After summiting Whistler Mountain, our final destination for the day was the old Whistler Mountain Fire Lookout.
It’s an easy hike to get to the Fire Lookout from Whistler Mountain. The usual route up to Whistler Mountain and the Fire Lookout is via the old access road off of the South Castle Road (see Sonny Bou’s trip report or Mike Potter’s Fire Lookout Hikes in the Canadian Rockies – 2nd Edition). Since the Fire Lookout was our last destination for the day and because we wanted to get back to our starting point at the end of the valley, we chose to use the northern slopes of the Fire Lookout as our descent route. You could also use these to ascend as well, but in our opinion, they make for a better descent.
Jeff walks along the old access road towards the site of the former Fire Lookout.
Jeff stands on the site of the old Whistler Mountain Fire Lookout (2169m). According to Mike Potter’s Fire Lookout Hikes in the Canadian Rockies – 2nd Edition, the lookout was built in 1966 but was decommissioned in 1975 due to the extreme winds that tear through this area. Potter relates that one of the original attendants broke his collarbone when he was blown off of the steps of the lookout by a severe wind. The other reason which Potter gives for its abandonment was because the nearby (left of centre), and still active, Carbondale Hill Fire Lookout, covered most of the same viewing area.
Looking to the north from the summit. Our ascent route went up the slope on the foreground left and followed the ridge until we came to ‘Table ‘Top’ which is pictured on the right. The summit of Table Mountain can be seen in the distance to the left of centre.
The view to the west includes Barnaby Ridge.
West Castle, one of two official peaks on Lys Ridge is visible to the southwest.
Another look to the south includes Mount Gladstone, Castle Peak and Windsor Mountain. Jutland Mountain and Mount Matkin can be seen in the distance on the right.
One last look back at The Whistler Loop before we descend.
Starting down the northern slopes from the Fire Lookout. Beaver Mines Lake can be seen in the distance.
In some places, hard packed snow allowed for a quick descent. In other places, softer snow slowed us down.
Near the summit, some careful downclimbing was necessary.
Soft snow patches within the trees slowed us down at times.
Jeff comes down from the top of the little outlier located just to the north of the Fire Lookout. Shortly before this picture, we almost made a mistake by descending into the trees before we reached the open slopes. Had we done this, we would have been into some deep, deep snow combined with bushwhacking. Fortunately, we were able to gain back the elevation to the top of the outlier and proceed to the NW corner where we found open slopes more to our liking.
Coming down the open slopes of the outlier involved some scree skiing and some glisading.
A nice view of our ascent route came into view from the outlier’s open slopes. You can see the ramp that we initially wanted to use on the righthand side. Instead, our route went up next to the grey gully in the centre of the picture and then through the tree covered cliff bands at the top.
Bushwhacking through the forest to the creek was a relatively straightforward affair. As with the forest on our approach, the trees were spaced nicely apart and there were plenty of game trails to follow – and, at the end of the day, we only found one tick who had hitched a ride. These sections of bushwhacking may be more cumbersome later in the spring or summer when the undergrowth fills things in a bit more.
We arrived back at the creek and quickly found a spot that we could cross with ease.
After 8.5 hours of hiking and 14.1 km, we arrived back at our vehicle feeling very satisfied about our achievements that day. It is always a great feeling to devise your own route and then be able to execute it according to plan. It is a very similar experience to tying your own flies (especially if you have created or modified a recipe) and then using them to catch fish. At the risk of sounding like we are tooting our own horn because we devised The Whistler Loop, I definitely would recommend it as a trip. Especially if you want a multi-destination day that combines some scrambling with easy ridge walking. The scenery is great and it is just obscure enough to offer something different for those who are looking for something new in the Castle Crown. Once you are on the ridge, many more options are also available, including making a much longer trip over to Mount Gladstone. All in all, The Whistler Loop was a great way to get in some early season scrambling.