Hozomeen Mountain South Peak / 霍佐民山南峯

Hozomeen Mountain South Peak emerges
Hozomeen Mountain South Peak emerges

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Hozomeen Mountain South Peak is the evil twin of the double-summitted Hozomeen Mountain. After unsuccessfully finding a climbing partner for this climb, I decided to tackle the peak on my own. The pup and I enjoyed our visit to Hozomeen Mountain (main summit) back in June. But he was not going to get anywhere near this one. After dropping him off with friends, I drove to the trailhead on Friday night, and car camped.

The Lowdown on Hozomeen Mountain South Peak

Access: Hozomeen Lake Trailhead
Round Trip: 12 miles
Elevation Range: 1720′-8003′
Gear: helmet, rope
GPS Track: available

Hozomeen Lake Trail

Hozomeen Lake Trailhead is located next to the Hozomeen Campground, just outside a water treatment facility. Given the size and the proximity of Hozomeen Lake, I’d expected to see swarms of hikers on the trail. But to my surprise, there was not a single car when I pulled into the parking lot. Several families were occupying the campsites nearby.

Despite its remoteness and being close to the Canadian border, the trail was in excellent conditions. The path wound its way through lush, open forest, to the east of Little Jackass Mountain. Whoever came up with the name for this mountain had a unique sense of humor. After a leisurely 1.5-mile hike, I left the trail at 2400′ and headed east toward Hozomeen Lake‘s outlet.

A quiet stroll
A quiet stroll

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Scrambling Through to the West Rib

Shortly after leaving the trail, I crossed Hozomeen Creek in a quarter of a mile. But not before I got myself out of a sea of Devil’s club. Then I stayed to the north of the creek bed off the west basin of the southwest peak. Lots of down trees in the lower elevation, but the open forest made getting through this section feel less painful.

The terrain became brushier past the down trees. So at 3000′ north of Hozomeen Lake, I stepped out into the creek bed to bypass the vegetation. Then at 3200′, I got back into the forest north of the drainage as the terrain steepened. More down trees past 3800′. But I was able to avoid them by staying close to the edge above the ravine. Eventually, cliffs above the gorge forced me back into the sea of down trees.

Can't escape these
Can’t escape these

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West Rib Through to the West Basin

For the next 1000′, I tried creative ways to skirt around the windfalls. As I approached the 5000′ elevation, I began to make my way east into the basin. Naturally, the bottom of the gully, top of the ravine, held a massive number of boulders. So far, it’s been a dry season, so I didn’t expect to find any more water higher up. Then I filled up my bottle and the 2.5-liter reservoir to use for the climb and at camp.

The section of red scree mixed with heather came immediately after the big boulders. It was probably the most tedious section to get through before the beautiful wall of slabs at 5800′. I was on slabs and ledges for the next 1000′ to the saddle as the terrain continued to steepen. At one point, Hozomeen Mountain began to appear behind me. It was surreal to see it from here since we were just up there in June!

Hozomeen Mountain North Peak making a cameo
Hozomeen Mountain North Peak making a cameo

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6800′ Saddle Camp and Beyond

It seemed to have taken forever to get up to the saddle. But I felt much more pumped about climbing this peak after seeing the view to the south. The imposing Jack Mountain sat stoically amidst the sea of peaks. It was already mid-afternoon. But I figured I could climb now and have an easy day tomorrow. So after dropping off the overnight gear, I started to scope out the terrain.

Glad I didn’t pack crampons for this trip, because there was no snow. I brought the ice ax out of habit, but of course, I ended up not using it. After dropping 200′ on the south side, I traversed east to the access notch on the south rib. Just as I rounded out the ridge, the impressive Hozomeen Mountain South Peak instantly came into view. But before I could get close to it, I needed to go through a broad gully first.

At last
At last

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En Route to the Summit Ridge

The gully had rocks with terrible quality, so I carefully crossed it to the other side. Soon, I got onto another rib at 7100′. Here I remained on the crest and worked my way toward the 7600′ summit ridge. A minor gully with a snow finger stopped me at my tracks and forced me onto the steep south face. But there were plenty of ledges and holds to get me through this section without a hitch.

The minute I stepped onto the ridge, I quickly scoped out the rest of the approach. I couldn’t believe just how narrow the ridgeline was. But before moving on, I took a second to savor the dramatic view of the north peak from the notch. I carefully peeked into the north basin, and it was a straight-up plunge! Not to mention that the north side of Hozomeen Mountain South Peak was also vertical!

Ridge traverse
Ridge traverse

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West Ridge Traverse

Even though I had already made my way through sections of loose rocks, the summit ridge had more of it. So I needed to pay special attention to the layer of scree over ledges and steps. One slip on those tiny grains would immediately send me down the south side of the mountain. Eek! I stayed mostly on the south side of the ridge before reaching the outcrops with an overhang. Somehow I mistook this for the crux of the climb.

After getting above the overhang, the 5.6 rock rating felt a little too smooth. But I didn’t think much of it and continued to traverse the wobbly ridge. The crest seemed to be getting narrower the higher I went. Just below the summit block was a section with high exposure. Through my peripheral vision, I could see the steep drop-offs on both sides. Glad there were lots of solid holds.

Through the notch
Through the notch

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Getting Through the 5.6 Crux to Finish

At the base of the summit was a wide ledge. Then I walked up and down and couldn’t find the reported gully/chimney finish to the top. So I took a moment to think through my steps. Then I realized that this was the reported crux and not the overhang that I got through earlier down below. Whew! Glad I caught the mistake before attempting to find another way to get around this wall before me.

I carefully tested every hold and slowly made my way up the rock face. Glad nothing peeled off as I went up this section. I was so happy to see a belay station on the flat area above the crux; I was still on the right track! The ridgeline just seemed to go on forever; more scrambling on class 3/4 terrain with the final chimney finish. Compare this peak with the main summit, and it was like night and day!

The final stretch
The final stretch

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Hozomeen Mountain South Peak Summit

As with many other technical climbs, I couldn’t believe I made it up there. Jack Mountain, front and center with Nohokomeen Glacier, was gorgeous as usual. The Picket Range and the Chilliwack group continued to steal the show across the western skyline. But the evening sun was beginning to cast shadows over in that direction. Castle Peak sat still to the east. What an incredible day to be out in the middle of nowhere!

I was excited to be able to make it up here today, albeit later in the day. But at least I could still make it back to my campsite before dark. Views up here were similar to those of the north peak. But without other nearby high points, views to the south felt more open. I wish I could have stayed longer, but 30 minutes was all the time I could spare. Before long, I began to make my way down the steep terrain.

South-to-west panoramic view
South-to-west panoramic view

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Quick Descent Back to Camp

After getting back to the belay station, I proceeded to rappel off the crux. Then from there, I downclimbed my way back to the overhang and rappelled off on a fixed bolt. The ridge traverse was even more nerve-racking going down. Especially the section with high exposure on both sides. But once I went past it, downclimbing the rest of the route back to the access notch was a breeze.

While I was still above the crux, I heard a loud thump below me. So I peeked over the platform and saw a mountain goat going down the west ridge. It kept looking back at me as I followed behind. Since they’re the real mountain climbers, it wasn’t long before they quickly went out of sight. From the notch, I climbed back up 200′ and reached the saddle camp shortly after.

Safe travels
Safe travels

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Underneath the Stars and the Moon

The only flat area on the saddle where I bivyed was big enough for a solo tent. After enjoying a savory dinner, I listened to a couple of podcasts and then turned in under a starry sky. It became windier as the night went on. But luckily, I was behind a small bush and my pack to be out of most of it. The moon rose half an hour before midnight.

Since the moon was still behind the south peak, there was less light pollution. So I got up at midnight and took some star trail shots. I finally went to sleep at 1:30 and surprisingly had a restful night.

Hozomeen's dreams
Hozomeen’s dreams

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Lazy Morning Outro

Since I didn’t need to get up early to climb today, I stayed in bed for a while. The wind never stopped, and it was still blowing in the morning. For now, I just needed to get my arse up and make my way out. Getting down the slabs didn’t go as fast as I had hoped. The downsloping rocks felt a lot steeper going in reverse. But once I got back to the big boulders, I was able to move faster.

Eventually, I crossed Hozomeen Creek and went back on the trail in a quarter of a mile. After getting back to the car, I decided to check out Ross Lake. The northern end of the lake was arid, with tree stumps popping up everywhere. Water levels were lower than usual this summer. Back at the border, I marveled at the international crop line while checking out the Monument 72 border obelisk.

Thanks for a memorable trip
Thanks for a memorable trip

See more trip photos here.

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