Distance: 14 km
Elevation gain: 800 m View map Download GPS track
Mount Dyson is another hike that has been on my list for a few years, but to get there involves crossing the Sheep River and we're not too fond of wading through rivers just to hike in the trees. As a winter hike it is a great destination, however, as the river is frozen and easily crossed and if timed correctly there might not be much snow. Such was the case today.
With few reports on the web on Mount Dyson this diminutive peak was a bit of a mystery, but a recent report
by Steven Song that showed minimal snow on the route had it on my radar. After a long drive yesterday, cloudy skies forecast, and an avalanche risk too high for most snowshoe trips we decided this morning that Mount Dyson would make a perfect adventure for today. The trail begins at the Sandy McNab day use area at the winter closure gate on highway 546.
After crossing the frozen river we headed roughly south along an old road (or wide trail?). The forest was open and fairly nice along here and we crossed a wonderful meadow about halfway to the base of the peak. Today it was incredibly icy, however, and the problem was severely compounded by a dusting of snow that masked the ice. We wear microspikes, but even they weren't enough for some sections.
After about 4.5 km of hiking along the road/trail we began our ascent of Mount Dyson. While things started out well we soon encountered huge areas of deadfall and spent considerable time detouring around impenetrable areas. Steven had described an easy ascent through open forest and I was kicking myself for not having read his report more carefully (now that I'm home I can see our initial ascent route was a few hundred meters southeast of his). After considerable suffering I managed to get a view to the west and was able to plot a route - through more deadfall, of course - to an open grassy spot on the side of Mount Dyson. Things opened up after this grassy area and we soon found ourselves navigating through the nice and open pine forest I had been expecting. After spending so much time stumbling over deadfall we were eager to move at speed again and rocketed to the top quickly from this point.
The summit ridge was quite long, treed, and covered in significant deadfall. Views from the summit and ridge didn't exist, but a very short distance to the west there was a wide open area that granted very good views to the west. Many familiar mountains were visible and from angles that we haven't seen them from before. We lucked out and found an area sheltered from the wind near the summit just as the sun came out and we had a less-chilly-than-expected lunch break.
I already knew there was no way I was descending the way I came up and so on the way back headed off the mountain to the north, contouring to the east as we made our way down. It was much better than what we took on the way up (it really couldn't have been worse!) and for the most part quite pleasant. Near where we would've connected back up with the icy trail we entered a large field, and upon inspecting the map on my GPS I realized that we could navigate back to the car via a long north-south ridge running roughly parallel to the trail. Not particularly interested in enduring the icy trail on the way back we did just this, and found walking back along the ridge wonderful and easy. It was a bit tricky to connect back up with the Sheep River at exactly the right spot to cross (the end of the ridge encouraged us to head too far west), but with the help of the GPS we did just fine.
With the exception of my unusually poor route selection on the ascent this turned out to be a more interesting hike than I had been expecting. We scared up two grouse, a herd of elk and a herd of deer, found skulls and bones of moose, mule deer, and elk, and stumbled upon a primitive camp on the slopes of Mount Dyson. Coupled with our off-trail route back it was a wonderfully varied day!