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Today would be our third hike on the mountain and our second to reach the summit. Our previous attempt was in 2012. In July 2012 we were stopped by snow but made later in September. Today was almost 3 years later to the day. I was looking forward to a tougher hike than what I had been doing earlier in the year with my friends from the Radio Club. Today’s hike with Geoff would be harder but still not too difficult, having done the trail before makes it easier to follow.
Our day began around 7:30 but seemed to progress in slow motion as we made our way through the regular activities of getting some coffee, fueling the truck and then buying some beef Jerky. Geoff added one extra stop to buy some lunch supplies as he had missed a major ingredient. The drive along the highway went smoothly but it was here that we discovered that the Sumas repeater was once again off the air. We had planned to use it to co-ordinate our activities. Too late to really find an alternative we continued on. We arrived at the start of the logging road in good order and started up the rough road to the far end of the deep valley.
The road was more over-grown than before as one could expect but it was still open enough to make reasonable time up the slope. Three years ago we had to clear some trees but this trip there were none in the way. Geoff spotted a Grouse on the road at one point and we stopped so he could hunt it with his bow. The season was open for Bow hunting. He shot twice but missed and he was only able to find one of the arrows. A bit later and just before the end of the road he tried again but shot between two birds! I finished the drive along the road and parked the truck. We were the only ones on the road and in the parking area.
After getting ourselves organized and our gear loaded onto our backs we started up the old roadway, it was 11:30, a good hour later than we had planned. The roadway had a decent trail carved into it, better than what I remembered from my earlier hikes. It looked like there had been a bit of trail work done. The first thing we noticed was that the plants were quite drenched and we were quickly becoming very wet ourselves. Pushing through the plants involved knocking off the leftover rain from the night before. It was going to be a soaker until we reached the thicker forested section. Eventually Geoff got tired of breaking trail and I took over.
Once through the wet section we started up through the steeper forested segment to the ridge line. This portion of the trail is reasonably easy to follow as it takes many switchbacks up the slope to the base of a granite wall. We then made our way along the base and crossed over a large fallen tree which was cut into a bridge for the hikers. We continued up slope past a ladder crafted from two trees. It looked safer to walk alongside it rather than use it. The trail continued up the slope fairly steeply until it finally reached the ridge line where it opened up into broader meadow sections. Here the sun had dried the plants and we were no longer in tall wet bush. In fact we were reasonably dried off already.
The hike along the ridge is quite pleasant, mostly in the shadow of trees but still in fairly open country. We continued up and over the ridge to start the traverse of the heather covered talus field below the summit. In some ways this can be the trickiest part of the hike. The slope is very steep and covered in heather. One has to pick their footing very carefully to not slide or get wedged between rocks. After gaining some elevation we came by a large boulder where I could rest and get my crampons put on. Now I was able to handle the heather much easier and we made better time crossing the slope to the far ridge. We zipped up the far side glad to be done with the talus field. The views were already very spectacular and I could see the summit now not overly far away though there was still some major slope to climb. We were able to find a faint trail again on this side of summit and we followed it up the steep ridge and then across to the south to where there is a treed section that one can use to pull oneself up to the summit ridge. I sure was happy to have my spikes on. Once over the lip we were on the top ridge with only a short walk along it to central peak and the summit of Wells. Once we had both arrived we stopped to eat lunch, it was a bit after 2pm. We took 2.5 hours of hiking to get here. Not really that bad.
Once rested, I set up my new 2m yagi antenna and started making calls for contacts on my hand-held radio. My secondary goal of the hike was to activate the summit in the ‘Summits on the Air’ radio program. That requires four contacts from the summit. After chatting with the first guy for a bit we tried turning the antenna and eventually found 3 more contacts. I had achieved the needed number and so I stopped to finish my lunch. After a good rest and some photography I got back to the radio and tried working into White Rock. I managed to reach the club repeater on my home roof and from there chatted with club member Ken but repeater contacts don’t count and we were unable to connect without the repeater. Ralph Webb put out a call a few minutes later on simplex and I was able to work him and get a fifth contact. After Ralph we packed up the antenna and we started down the trail.
It was tiring but much faster than on the way up. The crampons actually made the lower section of trail go smoother and we soon found ourselves past the talus field, down the slope and out of the forest, with only the earlier wet section remaining. Fortunately the sun had dried the plants by now and the trail was actually quite dry and we stayed dry all the way to the truck. As we were packing away the gear we looked up and spotted a pair of hikers emerge from the Hope Mountain trail a few meters from the truck. It came as a bit of a shock as we hadn’t seen anyone on the road going up. They had no vehicle in sight.
Once packed we started down the road keeping a watchful eye out for the pair. We caught up with them a fair ways down the road. I was quite surprised at how far they had gone. A short distance further we passed another couple and their dog who seemed to be out hunting. Continuing down the road we eventually came by both couples trucks. They had stopped at a wide area just below a small water crossing. They sure added a lot of extra distance to their hike. I wonder if they did the whole Hope Mountain hike as they started quite late and were done when we were. That hike is much longer but not as steep.
Arriving at the bottom of the road and almost to the highway we stopped to turn off the 4x4 mode and here we noticed that the front cover of the passenger side mirror was missing! We had no idea where it might have fallen off and we weren’t going back to look for it. So it is another piece we will need to replace at some point. Tired and sore, we made a stop at the Blue Moose to gather up some legal drugs for the drive home. It was getting harder to move by the minute so we needed to get in there and back to the truck fast, fortunately there was no line-up at the till and we got our drinks and were back in the truck and driving with little delay. By the time we arrived home my legs had quite seized up and I was moving very slowly, a good thing for a hot tub – it helped a bit.