Read-the-land – Hiking trip

Read-the-land – Hiking trip

Kristin Read the land trip -mt. truaxMount Truax (“True-ax”) is a majestic mountain in the Bendor Range and an iconic sight of the Bridge River Valley. If you have ever been to the Chilcotin ranch, or in the South Chilcotin Mountains facing south to behold the view of it’s pointy peak, you will know what I’m talking about. Being a beautiful sight to marvel at from the ranch, it almost comes to no surprise, that it had been my wish for a long time to climb this mountain. And, finally it would happen!

The whole trip came as a bit of a surprise, as I realized one weekend that I had only so much time left to achieve my goal before my departure, and that as a matter of fact it would have to happen in the next days. From the moment of realization to the moment of making it happen, I had exactly one day. I spend all day studying official government maps and online maps to plan ‘the hike’, which in reality were ‘hiking options’ as there are no official trails up there. There might be routes, but most of the time, from the moment we would leave the old logging road, until the peak, we would be going to ‘read the land’ and travel accordingly. I was super excited, this was a challenge that would push me slightly out of my comfort zone, as I would be the lead and would be in charge of bringing my comrade and me in and out safely. I really wanted to do this! It was going to bring my orientation skills up a notch and same for my wilderness skills and knowledge as it would certainly involve following game trails, bushwhacking and studying maps closely to avoid dead ends.

Luckily, the mountains here are different than mountains elsewhere. The sandy-shale slopes allow for ‘easy’ travelling across ridges and slopes, as long as the traveller would have the required surefooted-ness. And I was confident that I had it. Next day we drove up. We were forced to stop earlier as planned as a big deadfall was blocking the road. Luckily, it was not very far from the place where we had planned to start our journey anyways. Leaving the truck behind, we walked around the first corner to be welcomed by wildlife – some coyotes who quickly ran away, a grouse and many ‘friendly’ deer flies. I could spend hours describing every part of our trip and every drop of sweat we went through, but I will try to keep it short. Before we reached the end of the logging road that we followed initially, we soon found a piece of wildfire-damaged forest that allowed for better orientation to scramble up the first ridge. 600M elevation gain and about 3hours later, we stood at a little peak on the ridge, 2.200m above sea level, enjoying the amazing views over Mt. Williams and Truax peak. There it was, so close and yet so far! We continued, followed by a hungry hoard of bugs. I had not expected that, but it seemed that the smoke, which had rolled in only 2 days earlier from far away wildfires in British Columbia, was making the bug situation worse, which usually is not bad at all for Canadian standards. We ended up spending the night at the first creek we came across, that had not dried out yet, with a world class view of the peak. Refreshed we headed on the next day. Today’s lesson was simple: Reading a map and reading the land by looking at it can give you two completely opposite outcomes of possible routes. The map did not show the rocky surface of one of the smaller peaks of mount Truax, nor did it show the big snowbank on the alternate route with a decent, not too steep gradient. We ended up avoiding the rocky peak and snow bank, scrambling up on big rocks instead, while heading for the radio tower up there.

The view was spectacular, despite the smoke denying me the amazing long-distance views that I had hoped for. But right there behind me were 3 crystal blue glacier lakes in a big bowl, surrounded by a high ridge with few access points into the bowl. Here we were, my brave comrade and me, possibly the first two females ever, who were travelling by themselves and had made it here. As our time was limited to three days, I made the decision to descend to the ponds, rather than pushing on and following the ridge to the true peak of Mt. Truax. Of course, I was a bit disappointed to not accomplish my initial goal, but how often do you get to stay in a place with three private ponds all to yourself? The descent was steep and along the way we found several mountain goat beds. We did not see a single animal, but their tracks and beds were everywhere, so they must have stayed in here for quite some time before moving on. We were in real mountain goat habitat and had done some climbing, that only mountain goats do to get there – what an amazing achievement!

Read the land trip -mt. truaxThe last day proved to be the most challenging of all. To get out of the bowl, we had to descend a huge slope with big boulders, continued onto a huge scree slope, and from halfway down to the valley bottom we started cutting across, as we had been recommended to stay well off the valley bottom to avoid its likely inhabitants (grizzly bears and black bears looking for berries). Staying up high also helped with the orientation. Indeed, it was pretty easy to keep the direction. Much more challenging were the forested areas, young thick forest made it hard to travel and there was a big avalanche area with crushed trees along the way. Moving forward in there reminded me of the game ‘Mikado’, but we made it through without much hassle. We pushed on, finally carefully following a big scree slope down to the valley bottom, from where we soon found our way to an old cut block. From here it was easy to find the way to the logging road and in no time we found ourselves back at the truck: Our reading the land adventure was over, but in my heart I knew, this kind of hiking trip would not be my last one, and in my mind I was already planning my return trip!

KNLU, Germany