Britannia - first rappel

Britannia Creek – Beta

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At a Glance

ACA Rating: 3C II
French Rating: v3a3 or higher, depending on flow and route chosen
Time Required: 2-4 hours
Distance: Technical section – 1300m
Elevation Loss: 220m
Rappels: 4-7, maximum length 20m (65 feet)

Updated September 2015 to provide additional information on technical jumps.

Warning: This canyon can be jumped in a number of spots. It is up to you to determine whether the jumps are safe or not. The ability to jump into a pool without sinking too deeply is a technique that can be practiced and improved. Depth of pools can change at any time. The first person in a party can rappel into a pool and use goggles or a mask to determine the depth of the water.

Overview

An easily accessible canyon along the Sea to Sky Highway, just a few minutes south of Squamish. With two vehicles, hiking is minimal, and makes the canyon an incredibly worthwhile half-day out.

Gear

Standard gear, including wetsuit and rappel equipment.  Adequate rope for a maximum 20m rappel.  Webbing/rapides for up to 7 rappels – almost all bolted.

Maps

To the Trailhead

From Highway 99, drive to Britannia Beach, and exit the highway east onto Copper Drive.  This is the only set of traffic lights in Britannia Beach.  Drive about 500m along the road, and pull off at a small parking area just before a bridge crossing.  This is the exit point from the creek.  If you only have one vehicle, park here, and walk up the road to the entry point.  With another vehicle, drive up Copper Drive another 3.2 km (2 miles) to the entry point.  This is where the pavement ends, and the road changes to gravel.  There is a small parking area on the north side of the road, and more parking available on the roadside. The hike ahead is very short, so if you’ve driven here, you might as well suit up now, and leave anything you won’t need in the vehicle.

Approach

From the parking area, cross a small (usually dry) streambed into the trees, following orange flagging tape.  You will contour around to your right, ascending slightly, until you reach an old dam on the river.  This is your first rappel.

Route Details

Rappel 1

Your first obstacle is pretty obvious: the dam that blocks the creek.  Find a pair of bolts on boulders near the far side of the creek bed.  Webbing leads to the lip. You may find the rappel awkward to start; sitting on one hip, holding the knot in the webbing, then sliding over the edge will help. You can rappel in the thick of the watercourse, directly down to the pool, or avoid much of the water by keeping to canyon right.  If descending directly into the pool, watch for the footing to get very uneven as you transition from concrete to bedrock.  20m (65 feet) to the pool below.

Five to ten minutes down the canyon, find:

 

Rappel 2

Off a pair of bolts on the bed of the creek, close to the pouroff. This rappel can be optional – it is possible to do as a rather technical jump, with a very small landing area.  Rappel length is 10 m (33 feet) from the bolts to the water.

Five minutes or less of walking leads to:

 

Britannia Rappel 3

Britannia Rappel 3

Rappel 3

Lots of water cascades down a narrow channel.  Bolts are on the right wall.  17 m (55 feet). After getting off rappel, wade (or swim!) under the suspended boulder in the watercourse

Round the corner ahead to find:

 

 

Britannia - Jump after Rappel 4

Britannia – Jump after Rappel 4

Rappel 4

Two bolts on the ground, approaching a drop-off.  Rap down a short wall – can exit on ledge, using about 10 m (33 feet) of rope, or continue another 6 m (20 feet) to a pool. This rap is followed quickly by an optional jump of 4 m into a shallow pool (about 2 m or less in depth). The height of the jump (if any) can be altered by walking further down a ramp.

A couple of minutes later, downclimb to a pool, with a huge boulder on the left side. Just beyond is a cliff band of about 3-4 m in height. This is the location for:

 

Rappel 5

There are a number of ways to pass this obstacle. It is possible to downclimb the dry portion on the right (fairly reachy). It can also be downclimbed through the watercourse on the left – this is quite difficult but there are lots of features, hidden by the water flow.  May not be passable in high flow. Perhaps the best way to sequence the drop is for the best climber to meat anchor the others down, then drop the rope and downclimb with a good spot.

If no one is particularly keen to downclimb, pass the rope around the top of the large boulder and have two team members at a time simul-rap the drop. With an odd number of people, have one member stay on one side of the rope while the final person raps – a meat anchor from the bottom. Then pull the rope gently from below – the rock is fairly jagged.

After this, there is a walk down the river of around 20 minutes or so, until you arrive at the:

 

Britannia - Lower version of the bridge jump

Britannia – Lower version of the bridge jump

Bridge Jump

This jump can range from 6 to 10m high, depending upon where you choose to jump from. The pool is very deep, but you must jump beyond the waterfall in order to avoid a rock outcrop/ramp at the base of the cascade.

When tossing packs and ropes down to this pool, watch for them floating out the far end, and down the next drop!

This jump can be avoided by exiting to the road, and scrambling down to the canyon again on the right side.

Exit the pool from this jump, and you are at:

 

Rappel 6

Anchored off a pair of bolts on canyon right, a fairly long way back from edge. About 15 m (50 feet) from bolts to water.

This rappel is technically optional – it can be jumped, but be very, very careful of boulders on all sides – one member should rap first and scout with a mask or goggles if not familiar.

Just ahead, around a curve to the left, you will find:

 

Britannia - Rappel 7 and its approach

Britannia – Rappel 7 and its approach

Rappel 7

Follow a narrow chute to a suspended pool.  This chute has great footing, but flow can be very high in the constricted space. There is one bolt above, on left wall, to protect this chute.  In the pool, find a pair of bolts on the left wall. The drop is 18 m (60 feet) to either the ground or the pool below – can be rapped in or out of the water.

 

This rappel is followed quickly by a couple of jumps.  Downclimb a little ridge to a good ledge on canyon right, about 3 m above a pool. The pool is quite shallow – under 2 m – so use careful technique not to go too deep. Be aware that there are also obstacles in the water – there is at least one log close to the landing area, a couple of meters to the right of the pouroff as you look down at it (visible as a dark spot in the water). You can downclimb enough so that the depth is not a big issue.

This jump is immediately followed by another into a much deeper pool. It can be jumped from various stances ranging from 3 to 5 m high.

From here, it’s about a 5-10 minute walk to the lower bridge.

Exit

Pretty darn easy: Exit the canyon to the left, and you are back at your vehicle!

GPS Waypoints

GPS waypoint list to follow

Rating Info

v3a3 II (in low flow season) – could become significantly higher in high flow conditions.

v3 – Vertical sections with low water flow. Rappel ends in pool with swimming in calm water. Easily accessed and performed rappels, of no more than 30m.

a2 – Travel in low current. Easy jumps of 3 to 5 m.

 

2 thoughts on “Britannia Creek – Beta

  1. Jim Thompson

    I’m hoping to run Britannia Creek next weekend with some beginners. Does anyone know of the current conditions as to water flow and anchors?

    Reply
    1. BC Canyoneers Post author

      Hi Jim. Sorry, haven’t really been keeping up on the website lately! I don’t know whether you keep track on the Vancouver Canyoning group on Facebook, but Britannia has been very high all spring/summer so far. It appears to finally be settling down somewhat, though not yet enough for beginners. I’ve mentioned on the group, there, that I’m not sure how long it will take to reach easily runnable levels, or even whether it might be possible that it may not reach a reasonable flow some years… Latest report is that at least a few of the anchors will need replacement as the canyon comes into season, as well…

      Reply

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