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Welsh Lakes 'Weekend' (Mount Alpha Centauri, Antrim Peak, Leitrim Peak, Gwendoline Mountain, Mount Carmarthen)

Difficulty: 
Mountaineering (Glacier Travel)
Elevation [m]: 
3146
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
49.1
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1552
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
3800
YDS Difficulty: 
4
Bushwhackyness: 
A little bit between lakes if you get off route
Tripdate: 
Saturday, July 11, 2015

Some video from the trip.

A bunch of linked 'photospheres' of the Welsh Lakes Area.

 

It had been many moons since I had been on a trip with Eric but the stars (or more accurately the weather forcast) aligned to join up for a trip into the Purcells.Our objective was a gaggle of peaks surrounding Welsh Lakes, a collection of 5-7 lakes in the area (depending on which lakes are included and what separates a 'lake' from a large glacial pond...) bounded between the Welsh Peaks and Irish Peaks.  Eric had info about a good approach trail from his Hikes Around Invermere guidebook and from some Goldenscrambles beta we were confident on a route for Mount Alpha Centauri at the very least!

The trailhead for accessing the Welsh Lakes is 36 km down the Horsetheif FSR with another 2 ish km on a less travelled road needing a higher clearence vehicle due to substantial ruts and large rocks on the road.  Eric's Volvo made it up with only one 'uhoh' clunking noise which turned out to be nothing serious.  Arriving at the trailhead around 830 it was already hot out and with forecasted temperatures in the mid 30s we waisted no time in gaining some elevation (and hopefully a breeze).  The approach trail all the way to the first lake is in good shape with flagging and cairns showing the way at any less obvious points.

The trailhead for Welsh Lakes complete with a snazzy sign.

 

The trail is well worn even in the boulder-fields.

 

Lots of water flowing of them thar hills.

 

From the first lake things get a little less obvious.  It seems like people have differing opinions of what to do after the first lake which has spawned a slew of side - trails leading every which way.  Eventually we decided to contour around the first lake and came to a flagged path leading upwards eventually going to the second lake after ascending a steep boulder field.  From the second lake a better cairned trail lead higher over a bump above the lake which then traversed gently upwards through bush and boulders depositing us at the third lake, which would be our home for the next few days.

 

The first Welsh Lake.

 

Above the first lake nearing the second, a wee bit off trail.

 

Our camp above the third lake.

 

After setting up camp and stashing a great amount of extra gear we set course towards Alpha Centauri, the nearby peak rather than the planet...  To reach Mount Alpha Centauri, required heading upwards to another glacial lake bounding up another boulder field  (if there is an overall theme to this trip it is boulder - hopping) to reach the Centaurus Glacier below the east face of the peak.  The glacier itself is quite small compared to the icefields that we had been frequenting over the last little while but it still does have a deep shrund so take whatever precautions you deem appropriate.  The glacier leads to a series of rock/snow gully that grant access to the summit ridge.  Given all the snow that we had been on previously I elected to take the rock, Steven the snow, and Eric the rock as well.

 

Looking back towards the trailhead.

 

A higher lake with Mouynt Alpha Centauri in the middle.

 

Heading up the Centaurus Glacier.

 

Steven kicking steps up the snow slope, yet another lake in the background.

 

The ridge would have been a most excellent vantage point but nearby fires made for very localized views!  We traversed the ridge sticking mostly below the crest on the west side until reaching the summit (which was further than we anticipated due to a deciving false summit tower).  Views from the summit were smoky but still granted a good look at the lakes below and the North Star Glacier to the west.  We followed our steps back to camp for a well deserved feast.

 

On the summit ridge, still a fair bit of scrambling to the summit.

 

Eric almost at the summit.

 

Looking across the valley was very smoky.  Gwendoline Mountain in the right-centre and North Star Peak on the far right.

 

Smoke, smoke, and more smoke.

 

Looking down towards the Welsh Lakes.

 

Back down the snow slope.

 

Not too far from our camp now as the sun falls behind the ridge.

 

Water water everywhere.

 

The next morning we had out sights set on the Irish Peaks to the east, specifically Antrim and Leitrim Peaks which seemed to offer good scrambling and a chance of decent views if the smoke cleared.  Steven chose a very direct line up a rock gully while Eric and I elected a for a scenic route hoping to come across a hidden lake at the base of Connemara Peak.  Soon after we lost sight of Steven for quite some time but planned to meet up with him at the summit of Antrim.  Our path lead up past a waterfall-laden headwall (easily bypassed on climbers left) and then gained the summit ridge by a loose but easy choss-gully.

 

The next morning looking out at our 'home-lake'.

 

Crossing the boulder-fields towards Lentrim and Antrim.

 

A hidden mini-lake in the hanging valley above.

 

Lots of pretty flowers around.

 

Eric with Connemara Peak in the background.

 

Connemara Peak (left) and Dublin Spire (right) are impressive looking peaks.

 

Once above the choss-gully we took a brief detour to an unnamed highpoint along the ridge before moving onwards to the summit of Antrim on moderate scrambling terrain.  Reaching the summit of Antrim we still had no sign of Steven but presumed he had rambled off to the other summit already.  Summit views show that there are indeed some striking peaks in the area, certainly worth coming back with a bit of rock kit to tackle the trickier peaks.

 

Eric heading up a snow slope towards the summit of Antrim Peak.

 

Summit views from Antrim Peak.

 

Looking towards our next objective Leitrim Peak.

 

You can just see Steven ascending the snow slope on the right.

 

Descending down from the summit we aimed to head down to a broad plateau between the two summits that would allow for a nice snow/rock ridge to access Leitrim.  Lo and behold looking across to our route we saw Steven on the snow ridge heading up to the summit!  The theme for the descent was loose rocks, both large boulders and small scree that required Eric and I sticking close to avoid rockfall.  Partway down the slope we actually came across Steven's tracks in the dirt, evidently he chose the same line down.  The base of the snow slope on Leitrim Peak had a delicious runoff stream that recharged Eric and I for the rest of the elevation to the summit.  Heading up to the summit of Leitrim Peak I stuck to mostly fun scrambling on rock but the direct snow line is also an option.  The summit "ridge" was boulder hopping (as expected given this area!).  If you do head up Leitrim carrying on to the end of the ridge is worthwhile for views of some more hidden lakes in the valley below.

 

Down below Leitrim Peak, not far to the summit.

 

Summit views from Leitrim Peak.

 

Views from a point just below the summit.

 

After descending back down to the base of the snow slope, Eric and I regrouped with Steven and descended together taking a mixture of loose rock and surprisingly hard snow.  Lower down Eric and I wanted to stop off at one of the Welsh Lakes we hadn't yet been to while Steven preferred a beeline back to camp so we split up again for a few hours.  Heading down to the lake was very worthwhile with excellent views and marvellous colors in the shallow sections near the lakeshore.  After taking a flurry of pictures we rambled back to our 'home lake' which required, as you guessed, more boulder hopping!

 

Eric and I took a detour down to the (third?) lake.

 

Well worth it for these views!

 

Lovely water colors.

 

Surprisingly few bugs too which was nice.

 

The next morning we awoke around sunrise to retrace our steps up towards Mount Alpha Centauri but carry on further west, cross the North Star Glacier and summit Gwendoline Mountain.  To get on the glacier we first had to ascend the Alpha Centauri/Carmarthen col which proved to be loose rocks giving way to soft snow and then a 'choose your own adventure' rock step of low 4th to ~5.8 lines.  Lots of fun climbing on surprisingly solid rock here (at least on the optional 5th class lines).

 

The next morning back up below Alpha Centauri on our way to Gwendoline Mountain.

 

Eric and Steven kicking steps up snow to the col.

 

Steven climbing a scrambly bit to reach the col.

 

Past the col it was time to put on the rope and cross the glacier.  Snow coverage was pretty thin and often on the lower elevation parts we were stepping to ice  (including into a few anklebiters).  The last slope before reaching Gwendoline's ridge had some mildly steep snow and a filled in shrund.  Once above the glacier there were two options for reaching the summit: stick to scrambly rock or traverse snow/ice.  As was another theme for this trip I stuck to the rock while the boys stuck to snow.  The rock on the ridgecrest was quite enjoyable and extremely textured  (I managed to get cuts on both my hands from friction holds).  Sticking to the utmost crest had some fairly exposed moves but the option to descend slightly onto lower class terrain was always an option.  I ended up reaching the summit just ahead of Steven followed swiftly by Eric and many summit pictures were then snapped.

 

Past the col and on the glacier, North Star Peak on the left.

 

Gwendoline Mountain looms ahead on the upper glacier.

 

The summit of Gwendoline Mountain in sight, I took the rock, the boys took the snow.

 

The ridgecrest had some fun scrambling on very grippy rock.

 

Neat views towards a tiny glacial lake below.

 

Last bit of scrambling to go before the summit.

 

Looking back down at the ridgecrest.

 

Summit views from Gwendoline Mountain.

 

Zoomed in down towards the glacier, the Olive Hut is on the bottom right.

 

Eric found a register in an old syrup bottle, that was very soggy.

 

Looking across the valley, not as smoky today.

 

The Bugaboos loom in the hazy distance on the left.

 

On the way down we all took the snow and followed our steps back towards the Carmarthen/Alpha Centauri col.  Given how early in the day it was we took a brief detour to nearby Carmarthen Peak which looked like an easy scramble to a good viewpoint.  True to form there were lots of boulders to contend with but otherwise nothing too tricky.  After taking a break to dry out our boots and socks on the summit we returned the way we came back to camp and tried to cook some grub without being devoured by the hordes of mosquitos that were frequenting the camp.  The next morning we descended back to the car at a fairly leisurely pace and managed to drive out dodging any perilous ruts and rocks.

 

Back down we go in the scorching sun.

 

Heading up the ridge of Mount Carmarthen.

 

Summit views from Mount Carmarthen.

 

North Star Peak is quite impressive from this angle.

 

Back down to camp.

 

Quite a few stars visible overnight despite the smoke.

 

Waking up on the last morning, heading down to the car.

 

A chopper probably ferrying guys in to Olive Hut.

 

Rejoining the main trail, all easy travel from here.

 

Great to get some variety in views, tons of awesome viewpoints around here!

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