After reading my ranking on which 103 hikes to do in 2021, a few of you asked about which scrambles to do in southwest (SW) BC, and I’ve decided to do this in two parts. The first, contained in this post is a ranking of the 60 or so scrambles from Gunn’s book that I’ve done over the years, and the second, to come later, will be descriptions of my favourite scrambles NOT found in the popular guidebooks.
As the back of the book says, scrambling is the bridge between hiking & mountaineering, and carries significant risk. Always bring your helmet, ice axe, sometimes a short rope to help with descents, and always be prepared in case a route takes significantly longer than you expect.
So, without further ado…
The Top 10
If you live in southwestern BC, if you haven’t done one of these scrambles, now is the time.
- Tricouni Peak
The standard scramble up Tricouni peak encapsulates the best of BC scrambling. You start high, quickly work your way into the meadows, hike past some of the most beautiful azure lakes in BC, work you way up a bit more meadow, and then have some really fun easy / moderate scrambling on good rock right now up to the summit where there are fantastic views all around. And it’s close enough to town that you can still be home for dinner. All killer, no filler.
- Black Tusk
The most iconic peak in SW BC, only true yahoos go to the true summit of the Black Tusk, which requires ropes and either a downclimb or rappel off of a rubble bollard, but for the rest of us, the false summit is still a coastal must-do and only something like 2m lower. The ascent gully requires 3rd class scrambling on somewhat crumbly rock, so I strongly recommend going up really early or late to avoid the crowds.
- Golden Ears
Right at the easiest end of scrambling, Golden Ears is a must-do regardless due to its prominence from most of Vancouver, variety on the route up, and quality of the summit. Depending on time of year an ice axe can be very helpful. For a great photo, take a few minutes from the main summit to head over to the other “ear”.
- Tomyhoi Peak (USA)
Similar to many of my other favourites, the route to Tomyhoi starts high. After ascending up the hiking trail to the shoulder of Yellow Aster Butte, you spend the next couple hours trekking across beautiful open terrain towards the subsummit of Tomyhoi. From the subsummit, the true summit looks like a serious climb, but as you reach the notch between the two, the (difficult) scrambling route becomes clear and you end up being able to climb the summit spire on good quality rock.
- Sky Pilot
Along with North Twin Sister the most difficult of my top scrambles, Sky Pilot is now easily accessed via the Sea to Sky Gondola. Hike a few km up the old Shannon Creek FSR, ascend up the basin to the Stadium Glacier, carefully cross it to ascend rocks on the far side (ice axe often needed, I once witnessed a bad slide on ice here), and up the ridge to the base of the pink slab. Here the scrambling gets more serious, with some challenging moves on the pink slab, and a fair bit of exposure higher up as you ascend the final gully to the summit. Two or three people have died here since the Gondola opened. Someone has installed rap rings above these two most difficult sections and I once used them and a short rope in my pack to lower two Latvians who were stranded due to being too scared to downclimb. Nonetheless, for those capable, Sky Pilot boasts incredible views and great scrambling on high quality rock.
- Lady Peak
Going back to easier routes, Lady Peak is the even-more-fun cousin of Cheam Peak. 2/3 of the route is the same, but break off the Cheam trail to leave the crowds behind and follow nice terrain and an unexposed ledge system right up to the summit block where you have fantastic views of the rest of the Cheam range. Once the crowds below have thinned a bit, drop back down to bag Cheam before you head home for the day.
- Frosty Mountain (East Summit)
Really just a hike, and also in my 103 hikes top 10 list, Frosty mountain’s east (tourist) summit is recommended nonetheless for the eager scrambler due to the quality of trail, beauty of area, and overall situation. Go in early October to catch the golden larches! It might be possible to do a scrambling ascent the true summit of Frosty from the hiker’s summit via the connecting ridge, but I’ve only ever ascended the true summit of Frosty via the opposing ridge and on skis.
- Needle Peak
Another short and sweet trip, Needle Peak is a great introduction to BC scrambling. It only takes an hour or so to reach wide open terrain, and the route up to the summit has number of variations possible, ranging from easy to challenging, but all on great rock.
- North Twin Sister (USA)
Along with Sky Pilot, the most challenging of my top recommendations, North Twin Sister is a full day outing and and a proper 3rd class alpine climb. Bike up the road and trail as far as you can go, scramble up the challenging west ridge to the summit, then if conditions permit, descend the north face on snow (ice axe and good boots required!), bushwhack back to your bikes, and roll back down to your vehicle. Recommended for anyone wanting to see the upper end of “scrambling” and to get a taste of the “I’m way out there” feeling that comes with alpine climbing.
- Cypress Peak
Immediately north of Tricouni, Cypress peak is a great short scramble in the sea to sky corridor. Recommended in early July when the long boulder field leading all the way from the parking area up to the base of the summit ridge is still filled in with snow, rending both ascent and descent quick and easy. Above this, Cypress Peak has a great little summit ridge of moderate scrambling on nice rock.
Not top-10 quality, but should be on everyone’s tick list
- Mt. Price
A great easy hike / scramble above Garibaldi lake, its views are fantastic and its proximity to Vancouver means it can be done in the late season when other destinations are out of reach.
- Crown Mountain
Directly behind Grouse mountain, Crown is many people’s first scramble, and for good reason. It’s very easy to get to, has a couple short scrambling bits on good rock, and a fun summit that feels properly “out there” despite its closeness to town. If you’re up for a stiffer challenge, ascend the 4th class crater slabs route from Hanes valley and descend the regular route.
- Chipmunk Peak
Chipmunk peak and Tenquille north ridge can be done in an easy weekend, camping at beautiful little Opal lake. Mostly a heather walk with a little bit of scrambling near the top, Chipmunk peak is a low-stress wander into a fantastic wilderness.
- Mt. Barbour
My favourite of the trips around Tenquille lake, this is a fantastic half day trip through great meadows and a fun easy ridge on your way in or out of the area.
- Saxifrage Mountain
Valentine lake is one of my favourite camping destinations, and Saxifrage is the main peak above it, featuring about 300m vertical scrambling up the SE ridge. Note that the ridge is a fair bit more challenging than most of Gunn’s other “moderate” scrambles. The moves aren’t particularly hard, but I consider this to be a proper 3rd class alpine climb.
- Brandywine Mountain
While not quite as nice as Tricouni and Cypress, Brandywine is substantially easier. Drive as high as you can, walk through beautiful Brandywine meadows, and wander along the easy alpine ridge up to an iconic summit where you can gaze upon the Cayley massif as well as into Garibaldi park on the opposite side of the valley.
- Mt. McGuire
A short, sweet scramble close to town. The access described in the Scrambles book washed away long ago, so take the newish NE ridge trail up to alpine, then swing across the open bowl to the trail described in the book. Best done in late June or early July when the bowl is snow filled to avoid having too much talus to cross.
- Statimcets Peak (Downtown Creek Peak 8700)
Statimcets itself isn’t a very interesting destination, but the bowl below features some of the best alpine camping in BC. Add on some camping and a scrambling ascent of Linus peak and you’ve got yourself one of the most pleasant weekend trips possible.
- Yak Peak
Yak peak is the unmissable slab on the north side of the Coquihalla highway. Might as well climb it! The short, steep trail ascends climber’s right of the slab, up to a pleasant summit with great views of Alpaca, Vicuna, Guanaco, and the rest of the Anderson river area. Add on a trek over to Nak for a more complete day.
- Blackcomb Peak
After a summer of too many 1500+ metre descents, I’m really into recommending scrambles with easy access, and what’s easier than a scramble with a gondola to within an hour of its base? You won’t find many scrambles with quicker access than Blackcomb (same goes for Blackcomb buttress, its easiest alpine climbing route)
- Mt. Sedgwick
Back to the land of epics, Mt. Sedgwick is a true adventure, beginning with the need to arrange permission to dock with whoever currently owns Woodfibre and arranging a boat to take you there and pick you up. Once this is resolved though, this trip has a bit of everything. Logging road, forest walking, a nice lake, a great camping area near the summit of Mt. Roderick, and a really fine moderate scramble up the long summit ridge. When we were up there the summit register went all the way back to the early 1900s!
- Elliot Peak (Twin Lakes SE Peak)
The area around the Twin Lakes is one of my favourite places in the Pemberton area and I’ve done 3 trips here in the last 7 years. The ascent follows an old road up into the wide open Barkley valley, past a small hut maintained by the local ATV club, and up past the twin lakes. Above here, 90% of the way up Elliot peak is on easy open slopes, with the crux being just a few minutes below the true summit where a fairly loose gully and slope must be crossed to reach the final summit ridge. There’s no shame in stopping at the subsummit, which is what the rest of my party did the day that I went all the way up.
Highly recommended to bring a bike to save your knees on the descent. Amazingly back in the 60s a group of people decided to move their families up into this valley and survived a few years.
- Panorama Ridge
Lower on this scrambles list only because of its proximity to Black Tusk and Mt. Price, Panorama ridge is my number one hike in SW BC. Really just a hike rather than a scramble, it is one of the nicest trips in our part of the world.
- Tenquille North Ridge
Along with Chipmunk peak, the other trip above Opal lake. Tenquille’s north ridge is a great moderate scramble. A few sections on the ridge are a little looser, but it has really nice position, easy access, and can be easily extended to add on an ascent of Goat mountain.
- Grimface Mountain
This route can be reached both from a camp or cabin at Quinscoe lake, or from the other side via Wall creek. In either case, Grimface is the dominant peak in Cathedral park and a great alpine scramble. Similar to Saxifrage mountain, this is a more adventurous / alpine feeling route than the other “moderate” scrambles with interesting routefinding decisions required.
- Sockeye Horn (Mystery Peak)
For whatever reason, Gunn calls Sockeye Horn “Mystery Peak”. I blame Outward Bound. The scrambling on Sockeye horn is top notch, some of the best I’ve done from the routes in this book. The only reason I don’t put this higher is that reaching the peak requires hours of side hilling in each direction as you traverse around one of the ridges of Beaujolais.
- Mt. MacDonald
Like most routes in the Chilliwack valley, Mt. MacDonald is a long day. You have to take the long trail in to Radium lake, ascent to the MacDonald / Webb col, and then find your way up to MacDonald. Luckily the alpine part of this route is a ton of fun. Make the most of your day by adding on a quick ascent of Webb while you’re up there.
- Cheam Peak
This low on the list only due its proximity to Lady peak, my recommendation for scramblers is to do this only as a two-fer along with Lady. That’s the fun scramble, this is the one everyone sees and knows from the highway.
The Very Good
- Sun God Mountain
The road up Tenas creek is pretty awful, with 90+ waterbars needing to be crossed, but once you’ve made it up the road, a flagged route in fairly good condition leads quickly up to treeline, and from here it’s pleasant boulder walking all the way up to Sun God’s little pointy summit that has great views all around.
- Mt. Pelops
The easiest peak above Lake Lovely Water (well, other than Iota, which you go over on your way to Mt. Pelops), Pelops is a great half day trip. Most people cross the small glacier unroped, but I’ve had enough close calls with crevasses in my mountaineering career that I think it’s worth lugging up your harness and rope for the crossing.
- Brunswick Mountain
Vancouver’s best training hike? By itself Brunswick is just a long training hike, but make the trip more interesting by first going up and over Mt. Harvey to turn it into a fun full day of north shore exploration.
- Long Peak
Honestly it’s hard for me to rank the various peaks on the Stein Lizzie divide, having once spent 7 days in the area climbing the ones in Gunn’s book as well as a few (Mt. Skook Jim, Mt. Cline, Diversion peak) not in there. Nonetheless, Long peak is the one that stands out as the most memorable from our second camp at Arrowhead lake. Long peak features many tarns, a long moderate scramble, and can be extended for an even longer day by continuing on to Diversion peak.
- Mt. Outram
Another long hike rather than a true scramble, Mt. Outram is a surprisingly short trip considering it’s massive elevation gain because it’s just up, up ,and more up. Nonetheless, it has a well developed trail and great meadows at the right time of year.
- Tynemouth Peak
See my comment for Long peak. Tynemouth and Arrowhead can both be traversed for an easy day from a camp at Arrowhead lake.
- Arrowhead Mountain
Indistinguishable in my memory from Tynemouth peak. Do both to be sure you do the best one of the two!
- Mt. Webb
Very pleasant short and easy scramble up from the MacDonald-Webb col. MacDonald is by far the more interesting of the two, but from the footbeds it looks like most people who go past Radium lake just head to Webb. South facing, its route is snow free when MacDonald is still deep in snow.
- Cloudburst Mountain
As a scramble, Cloudburst is pretty mediocre, especially when Tricouni is right next to it. On the other hand, it’s straightforward, short (only 4 hours return to car when there’s still some snow on the route), and as a result I’ve been up there three times in the last 10 years as a place to take friends on their first true off-trail hikes.
- Mt. MacFarlane
Another Chilliwack valley route with a heck of a lot of elevation. The trek up and down from Pierce lake is a real trudge, but the route above is very pleasant, through boulder fields, meadows, and eventually a very nice easy ridge ascent to the summit.
- Gott Peak
Gott peak has some of the best meadows I’ve ever encountered in BC, but it is lower on this list because it’s really just an easy ridge hike rather than a scramble.
- Mt. Hanover
Another route with a lot of elevation gain for what you actually get, Mt. Hanover is significantly more challenging than its neighbour, Mt. Brunswick. The gullies are quite steep, but the boulders were stable enough. Recommended to do it in the early season when they’re largely snow filled as a good place to practice your step kicking and ice axe self belay skills.
- Caltha Peak
On our week long trip to the Stein-Lizzie divide, our first camp was at Figure Eight lake, and Caltha peak was the most pleasant of the easy scrambles near that lake.
- Pyramid Mountain
The nearest scramble to a camp or cabin at Quinscoe lake in Cathedral park, Pyramid mountain is by no means a must-do, but is a very fun and enjoyable half day scramble nonetheless. Excellent choice for a route to do on the day you arrive.
- Mt. Rohr
One of the easiest scrambles in the Duffey area, both in terms of access and difficulty, Rohr has great views to the Marriot basin area on one side, and Joffre group on the other.
- Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow mountain is a nice ascent across from Whistler. It’s objectively a good trip, but with so many nicer trips in the same area, it gets knocked down the ranking. Recommended to do it as a crossover from Madeley lake to Whistler.
- Lakeview Mountain
A nice hike through pleasant meadows and worth doing on a trip into Cathedral park, but pales in comparison to the hikes and scrambles on the other side of the vallley.
- Birkenhead Mountain
The upper part of the route up Birkenhead mountain is excellent. Unfortunately the first part involves following a goat trail across a long, steep dirt slope where a slip could be disastrous.
- Mt. Burwell
Another training hike. Do it as a bike & hike via the Seymour valley in early season to get in some exercise and prepare for doing something else.
- Harris Ridge
Just a walk in the south Chilcotins. Beautiful, beautiful terrain, but if you’re going to check out the Chilcotins do yourself a favour and explore on a bike, perhaps doing a drop from a float plane.
- Anemone Peak
A nice peak in the Arrowhead lake area. Nothing wrong with this, just there are better peaks in the area.
- Tabletop Mountain
- Copper Mound
A very pleasant half day trip from Tenquille lake
- Seven O’Clock Mountain
Same approach as for Sun God, and easily done in the same day, mostly a long walk across a plateau with a short thumb at its end.
- West Lion
Despite its prominence from Vancouver, I am not a fan of the West Lion. The traverse sketches me out, and the people crossing it even more so. I’m surprised more serious injuries don’t happen here. Harvey & Brunswick are better trips in the same area.
- Crystal Peak (Twin Lakes NW Peak)
A long boulder field hike above the upper twin lake. Nice enough, but if you’re going to just do one peak, go to Elliot peak.
- Capilano Mountain
Long bike & hike from Furry Creek. The trail is pretty overgrown up to Beth lake, and the route above is pleasant but nothing out of the ordinary.
- Goat Mountain (Tenquille Area)
A fun little jaunt over from the summit of Tenquiille mountain that lets you extend your day a little bit.
- Grouty Mountain
A decent early season trip that can be done as soon as the Hurley FSR opens. It’s a very bland, easy route, but has amazing views across the valley to the semaphore lakes range (Locomotive, Face, etc)
- Decker Mountain
A nice extended hike from the Blackcomb gondola
- Tundra Peak
A short easy hike on the Stein-Lizzie divide in the figure eight lake area. Worth doing if you’re doing a camp in the area and not otherwise.
- Mt. McLeod
Dash over here on your way down from Copper Mound. Only takes 30 minutes from the col between the two.
- The Boxcar
Thoroughly non-essential. Do it after an ascent of Lakeview mountain.
- The Spearhead
Like a couple others down here, other than bagging a peak there’s no point in actually heading here after ascending Blackcomb. Best done in winter as a quick diversion while en route to ski something in the backcountry.