Nature Vancouver 2012 Summer Camp
Niut Range, Chilcotin Mountains
July 22-29 and July 29-Aug 5
For photos from the July 1 recce Click HERE
Our camp this year was at Butler Lake in the Niut Range in BC's Chilcotin and was again catered by Jane McClinton. Staging was near Bluff Lake, 25 km south of Tatla Lake which is 221 km west of Williams Lake on Highway 20. Due to the condition of the access road, all campers and equipment were flown in by helicopter. Some campers hiked out at the end of camp; the hike out was approximately 10-12 km with an elevation drop of 900 metres. The campsite was at 1900 metres by Butler Lake close to tree line with some good ridge climbs to the south and east.
45 campers attended the first week and 40 the second week.
The Ride Up
The Camp Chair
Happy Hikers and Pete The Frog
At Homathko Lake
NATURE VANCOUVER 2012 CAMP REPORT - BUTLER LAKE, NIUT RANGE
By Bill Kinkaid and Peg Neilon
The 2012 Summer Camp was an adventure for us before we ever set foot on the site. We had big plans, but things turned out rather differently from what we had planned. Each year we endeavour to find new and different places for our camps: we spend many winter hours working our way through maps and books, aided in this modern age by the internet and Google Earth, and go on summer and autumn trips to look at sites first hand for a "boots on the ground" experience.
A couple of years previously, we were given some leads on prospective areas in the West Chilcotin region, the most exciting prospect being the Rainbow Range in Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park. This is part of the Anahim Volcanic Belt of mountains, separate from the Coast Mountains, and it promised our campers a unique experience. VNHS has had camps in parks in previous decades but regulations are much stricter these days, and parks are generally not welcoming to our style of camping - helicoptering of gear, digging of biffies etc - so we were surprised to hear that BC Parks was willing to accept us in this relatively remote and lightly travelled area. We made a couple of recce trips to the area in late 2010, and found an easily accessible trailhead, a moderate hike in, a perfect campsite, and a wealth of hiking opportunities. We eagerly went ahead with plans to hold our camp there in 2012.
It seemed too good to be true, and it was. We worked to our deadlines to get the camp ad and the registration package out, while we awaited approval from BC Parks for us to use the area. Unfortunately, their timing was out of sync with ours: the day after the registration package was posted on the website, we received notice that our permit had been denied. We will not go into the reasons here, but suffice it to say that we had to scramble to find an alternate site. In 2010 we had investigated some other sites in the region, which were found wanting for one reason or another, but we also made some local contacts in the process. One of these contacts recommended the Niut Range, just south of the village of Tatla Lake. We'd rejected that area due to doubts about access, but we needed a new site, this looked like a good hiking area, the helicopter base was close by, and access was something we could work on. We quickly rejigged the ad and registration package and began planning for a camp in the Niut Range.
The Niut (pronounced Nye-oot) Range is part of the Waddington group and is situated on the edge of the Coast Mountains; from where we camped, the land drops almost immediately to the Chilcotin Plateau. The main part of the Niut, dominated by Whitesaddle and Razorback Mountains, is to the south of our site, and is popular among serious high end mountaineers. Mount Waddington itself is about 100 kilometres to the southwest and is visible from the high ridges on a clear day. Less than two kilometres east of our campsite is Homathko Lake, the source of the Homathko River, which flows north for a short distance before turning south through Tatlayoko Lake and thence to tidewater at Bute Inlet. The campsite was at Butler Lake, which drains into Mosley Creek, known locally as the West Branch (of the Homathko). The name Niut (Eniyut) is said to derive from First Nations lore; Eniyut was the partner of Tsy'los, who fell out with him and moved her home further west to the Tatlayoko Lake area. There are many fascinating stories told of the human history of the Chilcotin, and this area is no exception.
Access to the area was our big challenge. The proposed camp site at Butler Lake had been the base of a mining camp twenty or thirty years previously; we knew of one or two old mining roads and trails into the site but none of us had been there until we did the recce on 1 July, three weeks before the camp. Our plan was to work our way up a rough road with 4x4 and chainsaws if necessary, then find the trail to the lake. But first we decided to get Mike King from Whitesaddle Air to helicopter us up to the lake that morning to have a look at the site before we did anything else, rather than spend dreaded hours thrashing our way in to find the site inadequate for our needs. We'd rather not think about what would have happened should it not have been suitable, but luckily the site proved to be quite acceptable if a little tight for the large tents. The prospectors had left behind a couple of cribs of (presumably worthless) core samples, a functional if well-ventilated outhouse, and a fair amount of old dimension lumber and plywood. We made use of the plywood to build a floor for the cook tent (and one or two personal tents) and a boardwalk for heavily travelled areas, and of the 2x4s to have a campfire a couple of nights each week.
After looking around the site, we flew back to the base and then met up with local Eric Hatch and his ATV and chainsaw, with plans to work our way up the road. While a couple of the recce team members worked on clearing downfall, Eric drove a couple of us up the road to to the trailhead on his ATV. His opinion of the road was that we could drive a full size pickup or SUV up the road if necessary, but he thought it too steep to be safe, and it would take too much time to ferry campers up and down the road. Reckoning that hiking up the road in addition to the trail would take too long, we decided that all campers would be flown in, with the option to hike out at the end of camp.
The campsite was on the shore of Butler Lake, a small lake with subalpine lodgepole and whitebark pine woods on one side and steep rocky slopes on the other. Much of the woods on the shore of the lake was parklike with open grassy and flowery meadows. A mountain creek running through the camp into the lake was our water supply, and further up the creek was a rocky alpine basin surrounded by steep slopes and cliffs.
From the basin we had a choice of two directions:
1. Walk up the slopes to the "East Ridge", a long north-south ridge which divides Butler Creek and Lake from the Homathko drainage proper, then north to a series of rocky knolls, south to the end of the ridge where walking became climbing, or down the other side to Homathko Lake.
2. From "Arrowhead Lake" at the head of the basin, scramble up the headwall next to a waterfall to a hanging valley with meadows and several more tarns. From there, we could walk up to the summit of the ridge above Butler Lake, or make a circuit route back to the camp either by the far end of the lake or straight down the slopes above the lake. A few more intrepid groups scrambled further south from there to the main ridge of Butler Ridge itself, the high point of the week.
We were still faced with finding our way out, and it took us a few attempts to explore and figure out just where to go. The day before we went in for the first week, Nigel Peck, Camp Manager for Week One, walked up the road and some distance along the trail into the open meadows, and flagged the route as far as he could in the time allowed, to a point he thought was reasonably close to the campsite. One day, three of us went out from the camp to look for Nigel's flagging. After some distance of bushwhacking and sidehilling and finding no trace of a trail or any recent flagging, we admitted defeat and made our way back to camp. The next day, Nigel and a few more determined companions struck out and went further, and found the other end of his route considerably further from the camp than originally thought. With the entire route established and well flagged, about half the Week One campers and about one third of Week Two chose to hike out rather than helicopter. The route was a bit rough at the start, but we found ourselves on a mostly easy trail through lush meadows filled with flowers, very different from the mostly rocky areas where we'd spent the week. We took our time hiking back through the meadows, but eventually we had to meet the road, which was good hiking but uninteresting.
As for Tweedsmuir, several of us, after finishing the first week of camp, did our own backpacking trip and spent four nights camping at McCauley Lake in the Rainbow Range. That story is told elsewhere.
|section of topo map Razorback Mountain 92n10||3.23 MB|
|Trail map 1 (from Razorback Mountain 92n10 1:50 000)||1.96 MB|
|Trail map 2 including expanded area to south||3.36 MB|
|Topo map 3 (no trails) wide from Bluff Lake to Niut Mountain||2.88 MB|
|list of possible hiking destinations and GPS/map waypoints||47.78 KB|