Sourdough Mountain

June 25, 2006

If you are coming from Gorge High Dam (see previous newsletter) very soon you will reach the town of Diablo but before you need to cross a single line bridge. This is part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project which includes four facilities: Gorge, Diablo and Ross and Newhalem, constructed between 1918-1961.

Skagit River

This classic mountain hike begins in a most unlikely location - behind the swimming pool in the town of Diablo. The trail stays in the forest with only a few obvious viewpoints until reaching sparkling Sourdough Creek and Camp.

There are two routes to Sourdough Mountain. The one I did was on an extremely steep trail and is called the Diablo Approach, the other one is called Pierce Mountain Approach but you need to start from the base of Ross Dam. 

As I said before, the trail starts steep and stays steep; through countless short switchbacks I gained 900 meters in the first 4 kms

In the late 1960s, Seattle City Light wanted to flood the Skagit River in British Columbia. An agreement was reached in 1967 but environmentalists on both sides of the border rose up in opposition. They contended that High Ross would destroy the free-flowing Canadian Skagit, fish populations, wildlife habitat, and more of the northern Cascades' wild country. The government of British Columbia joined in to fight the project on environmental as well as legal grounds, asserting that Seattle could not adequately compensate the province for the loss of its valley.

Back to my hike, finally I reached Sourdough Creek. From there it was only 2.4 km to the ridge but I was already warned of how dangerous was to close the creek during melting time.

I didn't want to abuse my good luck and instead of crossing the creek, I decided to go uphill very close to the trees. At this stage I was already rewarded with nice views of the many mountains sorrounding the area.

Some of the names may seem obvious, Snowfield, Pyramid and Terror.

Diablo Lake

Downhill I found a grouse that walked with me for a while. I believe this is a Female Spruce Grouse, look the long square black tail and brown at the end, besides, the bird is mottled brown with dark and white bars on the underparts. Most likely her nest was very close -- Spruce Grouse nest on the ground in dense growth -- and maybe she was trying to distract me, if so, she did an excellent job.

Female Spruce Grouse

Back to the history of the High Ross Dam, the issue had become an international incident of sorts. At one point, B.C. protesters lined the remote U.S.-Canada border at the northern edge of Ross Lake to save the upper Skagit Valley from "Yankee oppression." Thus, in 1984, more for diplomatic and political than environmental reasons, the two sides signed a treaty in which British Columbia would compensate Seattle with power comparable to what would have been generated by High Ross in return for the city suspending the project.

1 Elev 270m N 48'43.058" W 121'08.729" Trailhead
2 Elev 1202m N 48'43.891" W 121'08.018" Boundary
3 Elev 1541m N 48'44.740" W 121'07.768" Sourdough Creek
Roundtrip: 15 km (9.3 miles)
Elevation gain: 1270 m (4169 ft)

Driving Distance from Vancouver: 240 km (150 miles)