Upper Dunbar Lakes And Mount Ethelbert
After a leisurely weekend of hiking and camping at Albert-Palliser Recreation Site, Edwina (Eddie) Podemski, Chris Wood, Kelly Wood and I packed up our camp early on 7 August 2006 and drove into Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia for breakfast before continuing northwest up Frances Creek Forest Service Road into the Purcell Mountains.  At the end of the road, we spent about an hour organizing and sorting our gear in preparation for a three-day trip into Upper Dunbar Lakes (known locally as "Shangri-La") via Tiger Pass.  After securing all our extra stuff in Chris's minivan, we all piled into my Honda CR-V along with our backpacks and began the arduous drive up an old mining road to the Tiger Pass trailhead.  Describing this road as "rough" would be the understatement of the year.  Negotiating deep ruts and ditches, tight switchbacks, loose rocks, flowing streams, and scratchy vegetation, my car took a real beating getting up to the trailhead.  At one point, my gutless car stalled trying to climb a steep hill.  Even after everyone disembarked from the car, I still had lots of trouble getting enough momentum to keep climbing up the hill.  It took me about a dozen tries (and almost as many stalls), but I finally managed to push my car past this obstacle much to everyone's relief.  Chris and Eddie had previously done this same trip two years ago, and as we pulled into the scenic trailhead parking area, I was both impressed and shocked that Chris had been able to drive his minivan all the way up here.  Still, the drive saved us about 580 metres of elevation gain which would not have been fun to climb with full backpacks.

After a short but very steep climb through some larch trees, we enjoyed a pleasant hike up the open valley leading to Tiger Pass.  Although there is no trail beyond the last trees, the route is obvious, and the grade is generally moderate until just before the pass.  It took us about ninety minutes to reach the crest of Tiger Pass.  I was the first to arrive and was somewhat surprised to find a very young Francophone family--father, mother and a gaggle of kids--lounging at the pass.  More alarming than the fact that they were on vacation from Quebec was that they had descended (and re-ascended) the glacier on the north side of Tiger Pass without any gear whatsoever.  Although the glacier is modest in size, there are crevasses readily visible from the pass.  Eddie, the Safety and Equipment Coordinator for the Edmonton ACC, was practically beside herself as the family headed back toward the trailhead.  Knowing that a two-year old baby had just climbed the glacier unroped, we almost felt silly hauling a rope, crampons, ice axes and other climbing paraphernalia all the way up to the pass.  Nevertheless, we roped up (a first for both Kelly and me) and descended the glacier easily and safely.  We set up camp on high ground between the two largest of the Dunbar Lakes.  Overall, it had taken us about 4.5 hours to hike in from the trailhead.
My poor car...  Chris stands beside Sonny's Honda CR-V at the trailhead.
That rope is bloody heavy! Sonny feels the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Photo courtesy of Edwina Podemski
About another hour to the pass from here. Tiger Pass comes into view.
Making good progress... Eddie and Kelly climb up a snow patch.
Whew!  That last slope was a bit of a grunt! This is the view south from Tiger Pass.  The Catamount Glacier can be seen at distant right.
After seeing Mount Ethelbert, how can you NOT want to bag it?? The view north of Tiger Pass includes the stunning eye-catcher, Mount Ethelbert.
So how do you tie a bowline knot? Chris watches as Eddie ties Kelly into the rope.
This is gonna be fun! Sonny, Kelly and Chris begin descending the glacier.
Photo courtesy of Edwina Podemski
What a view! Eddie leads the way down the glacier.
Eddie likes to take a LOT of photographs (and movies too). Eddie stops to take some photographs.
Wouldn't wanna fall into that! Here is one of the more obvious crevasses.
Kelly looks cool with all that gear! Chris and Kelly wait patiently during one of the many photo stops.
Seems like we've hardly moved! Here is another look at Mount Ethelbert from the glacier.
We could see footprints to the right of this big ice patch. This is looking back up the glacier to Tiger Pass.
Never get tired of this view! One of the larger lakes is more completely revealed here.
Too easy. Chris, Kelly and Sonny continue merrily down the glacier.
Photo courtesy of Edwina Podemski
Kelly actually took a painful spill just moments before this photo was taken. Kelly hops across a crevasse.
That glacier is bigger than I thought. Kelly works her way down the moraine.
"Horeb" is a biblical reference to the "mountain of God". Horeb Mountain towers over the largest lake in the area.
We're almost at our campsite! Eddie and Kelly cross a connecting creek between the two largest of the Upper Dunbar Lakes.
Wish I had brought smokies! Chris enjoys a nice fire in camp.
Although Chris and Eddie had previously climbed Mount Ethelbert, they were willing to accompany me up the mountain again the next day, 8 August 2006.  While Kelly relaxed in camp, the rest of us set off toward the mountain at 7:05 AM.  The weather forecast that we got back in Radium Hot Springs anticipated some possible afternoon thunderstorms in the area.  Thus we hoped to get off the mountain by early afternoon.  Instead of ascending the route described by Aaron Cameron and Matt Gunn in their excellent guide, Hikes around Invermere & the Columbia River Valley, we climbed up a narrow ramp further to the west.  Although there were lots of loose rocks here, I managed to find some decent hands-on scrambling further up.  We reached the col west of Mount Ethelbert at 9:05 AM only to be disappointed to find that the surrounding views were obscured by smoke.  Because of the lack of views, Chris and Eddie decided it was not worth their while to re-climb the rest of the mountain and offered to wait at the col for me while I dashed up to the summit.  The scrambling up the final slope was quite enjoyable, and I reached the summit cairn at 10:16 AM.  Again, I could not see much beyond the surrounding ridges and had to content myself by exploring a couple of outlying nubs.  Leaving the summit at 11:02 AM, I rejoined Chris and Eddie at the col at 11:25 AM.  From there, we descended the Cameron/Gunn route and took our time exploring various tarns on our way back to camp in hopes of finding a good bathing spot.  We made it back to camp by about 2:30 PM and were a little choked to see the sky clearing up as the afternoon progressed.

A little later, I wandered off on my own and found an idyllic pond surrounded by larch trees.  The water, though chilly, was actually quite bearable, and I felt rather euphoric bathing buck naked in my own personal Shangri-La!  Refreshed, I spent the rest of the afternoon curled up with a book on a warm rock before enjoying a relaxing dinner with everyone else in the evening.
Not bad for free camping, eh? This is the great view of the Septet Range from the campsite.
This is the same ascent route that Chris and Eddie took the last time they climbed Mount Ethelbert. Chris heads up easy rubble toward the notch just right of centre.
Pretty good views, so far! The morning sun lights up the Septet Range.
It's steeper and looser than it looks. Eddie and Chris ascend the narrow ramp.
This part was really loose.  I veered upwards to climber's left as soon as I could. Sonny scrambles up the ramp.
Photo courtesy of Edwina Podemski
This is where I escaped to climber's left to find better rock. The ramp widens out to a broad scree slope at this point.
How many lakes can you spot? Smoke begins to pervade the air over Upper Dunbar Lakes.  Tiger Pass is visible above the glacier at right.
There is a non-technical route into "Shangri-La" from Templeton Lake, but it does not come up over this col. This is looking down the north side of the col to Templeton Lake.
No route-finding necessary--just go up! Sonny starts up the final slopes of Mount Ethelbert.
As usual, stick to the slabs on the way up, and slide on rubble on the way down! Slabs and rubble typify the upper part of Mount Ethelbert.
Nice cairn, shame about the view... Sonny reaches the 3175-metre summit of Mount Ethelbert.
This nub is an easy walk-up. Here is a nub to the southeast of the summit.  Climax Lake is barely visible down in the valley.
I could go on bagging nubs all day! This is looking back at Mount Ethelbert's summit from another nub to the northeast.
Chris and Eddie are very colour-coordinated! Eddie and Chris prepare to descend the Cameron/Gunn route.
I needed a distraction from the crappy rubble. This is looking up some slabs alongside the rubble slope.
Chris and Eddie aren't big fans of scree and rubble.  Then again, who is? Eddie and Chris stumble their way down the horrible rubble slope.
I can't imagine slogging up this route.  It's bad enough coming down it! This is looking up the Cameron/Gunn route from an alpine tarn.
This section reminded me of the Yellow Brick Road!  We're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz! Chris and Eddie hike down a broad drainage.  Tiger Pass is visible in the hazy distance at left.
Welcome back to Shangri-La! Eddie and Chris descend the final rubble slope before the trees.
Pick your own bathtub! Horeb Mountain is reflected in one of the many shallow pools scattered all over the area.
Hmm...should have slept in and got off to a late start like I normally do! The skies clear up over Mount Ethelbert later in the day.  Sonny's ascent (Podemski/Wood--red) and descent (Cameron/Gunn--green) routes are shown.
Do you smell something burning? Chris, Eddie, Kelly and Sonny enjoy another evening in Shangri-La.
On 9 August 2006, we packed up camp, had a quick breakfast, and climbed back up the glacier to Tiger Pass.  We returned without incident to my car just a little over four hours after leaving Dunbar Lakes.  The drive back down the mining road was a little less nerve-racking than the drive up.  Partway down the road, we stopped by a very nice cabin and found the Francophone family staying there.  We had a pleasant chat with them (no lectures) before continuing on our way back to Chris's minivan.  We sorted out all our gear there before driving back to Radium Hot Springs and checking into a cheap but cozy motel.  Dinner at the Old Salzburg Restaurant rounded out our day.
So long, Shangri-La! Chris, Sonny and Kelly climb up the moraine toward the glacier.
Photo courtesy of Edwina Podemski
Wonder how much longer this ice will last... Here is a closer look at the toe of the glacier.
I almost look like a real mountaineer! Sonny waits patiently on the glacier.
Photo courtesy of Kelly Wood
Eddie set a nice, relaxed pace up the glacier. Eddie leads the way again.
Chris and Eddie lent Kelly a rather monstrous-looking ice axe! Chris waits while Kelly makes a few adjustments to her gear.
Further up, Eddie actually put her foot into a narrow crevasse. Eddie climbs up the glacier toward Tiger Pass.
The view is still as amazing as it was two days previous. Kelly and Chris retrace their steps from a couple of days ago.
Less than 2.5 hours to get to Tiger Pass from Upper Dunbar Lakes. Eddie approaches the crest of Tiger Pass.
Smooth sailing from here. Snow patches make the descent from Tiger Pass much easier.  Lead Queen Mountain is visible in the distance.
This trailhead would be a really nice place to camp.  There's even an outhouse nearby. This colourful tarn is near the trailhead but is not visible from the parking area.
There's a fridge and stove inside and even a shower around the back! This cabin belongs to a friend of the Francophone family.
These beetles are really cool and almost appear to be sociable! Sonny finds a hitchhiker among his gear at the motel in Radium Hot Springs.  This is likely an Oregon Fir Sawyer (Monochamus oregonensis).