Smith Peak


Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Monday, September 1, 2014
Summit Elevation (m): 
Summit Elevation (ft): 
Elevation Gain (m): 
Total Distance (km): 
Quick 'n Easy Rating: 
Class 2 : you fall, you sprain your wrist
Difficulty Notes: 

Another pretty easy summit in the vicinity of Harrison. Some route finding required to keep it 3rd class.

Trip Report

Because we're suckers for punishment, we decided it would be a good idea to attempt a third peak in the Harrison area after coming down from Mount Folk on Sunday and after approaching and climbing Mount Harrison on Saturday. The only beta we had on the peak was from Rick Collier. Rick mentions an elk trail that they discovered on their descent and recommends using it and the easternmost ridge "curving to the south" to ascend the peak, rather than scrambling and bushwhacking up any of the other ridges. The parking spot for the ascent is not easy to spot while driving down the spur road because it is overgrown and disappears into the bush behind you as you drive past it. Steven noticed it or we may not have found it so easily! It was approximately at the 5km mark (from either direction). I had plugged in some GPS points so we knew approximately where it was which helped immensely in finding it. It's also possible that new logging spur roads can be driven up the other side of Harrison Creek so that you could in theory drive almost right to the bottom of the ascent ridge! But good luck figuring out how to do that without getting hopelessly lost or stuck. surprise


We crossed Harrison Creek on a well-placed fallen log which was not put there by humans - this peak doesn't see THAT many ascents. We continued up an overgrown road on the opposite side, heading east. Without my GPS way points, which I plotted at home ahead of time, we would have been tempted to head up an earlier ridge on Smith, which would have been pretty bad bushwhacking. Instead, we managed to follow first a very new logging road (with recent vehicle tracks) for about 2km and then a switch backing older one (still obvious) until we found ourselves in a hanging valley between the easternmost ridge of Smith and the penultimate easternmost ridge (say that 5 times fast).


[Ben on the not-so-clear logging road after we crossed Harrison Creek.]

[The new logging road that had been driven on recently. We followed this east for a few kilometers. Note the very recent burn across the valley.]

[Now we can finally see the burn areas that produced the notices we'd seen on the drive in effectively closing the Harrison area in early August. Mount Peck at right of center with double summits.]

[Mount Splendid looms over us as we hike up the logging road.]

[Now we've headed onto a much older road that switchbacks up towards the easternmost ridge of Smith.]

[Now we're on an even older road which was part of the strange strips of old cut blocks in the hanging valley NE of the first false summit.]

[There was evidence of very old logging activity in the bare areas of this valley. This is looking at the south ridge of Smith, we'd bail to climber's left here to access the easternmost ridge before curving around to the south ridge on the spine.]


This hanging valley was logged many, many years ago in an interesting pattern. Instead of clear cutting the whole valley like they do nowadays, the loggers took strips out, leaving strips of mature forest in between. This was interesting to walk through - we followed bits of trail (elk) through these strips until we realized it was time to get up on that easternmost ridge. We knew it would take a miracle to find the same elk trail that Rick had used and his ribbons were long gone, so we just started bushwhacking straight up the west side of the ridge. To our great astonishment we did come on a great trail! Steven and Ben decided not to trust it as it was trending in a northerly direction and continued to bushwhack. Eric and I followed the trail up. The trail was extremely steep and went right up onto the ridge where it merged with another trail running the spine of the ridge! It was very good fortune to find this trail - remember we were lugging full bivy packs up and had already ascended a mountain and descended to camp earlier in the day.


[On a great trail along the spine of the ridge.]


Once on the spine of the ridge it was simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other until we found a reasonable bivy spot. We had a great trail to follow, so we did just that. One surprise was the first false summit. We had to lose at least 125 vertical meters after climbing almost to the top of it so that sucked. We'd hoped to bivy at the col between the two false summits, but there was no obvious place to bivy there so we started up the second false summit on steep, forested slopes - still on an animal trail. About 50 vertical meters higher than the col we found our home for the night. It wasn't perfect but it would do. The weather was starting to deteriorate and we were tired so we made it work. After setting up camp in light rain, we ate supper and settled in for the night. I had an annoying sleep thanks to the angle of my tent. I kept sliding off the back of my sleeping pad.


[Our first glimpse of the first false summit (L) and Smith rising beyond.]

[Nice terrain along the ridge.]

[On the spine of the ridge, looking back at our ascent route. Note the swaths of old clear cut in the valley below and the easternmost ridge on the right hand side of the photo. Mount Splendid rises on the left.]

[Looking back along the ridge towards Mount Peck at center distance.]

[Looking off the south side of the ridge.]

[Great view of our route ahead with the summit looming above. Our eventual bivy site is the small clearing right on the ridge crest above Eric's head here.]

[Losing height before regaining it to our bivy which is at center left here. We descended this valley via the steep gullies after climbing Smith the next day.]

[Heading down between the two false summits. The high summit on the far left is an outlier of Harrison and is higher than Smith but unnamed - Harrison SE2 on Bivouac.]

[Looking out over our exit valley - one valley to the west of our ascent valley.]

[View from my tent.]

[Eating supper in light rain / sleet.]

[There was a very cool rock outcrop near camp - this is looking back at camp from it. Our descent gully is the brown patch of dirt just off the gray rock moving down to the left.]

[Looking out from camp towards Mount Peck.]

[There wasn't a lot of room and everything was on an angle but we made it work.]

[Ben eats his trust Pringles on the outcrop near camp with Mount Peck in the background.]

[Home sweet home.]

[Sunset over our little corner of paradise. False summit on the ridge at right (from approach) with Peck in the distance.]

[Looking east at sunset over a long, unnamed ridge to the SE. The summit at far right is Mount Hadiken ++]


We awoke to a pretty gray morning - even some rain drops - but decided that we'd been lucky the previous two days so why not this one too? We readied our packs and started up the mountain to the false summit with some nice sunrise colors lighting up the sky to the east, behind us. As we got closer under the cliffs above camp we started traversing scree slopes on the south side of the false summit and eventually worked our way around it on intermittent goat trails to the col between it and the true summit.


[Sunrise behind us as we start our ascent. ++]

[Looking east back down the ridge. Cross Creek Valley runs towards the Elk River Valley at left, running right.]

[The clouds added to the dramatic landscape as we got higher.]

[Easy scrambling in the cool morning air. ++]

[A pano looking left (south) as we go around the false summit - the true summit in the sun light ahead, right of center. ++]

[A tighter view of the cliff band that we traversed underneath (R) towards the summit.]

[Eric traverses along the cliffs.]

[It's easy to get into technical terrain on Smith, the trick is to bail climber's left at these sections. Here we are traversing under the false summit.]

[Steven waits for us under the false summit on the traverse.]

[Looking back at Eric on the traverse under the cliffs to the col.]

[Right now our summit is in the sun - this won't last!]


Thick clouds started rolling in as we climbed higher up the summit block. Any difficulties on the final ridge were circumvented to the south and eventually we were on the summit with clouds swirling around us obscuring our views and making things very cold. We didn't linger long, after signing a pretty empty summit register which included the apparent first ascent entry in 1966, we headed back down to our bivy.


[A nice morning to be up high on a remote peak. Splendid Mountain at left of center. ++]

[This section was easy and fun, especially in the unexpected sunshine.]

[Grunting up scree]

[The clouds start thickening as we climb adding dramatic views off the ridge.]

[A first ascent register is pretty rare nowadays and 1966 is a while ago!]

[Rick Collier register. I'm not sure why he placed a separate one?]

[Comparing elevation readings.]

[Mount Harrison is buried in clouds.]

[The clearest pano I got from the summit, looking towards Harrison (L) and Folk (R) which are buried in clouds. ++]

[A glimpse of Splendid peak.]


[Carefully avoiding the loose rock on descent.]

[Wild landscape.]

[Making our way along the east ridge to the false summit.]

[Splendid Mountain actually looks kind of splendid with the swirling cloud.]

[Back around the false summit cliff band.]

[The final rubble slopes to the bivy.]

[Back in warmer weather.]


From our bivy we decided to take a risk and descend directly into the valley between the two false summits of Smith Peak's east ridge. There was a perfect exit ramp from just below our bivy which would potentially save us kilometers of hiking back to the easternmost intersecting ridge. The risk was that we had no idea how bad the bushwhacking would get to exit this hanging valley. The ramp was very quick and soon we were hiking out of the valley along a delightful stream dipping into the forested slopes above the clear cuts. The only intense bushwhacking was a short stretch to get past a series of cliff bands just above the clear cuts lower down. This was bad enough that I wouldn't want to ascend here, but it worked OK for descent. From there we followed our approach road back across Harrison Creek and to the truck.


[Looking down the ramp we used to exit the east ridge of Smith from just below our bivy.]

[Looking back at the east ridge, we descended the deepest notch you can see and bivied just above it by the prominent grey outcrop.]

[The hanging valley beneath our bivy on the ridge.]

[Into the bush... It was pretty good for a while along the stream until we ran into cliff bands further down.]

[Following the stream.]

[Lush forest.]

[Any good adventure in the Rockies involves at least some of this.]

[Eventually we bushwhacked through a short and very steep section of alders to get around the cliff band and came out in this clear cut.]

[I'm not sure why they leave some trees like this? My guess is that they're only allowed to harvest certain types.]

[The false summit from the clear cut. I wouldn't recommend ascending this way, but it works for a fast descent.]

[The end of another successful late summer peak bagging trip.]

[The drive along the Bull River FSR has many wonderful views like this. I think this is "just" an outlier, but it's a pretty darn impressive one!]


I can't say I highly recommend Smith Peak, but if you're in the area anyway it may be worth your time. The north ridge of Mount Splendid (named by Pat Morrow presumably tonque-in-cheek due to it's non-splendidness!) is another option in the area. Both could be done as day trips from logging roads nearby but both offer little other than views of clear cuts, scree bashing and bush.

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