Face Mountain / Semaphore Lakes

Face Mountain / Semaphore Lakes

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Nov 30, 1999
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Mixed, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer
Boris, Monica, their dogs Gin & Pooh Bear, Bob, Serena, my sons Monty (12) & Michael (10), my dog CJ and I spent the long weekend up at Semaphore Lakes chilling out and climbing the local peaks (Locomotive, Tender & Face). I'd been in with the boys last year when we'd climbed Locomotive Mountain so this year we were back for Face, the highest in the area. This beautiful alpine gem of an area is located about an hour north of Pemberton (which is about 30 min north of Whistler) or about 200km north of Vancouver. It's becoming more popular due to it's easy access (2wd.... 2 hours to hike in to camp) and beautiful scenery. It was a very nice relaxing weekend with great company, perfect weather and a healthy resident bug population.

We had a leisurely hike in on Saturday and spent the afternoon relaxing, playing Frisbee and exploring around the lakes, the waterfall & moraines. It was much much drier than it had been last year. Our camp site had a beautiful view:

View from campView from our campsite. Locomotive on the left, Face on the right.

Sunrise on FaceSunrise on Face Mountain
After dinner Michael decided to try the crazy carpet on the steep heather slopes behind our camp site. Monty and Boris got in on the action too with varying degrees of success. It cooled off quickly when the sun went behind the mountains so we hit the sack early.

CJ woke me up at sunrise so I was treated to a beautiful view of the mountains glowing in the morning light.

Getting 3 people and a dog fed, watered and packed up in the morning is a big job so the boys and I set out about 2 hours behind Bob who was also heading for Face. He'd climbed Locomotive on Saturday. Boris & Monica headed for Locomotive. At the crack of 10:30 the boys and I were making our way over the moraines in search of a place to cross the rushing river coming down off the waterfall.

Just over the river crossingHiking on the far side of the waterfall.
It doesn't look like much but its tricky finding a way across that doesn't get you soaked. We managed with only me going in up to my knee once.

Hiking/climbing with children is a completely different experience. Now that I've adjusted my expectations I can relax and enjoy it but it took some getting used to. We stop to play on every snow field we pass, have very regular snack breaks and generally go at somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 my normal pace. But this keeps the kids happy and is actually a good experience for me too. It's good to slow down and enjoy the moment for a change instead of being so fixated on the summit.

After the waterfall, we traversed up steep, nasty scree/talus slopes to our next break point just above a large snow field.

Happy kids... no video games requiredHappy kids taking a break

We'd left the mosquitoes behind but the horse flies were still out in force. We continued picking our way up Face's rocky flanks, enjoying the spectacular views along the way (with lots of breaks and junk food to accompany the views!) We stopped on one of the few snow slopes that wasn't too steep to practice self arrest for about 30 min before carrying on.

Locomotive, Tender, Caboose and the Train glacierLocomotive, Tender & Caboose Mtns & Train glacier

The boys scrambling up Face MountainThe boys enjoying some easy scrambling
I was trying to take a different route from the one described in my guide book as I was hoping to stay off the steep stuff as much as possible so we traversed under the ridge a long way, hoping to hook up with the glacier as a friend of mine had done last year. There just wasn't enough snow though and the slopes were just getting steeper and more dangerous so we had to turn back.

Our gullyThe steep gully we ascended
Michael picked out a steep but fun looking gully for us which would get us up to the top of the ridge so we headed up, staying close together to minimize the rock fall danger.

There was an absolutely enormous intrusion of quartz running through this gully which was pretty cool.

Summit of Face MountainSummit of Face Mountain
We stopped part way up to play in the snow then pushed on, topping out right below the summit, below a very steep snow field.

The rope came out at this point and the arduous process of getting two kids and a dog across multiple steep snow slopes with crappy runout began.

Roped up for scary bitsCrossing one of many steep snow fields with crappy runout.
Hoping to avoid the steepest section of the scramble I tried again to hook up with the glacier. We were about 300feet below the summit and according to some people we'd passed who were on their way down about 30 min from the top when I called it. The kids were very tired and we were having too many falls to safely continue. I had us on half my 60m rope with me first, then Michael, then Monty. We only had two ice axes so Michael didn't have one. Every time he fell (which was regularly) Monty and I would have to arrest while he fell until the rope caught him. Then I'd belay him back up which was a very time consuming process. When Monty started falling too I knew it was time to stop. It was very difficult to turn around that close to the summit but it just wasn't safe any more.

The boys were not at all happy at the prospect of taking our ascent route back. We'd been planning on traversing over to Locomotive and coming down that way but there just wasn't time now so I did my best to find some fun on the way down.

Monty ascending steep snow slopeMonty climbing back up for another run.
On your marks... get set.... go!Michael, ready for lift off

We had a blast glissading down a super steep slope with a not too bad runout. I felt better about letting them go down now that I knew they could actually stop themselves.

I belayed them down the snow with the crappy runouts which was time consuming but fun for them.

When we got back down to the miserable loose slopes beside the waterfall, Boris, Monica & Gin were there to greet us with water and a kit-kat which was super cool of them. They helped us across the water and we enjoyed a slow hike back to camp. Well, Monty blasted ahead of us but the rest of us proceeded at slacker pace.

Michael napping cowboy styleMichael napping cowboy style
I had promised the boys a fire so I got that started first, then made dinner. The fire was nice as it kept the bugs away and was warm & cozy. Michael insisted on sleeping by the fire cowboy style that night so I let him for a while. I stayed up reading until the fire had almost gone out then stuffed him into the tent. I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep with him out there even if he could.

We slept in again then had a slow morning packing up. I got the boys to help as much as possible for a change and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were actually quite useful.

Before long we were packed up and ready to go. We bid farewell to Locomotive & Face and made a bee line for the Pemberton McDonalds. Thanks to everyone who came along. We'll be back again next year to hopefully do a traverse from Face, over the glacier to Tender then over to Locomotive & down.


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lisae - Aug 9, 2006 12:46 am - Voted 10/10


So many great pictures!

vancouver islander

vancouver islander - Aug 14, 2006 8:49 pm - Voted 10/10

A Mom most extraordinary....

It's not unusual for Dads to post reports like this but not so for Moms. Great stuff!

Were there many people in the area with such a short approach?


MountaingirlBC - Aug 16, 2006 5:14 am - Hasn't voted

Re: A Mom most extraordinary....

yeah it's gotten pretty popular as it was written up in a new local guide book but it's easy to get away from everyone. We only saw 2 other people all day once we left camp. Thx for the kudos!

Viewing: 1-3 of 3