Morton Peak (Mara Lookout)

  • Morton Peak (Mara Lookout)
  • 2250 m
  • Primary factor 1695 m
  • Location: North 50:45.925, West 118:50.569 (GPS at the summit)
  • East of Enderby, BC, Canada.
  • Difficulty: YDS class 1 (if using the road)
  • Climbed: July 15, 2011


How to get there:
Locate the town of Enderby i British Colombia. Enderby is located (approx. 100 km) north of Kelowna on Hwy. 97A. Turn east (right if from the south) at a traffic light where the road Enderby-Mabel Lake Road heads east. Follow this road for 29.4 km (18.4 miles). Turn left here onto a signed road: Three Valley-Mabel Forest Service Road. Continue approximately 7 more miles. You should drive by kilometer mark 11, then drive under some V-shaped power lines and cross a bridge. The turnoff is then to your left. The road has a sign saying Mara Lookout.
This road runs all the way to the summit, but may be closed because of snow until August. The first few kilometers are quite ok, but then the road quality detoriates quite a lot. A high clearance vehicle is a must, higher up, you will likely need a sturdy 4WD, designed for rough conditions.
Thus, park whenever you feel driving is more of a trouble than walking. I parked at location N50:44.038, W118:48.838, elevation about 1580 meter.
Route description:
If the road is open and clear from snow, then one may just follow it to the top. However, the road sort of winds around. If the road is covered by snow or if you want a somewhat shorter route, then a more direct route from the open meadows will take you across two lower summits. This route may involve some 3rd class scramble up the middle summit. There is an old fire lookout at the summit.
My wife Heidi and I stayed at a nice motel up in Golden, then drove to this trailhead on our way to Vancouver. We started driving up the road to the lookout rather slowly and carefully in our not so robust rental SUV. We spotted a very large and beautiful deer on the road in front of us. The road got gradually worse and we parked at about 1580 meter of elevation.
I started hiking at 1415. We had decided to split, Heidi wanted to walk down the road while I headed uphill for the summit. I soon (unexpectedly soon!) ran into snow, thus we could not have driven much higher (with any vehicle). Fortuneately, the snow was pretty good as I had headed uphill with my normal trail shoes only. More of a concern, I subsequently ran into fog and could not see the terrain above me. I had a GPS bearing on the summit and what looked like a fairly large summit could be made out up in front of me. I soon discovered that the top area consisted of several local summits and my line of ascent made me climb several of these only to discover that there was yet another one behind it. I got myself into steep terrain with class 3 climbing. A bit of frustration to repeatedly discover that I was on yet another false summit with a need to descend to a new col, only to start up on a new summit, all in fog. Finally, I could see the summit with a small structure on its top. I arrived at 1540, the place was totally fogged in. Leaving after only 5 minutes, I considered taking a route that would avoid all the false summits as well as some of the class 3 climbing that my route of ascent contained. I wanted to return swiftly as Heidi clearly would reach the beginning of the road long before me. I decided to stick with my route, to expore a new way in this fog could quite possibly led to more problems, not less. Thus I backtracked and downclimbed in order to get back on the nice meadow from which this climbing had started. From there, I decided to jog back down. Just as I was trotting across the open meadow, following my footprints in the snow, a big brown grizzly bear appeared about 30 meter in front. He crossed my track and ran with a surprising speed down to my left. The fact that he decided to increase the distance between us was certainly appreciated as I tried to get my camera up and ready. I was too late and the grizzly disappeared behind some trees. It was a scene for my long term memory. The bear moved elegantly, efficiently, but still with sort of a slow wave like movement.
I was back by the car at 1645, one hour on my return. Careful driving got me down the bad road where I picked up Heidi. She had reached the end of the road, then started back uphill and covered about 4 kilometer uphill before I met her.
This completed our first part of climbing, the ICIAM-7 (a large mathematics conference) would start in Vancouver and that would take up the next week.