After many years of eying the Four Squatters from several directions, I thought I had figured out the approach well enough to try to climb them. Two years earlier, I had tried a couple of approaches with Brian Cooles and Nancy Selwood, and we found that the old mining road and trail above the Omo Creek logging road gave quite easy access to the meadows on the ridge between Duncan Lake and Suck Creek. However, it still looked like a long way to the peaks. It turned out that Fred Thiessen and Carl Johnson had climbed the Four Squatters from this approach about 25 years ago, and Fred gave me some useful comments on the route.
The weather for the long weekend did not look promising, but our small group decided to have a go anyway. Mid-day found us slogging up the very steep trail above the mining road. It was a good thing that temperatures were fairly cool. Soon we broke out onto the big meadow plateau on the ridge top, and made our way through beautiful hiking country to the last lake in the furthest north part of the meadows, which was the last possible campsite with water. It was only 4.5 hours into this camp.
Next morning, we got a fairly early start (but not early enough), and began the difficult sidehill across steep ridges and bowls above Suck Creek. After several ups and downs, we made a steep descent down a long gully to reach the moraines at the south end of the Four Squatters ice field. From here, it was good going up the moraines and the lower part of the glacier, which was still mostly snow covered. However, as we got up onto the flatter icefield, we had to thread our way around and over a series of crevasses, and because of the convex roll we were ascending, it was hard to see any further than the next crevasse. This slowed us down considerably.
Finally, at a point we guessed was about an hour from the highest peak, we decided to turn back, otherwise we would be finding our way back to camp in the dark. By this time, black clouds were looming over the peak, and for a while we had watched stormy weather along the Purcell divide to the east. About an hour later, the heavens opened with hail, rain, thunder, and lightning. If we had kept going, we would have been on the summit ridge by then, so we didn’t feel too bad about our decision. The weather improved by the time we reached camp. The next morning, it was a quick but knee-burning hike out.
For the benefit of others who might want to try this, here are some directions. (GPS coordinates are given, which differ slightly from the UTM grid on the 1:50,000 topo maps.) Note: There is no water from Duncan Lake until you get over the height of land at 2100 m.
The Omo Creek logging road starts at 41 km on the Duncan River road. Follow this about 5.8 km to a switchback at 1240 m (E 504250, N 5596470), taking the left fork at about 4.8 km. About 100 m further up the road, you will see where ATVs have made a trail to reach the old mine road, which can be walked to its end at the old mine at 1650 m (E 504730, N 5597130). Take a right fork in the mine road at about 1530 m. From the mine, the beginning of the trail is concealed by bush and windfall; go a few metres NW of the mine and then bushwhack straight up the slope, looking for orange or purple flagging. Soon the trail becomes apparent; it is in quite good shape, and goes straight up the very steep ridge dividing Pat and Gravelslide (Omo) Creeks. At 2000 m the trail breaks out into the open meadows and disappears. Make note of this point (E 505510, N 5597560) in order to find your way back. It’s easy going to the lake at the north end of the meadows (E 506190, N 5599680) which is a good campsite.
From this camp the route to the ice field is hard to describe; I have a GPS track if anyone wants it. Generally, sidehill across east-facing ridges and bowls for 2 km, keeping between 2100 and 2300 m. Drop down a steep gully to 1960m to reach the moraines. Once on the ice field, instead of going straight north towards the highest peak as we did, it may be better to take a more circuitous route further east to a point below the next peak east, to avoid the worst crevasses. It also might be better to go a little earlier in the season.