Mount Lillian and GR224359
September 18, 2016
Mountain height: 2890
Elevation gain: approximately 1700 m
Roundtrip time: 10:35
If you have never heard of Mount Lillian, you are probably not alone. Lillian (I assume due to its close proximity to Lillian Lake) appears on the map as an unnamed, inconspicuous bump, due north of the Galatea Lakes and east-northeast of Mount Engadine. A brief route description up the south side of the mountain is outlined in David P. Jones’ fantastic new guidebook, The Climber’s Guide to the Rocky Mountains of Canada (Rockies Central), with legendary climber John Martin making the first recorded ascent in 1981.
Attempting this trip was also the perfect excuse to make my first visit to the apparently very scenic Galatea Lakes. It took about 2 hours to reach the first lake and the lake certainly didn’t disappoint – a deep greenish/blue colour, rocky on one side and treed on the other – quite scenic!
The second (Upper) lake was equally impressive. Although there were many potential routes up the mountain, I choose the easiest looking one, via the southwest face. John Martin’s route took the much steeper south face. The slog to the summit ridge started off well, but quickly degraded to steep, treadmill scree and rubble. And, holy smokes, was it foreshortened, taking 2 full hours to ascend the 700 vertical metres of terrain.
Thankfully, the reward of that slog was some pretty sweet views of Mount Bogart and a bunch of others to the north. The other interesting view was that of the narrow and snowy ridge to the east, towards the summit – my friend Evan Roberts would say, “That looks spicy!”
Regretting I didn’t bring crampons and an ice axe, I carefully made my way across the ridge and to the also “spicy” looking summit block. There were a couple of interesting moves along the way, but nothing as scary as I was expecting. The summit block also had far more bark than bite and was ascended with relative ease.
Even with cloudy skies, the summit view was fantastic, especially towards The Tower and Mount Galatea. A look down the north side of the mountain revealed a potentially easier route from Buller Pass. After a long stay, I retraced my steps across the ridge and then took a different descent route down to the Upper Galatea Lake. Since time was not an issue I decided to explore the lake a little. From afar, the upper lake appeared to have something resembling a beach and guess what – there is a beach at the end of the lake. Not quite Maui, but for the Canadian Rockies, a pretty respectable stretch of sand! Surprisingly (but not surprisingly) there is also a section of coral rock protruding from the sand!
I circled both lakes and then started the descent. However, the highpoint (GR224359) on the south side of the lower lake had been beckoning me for most of the day and I couldn’t resist a little diversion up to the summit. From the top, the view of Lillian Lake was pretty cool.
Once again, upon starting down, the lure of a higher point to the west, put a descent briefly on hold. Briefly, because minutes after leaving the summit, the entire area was hit by a vicious snowstorm. I was pretty much forced to run down the mountain in order to get to a less hostile environment. Guess the other highpoint will have to wait! The remainder of the descent was easy, though a little slick with the new snow on the trail.
A great trip that I’m definitely motivated to repeat, perhaps from the Highway 742 side.
Someone left their hand on the trail sign
The southeast side of Mount Lillian
Looking across the lower Galatea Lake to GR224359 at the left
The Tower and dark clouds coming in from the west
Approaching the summit ridge. The route I took went around the right side of the big outcrop at the left.
The best weather of the day
A surprising amount of snow on the summit ridge
A helicopter, far below
Looking back along the ridge
Interesting curves of snow
Red Peak (foreground) and Mount Bogart (right)
Approaching the summit block
At the summit, looking east to the two summits of Mount Kidd
The Tower (right), Mount Galatea (centre), The Fortress (left) and the Galatea Lakes
The lower lake
Same as above, with some weird rock pinnacles
The beach and a lone black rock in the middle
Same as above from eye level
Looking back at the upper lake
Mount Lillian from the south side of the lower lake
Heading up the GR
Leaving the summit before all hell broke loose
The results of the snow storm
Nicer conditions back down at Lillian Lake