*** Note, updated 05/07/2015*** Since I hiked this trail, my friends returned and discovered a flagged route that is somewhat reliable. You must hike further up the trail than we did to find the start of the flagged route
Today went well, wet but well.
A few weeks back Phil, Rick, Mat and I made an attempt at Triple Peak, in the Mackenzie Range. We didn't summit, a lot of factors barring our attempt that day. Sunday, March 29th, Phil, Rick and I set out to conqueror the beast! Again, the weather did not cooperate. In planning for the trip we were each eagerly checked the forecast. The weather folk were calling for a ridiculous amount of rain, therefore we followed plan B, Mount Gibson a peak on the Gibson-Klitsa Plateau.
Total Distance: 19.8 km
Starting Elevation: 30 m
Maximum Elevation: 1327 m
Elevation Gain: 1467 m
Time: 8 hours 15 minutes
We had our window wipers on max as we drove up highway 4, early Sunday morning. Our eyes agape as monitored water levels of Taylor river beside the road, as we twisted through the road leading to Sutton Pass. Further, there were many spontaneous waterfalls gushing their contents off the side of rocks at various points along the road.
It was clear, there would be no attempt on Triple Peak today. Instead, we set our sights on Mt Gibson.. Gibson was still on my hit-list and this was a great opportunity to check it off. In his recce, Phil researched the route to the summit of Gibson. We were using Quagger's route description and trip reports published in the Island Bushwhacker.
We parked at the rest stop ahead of Sutton pass, just down the road from the logging road (South Taylor Road on my Backcounty Map Book) that that leads to the Brigade Lake Trail. We changed into our fancy hiking duds. I put my rain pants and jacket, it was clear we were going to be soaked in no time. The rain came in droves.
Once on the logging road, the Brigade Lake trail is easy to find. It's clearly marked trailhead. Despite the description provided by our sources, a vehicle would easily make it to the trailhead. Though there is only enough parking for one, maybe two, vehicles. If I were to do this route again, I would definitely drive up to the trailhead, it would save about 45 minutes of walking.
The hike is enjoyable but fatiguing. The well planned route utilizes switchbacks, stairs and some small bridges. This morning we had no view but on a clear day there would be a good view of the hills on the opposite side of Highway 4, through the trees.
The trail , and I can call it that, is well marked, well booted and well planned. Ribbons provide a clear route most of the way up to the lake and where there are no ribbons the route is very well booted. It is easy to hike, though there is a lot of elevation. The trailhead starts at 120 m and the lake is at 920 metres. The trail winds through healthy second growth forest, utilizing stairways and small bridges. There are some sections with exposed roots but overall the most challenging part of this trail is the water and aging stairs. Because of the inclement weather, we had water literally flowing down sections of the trail. The existing waterways were engorged and flowing so full that in some areas flooded over the walkways. As you may well imagine, wet conditions made exposed roots and the wood of the stairs and bridges very slippery.
I mentioned the aging stairs, some of them are outright falling apart. They are in need of maintenance. Edit 10/02/2015 It was built about 20 years ago under the administration of the Min. of Forests, using Forest Renewal funds, but has been orphaned since then, with no one taking responsibility for it. Any suggestions welcomed. Thank you from a reader for the correction. (In the recent past the volunteer program for maintaining trails in provincial parks was broken. Recently there has been a positive shift, hopefully this will see the expansion of volunteer groups doing work on trails throughout British Columbia, under the volunteer program managed by the BC Parks.)
By the time we reached the top, each of us was soaked through, either by sweat from the effort or the shear quantity of water falling upon us. Before arriving at the lake ,we turned left (East) heading off the beaten path, through the leafless huckleberry and blueberry. The ground is soft, moss covered and for the most part easy to walk through. We were guided by terrain, we made our way around the features. Within 20 minutes we spotted our first piece of flagging.
We were surprised to find any, Phil's research indicated there was no flagging. Obviously, we were suspicious. Often flagging goes nowhere and sometimes everywhere. However, as we picked our route through the terrain and on the map, we would run into more flags. It varied colour and age. The higher we moved, following the ridge, the easier the route finding became, though we were still pushing a lot of bush until we got to 1050 metres. At this point, the trees open up into the low-alpine and you get your first views of the surrounding landscape. The route also becomes easy to follow, somewhat booted in as it winds its way through rocks and trees, over bumps and humps and adjacent to tarns/ lakes. Somewhere between the turn off from the lake to 1000 metres, the rain abated and the clouds parted allowing sunlight to pour down. As we approached the last section of elevation, we were surprised to find snow (only about 6 inches) deep.
the terrain finally opens up around 1050 m
The final approach to the summit is intimidating at first. The summit looms in the distance as exposed rock, though as you get closer a route becomes evident. I can't even call getting up the rock climbing , it was easy to walk up using my poles for for assistance.
Looking North-West remnants of snow, approaching Mount Gibson
The broad summit hosts a cairn and a tarn. The views from the top are amazing, a clear view of the snow engulfed slopes of Mt Klitsa was evident but our view of Nahmint and points beyond were obscured by distant low clouds.
Summit of Mount Gibson
We sat on the summit for quite a while, eating lunch and drinking coffee in the sun. I changed my shirt and set my jacket inside-out beside me. By the time we ate our lunch and ready to go, the jacket was bone-dry! Well at least if the Gore-Tex failed me, the synthetic material dried very quickly.
Looking North from the summit of Mount Gibson
On the trip down from the summit to the lake, we attempted to follow the flagging. Although it is possible, I wouldn't call it easy. The final section of the route took us closer to the lake and joined up with the old Brigade Lake Trail.
From the lake to the car, the trail had dried significantly, there was no longer water running down the trail, over bridges or dripping off thre foliage. We made it back to the car at 5:45 pm and headed home.