Semaphore Lakes: Run Away Train

One of the Semaphore Lakes

Last weekend we went on a two day hiking trip to the Semaphore Lakes area. The original plan was to go to Vancouver Island to visit our friends Jan and Warrick, but this didn’t work out, and they agreed to come over to the mainland instead. Our friend Michelle also joined us, freed from her two young kids for the first time in four years. We left Vancouver at 5am and made good time to Pemberton where we filled up gas at an exorbitant price. From there we drove another hour on logging roads high up into the mountains to Railroad Pass. Just as I stopped the car to check if we were in the right place, we saw some white smoke coming out of the front of the car. A quick look underneath confirmed that oil was spraying onto the exhaust pipe and burning. Oh well, I thought, let’s go hiking and deal with it when we get back.

Mulling around, trying to decide what to do

The access to the alpine is amazingly short here – just two hours, and we were in an above the trees wonderland. We set up our tents, spent an inordinate amount of time hanging our food properly, and then tried to figure out what to do next. We decided to start by hiking up the hill behind camp, Peak 6010, to have lunch. This provided us with excellent views of both the snowy Railroad Group – Locomotive, Tender, Caboose, Faceless and Face, the Train Glacier, and on the other side, the drier but colourful Grouty Peak. In addition, some of us took the opportunity to nap under the warming rays of the sun. Others discussed the route up Face which seemed somewhat complicated, although we had a good description from the excellent guidebook Scrambles in Southwest BC (by Matt Gunn).

Taking a rest on Locomotive

We were left with half a day to fill, what to do…? Eventually, we started hiking in the direction of Locomotive, to “explore” and eventually ended up going for the summit. There was still lots of snow, so our ice axes were very useful and we spent some time instructing on walking on snow and self-arrest. The views from the summit were incredible and well worth the effort. We also got a good look at the ridge connecting Locomotive and Face, which was our objective for the second day. This traverse has been dubbed the “Entrainment”, the idea of which came to us from fellow VOC’ers Richard and Pete who had done a trip to the area the week before. The train theme of the area was not lost on us, although it would be interesting to hear what started it – there don’t seem to be any train tracks close by. The descent was quick since we could glissade (slide) most of the way.

Train glacier and Locomotive - yes, we were up there the day before

The next day we left camp at 8:30am in the direction of Face. First we had to cross a creek and then hike up scree slopes to bypass a cliff. From there we headed up the more mellow ridge, until we hit a cliff and had to traverse over to the side by crossing a somewhat steep snow slope. Then came the diagonal ramp we had spotted the day before from the hill behind camp and would lead us almost to the top. Maya heard some rocks falling and found us a mountain goat, the first Maya and I had seen. Warrick found a huge see-through crystal which looked like it had been cut on purpose to look like a diamond, very impressive. Scrambling up the ramp was fun, but we had to watch not to drop rocks on one another, especially since we didn’t have helmets. From the end of the ramp it was a short way to the summit, and, predictably, amazing views. We could see Mt. Samson, the Siding Glacier and the rest of our route for the day. It was a bit windy, but we still stayed there to have our lunch.

Maya and Michelle on the summit of Face

We made our way back down to the ridge, but I was more enthusiastic than the rest to bag all the peaks along the ridge, so I went on to Faceless while the rest of the group contoured below. We met up on the other side of the peak. We continued the traverse over Caboose and Tender. Next we passed underneath Locomotive which we had scrambled the day before, and I ran up to tag the summit again. The descent was familiar to us and quick. The whole traverse took us about 9.5 hours including many breaks. We still had to pack up our belongings and hike back down to the car. We checked the oil, but it was fine, it seemed that it had only started leaking after the long uphill to the pass.

On the way down to the col

From there we drove back to Vancouver, arriving after 11pm, in time for a great late night special all-you-can-eat of Sushi and other Japanese dishes. Once we got our fill we drove back home and after a shower, went straight to bed, tired but feeling very satisfied after a great weekend in the mountains.



This entry was posted in British Columbia (and nearby), Hiking & Scrambling, Hurley & Lillooet Valley, Trip Reports. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Semaphore Lakes: Run Away Train

  1. Bob says:

    Great blog by the way. Question about Semephore and the Locomotive – I’m planning a day trip – is the Locomotive doable in a day ? And I’m not too experienced in scrambling – how intense is it on the Locomotive ?



    • Gili says:

      Thanks! Locomotive can be scrambled as a day hike. It’s a short hike to Semaphore Lakes (1-1.5 hours?) and then a few more hours each way to Locomotive. It’s an easy scramble – when we did it there was a fair amount of snow, so an ice axe and gaiters were very handy to have. There’s a description of the scramble in the Scrambles guidebook by Matt Gunn, which I highly recommend. Enjoy!

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