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Panorama taken coming down from Mount Ethelbert

Mount Ethelbert (attempt)
Bugaboo Provincial Park, B.C.
August 5, 2000

A year or two before I took scrambling seriously, I attempted Mount Ethelbert in the Dunbar Lakes area in the Bugaboos, an area also known as Shangri-la. The very name enticed me to venture into the region.

I asked two friends of mine, Kari Haas and Sue Kuznik, to join me on this three-day trip. We followed the Templeton Lake route described in Hikes around Invermere. (An alternate route via Tiger Pass requires a glacier crossing.)

From Invermere, we had to drive along some back roads to reach the trailhead. This was not easy for the back roads are a maze and some of them are extremely rough. At one point I flashed my headlights to attract the attention of a passing truck. He set me on the track to reaching the trailhead.

We hiked the six-kilometre trail to the lake. From the lake, the route to Shangri-la is off-trail and goes over a pass. It was mostly an easy grade and no scree that I recall. For offtrail hiking with a backpack it was rather good. We were soon above the treeline with nothing but great views all around. A short time later reached Shangri-la and set up camp.

The following day we set off to climb Mount Ethelbert. After groveling up scree we reached soft, deep snow. We hadn't expected snow so deep we could barely move nor had we brought ice axes. When the opportunity arose to bypass the snow, we decided to try it. We came to a steep gully mostly free of snow and started up it. It was more difficult than I expected and when Sue took a tumble it signalled an end to our attempt. We were about 300 m short of the 3175 m summit.)

After spending the second night at Shangri-la, we hiked back to my car. After three days of hiking we were looking forward to seeing the end of it, but we were in for a shock: I had left the car lights on and the battery was dead! After a couple of failed attempts on trying to "bump-start" my car, we resigned ourselves to a long walkout. We were on a dead-end road so I didn't expect to encounter another car until we reached a major forestry service road seven kilometres away. We decided to leave our backpacking gear behind. We hoped to find help before nightfall found us.

When we reached the main road we decided to continue on. The first three cars we encountered were going the wrong way. One guy pulling a boat offered to come back for us after he dropped off his boat, but I waved him on. Another car with a young couple and a baby stopped. The driver rolled his window down an inch, as if in fear, only to warn us that we shouldn't be out there because of "wild animals"!

Finally, after hiking about 10 km from the car, a guy driving a rented SUV going our way pulled over to give us a lift. His engine was leaking fluid and he wasn't sure if he could make it back to Invermere, but we were grateful for the ride. Shortly after starting off, he ran over a gopher. The gopher, badly injured, crawled off the road. The driver didn't like to see the little animal suffer so he stopped the car and told me to go "stomp on it." Reluctantly I went to look for it but it had disappeared.

Eventually we made it to Invermere without his SUV failing. Leaving the girls at a restaurant, I stopped a tow truck that I saw pulling into a nearby parking lot. He agreed to drive me back to my car.

On the drive in, he regaled with stories of his business. He recounted the story of a teenager who borrowed his father's Subaru. Thinking the car was invincible, he tore up the back roads at high speed – until he hit a rock that pushed the transmission through the floor of his car!

On our way to get to my car, the tow truck driver had trouble driving. On steep sections the truck slipped out of gear, stalled and was difficult to restart. Sometimes we coasted back down to a less steep spot to restart it. I wondered if I would end up being stranded a second time on a back road, this time at night. I breathed a sigh of relief when we reached my car and got it started. I knew I could drive back to Invermere, but I wasn't sure if the tow truck would make it! It was 11:00 p.m. when I picked up the girls in Invermere and began the three-hour drive back to Calgary.

Looking up the valley on the way to Templeton Lake

Crossing a talus on the way to the lake

Templeton Lake

Heading to the pass

Looking back at the lake

On the pass

View of Shangri-la from the pass

On our way to the lakes

This shack included a stove with an oven ready to be hooked up to a gas line

Our campsite lay in the shadow of the Septet Range

View from above the campsite looking back at the pass, right of the middle peak

Another view of Tiger Pass

Mount Horeb

Starting our climb up Ethelbert

Aside from the large lakes, there are numerous small lakes and ponds

Ascending the gully below Mount Ethelbert

Partway up Mount Ethelbert. Soon after this, we were forced to turn back.

Tiger Pass above Dunbar Lakes (mouse over for a close-up)

Coming down

Note the T-shaped snow patch and the gully above and to the right of it. I believe that's the gully we tried to ascend. The suggested route goes left along the snow.

Climax Lake

Still descending from Mount Ethelbert

Wildflowers abound as we head back to our camp

Back at the pass

Coming down the pass on the return trip

A washed-out bridge forces us to cross a stream inelegantly just before we returned to my car with a dead battery

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