Percy Creek – Beta

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Update:

As of June 30, 2013, Percy Creek is not really recommended as a fun day out!  There seems to have been a major wind and/or rain event that has caused a lot of trees to slide into the canyon.  We descended the upper third of the canyon on June 30, 2013, and found many spots with huge thickets of logs and branches that have fallen and slid down from the walls making passage incredible slow, treacherous, and difficult.  It may be a long while before the canyon is a pleasant trip again.  Shall have to monitor it occasionally over the next couple/few years…

At a Glance

ACA Rating: 3C III
French Rating: v4a2 III*
Time Required: 8-10 hours
Distance: Technical section – 3 km
Rappels: up to 11 – longest 60m
Total Elevation Loss: 700m

 

Overview

Percy Canyon is a long, somewhat physically demanding canyon that makes its way down the slopes of Mount Seymour.  This route begins very close to the Mount Seymour ski area, and works its way down almost to sea level.  There will be some rock and gravel walking and a lot of scrambling through large boulders.  There are lots of downclimbs, some in dry areas, most in water, with tricky footing on slick rock and moss. For much of the trip, you will be walking in a dry canyon, but there will also be swims through a few pools, and rappels through waterfalls.  One of the fascinating things about this canyon is how the water keeps disappearing and reappearing throughout.  In some spots, if you listen carefully, you can hear the water running beneath the gravel and rocks at your feet.

Gear

Standard gear, including wetsuit and rappel equipment.  Adequate rope for a maximum 60m rappel.  Webbing/rapides for up to 8 rappels off natural anchors (trees/boulders), mostly fairly close to the drops.

Maps

 

To the Trailhead

The trail is accessed from Mount Seymour Road, near the top of the mountain.  It is best to spot a car lower on the road, to minimize a long, uphill trek at the end of the day.

From Highway 1 westbound, take Exit 22B for Mount Seymour Parkway.  You will end up on Fern Street. In 100m, turn right onto Mount Seymour Parkway.

From Highway 1 Eastbound, take Exit 22, toward Lynn Creek/Capilano University.  From the off-ramp, turn left on Fern Street.  Drive 350m, and turn right onto Mount Seymour Parkway.

On Mount Seymour Parkway, drive east for 4.5 km, and turn left on Mount Seymour Road.  (On your left is Parkgate Village Shopping Centre – the Bean Around the World coffee shop is a great place for a get-up-and-go cup of coffee and final supplies for the day.)

Drive 3 km up Mount Seymour Road, entering Mount Seymour Provincial Park, and stop at a parking area on the right side.  This is the Baden-Powell Trailhead – spot a vehicle here for the exit (N49 20.295 W122 57.411).

As you continue up the road, a kilometer further on is a switch back to the left (N49 20.655 W122 56.752).  On the right side, a trail comes up out of the forest, beside a large tree – this is where you will emerge on the hike out.  Unfortunately, there is no parking along here; you will have to walk fifteen minutes back to the car from here at the end of the day.

Once again, continue up the road, for another 7.5km (11.5km from the turn off of Mt. Seymour Parkway) to another switchback to the left (this is the third, and final, left switchback on the road.) On the left side, at the apex of the turn, is a parking lot (N49 21.579 W122 56.875).  Pull in here.

 

Approach

From the south (downhill) side of the parking lot, cross the road up which you just drove, finding a trail that begins just before the first concrete barricades on the far side of the road (N49 21.537 W122 56.880). Take this trail across Goldie Creek (N49 21.812 W122 56.344), and continue towards Goldie Lake.  After about 1.5km (20-25 minutes) turn right on the signed “Dead End Trail” (N49 22.037 W122 56.115).  Follow this for about 500m to a wooden bridge crossing the upper reaches of Percy Creek (N49 22.215 W122 55.899).  Turn downstream…

Route Details

Start strolling down the canyon.  You begin in a fairly level streambed of gravel, rocks, and boulders. The canyon slowly begins to develop, with occasional grooves, chutes, and cascades appearing. When you start sensing waterfalls ahead (maybe half an hour downstream) think about donning a wetsuit.  You will know you are starting to get into it when you reach a skinny little slot with a stream pouring over a chock stone – down climbable to a pool about 8m (25 feet) below. From here, the down climbs and rappels will come pretty steadily.

Be careful for slippery rock and moss.  Over the next couple of hours, there will be a couple of solid, obvious rappels, of up to almost 30m (100 feet) as well as some down climbs that may make you reach for a handline… Further on is a shorter drop (8m or 25 feet) down an emerald green cascade into a pool, for which a handline probably won’t be quite enough, then a “nuisance rappel” of about 5m (15 feet) over a boulder and down a log .  Shortly thereafter is a series of down climbs, which ends with a 2.5m (8 foot) drop with a little pouroff.  A log beside the pouroff, and a foothold between the two, make the drop a pretty straightforward down climb, but it can also be rappelled off a dodgy pinch in the pool.

After this, drop into a rabbit hole amid a jumble of giant boulders, to a short, straightforward down climb.  Then continue to another steep, slightly unnerving down climb, where you keep left down what is almost a set of steps beside a wall.

Now you’re at the top of a big drop.  This yields to a downclimb of a steep groove on the left side, out of the water flow, until you reach a horn that can be slung to rappel the balance of the drop. The down climb is exposed on the left, when approaching the horn. This rappel is 38m (125 feet) to the ground, but you can get away with 30m (100 feet) by moving further into the channel at the bottom, and down climbing beside slippery logs.

After this, there is a non-technical section.  After about half an hour of scrambling over boulders, down chasms and through gaps, just when you’re thinking that it’s about time for something to happen, it does.

A rap of about 18m (60 feet) leads to a nice sheltered pool below – but don’t be fooled.  This is the top of a three stage rap, totaling about 60m (200 feet) to the bottom.  Sling the boulder at the top of the drop, and rap into the first pool, then turn the corner, down to the second and third pools.  It may be easiest for communication to gather the party at the bottom of the first stage before anyone continues to the bottom. The rope pull from the bottom is surprisingly good, but ensure you keep it in the straightest possible line.

The bottom of the third stage has anchor material available, and one more drop of 25m (80 feet) follows immediately. After this, the canyon consists, once again, primarily of boulders and short down climbs. One spot, dropping over a long, sloping boulder, made us nervous enough to rig a short rappel off of a huge log. The can instead be used as a handline.

About another half hour downcanyon, you will find a trail crossing the canyon – this is your exit point.  As of the fall of 2012, there was a rope across the creek bed here, almost like a barricade.  You can remove wetsuits here (if you haven’t already) and get ready for an intimidating trail out.

Exit

Start up and out the right side of the canyon, and follow the trail up and down, traversing across very steep terrain. It should take about half an hour, climbing about 125m (400 feet) over about a kilometer, to reach the crossing of Goldie Creek (N49 21.175 W122 55.206). Take the log bridge across the creek, and continue along the path.  It’s about 45 more minutes to the road.

Follow the trail, crossing a couple of small creeks, and one or two bike trails that cross your path.  Eventually, the trail ends at a T (N49 20.695 W122 56.635); turn left here, and then almost immediately (within about 5m) turn right again, onto a fainter trail.  This will contour around a little knoll, and across a small creek.  In a couple of minutes, you will once again hit a T junction (N49 20.668 W122 56.686). Turn left (downhill) again.

After another 10m, drop to the right, into a larger creek bed (N49 20.648 W122 56.685).  Cross to the other side, and find a trail about 15m in – take this one to the right, and in a moment it will start steeply up the hill.  Follow it all the way up and out of the trees.

You are now at the switchback, near the bottom of the mountain (N49 20.655 W122 56.752).  Turn left on the road, and walk 15 minutes to the Baden-Powell Trailhead (N49 20.295 W122 57.411), and your awaiting chariot.

Times

0:25 TH to Percy Bridge (2925’)
0:55 to Slot Down climb (2700’)
1:30 to Rappel 1 (2670’)
1:40 to Rappel 2 (2605’)
2:15 to Handline Downclimb (2375’)
2:45 to Rappel 3 (2200’)
3:10 to Rappel 4
3:30 to Rappel 5 (1950’)
3:40 to Rappel 6 (1930’)
3:45 to Rappel 7 (1850’)
3:55 to Rabbit Hole (1790’)
4:05 to Stairway Downclimb
4:30 to Exposed Groove Downclimb.
4:40 to Rappel 8 (1620’)
5:30 to Rappel 9 (1280’)
6:00 to Rappel 10 (1170’)
6:45 to Rappel 11
7:15 to Exit Trail (660’)
7:45 to Goldie Creek crossing
8:30 to Mt. Seymour Road
8:50 to Baden-Powell Trailhead

Rappel Summary

Rope lengths refer to the distance from the anchor to the base of the rappel.  They do NOT include the pull side.

R1
Off a boulder. 35’ rope length, 25 foot drop.

R2
Off a tree on canyon left, over a log. 70’ rope.

R3
Off a boulder pinch, two stages. 90’ – leave a longer pull side.

R4
Use a large outcrop on canyon right as a bollard.  About 30 feet.  Pull rope around bollard – more easily done from atop a platform mid canyon.

R5
Off a boulder pinch. 25’ down a mossy vee.

R6
Over a boulder, down a log. 15’.

R7
Optional rap, off a pinch down about 8 feet.  Relatively easy downclimb.

R8
Downclimb to horn on little ledge pool. 125’ down.

R9
Three stage rappel, off a boulder at top of waterfall. 190’ total.

R10
Off a boulder pinch.  About 85’.

R11
Sling a log to get down a boulder with a tricky drop-off lip at the bottom. About 30’. Can be handlined.

 

* Reason for rating:
v4 – ” Difficult to access rappels, or rappels in excess of 30 m.”
a2 – “Swims not exceeding 10 m in length, in calm water.”

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