Crossing the Purcells: A Go Wild! trip report

Bry Daniels, a two-time veteran of our Go Wild! youth wilderness trips, just returned from our second trip of the summer with 11 other local youth, travelling the historic Earl Grey Pass trail over six days, from near Invermere through the Purcell Mountains to Kootenay Lake. Bry shares her experience below.

Bry Daniels (second from left) and others enjoy the view. Photos by Leah Evans except as noted.

I live in Cooper Creek, BC, just north of Kootenay Lake and I work at the Lardeau Valley Historical Museum, just up the road in Meadow Creek. This summer, the museum hosted an exhibit on the history of the Earl Grey Pass and the trail. When Wildsight’s Go Wild! program offered this hike, I jumped right on it.

That turned out to be the best decision of my summer. The Earl Grey trail was absolutely beautiful, and with the trail work done on it in the last two years, it was even more enjoyable. I was amazed to see the Earl Grey cabin, in all its 108-year-old glory. The cabin is definitely rotting away,  although the fireplace was still immaculate and housed a family of packrats!

On the second day, we made it to the glacier viewpoint campsite. This was my favourite night of the trip because of the gorgeous views, weather, and stars, along with a wolverine spotted by one of the group. When we got to the pass we happily dropped our packs and headed up on a day hike to Little Slate Peak. Some of the group summited the main Slate Peak, where we had 360 degree views of the remaining ice of the rapidly disappearing Toby and Hammill Glaciers and found a very entertaining summit register. We laughed over the surprisingly few entries from the past several decades and added our own.

The view from Little Slate Peak. Photo by Kirsten Van Horne.

To the North, we could see Jumbo and Karnak Mountains, and the mountains around the upper Jumbo Valley, where the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort is supposed to be built. Seeing walls of rock and melting ice everywhere it was obvious why green places like Jumbo Pass are critical for wildlife, and why the back of the Jumbo Valley, in the heart of the Purcell Mountains, is the wrong place to build a city whose intended purpose is to sell glacier-based ski experiences.

The next day, we dropped into another, altogether different ecosystem: the wetter forests of the Western slopes of the Purcells that nurture giant 800-year-old cedars and support all kinds of wild and wonderful life, including flying squirrels, grizzlies, moose, and much much more. As we traveled down the Hamill Creek Valley, we crisscrossed over it using both logs and five cable cars, which I can only describe as a unique and pretty cool experience, followed moose and bear tracks, and crossed multiple slide paths. At one point we passed the 10-meter tall remains of an avalanche snow pile, with a tunnel cutting all the way through it. Later, we stopped at a beach where we dozed and found rocks speckled with garnets.

The group was awesome. When you hike with a group of people who all want to be outside doing wild activities, you gain a kind of friendship that is hard to find anywhere else. We all grew through this experience and I personally would like to thank Wildsight’s Go Wild! and our guides Leah Evans and Dave Quinn for making it all possible.

Wildsight acknowledges the financial support of the Province of British Columbia for Go Wild!