What began as a reconnaissance mission became a successful bid on an unnamed peak. Since I was fortunate to ascend an unplanned peak late in the season – an enjoyable trip to boot – it seemed apt to call it Serendipity Peak.
I planned this trip when I noticed on the map that a couple of low ridges led to the base of the Highwood Range where I could scope out possible routes. Despite the bushwhacking approach, I knew from past experience in this area that grassy slopes would ease the journey. I planned to follow semi-open slopes to reach the first ridge (running west to east) that led to a high point (GR615911). From there I could drop down about 100 m and follow a second ridge (south to north) to another high point (GR619923). I figured that this would give me a good vantage point and maybe ascend higher if it was possible. In particular, I was interested in ascending GR629934 (which, as it turns out, appeared too steep to climb). I expected snow would prevent me from climbing very high.
I parked about a kilometre south of Lineham Creek near a culvert and below a grassy hillside with huge rock flakes. In a short time I climbed 300 m and started traversing along the slopes, aiming for the west end of the first ridge. It was easy bushwhacking although I still managed to make enough noise to startle a rabbit. When I reached the first ridge, travel became easy, a pleasant hike along an animal trail. Just before I reached the east end, I dropped down the north side and was soon hiking up the second ridge.
The animal trails on the second ridge were even better defined than the first ridge and I moved easily along it. Along the way I was accosted by a flock of chickadees. When I stopped to watch them, four or five flew to a nearby tree to investigate me. Hopping from branch to branch, one came particularly close and peered at me from only three feet away! I tried snapping photos but the tiny birds didn't hold still long enough for any shots to work.
Eventually the trail dropped down and I emerged on the edge of an enormous expanse of grassy hillside. Reaching this area was worthy of a trip in itself. But the dry, higher slopes beckoned so I continued on.
At first I stayed below the ridge crest to avoid the trees, but in retrospect it would have been better to follow the crest. Higher up, well above the treeline, the grade became steeper but no more than a moderate scramble. I encountered snow just below the summit. I was able to avoid most of it and didn't need crampons (which I hadn't brought along anyway). Minutes later I was on the summit.
After studying the nearby peaks and snapping a few photos I started my descent. It proceeded smoothly until I reached the south end of the second ridge. I hadn't noticed that it split into two ridges and as luck would have it, I hiked down the wrong one! It was some time before I realized my error. As a result, instead of losing 100 m between the first and second ridges, I lost 250 m! I had a miserable time regaining the elevation because of the deadfall. After that I paid more attention to where I was going and made it back to the car without further incident.
View of the starting slope from the highway
Closer look at one of the rock fins
Hiking the open slopes. Serendipity Peak is on the right, partly obscured by the first ridge.
View from the first ridge shows the second ridge leading to the summit
A cache that a squirrel prepared for winter
Hiking along the first ridge
View of the ridge that I followed on the descent. Summit is left of the centre.
Looking south down Cat Creek Valley
The lower slopes offer easy terrain. The mountain goat soon disappeared this photo was taken.
More easy terrain ahead
Another view back
The summit is on the far left
This turned out to be the false summit but the true summit is three minutes away
Looking back along the ridge from below the false summit
Patterson's Peak on the left. Note the switchbacks.
Sitting on the summit cairn
82 J/7Mount Head