Thunderwater and Whirlpool Lakes lie at the headwaters of Forster Creek in a rocky basin under Catamount Glacier.
Location: Eastern Purcells across watershed from Howser Creek
Elevation gain: 400m
Key elevations: Thunderwater Lake 2130m 7000’
Time: 3-day backpack
Season: July into September
Map: 82K/9 Radium Hot Springs, 82K/10 Howser Creek
Drive: From Radium: At 4-way at Hwy 93/95, turn west, follow signs for Horsethief Creek Road and cross the Columbia River. Drive 10kms to a 4-way junction with Westfall Road.
From Invermere: Drive the Panorama Resort/Wilmer Rd. 1.8km Turn north to Wilmer. 4.4km Turn right at Delphine Lodge in Wilmer and continue north on Westside Road.. 15.4km Turn left (west) on Horsethief Creek FSR.
0.0 Start on Horsethief Road going west
5km Turn right onto Forster/Horsethief Creek FSR
11km Turn left (right goes to Dogleg Lake road)
27.5km Turn left uphill onto small gravel road about .5km past third bridge.
27.7km Lower parking area. 4WD required to drive last 1.5km to the upper parking lot gain 152m 500’
29km Continue straight. TH by Welsh Creek.
35kms End Forster Creek FSR at the 42km sign (27kms from the Horsethief Creek/Westside Road intersection.
Trail: Start at end of the Forster Creek FSR at 1670m (5500’) on an old overgrown road. At 1.8km, wade the large Scotch Creek. Continue to a nice primitive cabin that can be used at 1860m (6100’). Continue west up the south side of Forster Creek staying in the centre of the long valley aiming for waterfalls coming down a rock headwall near the end of the valley. Bushwhack up 60m to alpine meadows north of the headwall. Follow the terrain for 1.5kms heading west up to the south end of the lake.
The lakes are a great place to explore.
Things to do?
1. McLean Lake trail from Frances Creek (one creek north) gives access to McLean Pass at 2440m (8000’). Great views of Thunderwater Lake and Catamount Glacier from across the valley.
2. Most of the rock here is rotten and poor climbing. But immediately west of both lakes between False Forster and Forster Passes, is a long ridge of granite. One of the more special places is a small tarn (285-108), often ice-bound until well into August, at the east end of the ridge. Explore down this ridge.
3. Hike up to Edouard Pass. In August 2017, the Kootenay Mountaineering Club held their hiking camp at the pass over 3 weeks. The above tarn was a favourite destination. A good game trail climbs up to the lake on the pass. Climb “Pulpit Rock” immediately to the west of the lake. This would be a long day hike from Thunderwater Lake.
4. Go to the Olive Hut (82K/10 313-088, on a NW ridge off the Scotch Peaks) . Because of glacial receding, it should be possible to avoid walking on the Catamount Glacier.