MOUNT EVANS 2734m 8970’
Map: 82F/9 St. Mary Lake
Mt. Evans, the second highest Purcell peak south of Gray Creek Pass, is located 9 km. southwest of St. Mary Lake and 15 km. east of Snowcrest Mtn. This peak appears in the index to the 1971 Climber’s Guide, but not in the text. There is no reference in the subsequent edition. Despite the peak’s seeming distance from Nelson, Sacha Kalabis, Leanne Lindsay, Kyle Ridge, and I scaled it from a car camp and still caught the 6:10 pm ferry from Kootenay Bay on the way home.
First, the road access. Drive the Gray Creek Pass “highway” to the junction with St. Mary River Road. Turn right onto this mainline and follow it 14 km. south and east to the east end of St. Mary Lake. Re-set your odometer; turn right onto Lakeside Road, and cross a wooden bridge over the St. Mary River. At 600 m., take the second right turning, the signed St. Mary/Hellroaring FSR. At 1.6 km., turn right onto the signed St. Mary/Meachen FSR. Stay on this for 15.7 km. from the St. Mary River road until you reach an unsigned road on the left just before the km. 14 sign (if you cross a bridge, you have gone too far). All driving has been 2WD to this point. Switch to 4WD LR and crawl up this unsigned Fiddler Creek road for 1.1 km till you encounter the signed Mt. Evans Trail head on the left. We should warn you that, although the grade is not steep and the roadbed is solid, it is so badly overgrown with alder that you can scarcely see your way.
A scant 100’ beyond the trailhead, the road miraculously clears and widens to yield good campsites and a turnaround spot. Bring your own water. I discovered Mt. Evans and its superb trail through reading Janice Strong’s excellent book Mountain Footsteps. Once again, her directions were accurate, and the outing well worthwhile.
Starting at 6:10, we wended our way up the wide, well-graded trail from 4600’ to the ruins of a cabin in the so called Evans or Pollen Basin. After crossing a creek, we followed the track past two open-trench copper workings and up a gentle rise to the west to gain the west ridge of Mt. Evans at 7,200’. From this point the trail grew fainter as we followed the wide, gentle ridge through burns and some bushwhack terrain before reaching scree slopes. Staying on the narrowing ridge, we finished with 200’ of good scrambling on solid granite to reach the summit (big cairn, no record) at 10:50 for a 4 hrs. 40 min. ascent.
During our 50 min. stay on top in mild temperatures and under sunny skies, we easily identified Snowcrest, Haystack, White Grouse, and Loki. However, this new perspective was disorienting, and it was only after some time that we picked out the impressive snow peak to the right of Loki as Mt. Brennan.
For the return, we re-traced our steps without incident in 3.5 hours, arriving at the truck soon after 3:00 pm.
Mt. Evans Trail was built by Bill and Charlie Evans of Marysville, who mined and trapped in this basin, 1915-1940. If you enjoy a superb trail, attractive larch-studded terrain, a bit of mining history, and a strenuous but technically easy outing to a major southern Purcells peak, this is the outing for you.