MT. WILLETT 2755m 9,040′
From the ’95 Karabiner “Where Are These Mountains Anyway?
Map: 82K/2 Lardeau
This first entry may not fit the criteria, since there have (I think) been recent club trips to these twin peaks overlooking Argenta on the east shore of the north end of Kootenay Lake. However, I haven’t been able to track down written details on approach and routes. Carl Johnson, Peter Tchir, and I made a trip to Willett on the long July weekend of 1995.
One of the best parts of this trip is the drive. From downtown Argenta, proceed along the road to Fry Creek Canyon, bearing left at 11 km. from city centre and left again at the Fry Creek car park. At about km. 12, you will see the signposted Kootenay Joe Road. Turn on to it and drive through some fields and past the last houses. Go immediately to 4WD low range. Now enjoy some 7 km. of mostly first-gear low-range driving; be prepared to back up at switchbacks. The motoring part takes about one hour from the heart of Argenta to the car park and picnic table at 6700′. High clearance only. Check your vehicle’s precious bodily fluids before starting. Not for the faint of heart.
Now for the hiking/scrambly bit. From the picnic table, head N. on a trail into “Airplane Basin” (129-495). Ascend to the crest of Kootenay Joe Ridge to the east of a prominent black outcropping and descend snow and ridge to the N. (129-501). Follow a trail through the col at 131-505, keeping to open country just E. of the height of land. Occasional huge cairns are not reliable as route markers. Continue N. over alps (a variety of route choices on E. side of height of land) to a col at 127-538 and 1.5 km. W. of Winter Pk. Descend a few hundred feet on snow and traverse on snow NW below the 8450′ peak S. of Willett (119-541). The crux is reaching the col at 118-546, which is at the base of the SE ridge of Willett. From snow on the NE side of unnamed 8450′, a snow couloir and easy rock lead to the N. ridge of this peak. An easy descent to the col follows. Alternatively, it may be possible to traverse on ledges or ascend a headwall just E. of the col. Once at the col (7550′), ascend the easy SE ridge and face of Willett to its main, east summit (9040′, cairn and survey marker). This portion is barely third class. Parties may wish to follow the ridge to the west summit (8750′).
Return to vehicle by same route. There is another approach to Willett on the W. side of the height of land, via the headwaters of Salisbury and Bulmer Creeks and a col E. of Tooth Ridge. This route presents fewer technical difficulties than the approach outlined above, but is not recommended: it’s longer, involves more route finding, and is poorly marked. Finally, the geography of the area between Kootenay Joe Ridge and Mt. Willett is complex. Travellers should frequently consult map and compass. Although our party did not use the rope, some may find it useful for gaining the Willett-Peak 8450 col. Let us know what the view’s like; we were completely whited-out on the summit. This was a significant error on our part, because one climbs this mountain only for the view.
Summary Mt Willet 9040′ SE face/SE ridge (III,3,s) Approach from Kootenay Joe fire road, over Kootenay Joe Ridge and via trail and open country to E. of height of land to reach a col W. of Winter Pk. Traverse the NE side of the 8450′ peak SE of Mt. Willett to a pass at the base of the SE ridge of the objective. Then ascend easy broken rock and heather. 4 1/2 hours up. Route desirability may vary depending on time of year and snow conditions. Many thanks to Carl Johnson for information on approaches and routes in this area.