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Recondite Peak

Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
Ascent Time: 
14:00 Car to Bivy, ~3:45 Bivy to Summit
Dense In Places Swampy By The Lake
Friday, August 16, 2013

While using up some end of August vacation time plans were thrown around for a BIG trip. Eventually Steven, Eric, Vern, and I decided upon Recondite Peak the most remote 11000er buried deep in the Siffleur Wilderness. After gathering supplies we all agreed to meet at the winter trailhead for the Dolomite Creek trail (the same parking lot for the scramble route up Dolomite Peak) and get started at sunrise.

Day 1

The first day of the trip was the most tiring a 45km trek from the road, up Dolomite Pass, down to Isabella Lake, across several other creeks/rivers, until eventually topping out in the Recondite Valley. As said above the approach initially shares the trail with the route up Dolomite Peak and eventually comes into view of Helen Lake and joins up with that trail. The theme for the trip was, rainjackets on-rain jackets off with occasionally showers popping up every few hours (or sometimes every few minutes!) and the first few km were under cloudy skies and a refreshing light mist. Once gaining the pass the rest of the route slowly became visible and the immensity of the task ahead of us was made clear (using Conical Peak as a gauge showed that there was still a long way to go before the turnoff to the Recondite Valley). Luckily for most of the way up to Isabella Lake there is a solid trail to follow which makes the miles go by more pleasantly than they would otherwise. Over these few days water levels were pretty low and made staying on the skiers left of the creek proved more effective than crossing over to the 'real' trail, this method ended up costing us a bit of time after as we kept going beyond where we should have crossed thinking that a good trail was 'just beyond the next boulder'. After a bit of slogging we crossed over found the real trail again and made our way down to the lake-level. The directions in the 11000er book made it seem like beelineing for the lake once it was in sight was the way to go so we tossed on our sandals and went straight for it, this proved to be a somewhat foolish endeavor as not only was there a trail of sorts of the western edge of the valley (which we found on day 2) but also it meant that we had to contend with a horrible waste deep swamp. If you can avoid the swamp you would be wise to. Past the swamp it was back on good trail and we quickly passed the Isabella Lake warden cabin, which seemed to have a warden in residence. Past the cabin the trail carries on but a little less well maintained until a signed crossing where it is time to ford the creek and begin the next stage of the journey. Once on the eastern side of the creek the objective was to be certain to ascend the right valley, with a vague sense of how many creeks we had to cross and a few gps waypoints we set off and eventually found a path upwards leading to where we wanted to go. After a while ascending on the climbers right of the outflow creek from Recondite Valley we came across a bench system which seemed to offer quick travel (and even had cairns) but turned out to be a trap leading to a very ferocious rapid system so we had to backtrack, and gain more elevation to carry on. Once past the rapids the elevation started to level off a bit and we got our first views of Osgood and Augusta, good looking peaks but still our objective eluded us. The terrain down by the creek in Recondite Valley is pretty horrible and we should have stayed high on the scree to avoid it but we didn't know any better. About 12 hours in we got our first look of Recondite which gave a good feel for how remote this peak is! After another couple hours we reached our bivy site near the lake and everyone was in agreement to pass out swiftly and awake near sunrise for our summit bid.

Day 2

Waking up to excellent sunrise views at the bivy site we were treated to our first surprise of the day considerably more clouds than forecasted. After a quick breakfast and some early morning pictures it was time to saddle up and head towards that big pile of choss looming above us while we slept, Recondite Peak. While gaining the initial elevation it became obvious that there was some interesting weather going on, with sinister clouds to the distance in the west moving quickly eastwards (but looked like they would dodge us). The first weather system did indeed head southwards, hitting Mount Willingdon but ignoring our fair valley which met with much enthusiasm among our group! The rock on Recondite Peak is curiously grippy (even when wet as we found out on descent) and despite a steep gradient steep slabs can be walked directly upwards. After a bunch of elevation (and more foreboding weather) we hooked climbers right and made our way to the more technical parts of Recondite, lots of loose 3/4'th class ledges and chimneys working upwards to the summit. The final push to the summit is divided by a fifth class downclimb which is almost certainly a good idea to rapell, in ideal conditions this would be a great place for a break while setting up the rap taking in the scenery of the nearby peaks but unfortunately we were stuck in a blizzard. After rigging up the anchors Steven tested out the rap and recommended that we go off the right hand side (facing towards the summit) rather than the left as we were originally intending. After a few frosty minutes of standing around it was my turn to rap to and wander up more loose slopes to the summit. View from the summit were quite limited given the blizzard but I can surmise from gaps in the cloud that it would be a great location on a clear day! Given the conditions there wasn't much motivation to stick aruond (even stormier clouds seemed to be heading our way) and after signing the register it was time to head down to the relatively wind-sheltered area below the rap. Descent was back the way we came amidst alternating warm sunny skies and cold frosty sleet. While descending the consensuses was reached that we should at the very least try to get out of the Recondite Valley tonight and more ideally get past the swamp so there wasn't much time to waste when we got back to camp. For descending the valley we chose to take the high road, and side-slope several km rather than getting tangled up in the junk down by the creek, as painful as the side-hilling was it is almost certainly the quicker route. Once back down in the trees after a brief calamity of loosing track of Eric we were back at the Dolomite Creek crossing and over by the warden cabin with a fair bit of daylight still ahead of us (enough to get through the swamp, haazaa).

Day 3

The third day was much more leisurely by comparison to the prior two. Following the same path we took on the first day and making more wise creek crossings we made good time and were soon back at the pass, down beneath Dolomite Peak, and back at the cars. Trips like Recondite Peak seem to be much more about the journey than the destination and there certainly were lots of memorable moments! Not sure if I'll go back to the Recondite Valley in the future but I am certainly glad to have gone along this time!


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