Friday, 2 September 2016

Hiking straight up at Black Prince

After far too few hikes this summer, we have been getting out more in the last little while. Last week, we took a friend up Spencer Creek, and on September 1, we went up to the Black Prince Lakes with another friend.

I was last up in the Black Prince area in September 2008. No one has been up there in the summer since 2013 when the flood blew the bridge out over Smith-Dorien Creek, which was only replaced this summer.
The new bridge
The trail starts out as an interpretive trail, which would be fine if there were brochures available (they haven't been printed in at least 10 years). The interp trail isn't very interesting, being mostly a road until after climbing 120 m it then drops 30 m to arrive at an overgrown boulder field that eventually turns into the views of the lake -- though to call it a lake at this time of year is really pushing it. "Puddle" is more apropos.
My co-hiker at the puddle
Our objective for the day was not this puddle, rather a lake that is high above the grassy ridge line on the upper left of the photo above. Here's a bit better shot; the little knob on the ridge almost dead center is the destination.
And we have to climb the gap
To get there, you have to get around the lake. Rather than follow the proper instructions, and circling the "lake" on the right, I led us on a fair trail starting from where I should have and leading to the left. A fine trail until it petered out in chest deep willows on the far side of the lake. Fortunately  I generally knew where I was heading and we popped out onto the actual trail after only about 100 m of willow whacking.

The trail crosses a large cobble field, remnants of the 2013 and other floods. Looking back, you can see the meadow that you need to skirt, which is in fact all willows.
Looking back. Kent Ridge rises in the background
Looking up, the route is semi-obvious. Climb the steep hill by the waterfall.

Up and to the left, then climb to the ridge on the right
The route used to go almost straight up the waterfall. Now it climbs up the other side, then angles across to the top of the waterfall. It starts off with a reasonable grade...
The pleasant lower section
...but quickly gets very steep indeed (and the trail has no switchbacks; it's straight up).

Getting higher
This slope is "grizzly bear central" in the fall, and it's almost fall. We found LOTS of grizzly food on this slope, from vetch to cow parsnip to all kinds of berries. Good for us there we no signs of bears anywhere.

After grunting 220 m up this steep and slippery slope, you finally cut back across and head to the waterfall. Turns out the waterfall has a bend in it invisible from below.
Looking down 
Looking up 
Just the upper section 
A different perspective
From the top of the waterfall, it's only about 30 vertical meters and you pop out into the upper basin, a place not unlike Sparrowhawk Tarns.
The start of the basin. Mt. Warspite in the distance
Note that from this point, it's still 200 vertical meters up to the top of the ridge which is out of sight on the right.

The basin made for a nice lunch spot, with some critters to keep us company.
Me in my lunch pose 
Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel 
Another marmot
There were pikas, too, but none that would hold still.

Where I picked for lunch was kinda dumb as it was somewhat off the unofficial trail that climbs up the last 200 vertical m. In fact, we were easily 40 m above the trail's start.
The trail starts at the bottom of this draw
So rather than go down to go up, we picked a line up the scree straight up the face.
Destination: the scree upper left

Rising up from lunch on the first slope  
Nearing the top. Note my two companions centre right
And when you get up there, you're supposed to see a big lake. Well, maybe earlier in the season. This time, there were 2 puddles and a pond.
Clear evidence they used to be bigger
Ah, well. Sometime the journey is the reward.

I sauntered along the ridge a short ways further. The views from the ridge are pretty nice.
Mt. Warspite 
Hwy 742 visible down below 
This ridge has no name 
That grey thing is Warspite Lake where the uphill grunt commenced 
Looking north 
The peaks. R-L: Kent South, James Walker, Chester, Galatea
On the ridge I found another pika, who was willing to pose for me -- or at least hold still long enough.
Too cute
While it was a very slow grunt up, taking nearly 4 hrs, it took just under 2 hrs to get back to the car from here. Although my guidebook said it was 6.7 km return and 625 m of height gain, we did 11.3 km and climbed 715 m.

I 'spose the lakes would be nicer in the spring/early summer when full. This hike is similar to Sparrowhawk Tarns, but the tarns are easier and offer more high alpine meadow to explore (and they, too, are full in spring and empty in fall). So while this was a fun sojourn, the serious uphill of it wouldn't make me in a hurry to do it again.

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