White Lakes: The Path Less Travelled

The Vitals

Date: July 24-25, 2021

Location: White Lakes near Pemberton, BC

Distance: ~10 km

Partners: Scott

Photos: Scott

The Trip

White Lakes are a collection of four small lakes north of Saxifrage peak near Pemberton with no established trail. I knew the Spetch Creek FSR was in decent shape after scrambling Saxifrage and Cassiope last year and Scott wanted to try forging a direct route up to the lakes. The distance involved is minor but the terrain is anything but easy to travel through.

Chinook looking for somewhere to land

On Saturday morning I picked Scott up in Pemberton and we were at the trailhead for Valentine Lake before 10:00. We passed by that trailhead, crossed Spetch Creek on a basic bridge, and followed the decent logging roads for about a kilometer before we reached the end of the logging cut and started bushwhacking.

Landing spot north of the lake

In the top image above, the red line approximates our route on the first day. This route is not in the least recommended. We got suckered into gaining elevation by an old rock slide but it petered out well below the treeline. At this point we stubbornly thrashed up steep alders, devil’s club and blowdown until reaching the base of some cliffs below a minor peak south of Mt. Oleg. We started contouring towards the lakes but we were far off route and spent another 1.5 – 2 hours thrashing over more blowdown and through another rock slide before reaching the second-lowest lake. It took us about 6 hours in the end to cover a distance of about 5 km and to gain around 1000 meters.

Looking west over the two lower lakes

After choosing our camp, a large military helicopter (CH-147F Chinook) entered the basin and started hunting for a place to land. After a few minutes, the helicopter touched down north of the third-highest lake and some uniformed personnel jumped out and milled about for 10 minutes before they took off and headed west out of the basin. (Update: post from CFcombatcamera).

Near our campsite below Saxifrage Peak

The next morning we decided to try a different route out (down the yellow line) looking to stay south of Spetch Creek. This route is a lot easier though the rock is very loose in the gullies near the creek. There is a distinct change in the grade below a waterfall that exits the lowest lake at which point we needed to recommence the bushwhacking of the day before through more blowdown, alder, and devil’s club. An unpleasant hour brought us out to a recently logged cutblock on the southern logging road spur. The open road back to the car was a nice contrast to the thick bush and was lined with lots of raspberries to sweeten the deal even further.

I wouldn’t recommend either of these routes. The lakes are a beautiful location and not often visited but a much better access route would be to approximately follow the blue line in the map. By using established trail below tree line to Valentine Lake and then scrambling in the alpine, the total time to the lakes is probably similar but with much more pleasant travel. To leave you could retrace your steps or take the yellow line out but be prepared for about a kilometer of deeply unpleasant bush.

Pretty gorgeous spot but pick another route.