Travel and Adventure 

Go on, scramble higher at Downton Creek

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Among the choices for easy exploration off the Duffey Lake Road are a number of logging roads that lead to trailheads at higher elevations. One of these is Ainsworth Lumber's Downton Creek Forest Service Road. It's linked to a well-maintained hiking route that leads into the open alpine headwaters of Downton Creek, one of Gunn's favourite scrambles.

It's easy to see why. Swaths of pink-blossomed fireweed as tall as cornstalks surround the trailhead, above which rises a grey-maned massif. If it's possible to fall in love with a peak at first sight, meet your newest heartthrob. Go ahead and bestow a name on it, as you'll be keeping company for the duration of your scramble. Not that its pinnacle is your objective: be satisfied to reach an adjacent ridge that Gunn has dubbed Peak 840. To do that in comfort, plan a weekend away from Whistler. Pack in camping gear and, after a two-hour hike from the trailhead, rest up overnight at a small campsite beside one of two alpine tarns fed by Downton Creek. There's only enough level space among the moss-covered hummocks for two tents, so plan accordingly.

When it comes to making your way from the lakes to Peak 840, use your wits. There's no marked trail, nor is there much need of one. The way is clear. Simply start scrambling uphill from the lake past tightly packed copses of fir and through meadows of alpine flora. Your presence will arouse the curiosity of a colony of hoary marmots, many of whom will be sunning themselves atop boulders scattered across the multihued amphitheatre. When you finally look down from the windblown peak, the sweet wine of success never tasted so good, all because you freed your inner child for a little scrambling.

ACCESS : Duffey Lake Road (Highway 99) begins 44 kilometres north of Whistler in Mount Currie and leads 100 kilometres to Lillooet. Joffre Lakes Provincial Park lies 25 kilometres northeast of Mount Currie. The Downton Creek Forest Service Road begins about 40 kilometres north of Joffre Lakes on the north side of the highway. After 5.7 kilometres on that road, turn right where the road forks and right again at 10.7 kilometres onto "Branch 2". Drivers of vehicles with low clearance should park here; otherwise, stay left where the road forks at 12 kilometres and continue two kilometres further to a clearing. The well-marked Downton Creek Trail begins on the north side. For information on Matt Gunn's Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia (Cairn, 2005) visit www.cairnpublishing.com . To gauge snow levels in the local Coast Mountains, view Whistler Blackcomb's Web cams at www.whistlerblackcomb.com/weather/cams/index.htm . Information on Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is at www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/joffre_lks

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