We’ve made several attempts over the years to summit the true Trophy Mountain but due to bad weather and other factors, as detailed in this earlier post, we had not been able to make it to top on other trips to the area. However, that changed in July 2019 on a trip to the park in which the weather and conditions were ideal for a true summit scramble.
We picked a weekend in the middle of July to spend a couple of nights at Sheila Lake to give us a full day for getting to the top. No matter how you approach it, getting to the top of Trophy is a long day in rough and rocky terrain. And once again, as always it seems, the mosquitoes were out in full force for much of our hike and scramble.
To get to the top of Trophy, there are two main approaches: from the west along the West Trophy Peaks or from the east by going around CwemCwem Lake. We opted for the eastern approach and started on our way early in the morning shortly after sunrise.
With a quick hike to the upper meadows, we headed east through a very noticeable cut between two rock formations. If in doubt, just follow the largest stream. That cut is the start of a shallow valley to the east of the upper meadows and that was where we started our descent down.
We made a bit of a mistake in this valley. Thinking that we did not want to lose too much elevation, we elected to keep high and traverse over a boulder field to the north of the valley until we ended up descending anyway. In the end, the best route would have been to keep going to the bottom of the first valley before heading north for a small lake. That route likely would have been much easier and faster than the steep, rocky slope that we ended having to descend.
Once we skirted around the little lake in the valley, it was a fairly quick hike up the end of the valley to CwemCwem Lake. Some late season snow lingered in several areas but it was no big deal to get through. The creek was also running high and strong but since we didn’t have to cross it, we were fine.
CwemCwem Lake defines pristine. Due to how difficult it is to reach and that it has no facilities at all, almost everyone who camps in the area will do so at Sheila Lake. I expect only a handful of people a year actually camp at CwemCwem as there is very little evidence of human presence. And that’s the way it should be; places like this should show as little impact as possible. If one chooses to camp at such places, the right thing to do is to leave no trace. No one wants to come upon a pile of human waste and toilet paper in the alpine.
After a bit of a break, we went around the lake and started to head up the east shoulder of Trophy Mountain.
Once you reach the eastern shoulder of the mountain, it’s merely a walk to the top to the summit. There is a trail here and there that can been seen on the route but for the most part, all you need to do is keep walking on the path of least resistance. It did not take us long to reach the top once we left CwemCwem.
As expected, there some are fine views to be had from the top of Trophy. And being that it’s the highest point in the area, there is a 360 degree view. Luckily for us as well, there was not much in the way of wildfire smoke to obscure the view as in years prior, and it was quite satisfying to finally get to the top of this peak to sign the summit register.
In order to make a loop out of this day, we knew that we would be proceeding along the ridge to the west of the peak.
This is the only real ‘technical’ part of the route although the amount of scrambling is quite small and not very committing or exposed.
Most of the route across the ridge is merely a hike, with a bit of rocky scramble on the west end up onto the top of the Western Trophies.
Once on the West Trophy Ridge, there are several different routes back down to Sheila Lake, depending on whether you want to hike down or descend down a steep slope. The easiest, and probably longer way, is to proceed west and descend on the hiking route. The alternative is pretty well straight down the slope to the south, which is our preferred way to return to Sheila Lake.
There is no real trail or track but by avoiding the cliff bands and rock faces, you can make your way down to the upper meadows and easily hook up with the hiking trails below.
From the upper meadows, it’s a quick jaunt back down to Sheila Lake where we relaxed and rested for a bit before packing up camp and heading back down to the parking lot. All told, our loop from Sheila Lake to the top and back was about 12 km.
Trophy Mountain is well worth the trek if the conditions are right, for anyone who is up for a long and challenging hike. Perhaps August or September may be a better time as it’s likely to be drier and there will be far fewer bugs. In any case, this is another one that can be checked off of our list.
The map and track
Max elevation: 2554 m
Min elevation: 1685 m
I am one of the founders of campingcanucks.com. I was lucky enough to grow up in Golden, British Columbia and have been camping, backpacking, and skiing pretty well all my life. I started climbing a few years ago which has opened up even more backcountry and alpine opportunities.
These days, I’m a systems administrator by day and a SAR volunteer operating as a ground search team leader, rope rescue member, swiftwater rescue member, and avalanche response team leader with Kamloops Search and Rescue.