Macdonald Peak & Mt. Webb

Date: June 17, 2017

Participants: Bill, Ilze, Ove, Miranda, Joseph, Oudi, Nancy Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2/3 (steep snow)

Report: A couple weeks ago I found out that my scheduled BCMC trip to Ben Lomond wouldn’t be possible due to bush overgrowth on the Wind Lake trail from Furry Creek, and I needed to quickly select another destination for my trip.  A flip-through of Gunn’s Scrambles book suggested that Macdonald Peak and Mt. Webb in the Chilliwack Valley would make for a good trip destination at this time of year with the long days.  I haven’t been out on many long hikes lately, and I wasn’t sure how well I’d do on a 2000m day, but the forecast was good enough and decided to go for it.

Most of our carpool arrived at the Chilliwack Lake day-use area just before 8am, although one of our drivers missed the turn and drove part way around the lake before heading back to the proper parking area.  This delayed us somewhat, but we were able to start hiking at around 8:30, down the beach trail towards the bridge and over the Chilliwack River.  From the river crossing, it’s about a 2.5km walk downriver to the no longer existent bridge crossing mentioned in Gunn’s book, and another 500m up to the (well-signed) start of the Radium Lake trail.

The trail up to Radium Lake is long and quite uninteresting aside from the 3 creek crossings: one on a remarkable suspension bridge that would have been a huge effort to construct, one on a flattened log, and the other on a plain old footbridge.  We hustled up the trail without any significant breaks and reached the lake at 11:30 (parking to lake: 3 hours).  Miranda’s flight the previous evening had been significantly delayed and landed at 2:30am, so she elected to sleep on the tent platform by the lake while the rest of us went up to the peaks above.

The flagging indicating the trail up to the Macdonald-Webb col was not obvious to us from the tent platform, and so for the first 10 minutes above the lake we found ourselves bushwacking up the hill before stumbling across a perfectly good trail that we should have been on all along.  We hit snow just before the trail leaves the trees, and with good snow conditions were able to quickly kick steps up to the Macdonald-Webb col where we stopped for lunch and to put on our crampons (lake to col: just under 1 hour).

From the col, we could see that our route up Macdonald would be almost entirely on snow, whereas the south ridge of Webb was 99% snow free.  Macdonald being the larger peak, we decided to head there first, and quickly made our way up to the false summit on snow.  From here, Gunn’s book suggests scrambling up the north ridge, but there was a snow face just to the right of it that appeared to go nearly to the summit, so with our ice axes and crampons we kicked steps up the steep snow slope (~40-45 degrees at steepest point) until we hit rock just below the summit block.  Here we removed our crampons and it was a quick 5 minute scramble on to the summit, which we reached at about 2:05 (col to Macdonald summit: 1 hour, 20 minutes).  We relaxed on the summit for a while, taking in the views of Rexford as the clouds permitted, before starting our way down to the col, departing at around 2:30.

The initial descent was slow as we kicked steps back down the steep snow, but soon sped up and we headed back down to the col, stopping for another bite to eat.  It was getting late by the time we were ready to start our ascent of Webb and so we left our packs in the col, and hustled up the obvious south ridge of Webb as quickly as we could.  Joseph and I made it to the summit in 21 minutes from the col, and the last of us made it up in 30 minutes.  The views were much better from the summit of Webb than they were from Macdonald, so we stopped to take photos and enjoy the day, but eventually noticed it was 4:30 and that we’d need to hustle to make it back down.  The descent off of Webb was quick and easy, and snow made the descent down to Radium lake quick as well, and we reached the lake at 5:30 for our final major rest of the day.

Like so many other hikes in BC, the final stretch of this trip was a real slog and really not fun at all.  With tired legs the descent from Radium Lake to the Chilliwack River and then the ascent back to Chilliwack Lake and the parking lot seemed to go on forever, but we eventually reached our cars at about 8:20 (lake to parking: 2 hours, 35 minutes).

We were really lucky with the weather as it was great for efficient movement: high overcast all day, never raining and never hot.  As a final note, I would not recommend that anyone ever choose to hike just to Radium Lake.  It’s not a particularly nice lake, and you can’t see much of anything above it.  If you want to go to Radium Lake, I would strongly recommend that you follow the trail up to the Macdonald-Webb col, where the great views start, or even ascent all the way up to Mt. Webb.  Thanks to everyone for coming out with me.  I got to summit two new peaks, and had a great day!

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