The southern Chilcotin is a magical place in the sun with sweeping vistas of red glowing mountains and vivid green valleys and basins. The lush valleys are dotted with splashes of pink, purple and yellow wildflowers. Hiking the ridges of the mountains, you have a 360° view of the surrounding peaks and the feeling that you are at the top of the world.
My partner, Henning, and I explored this lovely region in early August of this year. It was our second trip to the southern Chilcotin. To reach the trailhead for Taylor Basin we drove past Pemberton Meadows and turned onto the infamous Hurley Road, enduring about 2 hours of dusty dirt road to the turnoff for Goldbridge and Bralorne. The communities of Goldbridge and Bralorne are remnants from the goldrush days when a gold mine was still in operation. Bypassing these communities, and the turquoise blue Carpenter Lake, a steep dirt road veers off towards Tyax Wilderness Lodge. Shortly after, the road makes another turn and gets pot-holed to the extreme with branches aggressively scraping the sides of your vehicle. At this point we were exceedingly grateful for our beat-up 4-wheel drive jeep!
We arrived at the trailhead at 2:30 pm. It was hot! Neither of us had much motivation to don 35-45 lb. packs for a 2-3 hour uphill slog to our campsite at the Taylor cabin. My pack straps dug into my shoulders, the sweat dripped from my forehead. But we were rewarded by beautiful views of peaks glowing red in the late afternoon sun.
We pitched our tent nestled among fir trees at the edge of the subalpine meadow radiant with pink fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) and Lewis’s monkey flower (Mimulus lewisii), scarlet paintbrush (Astilleja miniata), purple lupine (Lupinus latifolius) and yellow mountain Arnica (Arnica latifolia).
For the next three days we engaged in ridge walking, each day selecting a different range of mountains surrounding Taylor Basin. Looking up from the basin it hardly seemed feasible that we would be standing on a peak, let alone walking the steep-sided ridges from one peak to the next in the span of a single day. The views from up top were truly awe-inspiring – photos can’t capture the feeling!
On the second day, destination Eldorado Mountain, we quickly lost any semblance of a trail and had to rely on our GPS and topographic map to find a doable route. Fortunately there were a multitude of mountain goat trails; unfortunately these often led through steep sections that were a little unnerving.
It was so windy on the top of Eldorado that I felt I might get picked up and become airborne. When I retrieved my jacket from my backpack, Henning feared it would be ripped from my hands and fly away.
The third day of ridge walking took us across Camel Pass and beyond. We had to descend down a steep slope of loose rock. As long as I didn’t look down, I was OK. On the way back we looked for a better route and followed a rocky gulley that led up the slope. It started out fine, but soon the gulley narrowed with few options for footholds. When I stopped moving and allowed myself to think about where I was, clinging to the side of a mountain, and looked up to see that we were still far from the top, panic crept in. Fortunately, I was able to drive away such thoughts. Once at the top we couldn’t believe we’d ascended such a precipitous slope!
Back down at camp we washed off the dust in a clear mountain stream in the warmth of the late afternoon sun. We soaked up the very last rays, relaxing in the meadow with our tea and dessert and gazing upon the peaks we’d climbed as they turned various shades of red.