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Smith Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 3087
Trip Date: September 1 2014
Elevation Gain (m): 1200
Round Trip Time (hr): 6
Trip Distance (km): 15
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you tripped over your own feet
Difficulty Notes:  No difficulties if dry. No difficulties if wet. By far the hardest part of this mountain is getting up the first 200 vertical meters of it and driving to the trailhead.
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Hiking)
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Because we’re suckers for punishment, we decided it would be a good idea to attempt a third peak in the Harrison area after coming down from Mount Folk on Sunday and after approaching and climbing Mount Harrison on Saturday. The only beta we had on the peak was from Rick Collier. Rick mentions an elk trail that they discovered on their descent and recommends using it and the easternmost ridge “curving to the south” to ascend the peak, rather than scrambling and bushwhacking up any of the other ridges. The parking spot for the ascent is not easy to spot while driving down the spur road because it is overgrown and disappears into the bush behind you as you drive past it. Steven noticed it or we may not have found it so easily! It was approximately at the 5km mark (from either direction). I had plugged in some GPS points so we knew approximately where it was which helped immensely in finding it. It’s also possible that new logging spur roads can be driven up the other side of Harrison Creek so that you could in theory drive almost right to the bottom of the ascent ridge! But good luck figuring out how to do that without getting hopelessly lost or stuck. 

Smith Peak Route Map

We crossed Harrison Creek on a well-placed fallen log which was not put there by humans – this peak doesn’t see THAT many ascents. We continued up an overgrown road on the opposite side, heading east. Without my GPS way points, which I plotted at home ahead of time, we would have been tempted to head up an earlier ridge on Smith, which would have been pretty bad bushwhacking. Instead, we managed to follow first a very new logging road (with recent vehicle tracks) for about 2km and then a switch backing older one (still obvious) until we found ourselves in a hanging valley between the easternmost ridge of Smith and the penultimate easternmost ridge (say that 5 times fast).

This hanging valley was logged many, many years ago in an interesting pattern. Instead of clear cutting the whole valley like they do nowadays, the loggers took strips out, leaving strips of mature forest in between. This was interesting to walk through – we followed bits of trail (elk) through these strips until we realized it was time to get up on that easternmost ridge. We knew it would take a miracle to find the same elk trail that Rick had used and his ribbons were long gone, so we just started bushwhacking straight up the west side of the ridge. To our great astonishment we did come on a great trail! Steven and Ben decided not to trust it as it was trending in a northerly direction and continued to bushwhack. Eric and I followed the trail up. The trail was extremely steep and went right up onto the ridge where it merged with another trail running the spine of the ridge! It was very good fortune to find this trail – remember we were lugging full bivy packs up and had already ascended a mountain and descended to camp earlier in the day.

On the spine of the ridge, looking back at our ascent route. Note the swaths of old clear cut in the valley below and the easternmost ridge on the right hand side of the photo. Mount Splendid rises on the left.

Once on the spine of the ridge it was simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other until we found a reasonable bivy spot. We had a great trail to follow, so we did just that. One surprise was the first false summit. We had to lose at least 125 vertical meters after climbing almost to the top of it so that sucked. We’d hoped to bivy at the col between the two false summits, but there was no obvious place to bivy there so we started up the second false summit on steep, forested slopes – still on an animal trail. About 50 vertical meters higher than the col we found our home for the night. It wasn’t perfect but it would do. The weather was starting to deteriorate and we were tired so we made it work. After setting up camp in light rain, we ate supper and settled in for the night. I had an annoying sleep thanks to the angle of my tent. I kept sliding off the back of my sleeping pad.

Eating supper in light rain / sleet.
Sunrise behind us over Mount Hadiken as we start our ascent.
Easy scrambling in the cool morning air.

We awoke to a pretty gray morning – even some rain drops – but decided that we’d been lucky the previous two days so why not this one too? We readied our packs and started up the mountain to the false summit with some nice sunrise colors lighting up the sky to the east, behind us. As we got closer under the cliffs above camp we started traversing scree slopes on the south side of the false summit and eventually worked our way around it on intermittent goat trails to the col between it and the true summit.

A tighter view of the cliff band that we traversed underneath (R) towards the summit.
Looking back at Eric on the traverse under the cliffs to the col. Mount Hadiken at distant right.
Looking back at Eric on the traverse under the cliffs to the col. Mount Hadiken at distant right.
Right now our summit is in the sun – this won’t last!
A nice morning to be up high on a remote peak. Splendid or “Bull” Mountain at left of center.

Thick clouds started rolling in as we climbed higher up the summit block. Any difficulties on the final ridge were circumvented to the south and eventually we were on the summit with clouds swirling around us obscuring our views and making things very cold. We didn’t linger long, after signing a pretty empty summit register which included the apparent first ascent entry in 1966, we headed back down to our bivy.

The clouds start thickening as we climb adding dramatic views off the ridge.
The clearest pano I got from the summit, looking towards Harrison (L) and Folk (R) which are buried in clouds.

From our bivy we decided to take a risk and descend directly into the valley between the two false summits of Smith Peak’s east ridge. There was a perfect exit ramp from just below our bivy which would potentially save us kilometers of hiking back to the easternmost intersecting ridge. The risk was that we had no idea how bad the bushwhacking would get to exit this hanging valley. The ramp was very quick and soon we were hiking out of the valley along a delightful stream dipping into the forested slopes above the clear cuts. The only intense bushwhacking was a short stretch to get past a series of cliff bands just above the clear cuts lower down. This was bad enough that I wouldn’t want to ascend here, but it worked OK for descent. From there we followed our approach road back across Harrison Creek and to the truck.

I can’t say I highly recommend Smith Peak, but if you’re in the area anyway it may be worth your time. The north ridge of Mount Splendid (named by Pat Morrow presumably tongue-in-cheek due to it’s very non-splendidness) is another option in the area. This peak is also labelled “Bull Peak” on Google Maps. Both could be done as day trips from logging roads nearby but both offer little other than views of clear cuts, scree bashing and bush.

Smith Peak
65 photos
The new logging road that had been driven on recently. We followed this east for a few kilometers. Note the very recent burn across the valley.
The new logging road that had been driven on recently. We followed this east for a few kilometers. Note the very recent burn across the valley.
Mount "Bull" or Splendid looms over us as we hike up the logging road.
Mount "Bull" or Splendid looms over us as we hike up the logging road.
Now we've headed onto a much older road that switchbacks up towards the easternmost ridge of Smith.
Now we've headed onto a much older road that switchbacks up towards the easternmost ridge of Smith.
Now we're on an even older road which was part of the strange strips of old cut blocks in the hanging valley NE of the first false summit.
Now we're on an even older road which was part of the strange strips of old cut blocks in the hanging valley NE of the first false summit.
There was evidence of very old logging activity in the bare areas of this valley.
There was evidence of very old logging activity in the bare areas of this valley.
On a great trail along the spine of the ridge.
On a great trail along the spine of the ridge.
Our first glimpse of the first false summit (L) and Smith rising beyond.
Our first glimpse of the first false summit (L) and Smith rising beyond.
Nice terrain along the ridge.
Nice terrain along the ridge.
On the spine of the ridge, looking back at our ascent route.
On the spine of the ridge, looking back at our ascent route.
Looking back along the ridge towards Mount Peck at center distance.
Looking back along the ridge towards Mount Peck at center distance.
Looking off the south side of the ridge.
Looking off the south side of the ridge.
Great view of our route ahead with the summit looming above. Our eventual bivy site is the small clearing right on the ridge crest above Eric's head here.
Great view of our route ahead with the summit looming above. Our eventual bivy site is the small clearing right on the ridge crest above Eric's head here.
Losing height before regaining it to our bivy which is at center left here.
Losing height before regaining it to our bivy which is at center left here.
The high summit on the far left is an outlier of Harrison and is higher than Smith but unnamed - Harrison SE2 on Bivouac.
The high summit on the far left is an outlier of Harrison and is higher than Smith but unnamed - Harrison SE2 on Bivouac.
View from my tent.
View from my tent.
Eating supper in light rain / sleet.
Eating supper in light rain / sleet.
Looking out from camp towards Mount Peck.
Looking out from camp towards Mount Peck.
There was a very cool rock outcrop near camp - this is looking back at camp from it.
There was a very cool rock outcrop near camp - this is looking back at camp from it.
There wasn't a lot of room and everything was on an angle but we made it work.
There wasn't a lot of room and everything was on an angle but we made it work.
Ben eats his trust Pringles on the outcrop near camp with Mount Peck in the background.
Ben eats his trust Pringles on the outcrop near camp with Mount Peck in the background.
Home sweet home.
Home sweet home.
Sunset over our little corner of paradise. False summit on the ridge at right (from approach) with Peck in the distance.
Sunset over our little corner of paradise. False summit on the ridge at right (from approach) with Peck in the distance.
Looking east at sunset over a long, unnamed ridge to the SE. The summit at far right is Mount Hadiken
Looking east at sunset over a long, unnamed ridge to the SE. The summit at far right is Mount Hadiken
Sunrise behind us as we start our ascent.
Sunrise behind us as we start our ascent.
Looking east back down the ridge. Cross Creek Valley runs towards the Elk River Valley at left, running right.
Looking east back down the ridge. Cross Creek Valley runs towards the Elk River Valley at left, running right.
The clouds added to the dramatic landscape as we got higher.
The clouds added to the dramatic landscape as we got higher.
Easy scrambling in the cool morning air.
Easy scrambling in the cool morning air.
A pano looking left (south) as we go around the false summit - the true summit in the sun light ahead, right of center.
A pano looking left (south) as we go around the false summit - the true summit in the sun light ahead, right of center.
Eric traverses along the cliffs.
Eric traverses along the cliffs.
Steven waits for us under the false summit on the traverse.
Steven waits for us under the false summit on the traverse.
Looking back at Eric on the traverse under the cliffs to the col.
Looking back at Eric on the traverse under the cliffs to the col.
Right now our summit is in the sun - this won't last!
Right now our summit is in the sun - this won't last!
A nice morning to be up high on a remote peak. Splendid Mountain at left of center.
A nice morning to be up high on a remote peak. Splendid Mountain at left of center.
This section was easy and fun, especially in the unexpected sunshine.
This section was easy and fun, especially in the unexpected sunshine.
A nice morning to be up high on a remote peak. Splendid Mountain at left of center.
A nice morning to be up high on a remote peak. Splendid Mountain at left of center.
The clouds start thickening as we climb adding dramatic views off the ridge.
The clouds start thickening as we climb adding dramatic views off the ridge.
The clouds start thickening as we climb adding dramatic views off the ridge.
The clouds start thickening as we climb adding dramatic views off the ridge.
A first ascent register is pretty rare nowadays and 1966 is a while ago!
A first ascent register is pretty rare nowadays and 1966 is a while ago!
Rick Collier register. I'm not sure why he placed a separate one?
Rick Collier register. I'm not sure why he placed a separate one?
Comparing elevation readings.
Comparing elevation readings.
Mount Harrison is buried in clouds.
Mount Harrison is buried in clouds.
The clearest pano I got from the summit, looking towards Harrison (L) and Folk (R) which are buried in clouds.
The clearest pano I got from the summit, looking towards Harrison (L) and Folk (R) which are buried in clouds.
A glimpse of Splendid or "Bull" peak.
A glimpse of Splendid or "Bull" peak.
Descending.
Descending.
Wild landscape.
Wild landscape.
Making our way along the east ridge to the false summit.
Making our way along the east ridge to the false summit.
Splendid Mountain actually looks kind of splendid with the swirling cloud.
Splendid Mountain actually looks kind of splendid with the swirling cloud.
Back around the false summit cliff band.
Back around the false summit cliff band.
Back in warmer weather.
Back in warmer weather.
Looking down the ramp we used to exit the east ridge of Smith from just below our bivy.
Looking down the ramp we used to exit the east ridge of Smith from just below our bivy.
Looking back at the east ridge, we descended the deepest notch you can see and bivied just above it by the prominent grey outcrop.
Looking back at the east ridge, we descended the deepest notch you can see and bivied just above it by the prominent grey outcrop.
The hanging valley beneath our bivy on the ridge.
The hanging valley beneath our bivy on the ridge.
Into the bush... It was pretty good for a while along the stream until we ran into cliff bands further down.
Into the bush... It was pretty good for a while along the stream until we ran into cliff bands further down.
Following the stream.
Following the stream.
Lush forest.
Lush forest.
Any good adventure in the Rockies involves at least some of this.
Any good adventure in the Rockies involves at least some of this.
Eventually we bushwhacked through a short and very steep section of alders to get around the cliff band and came out in this clear cut.
Eventually we bushwhacked through a short and very steep section of alders to get around the cliff band and came out in this clear cut.
I'm not sure why they leave some trees like this? My guess is that they're only allowed to harvest certain types.
I'm not sure why they leave some trees like this? My guess is that they're only allowed to harvest certain types.
The false summit from the clear cut. I wouldn't recommend ascending this way, but it works for a fast descent.
The false summit from the clear cut. I wouldn't recommend ascending this way, but it works for a fast descent.
The end of another successful late summer peak bagging trip.
The end of another successful late summer peak bagging trip.
The drive along the Bull River FSR has many wonderful views like this. I think this is "just" an outlier, but it's a pretty darn impressive one!
The drive along the Bull River FSR has many wonderful views like this. I think this is "just" an outlier, but it's a pretty darn impressive one!

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