EAST-CENTRAL PURCELLS – Access Findlay & Dutch Creeks

In this chapter are collected scattered peaks located on or adjacent to the main Purcell divide, which rise in the region S of the line of Dutch and Camey Creeks. Only a few summits attain an elevation of 10,000′, the highest being Mt Findlay (10374). Most of what little mountaineering interest the area offers centres on those peaks in the vicinity of that mountain; see Findlay Group below. The only glacier of consequence lies on the E slope of this group, draining through W tributaries of Findlay Creek. Coverage terminates at the line of St Mary River, S of which no significant mountaineering possibilities exist. The area was first mapped by M. Thorington in 1930 and 1931.
On the watershed, they drain into Kootenay Lake via Carney and Fry Creek – both very long drainages accounting for the high water flows in Fry Creek Canyon in the spring. Both these drainages are difficult access from the west with mammoth bushwhacks. 

From the S end of Toby Snowfield, the main water-parting runs S and then E, reaching Saffron Peak in about 3 mi. Im­ mediately S of Toby Snowfield there is a depression (7400) connecting the S fork ofToby Creek with a N branch of Carney Creek In 1964 a party (see Mt Pambrun), which traversed the Purcells via Toby and Carney Creeks, crossed the divide here. S of Saffron Peak, a low wooded pass (6900) leads over from the S terminal fork of Dutch Creek to the central branch of Camey Creek, the lowest crossing of the range between the Dogtooths and the head of St Mary River. 1½ mi farther S rises Trikootenay Peak, the hydrographic apex of the Purcell Range. A small glacier on its NE side feeds the S terminal fork of Dutch Creek and is the glacial source of the Columbia River. S drainage from Trikootenay Peak is to Morigeau Creek, a tributary of Findlay Creek which is the Purcell source of Kootenay River. W drainage is via Carney and Fry Creeks to Kootenay Lake.

The watershed now swings W and S in an arc 3½ mi long to Mt Findlay. Continuing S and then slightly E for some 5 mi, the divide goes over the principal summits of the Findlay mas­sif. After running SE another 5 mi to Peak 9257′, the watershed makes a great semicircle facing NW in rounding the head of Fry Creek The divide then heads generally SW for 12 mi, passing over the S end of the Leaning Towers Group. At the point where it finally heads S again, paralleling the headwaters branch of St Mary River, the watershed is only 7½ mi from Kootenay Lake.

ACCESS to this region has traditionally been from the E, up either Dutch Creek from Fairmont Hot Springs or Findlay Creek from Canal Flats. Findlay Creek affords a better ap­proach for reaching the central and most interesting peaks of the area, the Findlay Group. From Canal Flats, a road goes about 20 mi up the creek, but the condition of its lower sec­tions is questionable. Some 5 mi before the end of the road, it is necessary to make a detour N, regaining the main road farther on. The last 2 mi are definitely passable only to jeeps or trucks. A trail (start unmarked) begins on the final downgrade of the jeep road and extends approx 15 mi up the valley. The trail is rudimentary, in tum rocky, boggy, muddy and hard to follow in open slide areas. At 12 mi, a trail branches right (W) up Granite Creek whose source is the glacier on the E slope of the Findlay massif. After 2 mi, this trail splits again, the right

(N) branch going up Morigeau Creek to good campsites at its head. The left (S) branch continues along Granite Creek another 2 mi. Although this last section is rocky and boggy, it is the logical choice to reach campsites well-located for climbing in the Findlay Group. Allow 2 days to backpack from the end of the road to the head of either Granite or Morigeau Creek.

Formerly, excursions on Dutch Creek began at the Hawke Ranch situated 4 mi W of Fairmont Hot Springs at the first acute bend of that stream. Today, however, a road branching N from the Findlay Creek road at approx 13 mi leads up Deer Creek and along Whitetail Lake, intersecting the trail on Dutch Creek near its second acute bend. This trail stays largely on the N and W sides of the valley, extending about 22 mi farther to the head of the S terminal fork beneath Trikootenay Peak. This old horse trail is indistinct and the ground is swampy. It is feasible to cross from the head of Dutch Creek over a saddle (8400) in the E ridge of Trikootenay Peak to the valley of Morigeau Creek and thus reach Findlay Glacier. And in fact, historically this approach route was followed on the FA of Mt Findlay. Nowadays, though, it would appear more reasonable to go in the reverse sense, from the Findlay massif, if one were interested in reaching the head of Dutch Creek.

The southern portions of this region are served by roads along St Mary River and various of its tributaries. From either Kimberley or Cranbrook, the principal road goes W to St Mary Lake and then NW some 13 additional mi to major forks. The main road takes the central fork and continues up Dewar Creek another 14 mj. The right (E) fork goes up White Creek, giving access to St Mary’s Alpine Park, an area dotted with lakes. The left (W) fork continues along St Mary River proper, extending to within about 6 mi of its head.

Maps: 82K/l, 82F/16.

Thorington, J. M., “The Purcell Range of British Columbia”, New York, American Alpine Club, 1946, pp 71-108. Accounts of the first-and almost the only!-excursions into this forgotten bailiwick.

SAFFRON PEAK   2920m   9580′
In SW angle between terminal forks of Dutch Creek; so named because silt from an old moraine on its N side imparts a yellow colour to the SW terminal fork.
From camp on S terminal fork of Dutch Creek, ascend through trees along stream to wooded pass (6900) on divide just S of objective. Cross several hundred yards onto the W slope and, rounding a subsidiary peak, gain the S ridge which is followed over granite blocks to the summit. Ascent 5 hr, descent 3 hr.
FA E. Cromwell, J. M. Thorington, P. Kaufmann, 7/1930

TRIKOOTENAY PEAK   2728m   8950′
At head of S terminal fork of Dutch Creek; hydrographic apex of Purcell Range.
From head of Dutch Creek and Trikootenay Glacier to col (8400) immediately E, above Morigeau Creek; thence a scramble to top.
FA P. Kaufmann (alone), 7/1930

MT ROWAND   2972m   9750′
One mi W of Trikootenay Peak.
From camp at head of Morigeau Creek via easy rock of NW ridge (reached after traversing Mt Morigeau)

FA B. Lilley, S. Ossofsky, J. Shinno, 8/1960

MT MORIGEAU   3155m   10350′
2 mi N of Mt Findlay.
From camp in cirque at head of Morigeau Creek, gain and follow E ridge, broad at first but narrowing to a corniced snow cret. Climb mostly on N side of ridge, crossing to S side when N slope steepens. Descent via vvery loose rocks on N side of peak.
FA Lilley party (see Mt Rowand), 8/1960

A massif of granite peaks occupying about 6 mi of the watershed as it rounds heads of Morigeau and Granite Creeks. The snowfield on the E slope covers an area of approx 5 sq mi. On the N, Findlay Glacier flows to Morigeau Creek, while to the S, smaller hanging glaciers feed Granite Creek.

MT FINDLAY   3162m   10374′
Highest peak of Purcell Range S of Mt Toby.
From camp on Morigeau Creek, ascend to NE edge of Findlay Glacier, crossing it in a SW direction to gain E ridge from upper basin. Climb short granite faces and chim­ neys to summit. The E ridge can also be reached from Granite Creek, though not too easily
FA E. Cromwell, J. M. Thorington, C. Kain, P. Kaufinann, 7/1930

MIDGE PEAK    2911m   9550′
2 mi S of Mt Findlay.
1. From camp on Granite Creek, cross snowfields and ascend N ridge to summit
FA Lilley party (see Mt Rowand), 8/1960
2. S Ridge. From camp on Granite Creek, approach over snow to col S of objective. Cross and traverse to chute on W face, which is ascended to regain S ridge just below top.
C. Drawbash, J. Halpern, 8/1972

MT LEES   2972m   9750′
Sharp rock peak one mi SE of Midge Peak.
As for Rte 2 on Midge Peak to col S of latter. Descend 600′ and traverse around W side to ledge on SW face from which summit ridge is attained. Main ridge is easy but rock on ledge is extremely loose.
FA Lilley party (see Mt Rowand). 8/1960

MT CLUTTERBUCK   3063m   10050′
Next SE of Mt Lees; the Smost peak in the Interior Ranges to reach an elevation of 10,000′.
From camp on Granite Creek. ascend moraine to eft (s) of glacier snout. Cross galcier between Mt Lees and objective to col between them. Climb to summit via chute on NW face.
FA Lilley party (see Mt Rowland). Aug 1960


MT PAMBRUN   3063m   10050′
Attractive glacier-hung peak in SW angle between S termi­nal fork of Carney Creek (Pork Creek) and the main stream. 4 mi WNW of Mt Findlay. Perhaps the most remote major peak in the Purcells.
FA party approached from E via Toby Creek and a N terminal branch of Camey Creek. It is now better to approach from Johnson’s Landing on Kootenay Lake via the 4-wheel drive road on Carney Creek. This road extends to within 7 mi of Pambrun Creek which flows N from the peak to Camey Creek.
From camp on Camey Creek (4100), bushwhack up ridge separating Pambrun and Pork Creeks. Above treeline continue S along ridge to small lake at 7900′ below principal N glacier (7 hr, high camp on FA). Climb rock rib to right (W) of glacier tongue to gain glacier itself. Ascend it to steep snow leading to summit (2 hr). Ascent 9 hr; descent by same route
FA G. Brown, H. Butling, C. Penn, J. Steed, 8/1964

MT KLAHOWYA   2911m   9550′
On main Purcell divide 3 mi S of Mt Clutterbuck; at SW head of major W tributary to Findlay Creek 4½ mi S of Granite Creek.
From camp on W tributary (5670), ascend SW to glacial basin below peak, crossing it to take snow of SE slopes to top. Ascent 5 hr.
FA E. Cromwell, J. M. Thorington, E. Feuz, Jr, 6/1931

RADIANT PEAK  2789m   9150′
A symmetrical snow peak between heads of W and SW ter­minal forks of Findlay Creek and W terminal fork of Dewar Creek.

MT ST MARY   2911m   9550′
12 mi SE of Mt Findlay above S terminal forks (lakes in both) of Findlay Creek, of which snowfield on N side is the source.
From camp on Findlay Creek 3 mi N of objective, go up SE terminal fork, angling up through alplands and across polished slabs to reach large N snowfield. Cross to N ridge and follow it over snow and short cliffs to summit. Ascent 7 hr.
FA E. Cromwell, J. M. Thorington, E. Feuz, Jr, 7/1931

NOWITKA MT   2911m   9550′
1½ mi SW of Mt St Mary; lakes in E cirque between it and Mt St Mary form source of White Creek, a main NE tributary to St Mary River.

TOTEM PEAK    2819m   9250′
4½ mi S of Mt St Mary; at SW head of E-facing cirque with several lakes, next S of E cirque mentioned under Nowitka Mt; approached from White Creek.
Route follows main dihedral in centre of 900′ vertical granite wall. Much nailing, often marginal in thin bottoming cracks. About 30 pi­ tons plus assorted chocks; F8, A3. 3½ days on FA, but can be done faster.
FA Myers, A. Twomey, E Face, 10/1974

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I would like to think of myself as a full time traveler. I have been retired since 2006 and in that time have traveled every winter for four to seven months. The months that I am “home”, are often also spent on the road, hiking or kayaking.
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