High Falls Creek

The following beta and photos were
provided by Chris Hood
of Vancouver BC.

October 5, 2003 Reconnaissance

High Falls Creek is a serious canyoneering objective located near the town of Squamish in southwestern British Columbia. Access to the canyon begins at the town of Squamish and follows Highway 99 north out of town. After leaving the last traffic light in town, the highway passes a junction to the suburb of Brackendale, then initiates a long climb through a wooded area. The next junction is for the Squamish Valley Road and Alice Lake Provincial Park-turn left here and follow the paved Squamish Valley Road. Keep left after crossing the Cheakamus River Bridge and follow the winding, but still paved route through wooded flatlands and Squamish Reserve lands to a small cluster of farms. The pavement ends at the milepost 20-continue straight of a broad dirt mainline, soon reaching a short section of pavement near a power station. Not far beyond, the once-again dirt road crosses a creek beyond M.P. 22. Parking occurs on either side of the road, and during the spring and summer can be packed.

High Falls Creek is paralleled by a trail that crosses a short stretch of flatland before beginning a very steep ascent through dry forest and bluffs. A short spur trail leaves on the right at the base of the first bluff and leads down to the mouth of the canyon. The main trail is steep to very steep in places and in a few spots includes short sections of cable or chain for assistance. The track allows for a multitude of access point to the canyon rim, but the narrowness of the gorge and steepness of terrain prevents good views of the canyon bottom. The trail quickly climbs to a viewpoint of the main waterfall in the gorge, then leaves the canyon edge soon after to climb through forest for a ways before reaching cutblocks and a logging road on the upper end. One can continue down the logging road to the Squamish Valley mainline, followed by a ~1 mile walk back to the parking area.

A recent visit to the canyon included two elements. The very low water conditions of the Fall of 2003 allowed for an attempted ascent up the canyon to the base of the big waterfall. The initial stretch of canyon is not too narrow, but quite deep, with lots of wades and slippery rocks. A few small cascades and easy boulder problems lead up to two swimmers, linked by a 3-4 meter cascade. Above the second pool, the canyon narrows somewhat above another 4-5 meter cascade. A slimy V1-V2 (?) boulder problem looked necessary to get above this point, but the stream appears to fill the gorge bottom above. The clear water and lushly vegetated walls makes this a pretty scramble to this point (guessing 300 meters above the entrance point).

I also assessed the canyon from the rim, with the gorge bottom not easily visible up to main cascade. The big waterfall still had quite a bit of water flowing over it and falls into a tight cul-de-sac with no easy views of the base. The upper part of the fall consists of two short (8-10 m?) plunges into pools with no good stances or obvious anchors, followed by the main falls. The sheer, or nearly so, main cascade is probably greater than 60 meters in height, and there are probably more falls below, although not likely higher than 10 meters. Above the cascade, the creek falls through a pair of scenic punchbowl falls before entering a short, but very narrow slot (1 m?) filled with water. This section looks quite difficult, and getting into position for the main drop is problematic. One possibility involves ascending a fracture line on the left just below the slot to a treed ledge, then anchoring off a tree and rapping to an intermediate ledge. From the ledge, a team could then do the long rap into the canyon proper, avoiding the worst of the big falls. The area above the punchbowl falls was not assessed, but it is believed that the canyon extends for some distance above.

The potential difficulty of this canyon cannot be over-emphasized. Water flow in particular should be assessed closely, and any aspiring party should scout the canyon intensely before attempting. Minimum required gear would include full rappelling gear, including a 100 meter rope, several shorter lengths, drysuits, lots of webbing, and a bolt kit-probably required for several points. A lot a wet canyon experience would also help.

Barrier Falls:
Looking down canyon from the top.
High Falls:
Only the top third of the waterfall is visible.