Sunday, September 29, 2013


The Kootenay Sufferfest went ahead this weekend, despite ongoing precipitation and a snow line well below the heights reached by both the bike and run challenge courses. Here sleet greets a rider at 1500 metres before beginning the first descent at 15 km into a 100 km course: the next climb will be much higher and he'll meet axle-deep snow there.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

At the snow line

At about 1600 metres, the snow is just barely sticking. Looking up from below, this elevation displays itself as a distinct snow line.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Winter up here

Past a certain point in September or October, you can usually find winter somewhere if you climb high enough. Today that was Idaho Peak, overlooking New Denver, at just over 2100 metres.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Western anemones

A common subalpine flower in these parts, the western anemone forms lovely seed heads in August. We think they look like the wild silvery hair of aging hippies, also common in these parts.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A question of scale

It might look like a nondescript photo of a trail with a bit of snow and moss, but it's actually a photo of a creekbed in a high alpine basin, taken with a zoom lens from a nearby summit. There's a girl in the photo, at about 2 o'clock.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lyle Creek Basin

A beautiful alpine basin, the result of a long slog up 750 metres of switchbacks, near Mt. Brennan. Arrival over the lip of the basin, welcomed by this sudden view, makes it all worth it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Alps Alturas Lake

This lake is about 1500 metres above the elevation of Slocan Lake. Despite its small size, it is incredibly cold, even at the end of the summer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Watermelon snow

Watermelon snow is the pink mid-summer snow that we often see in the alpine. It's the result of an algae that thrives on slowly melting snow exposed to lots of bright sunlight. It actually smells of watermelon too.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Carpenter Creek Run-off

This photo was originally taken during the last week of June during a Cessna flight we did with a friend. I forgot to post it at the time. It shows New Denver, and the mouth of Carpenter Creek flush with spring runoff muddied by significant erosion upstream, presumably in the Sandon area where there is considerable instability of the creek banks. A similar photo that we took has taken on a life of its own as an advocacy tool for various environmental stewardship groups who are trying to draw attention to the issues in Sandon.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Alps Alturas

Alps Alturas Trail
Distance: 9.61 km (6.0 mi).
Route type: Out-and-back
Suitable for: Hiking
Elevation change: 509 metres up, 509 metres down
Technical difficulty rating:  
Navigational difficulty rating:  

The Alps Alturas trail will fill a big half day, or a lazier full day. The access road takes about an hour to drive the 28 kilometres each way and is best suited to 4WD vehicles, but it's a drive that holds its own magic: the views begin to open up by the 12 km mark and are breathtaking. The drive is not for the faint of heart, but this year the road is in good shape except for the last 750 metres or so. The turnoff from Highway 6 is at Rosebery, 5 km north of New Denver, along East Wilson Creek Road. After a couple of kilometres, take the right fork towards Dennis Creek Basin and Alps Alturas. Keep following the main road. Once the views open up, the road descends for a bit. Don't worry: you're still heading the correct way!

We took it easy and found that the hike took about two and a half hours of moving time. With breaks, and a bit of picnicking and exploration time at the top, we probably took closer to 4 hours on the trail. In late August the wildflowers were a little past their prime, but the boggy area was relatively dry and the temperatures were perfect -- not too hot despite the bright clear exposure.

This is a trail best undertaken by people who are reasonably fit. We brought a determined little 10-year-old with us and it was easily within her capabilities, but it was a fair bit of work. The climbing isn't overly steep, and is broken up by some rolling sections, but you do gain 300 metres of it over the first couple of kilometres.

The trail affords some spectacular views and changes of terrain, everything from lush green basins, vistas of the Valhallas, raw stony slopes, last winter's snow to cold clear lakes. If you have the vehicle for the drive and thighs that don't mind a bit of muscle burn now and then, this is one of the best day hikes in the area.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Queen's cup

A mainstay of the forest floor, Queen's Cup greens up and blooms early in the season, spangling the ground with its pretty white stars. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The car by the creek

This car was probably deliberately driven off the embankment above decades ago. In the years since, lovely walking trails have been developed both above and where the car now lies. For years the car was a highly visible blot in an otherwise pristine setting. Gradually, with the assistance of passersby who enjoy balancing rocks, the environment is reclaiming it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mossy cable

Near the abandoned site of New Denver's original hydro-electric generator, an old steel cable emerges from the moss and woodruff.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bright yellow on the forest floor

These asparagus-like stalks look for all the world like Pinedrops, a sort of parasitic plant that has abandoned photosynthesis in favour of absorbing nutrients from fungus that attaches to its roots. But pinedrops are typically pinkish/light-yellow, not this flourescent yellow. Information about mycotrophic plants here. We would love to know what these are. We also saw some wine-red ones.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Forest fire safety

"Get the habit. Prevent forest fires." 

Trailside sign from years gone by, found and re-mounted on a cedar.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hills Nordic Trail loops on Reibin Rd.

Hills Nordic Trail Loops on Reibin Rd.
Distance: ~4-5 km (2-3 mi) depending on route
Route type: Multiple loops
Suitable for: XC Skiing
Elevation change: 26 metres up, 26 metres down
Technical difficulty rating:  
Navigational difficulty rating:  

About half the local kids seem to participate in XC ski lessons in the winter. Classes run for about 8 weeks along the groomed trails in Hills. This year there are three different age-groups. The older group trains on the groomed system of trails off Reibin Road.

These trails are a busy network of flat and rolling loops with a few optional technical sections. While a first-timer may have some difficulty navigating the trails, they are so tightly coiled together that it is hard to get lost: within a couple of minutes you'll end up somewhere familiar and find your way to wherever you're hoping to go.

To access the trails, park near the carport halfway along the road above Elvendel Farm. The farm is privately owned by a XC ski family who help maintain the trails and lend skiers access across and within their property. Please be respectful, and mind the goats if they're about!

There is a hand-drawn map of the trail system on a piece of corrugated plastic at the top of the driveway, and trails are usually beautifully groomed. Most are groomed wide enough to allow for skate-skiers.

From the road you can head down, to the left or to the right. Most people start out skiing towards the left. After a short flat section you head gradually downhill and arrive at a flatter four-way cross-roads of trails. Straight ahead will take you to a sunny promontory above the gravel pit where the views are beautiful. A left turn will take you alongside a fence and then to a tiny almost-circular flat loop in a meadow. It's worth exploring the entire network.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hills Nordic Rail Trail

Hills Nordic Rail Trail
Distance: 10.75 km (6.68 mi).
Route type: Out-and-back
Suitable for: XC Skiing
Elevation change: 70 metres up, 70 metres down
Technical difficulty rating:  
Navigational difficulty rating:  

A beautiful, easy ski alongside Bonanza Creek. Turn west off Highway 6 in Hills (about 12 km north of New Denver) on Reibin Road, drive 400 metres to the end of the road and veer right onto a little spur called Huckleberry Road, which ends shortly thereafter in a parking area with a generous turnaround. Access to the rail trail is via a 20-metre pathway on the left side of the parking area. Gear up at the bottom of the slope.

The trail extends in two directions. To the south (left) it falls away with a ~3% grade for about 1.3 kilometres before reaching a precipitous hill where judicious skiers normally stop, turn around and head back. To the north (right) it climbs with a 1-2% grade for many kilometres, with the first 3.5 kilometres being groomed regularly by the lovely movers and shakers at the Hills Nordic Ski Club. The trail is well worth skiing in both directions, though the northerly direction as far as "the red house" (a falling-down shack was once painted barn red) is particularly attractive and easy to ski.

The trail runs pleasantly straight while beautiful Bonanza Creek meanders in and out of view to the west. The running water gives a zen-like ambience for those who choose to linger and glide. The tracks of coyote, deer, elk, hare and moose are commonly seen, with moose tracks likeliest to be found in the bermed area that runs through the marshy region on both sides of the red house.

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