Darrah SE4, 29 August 2020

Darrah SE4 (2255 m; foreground) as viewed from the summit of Centre E3. This was my original objective for the day, before Andrew suggested Darrah S3 – so I’m glad that it worked out to tag both! My original route was to try scrambling up the east side (right) of SE4 from South Lost Creek, which I may return later to try. However, as access was easy from North Lost Creek, and we were already there, it made sense to include it as part of our day. Again, thanks to All Stone Adventures for the Darrah S3 inspiration and route.

After summiting Darrah S3, Andrew and I decided that since we were so close, we should take the extra time to ascend Darrah SE4. This was my originally suggested objective before Andrew proposed S3, with my route coming in from the South Lost Creek trail to attempt a scramble up the east side of the mountain. However, the ridge is easily accessed from North Lost Creek and it is an easy hike to reach the summit. We thought we would save elevation by trying to traverse over from S3, but the steep slope combined with deep gullies, ended up taking more time than we thought. In the end, it may have been quicker to have just descended to the trail and then start from there…

Darrah SE4 is interesting because it is on the northern limits of the Lewis Thrust, meaning it is comprised of colourful argillite and stands in contrast to S3 and the rest of the Flatheads. It is also interesting because there is a huge cairn on the summit that was probably built by A.O. Wheeler and the Boundary Commission when they surveyed this area in 1914 and SE4 was mostly likely a triangulation or phototopographic station for Mount Darrah.

I should note that after looking down the east slope from the summit, I do believe that there are several possible scramble routes that can be accessed from the South Lost Creek trail, which means that I may return one day to check them out – let me know if you try it and find one! Also, though it was tempting to try and descend directly from the summit to the North Lost Creek trail, we decided against this as the bushwhacking looked nasty. Instead, it only took us 45 minutes to reach the trail from the summit by returning the way we came. A much saner decision! 😁

To get to Darrah S3 & SE4, drive south from the hamlet of Beaver Mines along Highway 774 for ~15.5 km until you come to the Lynx Creek (Ohagen Road) turnoff on your right (just past the Beaver Mines Lake turnoff). Turn and follow the Ohagen Road for ~1.8 km until you come to a fork and a sign that says to turn left to reach Lynx Creek. Keep going for ~7.7 km until you come to a T-intersection. Turn left and follow the Carbondale River Road for ~2.6 km until you come to a fork with an information sign and a large area to camp just beyond it. Take the right fork (Lost Creek Road) and follow it for ~4 km until you come to a bridge. Either park here, or if you have a higher clearance vehicle, drive for another ~200 m to reach the trailhead which is marked by a large information sign. The road to the left will lead you to the Lost Creek Shelter which is where we parked.

As I mentioned, the trailhead is next to the information sign and it is an easy to follow ATV trail. There are a number of junctions along the way with the first being only a couple hundred metres from the trailhead. Keep left here and cross the small bridge. A couple of kilometres later, the trail continues to the right, while the old trail is cordoned off as a reclamation area. At ~3.6 km from our starting point at the shelter, the road forks again and so keep left. After going around a hairpin, the trail will then begin to descend and around the ~4.8 km mark from the shelter, it comes to another junction, where you keep left again. You will eventually come to a recent constructed metal bridge over North Lost Creek. Continue over it and follow the trail as it continues to the right. After ~453 m, you will come to another junction and a gate. Keep going straight and past the gate, and follow the trail for ~4 km to the open meadow at the base of S3. Here is where the trail ends. In total, from our vehicles to the terminus of the trail, it was 10.7 km.

Depending on where you choose to ascend, it is about ~1.4 km (~325 m elevation gain) to reach the snow-filled tarn. From the tarn we found it easiest to ascend a well-worn gully for ~1 km (~180 m elevation gain) to the col beneath the summit. From here, several trails lead up the steep slope for ~400 m (~116 m elevation gain) to the summit.

To get up SE4, I’d recommend not trying to traverse like we did or at least going down closer to the valley floor. From the floor to the col, it is a ~1 km (~263 m elevation gain) hike. From the highest point of the col, it is a pleasant, ~1.6 km (~155 m elevation gain) trip to the summit. We returned the way we came.

Our total roundtrip distance was 32 km with total elevation gains of 1625 m. Our total roundtrip time was 9 hours and 6 minutes.

Andrew follows a trail down from the summit of Darrah S3.

Just to be sure that there was no way to reach S4, we hiked up the other side of the col to check things out. As far as we could tell, there was no sane way to reach it from S3. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Gazing back to the summit of S3.

A closer look at the ridge between S3 and Darrah S2.

One final closeup of S2 – at least from this vantage.

The view over to Darrah S4 and down to the tarn. There was a cool turquoise strip of water in the middle.

We found it easier to ascend in the gully and descend using the scree. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Checking out the interesting tarn.

Getting to SE4 is brutally obvious, but at this point, we still thought it would be a quick traverse.

Andrew begins the traverse.

Cliffs and steep slopes would soon force us lower than we wanted to go. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

After a slow traverse across unstable gullies, we found ourselves bushwhacking our way over to the ascent slope.

We each took a different line to reach the col. I stayed high and near the cliffs while Andrew would go up on the left side of the slope. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

The view back to S3 while Andrew (bottom centre) makes his way up.

Whatever the route, it is little more than a steep hike.

On the col and looking towards the summit (left) which sits ~1.6 km (~155 m elevation gain) away.

The view into the South Lost Creek area from the col.

Another view back shows Andrew (lower right) still making his way up.

The ridge for S4 rises abruptly. From further away, I could see that it was possible to get around this by descending quite far to climber’s left.

A great pano back to Centre N1 (left), S4 (centre), S3, and S2! (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

On the ridge and heading towards the summit.

The view back shows Centre N1 on the left and Darrah S4 on the right.

A more comprehensive view of a potential route onto the S4 ridge (left) from the south. There may be a way through those slabs, but we won’t known until someone tries it – or if they’ve done it (which is the most likely scenario), passes on the info. 😊

Andrew checks out “South Flathead Peak” (far left) and Centre SE1 (left) from the ridge.

A closer look at “South Flathead Peak” and Centre SE1. A few weeks ago, we tried to reach SE1 from North Kootenay Pass, but could not see a way up from the col with “South Flathead Peak”.

Gazing across to Centre E3. This is another easy, but worthwhile mountain to ascend.

It was too bad that it was overcast, because SE4 is a colourful mountain.

Enjoying the walk. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Andrew in his natural argillite environment. πŸ˜‰

It definitely looks like there may be scramble routes up the east side – which can be accessed from the South Lost Creek trail. I may come back to try, but if you find one, let me know.

The ridge narrows as it nears the summit. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

I suspect that cairn is left over from when the Boundary Commission surveyed this area in 1914. SE4 was probably a triangulation and/or a phototopography station, but I don’t have a record to prove this.

The summit of Darrah SE4 (2255 m).

A wide angle to the west…

To the north…

To the northeast…

To the east…

To the southeast…

And finally to the south.

A closer look at Centre E3.

“South Flathead Peak” (left) and Centre SE1.

Centre N1 (right) is a uniquely-shaped peak that always stands out to me. Maybe it’s because I have a square-shaped head myself… If I ever make it to the top of N1, it will be a blockhead on top of a blockhead! πŸ˜‚

A telephoto across the valley to Darrah S3 (left) and S2

An extra close look at S2. Hmmm, could it be possible that a route exists on the northeast slope via the north ridge? If so, the north ridge may be accessible from the Corbin Road, close to where we started last year.

Darrah S1 (left) and Darrah SW1.

Mount Darrah is impressive! My hat goes off to Clay Geddert who summited it in 2015 andΒ  Sonny Bou and Raff who ascended it in 2017.

A telephoto over to Mount McGladrey (left), Ptolemy SE5 (centre), and Mount Coulthard.

A hazy view towards the Livingstone Range, that includes Bluff Mountain (left), Morin Peak (centre), and Turtle Mountain (right).

Whenever I think the bushwhacking is bad, I just think back to my trip to Mount McCarty in 2014. “Serenity now! Serenity now!” πŸ˜‚

Andrew on the summit.

Ahh, back to my usual awkward summit pose. πŸ˜‚

While it was tempting to think about descending directly from the summit back to the trail, it made way more sense to retrace our route back to the base of S3. In fact, it only took us 45 minutes to reach the clearing (and trail) in the centre from the summit of SE4.

Enjoying the quick walk back.

A great pano by Andrew!

Andrew takes a photo of Centre N1 and the slope leading up to S4 (far right).

Descending from the col.

We took advantage of some helpful trails.

Gazing back from the trail to SE4 (left) and our ascent/descent route (far right).

One last look up to S3 and our ascent route alongside the waterfall (left).

Glad to be back on a great trail!

Andrew passes a campsite with what looks to be a hitching post for horses.

More evidence of recent trail maintenance.

Back on our bikes and playing ‘avoid the cow pies’. I’m sure glad that I had fenders on my bike! πŸ˜‚

On the way in, I thought the ~1 km downhill section would be a soul-sucker to go back up, but there were only a couple of short sections where we had to push our bikes. The rest was rideable.

From the hairpin curve back to our vehicles, it was an easy coast.

Arriving back at our vehicles after a roundtrip distance of 32 km and a time of 9 hours and 6 minutes. This was another fantastic day in the Castle! Thanks again to All Stone Adventures for the inspiration and route for Darrah S3. Now that I know about his videos and that we share an affinity for hiking in the same areas, I look forward to gleaning from his experiences to inform my own.

Epilogue: I think it’s time to finally buy some new boots. πŸ˜‚

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