Related Post – Assez Difficile: Climbing The Granite Spires of the Bugaboos.
After twenty years of examination and discussion, the provincial government of British Columbia finally approved this week (late November 2012) the $1-billion Jumbo Glacier Alpine Resort, a development which proponents say will create almost a thousand permanent jobs and a major new tourist destination in the Purcell Mountain Range in the East Kootenays. Not everyone is happy with the government’s decision and opposition continues to the proposed development, which is still in need of major funding to make it all possible. Click here for the CBC news coverage which caught my eye- and brought back memories of a three-day traverse of the Catamount Glacier just a few kilometers north of the Jumbo Glacier area, which I did in July of 2002. Just to set the scene, here is a map to place the major points in context:
My hiking partner Margaret and I met up with our guide Dan Clark at the Lake Louise YHA for breakfast at Bill Peyto’s Cafe and then the ride to the little bit of the Purcells that we’d be exploring. (The Purcell Range runs on the western side of the Columbia Trench for about 500 kilometers from Golden, B.C. down into northern Idaho. It includes one of North America’s premier climbing areas, the Bugaboos.) We were both new to the world of mountaineering, having met the summer before on a Rockies traverse organized by the Alpine Club of Canada. On the way Dan told us about the proposed Jumbo development, already a ten-year-old “hot button” issue in 2002. He also laid out the rough plan of our three-day ramble- the map below will give you an idea of what it involved-
To get to the trailhead we drove to Radium Hot Springs along Highway 93 (the Kootenay Highway) and then drove up the Horsethief Creek logging road for about 12 kilometres until we came to the Forster Creek logging road. Eventually we came to a sign indicating 36 km. and turned left onto a side road that took us to a small parking lot. Dan then pulled out a roll of chicken wire and we spent some time foritfying the car against possible attack from porcupines keen on chewing rubber hoses underneath. Who knew!
We spent the first afternoon walking about five kilometers up to the lowest of the three Welsh Lakes along a maintained trail. By the time we got to the lake we were about 500 meters higher than our starting point.
Our objective for the second day was North Star Peak but along the way we were treated to spectacular alpine scenery and got a chance to practise some very basic mountaineer-ing skills on a beautiful sunny day.
We sat on the top of North Star Peak while Dan gave us a “name that peak”tour of the neighbourhood. He was most effusive about the Bugaboos, a sub-range of the Purcells to the north of where we were sitting. It sounded like rock climbers heaven- beautiful, almost-vertical slashes of quality granite jutting up into the sky. Three summers later I would walk up to the Kain Hut with some fellow climbers.I would finally get to experience the Bugaboos for myself- and discover a truly magical little corner of my own country that few outside the climbing community know about. (Click here for my post on the Bugaboos; the pix should give you yet another reason for putting the Purcells on your “to-do” list!)
Our campsite on the second day out was one of the more memorable ones I have ever found myself at. As you can see in the photo above, we were perched on a small not-quite-flat area on the edge of the glacier above a pool. You can see Dan fetching some water! If nothing else, we were nicely sheltered from the wind that evening!
Day Three was another great day in the mountains. By mid-afternoon we found ourselves walking up to the Olive Hut, an unexpected surprise. Dan had pre-booked the hut for our last night, a good thing given that there is only room in it for four or five people. I learned from Dan that the hut was built with funds provided by the Olive family. It was meant as a memorial to two family members who died in separate helicopter crashes , one of them in the Bugaboos nearby and the other in the Arctic. (Click here for more useful Olive Hut info more geared to summer mountaineering as opposed to wintertime fun.)
We woke up the next morning to a five-centimeter dusting of snow which turned everything into a winter wonderland. We were happy to have spent the night in the cozy hut as we surveyed the scene through the large picture window overlooking Catamount Glacier.
As we approached the car the big question was- Did the chicken wire do the trick? And I had a supplementary question of my own- if not, how was I going to meet up with the group going up to the ACC’s Laurence Grassi Hut from Golden later on that day? In the end, the porcupines were not a problem and by five that afternoon Dan and Margaret were back in Lake Louise to begin a Rockies adventure.
They had dropped me off in Golden where I met up with my crew and off we went to the helicopter staging area from where we would be flown to the Clemenceau Icefield. From one great little adventure- the Catamount Glacier/Starbird Ridge to something even more epic- I was definitely hooked on being in the mountains!
I notice that the Alpine Club of Canada will be basing its 2013 General Mountaineering Camp in the very area we rambled through some ten years ago! Check out the ACC link here (unfortunately dead in June of 2014) if you want to see detailed description of the one-week adventure.
Among other things the write-up has this to say- “This is an often-overlooked part of the Purcells – an area with fantastic climbing that is seldom visited. The quality and selection of routes close to camp will make this a rewarding and memorable GMC.” I couldn’t agree more!
Update: June 2014 – the ACC link is dead! They really should keep these annual GMC write-ups in an on-line archive. It is not as if they would take up much space.
N. Bowler has posted pix and commentary on the two weeks he spent there that summer of 2013 – one as a participant in the North Face Leadership Camp and the second as a guest at the GMC. Lots of great pix! Check it out here. Since my June 2014 update the ACC has posted a retrospective of the 2013 GMC – access the brief summary here.
Just to bring this all back to the present news item- i.e. the Jumbo Alpine Resort decision- that prompted me to dig up the slides of this trip and scan them, take a look at the following links for more on the issue:
- the Jumbo Alpine Resort’s website
the home page of Jumbowild I’m not sure what to make of the decision to allow the project to go ahead.
It would be interesting to know how some of the nearby developments (e.g. Kicking Horse Resort at the north end of the Purcells near Golden) have fared economically and environmentally since opening in the the past decade. I’m guessing that the 6,000 rooms projected when the resort is complete is a wishful number- even at 80% occupancy it would require the resort to attract about 1.5 million nights’ worth of visitors.
Having seen the documentary Chasing Ice recently I also wonder how much of the glacier coverage that the resort is banking on for all-year-round skiing is going to be left in twenty years.
If nothing else, recalling our little ramble in the Purcells and hearing the news of the Jumbo Resort development plans has me considering a possible week-long hike/climbing trip next summer on the glaciers the Jumbo Alpine Resort will be based on. Still to be found out is if the area is private property and out of bounds for hikers and climbers. Let me know about the hiking/climbing possibilities if you’ve been there recently.