Summit Elevation (m): 3072
Trip Date: July 27 2017
Elevation Gain (m): 1700
Round Trip Time (hr): 8
Total Trip Distance (km): 14
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 : you fall, you sprain your thumb
Difficulty Notes: Easy / moderate scrambling when dry via a scree gully on the NE end of South Totem Peak.. Note: We combined this peak with Spreading Peak.
Technical Rating: SC5; RE4
GPS Track: Download
From the summit of South Totem Peak, Spreading Peak looked pretty darn sweet. I remembered looking up at Spreading Peak from our long traverse towards Marmota Peak in 2015 and thinking the same thing. A beautiful line of snow highlights the ridge to the summit cap and it looked pretty easy to boot. The issue – as with any peaks in this part of the Siffleur Wilderness – is access. There is no quick or easy way to access the gorgeous summits in this area. Or is there? As with Bison Peak to the north, South Totem and Spreading are surprisingly easy to access from Hwy 93 and as Phil Richards and I were quickly discovering, not even a long day is required to ascend them. Only around 4 hours after leaving the highway, we found ourselves descending a well-placed and remarkably easy scree gully down the south face of South Totem towards the Spreading Peak col. The gully led to a delightfully soft and fast scree slope which resulted in wide smiles and huge leaps and bounds all the way down to the col.
We were encouraged and energized by the easy, fun escape from South Totem and this translated to an energy boost up the easy NW ridge of Spreading Peak. The most remarkable thing about the ascent was the intimidating view back towards the south face of South Totem which looked much harder than we’d experienced only a few minutes earlier. It was easy to see how the descent could be complicated without traversing the true summit to its far eastern end like we had. Sometimes the mountains bear rewards for persistence, I suppose.
The views from Spreading Peak were obviously very similar to the ones from South Totem, although the changing weather and different perspective was interesting enough to validate the add-on summit. After spending another 15-20 minutes at the top of our second peak of the day, we turned our attention on the descent.
For descent we had options to consider. Part of us wanted to explore the gorgeous hanging valley between some of Spreading Peak’s outliers and the two summits we’d just scrambled, but part of us was a bit apprehensive about the bushwhack this might lead to. In the end we decided that since there was no hugely compelling reason to descend into the hanging valley (i.e. no tarns or waterfalls), we would instead descend an obvious orange-colored scree slope to a lower bench on South Totem before following that bench back to our ascent line and then back to Totem Creek and our exit trail. This idea worked beautifully. The side-hill traversing got old, as always, but was fairly short-lived.
The exit from treeline was quick and easy. I really enjoyed this trip. We had great conditions and got lucky with several route choices. We managed to round trip over 1700 vertical meters and 14 km in less than 8 hours too! This should be considered fairly quick – I would think 9 to 10 hours would be more of an average for most people to enjoy this great outing.