Ascent of Upper Saddle Mountain on 2016-08-29

Climber: Denise Mclellan

Others in Party:Richard Mclellan -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, August 29, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Upper Saddle Mountain
    Location:Canada-British Columbia
    Elevation:7644 ft / 2329 m

Ascent Trip Report

Upper Saddle Mountain is located on the west side of Upper Arrow lake and the nearest town ( on the east side of Arrow Lake ) is Nakusp, British Columbia, which is 20k north of the Arrow Park Ferry on route 6. Ferries across are quick, free and frequent but would need checking:
If approaching from the West you need to use the Lower Arrow Lake Needles Ferry.

To reach the trail head from the 6 you need the Arrow Park Ferry on the Columbia River:

We climbed Upper Saddle Mountain (2330m) as a day trip via the path to the (lower) Saddle Mountain Lookout (2304m). The path is maintained by Nakusp Trails who produce a useful leaflet:
About 100 m below the Lookout is a gully, down which we slithered to reach the ridge which goes North to Upper Saddle. There is quite a lot of ascent and descent along this ridge and/or steep traversing around numerous pinnacles. The final section is a superb easy scramble along a broad ridge to a small flat summit. We found no water en route. People do bivi in the lookout.

We camped at the pleasant Burton Historical campsite 14k south of the ferry on the 6- There are no shops here. Nakusp is a thriving town with an interesting museum, with the original paddle steamer whistle sounded at noon every day. McDonald Creek Provincial Park Campsite is between the ferry and Nakusp. There is a small shop at Fauquier, by the Lower Arrow lake Needles Ferry.

The fire lookout on Saddle Mountain, established 1923, is maintained as a historical building and is a superb view point, but not the high point. It is quite close to Pinnacles as the crow flies and 70 miles to drive.

When we were on Upper Saddle we saw another fire lookout below, to the north west. The access to this might offer a more efficient ascent to Upper Saddle. Google maps shows the access route we used but no others.

Access to the Trailhead:

0 miles: I have called the Arrow Park Ferry exit as Mile 0. (We had an American hire car). You just drive on the cable ferry and it departs on demand; there are no signs or directing crew! It takes less than 5 minutes. On the west side of the lake, follow main gravel road around to the right and across a cross roads, ignoring tracks to houses. There is a sign confirming you are on ‘Saddle Mountain Road.’
6.4 miles: Turn L up narrower grass- centred, rough road called ‘Saddle Mountain Lookout trail.’ There are a few passing places as 1-2 m high scrub grows to the road edge and some blind bends. The upper part would be hard in 2WD due to rocks on the road surface. Our small SUV is fine.
10.6 Miles- superb view of white square lookout perched on impossible- looking pinnacle against a blue sky.
11.4 miles (40 minutes drive) : Parking area for 3-4 cars. 1442m. Saddle Lookout Trail notice board with map about 20 m further on the vehicle track. Vehicle track continues but apparently deteriorates.

Detailed route description:

About 50 paces past the trail notice board is a sign on the right saying ‘Saddle Peak Lookout Trail.’

Here we leave the vehicle track and turn right into the forest onto an easy- to- follow path. After 100m we pass the trail register. This path is visited most days but not all get to Saddle Lookout. It is cool and shady as we quickly gain height on an obvious and well maintained mud -surfaced path with small diversions for recently fallen trees. Some trees are spectacularly large. There are trickles of water in a few streams.

We pass two seats in trees with no view, then a rotting hunter’s cabin, then emerge into steep alpine pastures amongst the trees with a superb view of the Lookout above. We find the top of ‘Edwards Gully’ (after the late Earl Edwards whose route description we use) easily at 50.1570N, 117.8930W, 2188m, about 100m below the Lookout. It is on the south east edge of the ‘rim,’ the steep side of the Lookout pinnacle. On the right hand side of the zig zag path, there is an area of flat broken slabs with a rough cairn and pines growing at the edge. The gully angles steeply down north west across loose mica and some small pines. Below we could see a scree bowl (a long way) and our next goal- a small grassy ridge to the north.

We slither down Edwards Gully, traversing as soon as we can below a rock band, above a small snow patch and over a small scree gully to the main ridge (c30 mins). This ridge runs south to north from Saddle Lookout to Upper Saddle with lots of pinnacles, with the most northerly being the highpoint, though it is not immediately obvious. There are no paths or markers from here on and we just followed the route of least resistance along the ridge.

We ascend the first pinnacle, then pick our way through shrubs and trees, descending steeply through thicker scrub to a col at 2060m. (We traverse around this on return, which is not any easier). The next large pinnacle ridge looks like an awkward rocky scramble so we traverse right, across and up to a scree gully (steep and awkward too). At the ‘corner’ of the gulley (note height for descent) the terrain becomes easier- steep grass- and we take an ascending traverse to the next col. As this pinnacle's summit is only 100m away, we returned south to ‘bag’ it and assess descent routes ( not visible).

From this col, the next section is easier: we stay on the broad rocky ridge over several more pinnacles with a gradual 20-30m drop in between, with only a few shrubs to negotiate. The first 30 m of this section is hardest, a YDS2 ridge scramble with lots of foot and handholds but big drops. Thereafter, it’s a joy- a walk along an airy rocky band up and down over pinnacles at 2280 and 2319m.

Finally, the summit pinnacle appears. A grassy ridge joins from the left, where other disused fire lookout towers are visible in meadows. I know nothing of how to access these but this could be a more efficient ascent route?

With a final, steeper, 30m section of easy scrambling ( YDS2) over blocky, lichen -encrusted rock we reach the summit of Upper Saddle. (5 hours ascent including a snack stop). There is no cairn, but the summit area appears to have been deliberately flattened with flat, broken slabs. There are some disused concrete ’anchors’ 50m further east. It feels a wild and remote place with huge forests below, Arrow Lake cutting through them, and the snow- capped Rockies to the east.

We have lunch and return, moreorless the same way, without difficulty but feeling thirsty. 4.5hrs in descent including quick ascent by Richard to Lookout. 18.2 km walked.

Summary Total Data
    Round-Trip Distance:11.3 mi / 18.2 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
sunny and warm
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 30 Minutes

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