WESTERN PURCELLS (note: this material is 1976 vintage – things haven’t changed much)
Here are included those mountain groups and individual alpine peaks which rise W – often well to the W – of the main Purcell watershed and which are most readily approached from that direction. The past decade has witnessed enormous cultural changes in the Purcell Trench, that major N-S valley that contains the Duncan River in the north and Kootenay Lake m the South. Several old roads and trails leading E into the Purcell Range have been extended and/or improved and many miles of new road have been constructed. Thus, the arduous, multi-day approaches up the long lateral valleys extending W from the Columbia River and then over the Purcell D1v1de, which formerly were necessary to reach such places as the Four Squatters or the Macbeth Snowfield, have been rendered obsolete. Instead relatively short and easy western routes-maybe too easy-have made many of these peaks accessible even on a long weekend! Furthermore, the fact that commercial exploitaition underlies the opening-up of this country makes the improved access something of a mixed blessing.
ACCESS: (1976) The most significant change in terms of mountaineering access has been the extension of the E side road on Duncan River and the building of a road along the E shore of Kootenay Lake. At the village of Cooper Creek, near where Duncan River joins Kootenay Lake, a main road crosses to the E side of the Purcell Trench. A N branch extends to a point beyond where East Creek, which supplies W drainage from the Bugaboos, flows into Duncan River some 7 mi N of Healy Landing. Branching E from this road, a logging road goes about 16 mi up Glacier Creek to the vicinity of Jumbo Pass, along the way giving access to the Macbeth Group and W portions of the Truce Group. From Cooper Creek, the main S branch goes via Argenta to Johnson’s Landing, about 9 mi down the E shore of Kootenay Lake. Argenta is the W terminus of the Centennial Trail”, newly cleared and upgraded, which extends up Hamill Creek to Earl Grey Pass, continuing E down Toby Creek. At Johnson’s Landing, a fire road (4-wheel drive) heads E up Kootenay Joe Creek to the height-of-land and then drops SE along Seven Mile Creek to reach Carney Creek just above the latter’s junction with Fry Creek, of which it is a major tributary. The fire road continues another 5 mi up Carney Creek (see Mt Pambrun). A trail along Fry Creek connects with the fire road near the Fry-Carney confluence and itself goes some 3 mi farther up Fry Creek.
Farther S on Kootenay Lake, an important road heads N from Kootenay Bay along the E shore. Passing through Riondel, it terminates about 9 mi farther N at the mouth of Powder Creek, which is almost directly across Kootenay Lake from Kaslo. A branch road extends approx. 5 mi up Powder Creek. In the lateral valley next S, that of Bernard Creek, there is also a road about 7 mi in length. Thus, only the 13-mi section of the E shore between Johnson’s Landing and Powder Creek is not served by a road connecting to the outside. It is somewhat frustrating that in just this particular stretch is located Campbell Creek which provides the most reasonable access to the Leaning Towers, probably the most interesting peaks in the W Purcells. But perhaps their very inaccessibility makes them even more worthwhile.
The user should note that the condition of all but principal roads is uncertain. From year to year, washouts, blowdowns, slides, collapsed bridges, etc. may make a given road impass able, to cars if not to backpackers. Moreover, logging and mining companies may cease to maintain a road once they have removed the resource. It is wise to inquire locally or check with the BC Forest Service which has stations in this district at Kaslo and Lardeau.
McCoubrey, A. A., “In Search of the Leaning Towers”, CAJ 23-1 (1934). A well-written report of the struggles and well-deserved successes of the 1933 party which first forced a way into this remote region.
West, R. C., “The Macbeth Neve and its Mountains”, CAJ 44-37 (1961). – The enterprising initial foray into this so recently out-of the-way area.
Phelps, D., “Macbeth Group, Spring”, CAJ 53-26 (1970). An interesting example of the nebulous chain-of consciousness type of account popular with contemporary climber-writers from which specific facts are hard to glean!
This remote group of snow-clad mountains lies 9 mi SW of Howser Peak in the Bugaboos. It forms the water-parting between East and Howser Creeks, both tributaries of Duncan River. The glaciated portion of the group extends E-W for a distance of 6 miles and supports 7 main peaks (over 9500′), the highest attaining 10070′.
The N side of the group bears several glaciers, the longest, 2½ mi, all of which drain to East Creek. There is also an extensive snowfield on the S side connected with the N glaciers through a broad central pass (9200). The W flank of the group falls more than 7000′ in just over 5 miles to Duncan River on the floor of the southern part of the Purcell Trench.
An eminence on the S side of this massif was occupied as a survey station by Wheeler in 1910 (CAJ 3-36). The BC Forest Service has a fire lookout (“Duncan”) on a southern spur of the group, in the N angle between Howser Creek and Duncan River. It is connected by trail to Duncan Lake.
1. East Approach. The first party to attempt any of these peaks went in from Boulder Camp (see Chap 2) in June of 1959. A successful approach was made via the S branch of Bugaboo Glacier, passing S of Thimble Peak. On the long ridge extending from Thimble Peak to the Squatters, the party broke their approach march by 3 camps. The Emost high peak (#1, 9850; there are 2 peaks of 9500′ to NE) was then ascended mostly on skis in poor visibility
W. Briggs, W. Brimmer, K. Massie, E. MacArthur, S. Neale (Dartmouth Mountaineering Club Journal, 1960).
1964, the Beck party approached from Healy Landing on Duncan River, ascending ridge N of Dunn Creek for 2 days to camp at timberline SW of group. B. Beck then made a one-day solo circuit of 4 high points (CAJ 48-86, map with peaks numbered E to W). In July 1972, a party consisting of G. Brown, B. Port, and H. Ridge approached the massif from Duncan River via the ridge between Reno and Cockle Creeks. In view of the improved road situation along Duncan River, approaches from the W now supersede the multi-day excursions from the Bugaboos.
These peaks have scant relief above the surrounding extensive snowfields and possess little mountaineering interest. It would appear, however, that this group offers excellent terrain for ski-mountaineering. Data on the individual peaks, numbered E to W, follows:
# 1 3002m 9850′ (Reposing Squatter) FA Jun 1959, DMC party (above).
#2 2972m 9750′ (Crouching Squatter) FA Aug 1964, B. Beck.
#3 3069m 10070′ (Aloof Squatter) FA unknown, cairn on summit.
#4 3002m 9850′ (Humble Squatter) FA Aug 1964, B. Beck.
There are also 2 peaks in the 9500′ class to the NE of #1, and there is another 9500′ peak one mi W of #3 as well.