Ascent of Purcell Mountain on 2019-04-20

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, April 20, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Purcell Mountain
    Elevation:5442 ft / 1658 m

Ascent Trip Report

I did zero research on Purcell beforehand, and from a turnout just outside Randle going through the beta was a little confusing. Due to washouts and access problems over the years, it seems like the standard route has shifted a few times. And after the fact, I now see people even using an officially designated trail Purcell Mountain Trail #284 that starts directly from Highway 12.

Anyway, I opted to take the "New Trail" that starts on an old logging spur from FS 63/Davis Creek Road. I expected to find a faint climbers trail (something akin to Mount David) but was actually treated to a very well maintained trail to gently switchbacks up to the ridge. It would appear that this is now a designated trail, Trail #285 Purcell Lookout, and it must be seeing active maintenance.

FS 63 is a major artery and is very easy to drive. I ran into some rockfall that hadn't been cleared yet, but I would think that any vehicle could get to the trailhead without any difficulty. The spur starts at a turn in the road (which I drove past), and there is a very cool waterfall just on the other side. The road descends gently to Davis Creek, where there presumably was a bridge at one point in time. Crossing the creek was by far the most dangerous part of the climb. The water is fast flowing, the canyon is narrow, and the creek quickly descends just below the crossing. If one were to fall into the creek, the chance of survival is slim. It would be possible to ford the creek 30' upstream, but the east slope is steep and loose making it hard to traverse up that way. I opted to jump from one wet rock to another across the creek as others have done. Even if I slipped, I was pretty sure I was only going to bang myself up on rocks. I landed without issue and the 8' class 3 climb out of the creek bed on the far side was trivial.

The trail follows the logging road to where it once crossed another fork of Davis Creek. However, the trail begins just before this point and is clearly marked with flagging. It proceeds to make a number of switchbacks up the mountain. The tread was good and there was almost no blowdown. It's also regularly flagged. However, I hit snow around 3900' and there was quickly no longer a reason to stay on the trail. Even late in the afternoon, the snow was in good condition. Despite forecasts of partly cloudy, the weather sucked and it proceeded to rain on me for a few minutes. Eventually, I reached the open sloped a couple hundred vertical feet below the ridge. Due to snow cover I was able to take a direct albeit steep line up to the ridge.

The summit is pretty spectacular, because there are unobstructed views in all directions. Due to cloud cover I didn't get expansive views, but I was able to snack and enjoy looking at the nearby ranges. The descent was pleasant, though the snow was slightly softer than ideal. The only challenge was making sure that I didn't cliff myself out, which I did at one point and had to traverse to climbers right. Crossing the creek the other way is actually more difficult, because the landing spot is smaller. It also doesn't help being more tired at the end of a climb.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3337 ft / 1016 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3337 ft / 1016 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.8 mi / 9.3 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3108 ft / 947 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2707 ft / 825 m; Extra: 401 ft / 122m
    Loss on way in:401 ft / 122 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    Route:"New" Trail (#285)
    Start Trailhead:NF 63  2735 ft / 833 m
    Time:1 Hours 49 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2936 ft / 894 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2707 ft / 825 m; Extra: 229 ft / 69m
    Gain on way out:229 ft / 69 m
    Distance:2.7 mi / 4.3 km
    Route:"New" Trail (#285)
    End Trailhead:NF 63  2735 ft / 833 m
    Time:1 Hours 24 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Connor McEntee
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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