Slesse Memorial

June 14, 2009

To reach the trailhead follow Highway #1 (Trans-Canada Highway) to Chilliwack, taking Exit #119 South. Follow Vedder Road until a three-way stop just before a bridge over the Vedder River. Zero your odometer here and turn left at the stop sign onto Chilliwack Lake Road.

Turn right 29.5 km later onto Nesakwatch Creek Forest Service Road, located immediately after the Riverside Forest Service Campsite. Zero your odometer again here.

400 meters after turning onto the forest service road, turn right at the T-Junction. The road can be followed for 2.5 km in most vehicles.

Views from Nesakwatch Creek Forest Service Road

Vehicles with good clearance or equipped with good drivers should be able to follow the road for 5.3 km, eventually reaching the site of the old Slesse Memorial Trailhead. You can park there or drive another 800m to the new trailhead.

Top: Old Slesse Memorial Trailhead
Bottom: Slesse Memorial Trailhead

On December 9, 1956 a TCA (Trans-Canada Air Lines) Flight 810 from Vancouver to Calgary crashed into Mt. Slesse killing all 62 aboard. This trail leads to a plaque erected in 1995 to honour those who lost their lives.

The trail descents towards Nesakwatch Creek, follow the large tree crossing over the river.

Crossing Nesakwatch Creek

The trail follows the river for a little before turning into a dense forest. Then you cross a moss-covered log where the trail starts to switchback and go up.


Once at the top of the hill, the now overgrown old trail goes to the right, the main trail goes to the left.

From there you can have views of Slesse Mountain. The name means "fang" in the Halkomelem language. Slesse Mountain was first climbed on August 10, 1927, by Stan Henderson, Mills Winram, and Fred Parkes, via a route starting from Slesse Creek. The standard route today is the Southwest Route, which involves approximately 1,650 m (5,413 ft) of ascent.

Top: Slesse Mountain
Bottom: Looking south to the US border

There is a gradual incline that is mosthly straight with rocking and slighty wet areas consisting of mud and creeks. Further along, the trail itself becomes a creek bed, then it turns right steadily going up with many viewpoints along the way.

Eventually you will reach the Mount Slesse Commemorative Site. Removal or desecration of the remains of Flight 810 are strictly prohibited.

From the plaque is a view of the spectacular bowl below the northeast buttress of Slesse Mountain, with its wild rock walls and active pocket glaciers.

At the head of the bowl are all the bits and pieces of plane wreckage that migrated down from the crash site itself. The bowl is well overgrown with scrub and weed to the point no wreckage is visible there. To the left of the bowl you can see the peak where the plane hit.

Commemorative Plaque

To reach the propeller cairn follow the old road, another switchback will take you north again. At the end of the road go left.

End of road, go left

Among climbers, Slesse is most famous for its Northeast Buttress, first climbed on August 28, 1963 by Fred Beckey, Steve Marts, and Eric Bjornstad. It is a serious multi-day rock climb (Grade V) with technical difficulty of class 5.8 or 5.9. This climb is featured in Roper and Steck's Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.

Hiking to the base of the "fang"

This accident was one of the worst airline crashes in the world at that date; it still ranks as the 6th worst air disaster in Canadian history.

Illusion Peaks being hidden by clouds

When you get to the base of the peak, you will see a rock cairn with one of the plane's propellors stuck vertically in it. On the cairn various mountain climbers and hikers of the past have placed whatever they've found for others to look at. Directly between the propellor and the base of the peak there is some large engine part.

Upper right: Propellor cairn
Bottom: Guardian Peak on right side

The site itself was supposed to have been consecrated by the Cemeteries Act after the discovery of the crash site and associated human remains, some of which were gathered into a common grave, others found by climbers and hikers have been placed in a "shrine" out of the weather in a discreet location. This didn't happen until 1995 under pressure from the Families of Slesse organization.

On my way up I saw signs of snow avalanches, a reminder to better avoid this place during winter and early spring.

On August 8, 1980, around Northeast Buttress, at 30 m cliff below the glacier, a large avalanche over ran the position of two climbers and carried them downslope for 400~500 m over rough terrain. The avalanche was a mixture of wet snow and ice blocks that left a deposit up to 10 m deep and approximately 600 m long. Ironically the fatally injured climber was carrying a helmet in his pack.

Top: Small avalanche
Bottom: Mount Parkes

During the morning of August 8, 1980, the climbers observed several small avalanches coming off the pocket glacier at the base of the route. A third climber declined to travel. Underestimation proved to be a fatal mistake.

Mount Parkes is located on the northwest ridge of Slesse Mountain. Parkes is typically climbed on the traverse from Slesse to Crossover Peak. It is typically bypassed if using Crossover Pass descent from Slesse.

Top: Middle are Illusion Peaks, left one is the north Peak
Top: Inside ellipse is Mount Rexford
Top: On left is Disillusion Peak

Illusion Peaks are two granitic summits on the Centre-Nesakwatch divide north of the Nesakwatch Spires. The North Peak is the higher of the two. The south peak has a prominent northeast buttress forming almost a separate summit, known as "The Bastion". The Illusion Peaks, Disillusion Peak and Guardian Peak form the "Illusion Group".

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01. N49.05146 W121.57358 Elev 644 m Parking area / Former trailhead
02. N49.04562 W121.56929 Elev 723 m Trailhead
03. N49.04423 W121.57133 Elev 687 m Large log crossing
04. N49.04122 W121.57135 Elev 765 m Top of hill / Junction with former trail
05. N49.03578 W121.56813 Elev 849 m Washout
06. N49.03619 W121.57875 Elev 1081 m Commemorative plaque
07. N49.02617 W121.58650 Elev 1586 m Propellor cairn

Distance One Way: 7.34 km (4.56 mi)
Total Time: 7 hours
Elevation gain: 942 m (3090 ft)

Download route in GTM format Free software download at
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Driving distance from Vancouver: 140 km (87 mi)
About 2 hours 15 mins

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