Summit Elevation (m): 3002
Trip Date: Saturday, May 22 2021
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5 from the Clearwater Trail
Elevation Gain (m): 1600 from the Clearwater Trail
Reference Trip: A Journey up the Clearwater River
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall you sprain something.
Difficulty Notes: A remote but fairly straightforward hike and scramble.
Technical Rating: SC5; RE5
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
After a long, difficult 31km bike ride up the Clearwater Trail, followed by a 2km hike, Phil Richards and I were more than ready to ditch the overnight packs and start up our planned route on Lost Guide Peak. We had no idea if our route would work or not and had zero beta on this remote peak that sits almost a vertical mile over the Clearwater River valley below. These are the types of peaks that hold our interest and there really is only one way to see if our plans would work – one foot in front of the other until we either made the summit or were turned back!
Our planned route was pretty straightforward as far as these things go. A south drainage led obviously up to a much narrower channel running NE to a large south bowl. This bowl looked to lead quite easily to a west ridge at the summit. We had some doubts about the marked summit being the highest – there is a north summit and some very distinctive SE towers that look very similar in height on photos from afar. Again – there’s only one way to find these things out and that’s to stand on top and see what’s what.
We started up the drainage on loose boulders and rocks with no water flowing down it. Within a few hundred meters there was running water and a few hundred meters further and there was a proper stream. At least we wouldn’t have to worry about water on this trip. The sky was wild with huge mare’s tails and a deep blue color. The stream was crystal clear, reflecting the sky above. The terrain was pretty straightforward other than some slabs that we had to cross to avoid steep, unconsolidated terrain to the west. The route reminded me of Claw Creek up the Malamute valley in the Ghost Wilderness. After about an hour we closed in on the part of our route that we were crossing our fingers over. We had to get over to the large south bowl under the summit and the only way to do this was via a hidden gully which was not visible on photos or easily scouted on satellite images. In a highlight moment for the year we turned a corner in the creek and started up a wonderful little gully route that was made even easier by lingering snow. These are the moments that make a scrambler’s career – finding sneaky little routes that are much easier and more straightforward than they should be!
We were pretty pumped as we made our way over to the south bowl. We needlessly detoured out of the channel on climber’s right before traversing scree slopes into the lower south bowl.
The summit was still many hundreds of meters above us as we slowly started up remnant snow patches. As usual, an upper col was our first target and looked pretty close. As we kicked steps up and up and up the col seemed to retreat – taunting us with its delusion-of-ease. We kicked steps under a natural sphinx feature before running out of snow in our gully and slowly trending left up to the col.
As the col finally came to meet us and some of the outliers slowly lowered themselves, our views got better and better. Unfortunately for us, our legs were getting tired after the days efforts but in another fortuitous turn of events the sky went from cloudy (nice for the ascent) to clearing (great for views). As I kicked steps up the west ridge the summit I was delighted to see the stunning views back down the ridge and over the north bowl of the peak down to a still-frozen Lost Guide Lake far below.
Thankfully, as we ascended higher and higher the SE towers dipped below us, as did the north summit. We were indeed going to make the true summit! Finally at 17:30 we took the last few steps to a very old cairn on the top of Lost Guide Peak. Despite being later in the day at this point we took some time at the top of the peak, taking photos of distant giants and obscure peaks in every direction. Prominent peaks included Whelk, Forbidden, Cheshire, Wampum and Peters. Distant peaks included everything from Stewart to Cline to Willingdon, Cataract, Hector and many many other familiar friends.
We still had some distance to cover before camp and after 30 to 40 minutes at the lofty summit it was time to descend. We searched the old cairn vigorously and were disappointed to find absolutely no evidence of a register. We knew the cairn was old both due to the way it was built and from lichen on the rocks. I have no way of knowing how many other ascents this prominent peak has had over the years but it can’t be that many. No matter – it was worth it for me to stand up there with those views! Our descent down snow slopes was quick to the lower gully.
We stayed in the hidden gully this time, rather than traverse above it and this worked well. Once in the south drainage the going got easier again. I stuck in the forest on the east side as much as possible to make things a bit quicker but the main gully was pretty manageable too.
Soon enough we were back at our overnight packs and preparing for the rest of our day. Lost Guide Peak feels like a special peak to me. To be honest, most of my ascents are special for their own reasons but this particular peak feel much like some other locals that I’ve done such as Condor, Bellow, Howl and Tomahawk.
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