When Sonny Bou invited Dinah and I to climb Mount Wardle we didn't expect an adventurous trip, one that would include extensive bushwhacking, unusual mountain features and a descent in a thunderstorm.
I hadn't heard of the mountain so before the trip I Googled "Mount Wardle" and learned that a guy fell and died while climbing the east face. However, after studying the map it was apparent that the southwest ridge offered a safer ascent. Moreover, Rick Collier on Bivouac.com called it "relatively easy" and a "moderate scramble." He even suggested it should have been added to Alan Kane's Scrambling book. But neither Sonny nor I had membership access to Bivouac.com so we couldn't read the entire trip report. Sonny proposed reaching the southwest ridge using a lookout road.
We parked at the gated entrance of a gravel pit but after a 20-minute fruitless search for the road we headed back to the car. That's when we discovered the road leading to the lookout; so overgrown it was recognizable only after careful scrutiny.
We had to bushwhack parts of the road but eventually we reached the lookout, gaining 400 m in the process. Little remains of the lookout other than the cement foundations. The site was covered in trees so there were no views.
From the lookout we set off along the ridge to the summit. The first few hundred metres were extreme bushwhacking but it eased up slightly after that. We continued bushwhacking for nearly two hours before finally reaching a clearing. After gaining a high point we saw our objective at the north end of a ridge. At the south end of the ridge was a high point which I call the "South Peak." The South Peak could be reached by hiking but we couldn't see what lay in store after that.
Before we reached the South Peak, we viewed some incredible landscape. There were ridges of silvery shale. A scree bowl rose to meet the east rock face to form an undulating rim. And below the South Peak was a strange, deep hole.
At the South Peak we found a cairn. After that, an exposed ridge led to the true summit. I was dismayed to find that this was not a moderate scramble, but a difficult one. Immediately beyond the South Peak, the ridge dips slightly and narrows to a foot or two. A fall on either side here would be deadly. Sonny, seemingly oblivious to the exposure, walked across. I grabbed the ridge rock in both hands and started down. I soon realized that for me it would be slow going. If there were more cruxes like this, which appeared to be the case, I was not psyched up for the challenge so I backed down. (Later, Sonny told me that that first section was the hardest part. See his trip report.)
Dinah and I hung out at the South Peak while Sonny continued to the true summit. After he returned we started our descent. We wanted to avoid the long bushwhack back to the lookout so we decided to take our chances and drop down the east slope after reaching the treeline. We came down a gully just as a storm moved in. As we descended, we saw lightning and heard rolls of thunder all around us. It rained lightly, but we didn't feel a need to put on our jackets.
We reached the bottom but we still had to bushwhack to the highway in wet vegetation. We were soaked by the time we hit the pavement. We were also 50 m below and 1.5 km from our start point. Still, the highway walk was better than bushwhacking the ridge!
If there is a route that avoids the awful bushwhacking it would be worth climbing Mount Wardle for its unique landscape.
We bushwhacked from the lookout (bump on the left) to Mount Wardle.
The road to the fire lookout
One of the foundations of the lookout
Trees seem to mimic Dinah's bowed head at a clearing
Reaching the treeline. The gravel pit is on the left and the lookout is below centre.
Taking a break with the summit between us
Hiking on shale
Steep terrain below the summit
Split Peak in the centre
Graceful rim of the east face
More shiny shale
Slogging up to the South Peak
Sonny heads for the rim
Just below the South Peak is a strange hole (right)
En route to the true summit, Sonny pauses to take a picture
Dinah and I on the south summit; Sonny is on the true summit behind us.
Sonny strikes a pose on the summit
A thunderstorm passes by us on our descent
Looking down the descent drainage
Sonny wades through wet vegetation
Last look at Mount Wardle
82 K/15 Spillimacheen