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It was just short of two years ago that we climbed Hope Mountain. At that time we saw the trail for Wells Peak and decided we would need to come back and try that hike. So here we were two years later starting off extra early for Wells Peak. We wanted to beat the afternoon heat so we left the house at 6:30AM and made only one coffee stop on our drive to the trailhead. Being so early the roads were clear of cars and we made good time all the way to the start of the logging road.
Starting up the FSR went well but soon we came by a large bolder that had fallen onto the road. There was a well-travelled path around it and though tight we were able to get by with little delay. We stopped to take a few photos of the waterfall just up from the level water crossing that at one point had been the place of a bridge. Driving this section of road reminded me of a few past trips where we encountered vehicle troubles – it was here that we first discovered the hole in the floor board of our previous vehicle, a Nissan Pathfinder, which was right above the exhaust pipe and was the cause of the rug smoldering! Today our drive went quickly and we were soon parking at the road end and the start of the trail.
The Hope Mountain trail starts off going down into the creek bed before climbing the far side of the valley, Wells Peak trail just starts straight up the old road. So after getting our gear in order, it seemed to take far too long, we started up the over-grown road. This first section goes quite quickly as it is fairly smooth travel and in a straight line up the side of the valley. The only interesting item we came across were several piles of bear scat. The bear obviously found the old road a convenience as well. Eventually we came to the bend and made our way south gaining elevation a bit slower for the next few hundred meters.
Our first challenge of the day was getting over a large log that was across the trail. Now normally that would be easy but this one was covered in large red ants and they seemed quite aggressive. After planning his move Geoff got over without a problem. Then he helped me over. Once on the far side I took a few steps and stopped short as I felt a painful bite in my calf. I looked down to find a large red ant gnawing on my leg! A quick brush and it was off with no ill effects – those little things certainly can bite. We continued along the old road bed but soon we reached a washed out section which left us scrambling over slippery slope to get to the next segment of trail. Then we reached the forested portion where there is an old sign reminding people of no fires.
The next section was very steep with many small switchbacks as the trail made its way up to the ridge that leads to the northern flank of the peak. The trail is well marked and worn here so it is very easy to follow and though steep the tree-cover makes it cooler and a pleasant section to hike. We came by an old tree ladder which helped us climb up a steep section and then a very long tree bridge which crossed a soggy slope. Continuing up we were getting closer to the ridge when we suddenly realized that we were reaching the snow line. It seems that the late season had left a fair amount of snow still on the ground for us to deal with. It was hot enough that the snow was melting and every so often we watched as a buried tree sprung free from the snow! Though in some ways walking on the packed snow made travel easier, it also hid trail markers and so we were taking longer to determine our path. When we reached the ridge we lost the markers all together and so we hiked out on the open slope and there we beheld the snow packed bowl before us.
Our initial hiking on the snow went fairly easy as it wasn’t too steep and the ground seemed reasonably solid so though tiring due to the steepness, we were able to plot a path upward. As we got closer to the base of the cliffs that drop from the peak we realized that the slope was getting steeper and was also less dense and so we were starting to slip more. Looking forward we saw that the edge of the bowl was even steeper than here and we felt that we wouldn’t be able to hike up it without spiked shoes. So we were faced with the sad decision of turning back short of the peak. Looking even higher we could see that snow continued all the way to the summit and with there being a steep drop on both sides we felt it would be unsafe to cross it with our current equipment. So we grudgingly turned back.
On our way down we decided to head for the ridge rather than retrace our steps and there we found some trail markers and found the general path we should have ascended along. It being passed noon we decided to find a dry level patch to setup for cooking our food and so we continued down the ridge until we reached the place where we first reached the ridge and crossed over onto the open slope. Here there was a nice level rocky area where we could relax and enjoy some sun and food before starting back down the slope. It worked out well and we had a good rest while cooking, I also had some chats with Ralph on my Ham radio. Today’s link went from my hand-held to the Hope repeater onto the Sumas Mountain repeater and over to Ralph’s hand-held in Surrey, it worked well. In packing up, Geoff managed to cut his thumb on his machete which was painful. Fortunately we had enough supplies in our small kits to deal with it.
Done with lunch we cleaned up and started back down the trail. Crossing over the snow seemed to take much longer than what it seemed on our way up but eventually we reached the end of the snow and solid dry ground. Heading back down the slope seemed much harder and steeper than it did on our way up but we made good time and soon were leaving the woods and heading for the ant covered log. This time we both got over without trouble. The final stretch down the logging road seemed to take extra-long as the sun was now out in full force and we were getting heated. I sure was glad for the tree cover earlier.
Finally back to the truck we got it started so we could enjoy some cool air. The drive back down the road went smoothly, we stopped for photos at a couple of spots but we were too tired to do any serious exploration. So we descended quickly and soon were on the pavement heading for home. It was a lovely hike and well worth a second attempt to reach the summit.