A large wedge-shaped mountainous area lies between the major valleys of NE-trending Bugaboo Creek and E-flowing Horsethief-Stockdale Creeks. Almost 25 mi wide near the Columbia, the wedge narrows almost to a point in the vicinity of Taurus Mountain, surrounded by the headwaters of Bugaboo and Howser Creeks on the N and W, and those of a N tributary of Stockdale Creek to the S. Along the W bank of the Columbia, at the E extremity of this area, rises a peculiar formation called Steamboat Mountain (ca 6000), a structural block be longing neither to the Rockies nor to the Purcells and of no mountaineering interest whatsoever.
South from Bugaboo Pass, the main Purcell watershed trends E in rounding Howser basin and then SW to the head of Horsethief Creek. Important streams providing E drainage be tween Bugaboo and Horsethief Creeks are Templeton River, Dunbar Creek, Frances Creek, and Forster Creek. From Bugaboo Pass, the water-parting runs E over the Quintet Peaks to a minor summit just E of Phacelia Pass (7550, incorrectly located on 82K/10). It then passes over Taurus Mountain and swings S to Forster Pass (7450) connecting the Forster and Howser valleys. From Mt Griffith, the watershed heads SW along the ridge between Howser and Stockdale Creeks. The local watershed trends E along the Starbird Ridge that separates the Forster valley from those of Stockdale and Horsethief Creeks to the S.
Several peaks in the area reach an elevation greater than 10,000′. The glaciers, while numerous, are not very extensive, the principal ones being the Catamount and the North Star, which drain N to Forster Creek from Starbird Ridge. Both are approximately 3 mi long. The rock varies from the dreadful sediments of the Ethelbert Group to the excellent granite of the Starbird Ridge in the neighbourhood of Mt Sally Serena. And thus also ranges the mountaineering interest.
Although climbers first entered this region as early as the first decade of the century, few parties have visited these mountains until quite recently. Mt Ethelbert was ascended in 1915 by the MacCarthy-Kain party, which packed in via Dunbar Creek. Later that same summer, MacCarthy and Kain reached the summit of Mt Sally Serena from the Horsethief valley to the S, a startling exploit for the time. Thorington and Kain reached Phacelia Pass from Bugaboo Creek in 1933, this route being generally followed into the Taurus Group there after. The recent upsurge of activity in the area, especially on Starbird Ridge, is a direct result of the construction of a passable logging road up Forster Creek. In fact, overusage reminiscent of the Bugaboos appears to be the imminent fate of this lovely but fragile area.
ACCESS to the Ethelbert Group is gained either by the jeep road up Templeton River or the trail along Dunbar Creek. The Taurus Group can be reached over Phacelia Pass from the road on the S fork of Bugaboo Creek or from the road which extends to near the head of Frances Creek, or even from Forster Creek. The heavily traveled logging road on Forster Creek extends to near the mouth of North Star Creek (Mile 29), along the way giving access to the valleys of Irish and Welsh Creeks which lead to the mountains of Starbird Ridge. Vehicle traffic is no longer possible beyond Irish Creek (Mile 22) because of the removal (1976) of the deteriorating bridge.
From the junction at Radium, drive directly W through a saw mill (from which the mile markers are measured) and cross the Columbia. Continue straight ahead at the intersection of the so-called “West Side Road” (Mile 6, actually 6. 7 by odometer) to the junction at Mile 8. 5 of the Forster and Horsethief roads. Take the right fork here to reach Irish Creek and points beyond. To reach Frances Creek, follow the directions above as far as the West Side Road, turning right there and driving N for approximately 14 miles at which point the Frances Creek road diverges left and continues some 10 miles more. See details under each group below.