COMMONWEALTH MT 2210m 7250′
Elevation gain: 1250′ to summit
Key elevations: Park 1829m (6000′); Lost Lake 5980′, Summit 7250′
Time: 2 hours one way to summit
Access: Moderate – depends on road.
Season: July through September
Map: 82F/6 Nelson
Drive: Porto Rico Rd to ridge at 6000’.
Route: Walk up last steep bit of road, then up the stone creek bed to Lost Lake in 30 minutes.
Bushwhack through slide alder for a few minutes then side hill the grassy/scree slope up to the ridge on the north side of the lake. Walk the ridge then scramble up to the summit of Commonwealth.
What to do?
1. Continue the ridge walk over Empire and Dominion Peaks
2. Walk the ridge around Lost Lake
Velodrome Skiing in Keno Creek, Feb.2
Our usual ski route to Lost Lake Ridge follows the long, tedious, frequently snowmobile rutted old road that leaves Barrett Creek FSR at km 3 and ascends to Lost Lake Ridge from the south following Lost Lake Creek. On this route, it takes about four hours to gain the start of Lost Lake Ridge. However, our topographic map marks an old road heading up Keno Creek from the Hall Creek FSR. Accordingly, three of us and our long suffering dog, Kumo, started up Keno Creek on February 2nd intent on finding a better route to ski terrain at Lost Lake Ridge.
The road was located easily enough – it’s the first spur road off the Hall Creek Rd. Unfortunately, a heavy footed snowshoer had travelled the road while the recent storm snow was soft and mushy and had sunk a good two feet into the snow surface. As the road is narrow, overgrown and frequently overhung with downed trees, there was really no room to move off the snowshoer’s tracks and we had to persist with that continually annoying dip of the ski tips into the divots. As is usual Roland was strongly out in front while the remaining three of us staggered along behind. Somewhere around 9.30 am while I was wondering if he would ever need to eat again (we had breakfasted 3.5 long hours ago) I came upon him miraculously stopped and eating! Doug and I had fresh homemade strombolis for lunch and I started out having just a bite or two. Before I knew it, I was down to the last crust, with Doug yelling at me “stop eating, that’s your lunch”. Too late! The roadbed was less noticeable here and, in fact, we lost it soon afterwards (our newer map shows it ending around 1400 metres, while Roland’s shows it going all the way to the ridge at 1800 metres). However, we were in open treed terrain and really had no further need of the road so we continued up basically following the route of the Keno Creek drainage to arrive on a ridge top at around 1800 metres, where we stopped for lunch. Or the others did, I had no lunch left.
Interestingly, the entire north side of Lost Lake Ridge harboured numerous avalanches released in the last storm cycle, some running on relatively mellow ground through sporadic trees. We decided to continue our traverse westwards and contoured around the head of another unnamed tributary of Hall Creek arriving at another ridge top (again about 1800 metres). After much inspection of the map and discussion we decided this unnamed drainage would be unpleasantly narrow and steep to descend. However, we also did not want to descend the frozen rutted snowshoe tracks we had followed up, so with nary a misgiving we decided to descend the shoulder of the ridge to the west of Keno Creek and hit the minor road marked on our map at around 1400 metres. Accordingly, we retraced our steps to the ridge top and began our descent. The first 300 metres provided very nice skiing, fast, but on a firm base through open trees. However, around 1500 metres we hit breakable crust and our suffering began in earnest. Kumo, who had been struggling in the deeper snow, was now in his element prancing around with a minimum of paw penetration, while the rest of us crashed from tree to tree desperately trying to stop the forward motion of our skis with anything but our heads. After spending some time at this, we thought it wise to resort to the GPS unit to try and find out just where the g*dd***med logging road actually was. As we had suspected we had veered too much to skiers right and now needed to head NW. Bravely, Roland set out in the lead, crashing through, over and on timber (giving a whole new meaning to “tree” skiing) while Doug and I followed as best we could. After some more time, we thought another GPS reading in order and were delighted to find that the road should be mere metres below us. And, indeed it was, a mere 50 or so metres straight down and we hit it. We all thought our troubles were over, but the pitch on the logging road was such that we were again rocketing along at breakneck speed which we had no way of controlling. The crust was such that turning or even snowplowing was out of the question so we resorted to “velodrome” tactics – when our speed got too great we barrelled up the banks at the side of the road, there either our skis or our heads would impact the bank, stop us dead and we could start the whole process again. Annoyingly, when we finally hit the Hall Creek Rd it was too flat to glide on and we had to stride and herringbone along until we had passed the Keno Creek junction and were once again able to hurtle ourselves down without control.
In summary, despite what you might think, this is a much preferred access route to the ski terrain at Lost Lake Ridge. Although we didn’t go up to Lost Lake Ridge we likely could have made it in half an hour less than the southern route, and the Keno Creek route gives access to ski terrain on both sides of the ridge.