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A trip to Middle Earth

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

The Cadwallader range is a group of mountains on the edge of the Chilcoten range. The best access is Via the Phelix Creek road 45 minutes Northeast past Pemberton. The Tolkien Group is a sun range within the Cadwallader Range. The Tolkien peaks surround the Brian Waddington Memorial hut. A beautiful lakeside alpine hut that provides a sanctuary to people wandering into the mountains on skis and on foot. I had spent time here in my youth ski touring around the beautiful granite summits with my family. My memories of playing cards in the hut and skiing endless powder slopes remain intact in my memory.

Yesterday on July 22nd, 2023 Nick and I came up with a plan to link up all the peaks surrounding the Brian Waddington Hut. Hopefully, if all went smooth we would tag Peregrin, Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, and Shadowfax.

We reached the Brian Waddington hut in a little over 45 minutes. From the hut we left the trail and veered off towards the North Ridge of Peregrin. Thankfully travel was easy and involved little bush.

Nick Jogging along the beach towards the hut.

The North ridge of Peregrine was mostly straight forward with one short section of steeper rock in the realm of low-5th class. That said the ledges were covered in heather and cracks filled with dirt and moss.

Cresting over the crux on the North ridge of Peregrin

From Peregrin we rambled on over to Mount Frodo. Frodo is nothing more than a small bump on the ridge line. Frodo presented nice views of Tolkien Peak. We opted not to summit Tolkien. It would have added long talus slog out and back from Frodo.

Cruising along towards Frodo

once over Frodo we descended to a pass and began to ascend Gandalf. Gandalf is one of the principal summits in the area and is known for a unique pinnacle that one must climb to reach the true summit. The west Ridge of Gandalf is pleasant 3rd class on excellent stone.

Nick in a perfect alpine Au Cheval at the summit of Gandalf.

We moved along effeciently from Gandalf to Aragorn, the highest summit in the group. The terrain between the two summits was a lovely mix of slabs, talus, and rolling ridge line. We stopped briefly before ascending Aragorn to check out the South Face. Jeremy Frimer put up a 5 pitch 5.10b somewhere on the South face. Unfortunately that is about all I know about the route. The rock does look pleasant though. That said it is covered in small heather ledges.

Nick and the S Face of Aragorn

The true summit of Aragorn involves a short boulder problem that according to Mountain Project is V1. We both thought it was easier but still somewhat awkward!

Nick summit’s Aragorn

Nick and I made our way north off Aragorn to avoid making an out and back. To drop down to the glacier we had to navigate a steep 30 meter chimney. There was an old piece of webbing from a group who had rappelled but we managed to find a way to down climb at low-5th with some munge.

Exiting the short Chimney

From this basin we were granted good views of Aragorns unclimbed South Pillar. A party has made an attempt at climbing the face in the past. I believe the party made it halfway before bailing and encountered difficulties of 5.11 A2. We stopped to fill our water bottles in the glacier filled lake and continued over several small bumps to the North Ridge of Shadowfax.

North Pillar of Aragorn
Beautiful alpine rock.

The North Ridge of Shadowfax went by quickly. It consisted of mostly 4th class on solid rock with the exception of one low-5th class step.

Coming up the low 5th corner.
Navigating a notch in the North Ridge

We descended Shadowfax Via the route described in Scrambles in SW BC following a faint path zigzagging along heather ledges. We passed nine people to our surprise. Eventually we transitioned back into the lush sub alpine on a rough trail. The wildflowers bloomed and the birds sang as we jogged along the lakeside.

Taillefer North Face from Shadowfax
Vibrant Giant Paintbrush blooms at the lake.

The trail back down to the car was fast and technical. It flew by in a blur and before I knew it we had arrived back at the car. To our surprise there were 13 other vehicles parked at the trailhead. Quite busy for what used to be considered a remote valley. The Phelix creek logging road was improved a few years back making vehicle access much easier. Like it or not, more folks are recreating in the outdoors than in past years. I think it is good that more people are experiencing wonders of true wilderness. On another hand at what cost is the impact of increased traffic on these fragile ecosystems? If anything I hope these wild spaces inspire people to disconnect from their phones, appreciate wilderness, and recreate responsibly.

A busy Phelix Creek
A classic Birken traffic jam!

The Tolkien Circuit is an excellent outing. It is not Middle Earth but I'd argue it is equally pretty!

Tolkien Group Circuit

  • 22 KM

  • 2200 Meters +-

  • 5:20:59

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Jul 25, 2023

Excellent photos and route description! Thanks Jess. Makes me want to explore the area in summer.

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