsome beasties with east facing glaciers.  We had a number of options for bivies below the col, water being the main concern.  The two main choices were the big pretty lake to the south (more flat spots and more running water) or the smaller lake higher up (closer to the peak and less regain on the way back).  Eric lead down the slope and after following a scree line was already well below the higher lake so we carried on to the bigger one lower down.  Getting to our site was 26km and 1600m of gain from the car and we were quite glad to get our boots off and take it easy for a while.  Before long a snow squall rolled in which blanketed the valley in a good couple cm of sticky slippery snow.  This would prove to be just lovely for the many many boulders to be tackled the following day.


The upper Lick Creek Valley has some pretty good hiking potential.


Zoomed in on the peaks surrounding the valley.


The view from our camp above the large tarn.


As the sky brightened we made our way up the valley towards Alnus Peak.  There were two main ways to head either west or east of an unnamed ridge (GR 359157) the east being longer but would for sure work and the west shorter but had the potential of unseen difficulties (with small glaciers and cliffs occupying much of the nearby terrain from sattelite views).  I reckoned the more circuitous eastern way was the safer choice and while it worked out we were cursing the slippery snow covered rocks all the way down to the grassy forested bench below (where we could start to head back towards Alnus).  I guess the other route would have also had slippery boulders but it would save a bit of elevation loss/regain.  The theme for the traverse over to Alnus was snow covered scree and slippery snow covered boulders.  Without the fresh snow from the previous night we probably could have moved twice as fast but at least progress was steady.  A few hours later we crossed west of Divergence Peak and saw a very impressive view with the north face of Serenity Mountain, Mount Oates, and Alnus Peak in frame.  Waking down to a small tarn below Alnus, we both already wanted to come back here for a bivy at some point in the future.  Given how much longer than hoped it took to get here I gave us a turnaround time and we set off.


Things got a little bit frostier the next morning.


Looking up at Lick Peak, quite the impressive peak from here!


Time to get going towards Alnus Peak.


The unnamed ridge has quite the pile of boulders all around it!


Working our way down, more tarns to see below!


Looking up at Divergence Peak and Curl Peak.


Divergence Lake is a very impressive sight.


It is surprising how many trees there are up here!  The top of Alnus Peak is just visible in the background.


More nice terrain directly below Alnus Peak (right).

I couldn't recall seeing Alnus before this trip, but Eric had a picture he took previously from the southeast that showed a couple lines on the south side of the peak that would head up to the summit.  Eric lead up more easterly line on the peak picking a line up treacherously slippery snow covered heather slopes which eventually (the heather actually went surprisingly high) gave way towards more conventional sloped scree ledges.  Higher up we reached a junction where to the climbers left was a slippery slabby gully and to the right the terrain was easier but might not be straightforward to connect back towards the summit.  Initially we headed to the right and were able to gain another 100m or so putting us within 150m of the summit.  The terrain did kick up a few notches in spicyness if carrying on and we elected to ramble back down and give the gully a closer look.  Back down at the gully the rock was indeed as slippery and sloped as it looked and being quite close to our turn around time  we headed back down back towards camp.  Alnus Peak would have to wait for another day.


Eric heading up some slippery snow covered heather.


The lower Alnus Creek Valley still was snow-free!


Mount Oates and Serenity Mountain are very impressive sights.


Not far to the top but quite slippery.


This gully would also lead upwards, nice if dry!


A wide view from our highpoint.


Zoomed in on Mount Oates.


While we were on the peak and sun was working its magic on south and southwest aspect slopes so we were spared some of the snowy boulder hopping on the way back east (sadly much of the terrain between the unnamed ridge and Alnus was shrouded by peaks, probably why the glaciers are still there!).  On the way back we took the other line up a col below GR 359157 (which we dubbed "Beeline Ridge", 2546m, as it was a much more direct route!) slogging up steep scree and boulders (snow free though).  The top of the col is only a few minutes from the highpoint of the ridge so a brief detour was made.  There are three high points on the ridge that seem very close in height.  The middle one seemed tallest to me and was a pretty good viewpoint.  Descending the ridge was straightforward and before long we were on flat terrain and heading back to camp.


Bivying around here would be pretty cool.


Eric heading back towards our camp with Alnus Peak and Divergence Peak visible.


An interesting terrain feature on the way back.


Tarns, tarns everywhere!


Looking back towards Divergence Lake from near the top of "Beeline Ridge".


From "Beeline Ridge" looking down on the Lick Creek Valley.


One of the upper tarns below the ridge.


The previous day I had grabbed an updated forecast on my inreach contraption which predicted doom and gloom for the third day so getting rid of some of the deproach while the weather was good seemed like a good plan.  The original plan was to camp at the Headwall Camp and have a nice short deproach on day 3 which would go nicely in any conditions (be it a monsoon or even a godzilla attack!).  Given how much daylight was left we could at least make it back over the col and bivy in the high alpine at the edge of the glacier right below the col?  After packing up our stuff, progress was fairly slow back up the col.  Daylight was dwindling and hitting the col it was already headlamp-dark.  Here we were faced with a quandary: descend the glacier by headlamp (possibly falling into the crevasse we kicked into on the way up at night would be bad-news-bears) or set up our bivy at a more lofty perch on a spot of flat ground at the col.  The col bivy won out and thankfully there were a wide array of good rocks to anchor my tent (there would certainly be a bit of a breeze overnight).


It isn't a lot of elevation to get to the col, but it is sloggy elevation.


Stars starting to come out from the col.


Reflected light makes for interesting colors.


Thankfully despite a chilly wind (that got quite intense at times) there was no overnight snowfall and our tracks on the glacier were still somewhat visible.  Packing up our gear the wind even stilled completely for a few minutes, what luck!  Kicking down the snow went decently (only a few toes kicked into the crevasse) and retracting our steps through the scrambly rocks and lower boulders was slower with some lingering snow patches but not horrible.  Before long we were back down by the large teal tarn and not far from the hut.  A new group of folks were in the hut rather than the family we saw two days prior and they invited us in for coffee (which even had tasty Bayleys in it!).  It was hard to do but we pulled ourselves away from the comfort of the hut and started hiking back down the trail.  The way back to the Lower Fryatt campground is almost all downhill which made it easier on the legs for sure!


A wide view from the col.


Eric heading back down towards the hut.


Nice fall colors right near the hut.


The hut is a pretty cozy place.


Back at the camp our bikes were still safely stashed and ready to roll back down to the car.  The first part of the ride (from the camp to where the trail meets the river) is where the elevation is lost and you can certainly get cruising at a quick pace if you arn't braking often.  The random spacing of root and rock make not going too fast a very good idea!  From the clearing near the river biking becomes more of a game of 'avoid the big sharp rocks' and it's east to lose track of time while bounding up small rises and cruising across less rooty straightaways.  It took us a little over an hour to get back to the car from the campground, certainly beats walking!


Back down at the Lower Fryatt Camp, time for the bikes.


It will be quite nice to come back here in the winter and just cross the river here.


Not actually that much distance to get to a very remote-feeling area.


Hard to have much to complain about on this trip.  Views were quite cool, lots of good information gathered about the Lick Creek and Alnus Creek areas.  Have to head back up Alnus Peak itself at some point, there would be some dazzling alpenglow from avoid bivy around there.


Average: 5 (1 vote)


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