Ascent of Illabot Peaks on 2010-07-17

Climber: Eric Noel

Others in Party:Greg Slayden -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Saturday, July 17, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Illabot Peaks
    Elevation:5944 ft / 1811 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is a modest effort as the peak can be done in half of a day but don't let that fool you. This can be a tricky little peak. Come on a dry fair weather day, bring a buddy or two but no more than that as you won't want to kick rocks on each other. You may well want a rope at least as a handline for some spots or potentially to rap somewhere.

The road has a good bed but the brush is encroaching. Given the small likelihood of maintainence, you should go get this peak now before the plants win. Your car's paint will be scratched and not just for some tiny length at the end of the road that can be walked either. Oh well. The other approach from the N is also stymied by a road washout so this is probably the best choice.

Enjoy a high Cascades road that will get you to 4200'. Park at a berm at a switchback. Walk the road for no more than 100 yards. The road ends in a brushy flat clearcut. Suffer the brush briefly while heading for the bigger trees. Soon you enter the forest and you'll find fairly reasonable travel up to the 4840'+ bump. The least amount of photosynthesis seems to be taking place right on the gradual ridgeline. You'll find a faint boothpath and blue flagging which probably leads eventually to Lake Tupso I would guess.

Continue N from 4840'+ via the blue flagged route, staying just a hair on the W side of the ridge as it drops a bit. Once you've dropped 50' vertical or so, you'll want to easily drop another 120 'or so vertical to a boulder strewn basin of tarns on the E side of the ridge. If you don't get off that ridge, you'll have to bypass a serious gendarme with your rope. You did bring a rope didn't you? Anyway, from the boulder tarns, you'll stay in the obvious depression that you can see on the map that is a gully leading towards Point 5400'+. Easy brush free travel that was on snow for us. The top of 5400'+ looked scrambley, though maybe easily scrambled, so we curved clockwise around the W shoulder at 5360' and took in the pretty little basin by Lake Louise. More snow so we were easily able to traverse to the 5200'+ saddle N of 5400'+.

From here we started up the ridgeline again but found hard class 4. Greg suggested Aid Climbing on the W side of the ridge and I lamented his failure to properly equip himself with a bolt gun and enough rope to put in fixed lines for the next 2000 horizontal feet. Greg was willing to give the route over the top a go but I am a wuss so we contoured just maybe 25' below the summit on the E and found a good connection back onto the ridgeline. From here the travel did not really require scramble moves but there was a lot of steep sketchy heather sidehilling with bad runout. The sort of stuff that makes you break out your ice axe when there is no snow. Not too scary, but no fun. We got into one class 3 move and then saw some class 3/4 ahead just a bit before the ridgeline starts ascending again to 5600'. Here we bailed off of the heather into Bluebell Basin on the E side of the ridge. This required holding tightly onto some steep heather and an awkward entry from a snow patch onto the heather which was hard to do w/o going for a brief ride. We made it down into the flatter part of the basin and were again relieved to find snow and a drainage that we could ascend. Snowy drainages > Scary Ridgelines all day long on Illabot.

From here we went up more snow and we were aiming for the 5560 saddle between Illabot and Point 5600+. A prominent W facing rock block acts as a beacon to guide you up. The travel here steepened but was not too problematic. More steep heather. The only tricky spot was snow above a watercourse that was severely undercut but offered no trouble on the ascent. As we neared the saddle, it got tricky and our route became more uncertain. The saddle itself quickly turned into what looked to me to be hard class 4. I preferred to at least head back E and probe up through the forest. We found that by ascending just below the rock ridgeline we had decent travel. Greg was not fond of the brush but I preferred this safer albeit unpleasant option. At some point, the summit block came down to meet us. Here we traversed right towards what we thought might be Klenke's snags. I took too high of a line and had to make an awkward step around move on a ledge and then drop about 8 feet off of a somewhat smooth rock which Greg was thankfully there to assist me with. We then angled up and right until reaching the brushy gully which we believed was what we wanted. Some exposed class 4 moves to the L of the gully were Greg's preference. I liked the brush belays in the gully but getting into the gully was the crux. This involved going around a bulging rock and the foothold was a tree root that was anchored on only one side. Once in the gully the terrain felt and looked worse than it actually was as there was a good dirt slope under the brush and the brush offered some belays. We made it up the gully and topped out. Now we were near the top at a notch. We saw what we believe to be the ledge wrapping around on the S side. No thanks. Instead we turned up low angle slabs with a rock fin on the left that served for a little bit of security. This was not bad at all but the runout was again severe. We topped and out and it was the summit. Hooray. Find a BM and a weird wooden cross. There is another summit to the E which was a bit lower which is fantastic because the gap between the two was not enticing.

For our descent, I was originally thinking that I might like a rope off of the slabs. Greg was willing to oblige but the more I looked at it the more I thought that going down steps towards a tree just to the skier's left of the slabs looked easier. This is what we did- sans rope- and I do think it was easier. Now at the notch we turned L and went down our brushy gully. I did some crab walking and ass sliding and held onto some trees. Greg followed. At the end of the brush I had a bit of trouble getting out of the gully. Greg was able to get over via his route and give me a hand across. Then we dropped to the snags. We tried going further S rather than angling back towards the saddle but I think in the final analysis here you want to stay just below the ridgeline and head towards the saddle because this will avoid cliffs. As Paul Klenke aptly described it, Illabot has lurking class 5.

Once we were back on our tracks we did the descent into what I am calling Bluebell basin. Here we had trouble only with our undercut stream where I slid and then punched through. I think Greg also may have fallen here and the terrain was quite tedious. But that was just the luck of those conditions and this is unlikely to be a troublesome spot for most folks. We considered regaining the ridge here via snow but we finally decided to probe over the 5100' saddle that is 1/4th of a mile E of Lake Louise. This was fairly easy terrain and it was more sidehilling and up and down but still easier and faster than sticking to the ridge. Definitely it is my recommendation. We reached another pair of snowed in tarns and then crossed over the 5200'+ ridgeline back to the Lake Louise basin. From here we dropped down in a gully W of a grassy riblet between us and our ascent route. This worked pretty well but we had to make sure to get back across the rib to the E before the ridgeline got problematic near 4903'. It's probably just as easy to stay in the E most drainage. No problem getting back to 4840+. From there we coasted. A little bit more brush off of the ridge on our descent and then we did angle right enough as we approached the car and wound up wading through more of the sucky clearcut brush than we needed to. But no major problems and we were happy to see the car and get our peak. This is a pretty area actually and I can recommend it for that. It's quite obscure considering it is public, has a high W side road and good terrain. But the peak does present some route-finding challenges. There is some loose rock. Lots of bad runout. Some sketchy scrambling, at least to a lesser scrambler like myself. And I can't reiterate enough what Paul said regarding the lurking class 5 so be careful of getting a little bit off-route and into some nasty terrain. Enjoy.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3064 ft / 933 m
    Elevation Loss:3064 ft / 933 m
    Distance:5.4 mi / 8.7 km
    Grade/Class:Class 4
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Marine Layer Yielding to El Sol
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:2404 ft / 732 m
    Extra Loss:660 ft / 201 m
    Distance:2.6 mi / 4.2 km
    Route:SW Approach w/ More Ridgeline
    Trailhead:West Boundary Road Terminus  4200 ft / 1280 m
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:2404 ft / 732 m
    Extra Gain:660 ft / 201 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    Route:SW Approach w/ Less Ridgeline
    Trailhead:West Boundary Road Terminus  4200 ft / 1280 m

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