03-Feb-2002 -- I have been meaning to get my friends involved in confluence searching. A lot of them are very active outdoors, with skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and the like, and I figured I could get a few of them interested enough to accompany me on a few visits. A ski trip to Sun Peaks Resort, near Kamloops, provided the opportunity to introduce them to the concept. I envisioned a large expeditionary force, but when the dust settled and excuses were made, there was just me and Geoff.
The expedition started out in a very promising manner. The official expedition cartographer (me) had prepared maps from a variety of sources, showing the nearest access roads, the topography, and the distances involved. The confluence is part way up the side of Mount Leslie, about 5k off the Louis Creek - Cahilty Road, near Sun Peaks. There is a road indicated on the map which travels about 3k up the side of the mountain. The remainder looked fairly simple to accomplish. Satellite pictures showed a hint of a clearing in the area, and the topo appeared to show approximately a 4 degree average incline from the end of the road to the confluence point. I put waypoints into the GPS for the start of the road, the end of the road, and the confluence. The expedition planners were quite convinced this could be accomplished in a day.
We conditioned ourselves physically for the expediation by skiing the day before at Sun Peaks, and conditioned ourselves mentally with a thrilling late night round of Trivial Pursuit. The expedition got a fairly early start, leaving the house before the rest of the group headed out for another day of skiing. Provisions and photographic equipment (2 sandwiches, 1 bottle of gatorade, and 1 disposable camera) were obtained at the Official Expedition Outfitter - The Chevron Town Pantry. We drove up Highway 5 and turned off at Heffley Creek, towards Sun Peaks. The official expedition Driver (me) piloted the 4runner to the turnoff for the wrong road, which circled around and deposited us back where we started. The official expedition navigator (Geoff) managed to locate the correct road a few hundred meters further along. We zipped along without incident to the waypoint for the start of the road. As we passed the spot indicated by the GPS, we kept our eyes out for the logging road, and sure enough saw one about 100 m away from the point. We parked the vehicle by a cattleguard and got geared up. The Expedition Leader (me) was travelling in rented snowshoes, while the official trip photographer (Geoff) was on his backcountry skis.
We headed up the road, which shortly opened up into a clearing, with several roads leading out of it. We took one, which quickly degraded into unrecognizable bush. We headed in the direction we thought the road ought to go, and finally came across another road which looked promising. We followed this for a while, and it took us a small way up the hill. We were expecting some switchbacks on the road, and when we got to what we thought was the first one, the road disappeared. Cursing the mapmakers for their inaccuracy (Picture 2), we decided to head straight up the hill in the direction of the confluence. The going was fairly easy in the beginning, but then the hill got steeper, steeper, and steeper (picture 3). The snow got deeper as we went higher as well, making for slow going. The snowshoes handled the terrain fairly well, but the skis had to make many, many switchbacks to accommodate the steep terrain. At one of our many rest stops, the Expedition Snow Scientist (Geoff) made an inclinometer measurement that showed 36 degrees. As this seemed at odds with the terrain on the map (4 degree incline), the map was reviewed in an attempt to resolve this discrepancy. The elevation given by the GPS was cross-checked with the map, and the horrible truth was discovered - the contours were 20 meter intervals, not 20 feet as was assumed by the Expedition Cartographer. The Cartographer was demoted on the spot to Assistant Map Folder, second class, and had his PowerBar rations confiscated.
Morale plunged as we continued slogging up the hill, stopping briefly for lunch (picture 4). At about this time, we realized that, if the road actually existed, it should be about 100m above us. The official expedition witch doctor chanted incantations and sacrificed a piece of pepperoni to the gods of forestry engineering to try to conjure the road into existance. We abandoned this plan as fruitless, and directed ourselves uphill for more punishment. At long length, the clouds opened up, the voices of angels could be heard, and a shaft of golden light shone down on the beautifully flat, conspicuously wide road which led closer towards the confluence point (picture 5). The official expedition snow sculptor (me) prepared a large snowball to roll down the hill in celebration, but his efforts were thwarted by a small willow, which broke the snowball into small, impotent pieces before it could get enough momentum to start an avalanche.
We followed the road for about 500m; it led directly to the "end of road" waypoint on the GPS. The official Expedition Armaments Technician (Geoff) was breaking trail, and inadvertently (?) set off some variety of chemical weaponry inside his pants, which caused the rest of the expeditionary force to collapse on the ground, convulsing. When the air cleared, the Armaments technician mumbled something about chili and beer, and agreed to allow someone else to break trail for a while to prevent further respiratory damage.
Our official Expedition Chronographer (me) noted that the time was approaching 1400 hours PST, which was our designated turn around time, designed to prevent us from being overcome by darkness. We reluctantly resigned ourselves to the fact that we must abandon the main goal of our quest, but as we rounded the last corner to the "end of road", we discovered something much more extraordinary - the lost pasture of the Central Interior Mountain Cow (picture 1). Someone has cleared a rather large pasture on the side of this mountain, at approximately 1200m elevation, on a slope of about 20 degrees. We speculated that this must be the source of the "lean" beef now found in many grocery stores - the cows sure got their exercise trudging from one side of this pasture to the other. There were no cows here at the moment, but the Official Expedition Zoologist reported hearing some rather urgent grunting from down on the valley floor, indicating that cattle were in the area, and they were preparing to create next year's batch of veal.
While the main Expeditionary force (me) set up a base camp at the bottom of the pasture, a small scouting party (Geoff) went to see if any telemark turns could be had. This mission was successful, and the turns were reported as being quite sweet (picture 6), although some grumbling was heard regarding the large expenditure of effort for rather a small amount of enjoyment. This scouting party attained the closest approach to the confluence, approximately 1.5 km. The Expedition snow Scientist examined the snow pit which had been dug at the base camp, and established that there was really rather a considerable avalanche risk on any slope around 36 degrees, if anyone were foolish enough to travel up (or down) such a slope.
We followed the miraculous road back down the mountain to see where it led, and just how we managed not to be on it. Shortly after the point where we had clambered up onto it, we hit the first of 6 switchbacks, and the road became much steeper. More sweet telemark turns were had, and much foolish prancing was done by the snowshoe contingent (picture 7). At one point on the trip down, the GPS showed that we were only 100m from our track up the mountain. On further inspection, this road was revealed not to be a forestry road as previously assumed, but a private road constructed by the rancher for the purposes of accessing the alpine pasture. From the looks of things, the alpine pasture has not been accessed in several years. Any future expedition would do well to proceed on foot, as any motorized vehicle expedition would require a chainsaw and several hardy souls to clear deadfall from the road.
As we rounded one switchback, the expedition was confronted with a gang of roving ungulates, bent on thwarting our efforts down the mountain. One whiff of our official Expedition Weapons Technician, and they beat a hasty retreat into the woods (picture 8). We got to the bottom of the mountain with great haste. Tragedy was narrowly avoided as the Chief Expedition Scout (Geoff) was startled by a tree on the trail around a corner. He was required to abandon dignity, but made a hasty stop on his skis prior to impact. The only casualty was a scrape in the base of the skis. The snow quality was greatly reduced in the valley, and the ski contingent made the choice to proceed on foot. The road went through a gate in a fence at the bottom of the hill; since this fence was not posted "No Trespassing", we walked on through. After a short bit of trudging, we finally solved the mystery of where the road started. As we rounded the corner, we saw the official Expedition Transport parked right in front of the gate to the road. We had parked not 20 feet from the entrance to the right road, and yet missed it entirely. The gate to the road blended in with the surrounding fence, and the fence was posted "No Trespassing" on this side (picture 9). Curses were spoken in a rather unpleasant manner, and the Expedition force demobilized and slunk into the warmth of the 4runner; defeated, but not beaten. As we slunk away along the road, we noted that the nearest house along the road belonged to "Blair" - future seekers may wish to request permission to travel up the road from here.
The confluence point is determined to be about 1.75 km away in the direction that the Expedition Cartographer is pointing - although he has been wrong before.
This confluence point will not remain unfound - We'll be back!