the Degree Confluence Project

Canada : British Columbia

10.0 km (6.2 miles) SSE of Sproatt, BC, Canada
Approx. altitude: 1540 m (5052 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreeMap topo topo250 ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 50°S 57°E

Accuracy: 9 m (29 ft)
Quality: good

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Closeup view of The Black Tusk shrouded by clouds #3: Video capture image of view to SouthEast #4: The GPS proof picture #5: The bridge over the Cheakamus River #6: Map image(large) showing waypoints & topography

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  50°N 123°W (visit #1)  

#1: Looking SSW from the confluence towards The Black Tusk

(visited by Dave Patton)

03-May-2001 -- While creating the confluence index for British Columbia, I had noticed that 50N 123W was near the town of Whistler(famous for the best ski resort in North America), and appeared to be located fairly near to a trail which I had not been on, but which branched off an easy trail that I was familiar with.

Ealier this year, on a visit to a friend(Ross) in Whistler, I went on a snowshoe outing along the road that leads to the easy trail's parking lot, but the road itself was not open, being covered in snow.

I went up to Whistler from Vancouver on the evening of Tuesday, May 1st, because I was going skiing on Whistler Mountain the next day with Ross. On the trip up, there was just enough daylight left to check out the gravel road to the trail's parking lot. I found that with the use of 4-wheel drive to get through some patches of snow, I could get to the parking lot, which started me thinking about a confluence attempt.

On Wednesday, May 2nd, Ross and I had a wonderful day skiing on Whistler - there was a 207cm mid-mountain base, it was sunny, and there were no lineups! At one point we went up the Peak chairlift so I could get a view across the Cheakamus valley towards the confluence area, to try and assess the amount of snow on the ground.

That evening, I decided to attempt the confluence the next day if the weather held. This wasn't planned, as I had gone up to Whistler to ski, and hadn't really expected the road to the parking lot to be clear of snow yet. Also, I hadn't refreshed my memory about the terrain around the confluence, and I hadn't brought any topographic maps with me, although I did have my GPS, and snowshoes. I've created a map image of the trip( Picture #6, which is a fairly large image ), to help illustrate the following narrative.

On Thusday, May 3rd 2001, the weather, while not a clear sunny day, wasn't too bad. I drove down Highway 99, turning off at Cheakamus Road(0 KM), opposite the entrance to Function Junction(Whistler's industrial park). Just 0.4 KM up the road, I turned left onto the Cheakamus Lake Forest Service Road. At 2.2 KM, to the right, there is a trail off the road that leads down to a suspension bridge over the Cheakamus River. On the other side of the bridge are trails in the Whistler Interpretive Forest which can be used for cross-country skiing in the winter, or mountian-biking in the summer.

At 3.9 KM is Crater Lookout. This provides a view across the valley to the extinct volcano crater that holds Logger's Lake. At 7.7 KM is the parking lot, which is the trailhead for the Cheakamus Lake trail, which is part of Garibaldi Provincial Park. For more about the park, you can check the official BC Parks webpage and there is more information at Natural Resources Canada or this USGS site.

At 10:45AM I set out from the trailhead, which is at an elevation of 820 meters(2,700 feet). Within 15 minutes the trail is into old-growth forest, and is quite easy, with little elevation gain. At 1.5 KM there is a signpost, and I turned to the right there, down towards the Cheakamus River. A few minutes later I was at the bridge over the Cheakamus River( Picture #5 ), which has replaced the old hand-operated cable-car crossing.

Across the bridge, the Helm Creek trail rises steeply in a series of switchbacks. It often appears from the GPS readings that the trail isn't going in the direction of the confluence at all. At 12:20PM I stopped for lunch beside a small creek. This was a good spot, not just because of the timing, but also because I needed to put on my snowshoes at this point. There had been patches of snow along the trail, but now the snow was completely covering the trail.

The trail continues climbing, while slowly heading in a more westerly direction, until it reaches a ridge above Helm Creek. It then continues up this ridge, more or less paralleling the creek. Initially, following the snow-covered trail on snowshoes was fairly easy. There are trail markers, and where there were gaps between the markers, I usually had clues such as fallen logs that had been cut for the trail, along with some snowshoe tracks from someone who had been up the trail recently. I'm not sure how long the tracks had been there, but it can't have been more that a few days, because it had snowed a few inches earlier in the week, and although in places the old tracks had been covered, they could often be seen as a sort of "ghostly impression" in the fresh snow.

During this part of the trail from the bridge up to the ridge, the GPS reception was at times poor, at least in part because of the thicker forest canopy. As I progressed up the ridge, the trees became smaller and more thinly spaced, and I was able to maintain a tracklog.

The higher I got, the more I realized that this confluence wasn't "just up the trail from the bridge", which is how I had remembered it from my brief research weeks ago. I had thought the confluence was very near Helm Creek, and that the trail was also near the creek, but this trail just didn't seem to want to go towards the west, but continued to head more or less due south.

By this point there was enough snow on the ground that any signs of the trail were gone, other than the trail markers. Even with these, were it not for the remnants of the old snowshoe tracks, I would have spent too much time trying to re-locate the trail in the numerous places where the trail markers are too far apart, and would have had no chance of making the confluence with the time I had remaining.

While still gaining in elevation, the terrain wasn't as steep as the early going, but I figure that was balanced by my dwindling energy. From time to time the trail dipped down into what may have been covered creekbeds, so I may have crossed a few frozen creeks.

I had been telling myself that 4PM should be my time to turn around and head back, and although I wasn't at the confluence, it was close enough that I didn't want to quit just yet. I had reached a point in the trail where I was at a latitude of 50N, with the confluence to the west. The trail seemed to continue towards the south, so I decided to just head west.

As much as possible I kept heading west, only changing direction as needed to make the navigation as easy as possible - no sense crashing through trees and risking falling into a tree well when you can just go around them. Once again I believe I crossed a couple of frozen creeks.

I was getting really close now, and of course just as I figured I was a couple of minutes from my first confluence, I came to a steeper gully. Looking at the map, I'm sure this was Helm Creek. The approach side was a fairly easy, being a somewhat steep open snow-covered slope, but on the other side it took a bit of work to get up the steeper, and tree-covered slope.

Once up the slope I could see the terrain opening up, and a few minutes later arrived at my first confluence, which was also the first primary confluence for British Columbia! The confluence is at an elevation of 1,536 meters(5,040 feet). The day before, my friend Ross had suggested that if I made it, I mark the spot with a rock cairn, but I wasn't about to start digging through what looked to be about 2 meters of snow!

Despite a few glimpses of blue sky on the way up, the weather had been mixed, with some light rain falling at times while at the lower elevations, and light snow at the upper. By the time I reached the confluence it was snowing lightly, with a bit of a breeze, and it was 4:50PM.

Picture #1 is from the confluence looking SSW towards The Black Tusk(2,316m), with Empetrum Peak to the right. The Black Tusk is a spire of volcanic rock over two hundred meters high, and is the remnant of a small volcano, perhaps the conduit for lava within a cinder-rich volcano. The loose cinder has eroded, leaving only the hard lava core. Picture #2 is a closer look(zoom lens) at The Black Tusk. Picture #3 is a frame capture from my video camera, looking SE to, I believe, Helm Peak, which seems to have a crater at it's top. Picture #4 is the usual proof picture.

I was getting cold, and it was late, so I didn't stay long at the confluence. I had the last of my one liter of water, and headed back. At least it was all downhill(except the gullies), and I had my own tracks to keep me on the trail. I was back to the lunch spot at 7:30PM, and took off the snowshoes. I crossed the bridge at 8:20PM(that's when I took Picture #5 ), and was back at the parking lot at 8:45PM.

It was a longer day than I had expected, but it was rewarding to make it. After all, how many other people have had their first confluence on snowshoes at over 5,000 feet, including views of 3 volcanoes along the way? Maybe someone else will do it during the summer and add their pictures and experiences. The scenery in the park is beautiful, and worth a visit even if the confluence isn't on your list.

I managed to make it back to Ross' house in time to watch the final vote on the final night of the Survivor II television show, complete with BC apple cider, and a pizza, and after the show ended, some chocolates for desert after a nice hot shower. A great day of skiing followed by my first(and BC's first primary) confluence - what a great couple of days!

 All pictures
#1: Looking SSW from the confluence towards The Black Tusk
#2: Closeup view of The Black Tusk shrouded by clouds
#3: Video capture image of view to SouthEast
#4: The GPS proof picture
#5: The bridge over the Cheakamus River
#6: Map image(large) showing waypoints & topography
ALL: All pictures on one page
In the Garibaldi Provincial Park.