I wrote this book to collate and bring together all the information on hiking and climbing in the West Kootenay. This is the southern part of the Columbias uncommonly visited and less often written about. It is the home of the Kootenay Mountaineering Club and basically includes all the places the club goes on a regular (of sometimes irregular) basis. The publications of the club, The Karabiner and the Kootenay Mountaineer are a wealth of information. Though available at www.kootenaymountaineeringclub.ca, there is no index and information is scattered. I have used trip reports and integrated some into many of the posts on individual mountains.
The West Kootenay extends from Trout Lake in the north to Creston and the US/Canada border in the south. However I have also included a significant section on the Columbias in the US – an area with some wonderful hiking. On the north, the Badshots and the north Purcells are best accessed from the West Kootenay. The west and east borders are more nebulous – many of the places we go cross the watershed crests of the Monashee and Purcell Mountains and many accesses from the “far side” are included for completeness sake. Many mountains in the south have had little mountaineering interest but are regular KMC trips and nothing has been collectively written about them before. Grand Forks in Boundary Country is not specifically in the West Kootenay and I have no hikes from there.
No publication has had both trails and climbs together in the same place. I want to include every trail and mountain if possible. Where no information is available, the mountain is still listed but not linked to anything.
My style is to use words sparingly – there is little chit-chat on any of the posts.
I have tried to use a consistent format identical in every post:
1. A brief summary of the trail or mountain.
2. Statistics. Every trip has a list of basic facts – Location, Difficulty, Elevation gain, Key elevations, Distance, Time, Season, Access and Map (no maps exist yet).
3. Driving Instructions. A complete guide to driving access – only significant junctions are given their own line; minor side roads are not – tries to abbreviate the multipage descriptions of the Copelands.
I have used information from notes made on the margins of my maps over the years, Earl Whipple’s guides, the KMC newsletters, John Carter’s Hiking the West Kootenay, the Copeland’s two books, Janice Strong’s Mountain Footsteps and other guide books from the Okanagan and East Kootenay. Road information is in constant flux as roads and especially bridges wash out with spring storms and run-off, logging patterns change and forestry deactivates roads that have little industrial use. Water bars are a necessary evil to save the roads.
The Backroad Mapbook – Kootenays is an invaluable source on roads – it names, indicates some idea of the size of the road and often gives milages at junctions. It also includes virtually every trail – historic or not – that has ever existed, campgrounds etc etc.
4. Route/Trail info. As road access changes, trail use changes. Kokanee Glacier PP is a classic example. As a result of road closures, there is no access to the north third and western parts of the park (Keen Creek and Enterprise Creeks Roads are both out): Joker Millsite to Joker Lakes, Joker Millsite to Slocan Chief Cabin and the Enterprise Creek trails are no longer maintained – and probably are rarely, if ever, used now. Coffee Creek FSR, never used much anyway, is also washed out. All these trails are becoming progressively overgrown. Lemon Creek Trail has perennial problems with one crossing of Lemon Creek and this trail is no longer maintained or used to access Glory Basin and the Sapphire Lakes. The Nilsik Trail, another access was always more of a route than a trail.
Park funding has plummeted and trail maintenance has suffered to the point that volunteers play a greater role than parks.
First ascent information is retained but I have eliminated all information on references.
5. What to do? When the trail ends, there are often many possibilities of places to go and explore. Here I have tried to meld the trail information with the climbing information supplied by Earl Whipple’s guide books.
If digital, it is easy for everyone to access, free and easy to update. It is also much easier to organize, navigate and find what you want. Books may be out of date when they arrive on the book store shelves. Heavy books are a thing of the past – simply go to the website, print off the map and you have everything you need – and only one page to carry.
By making this information available, it is my goal to share all the special places in the West Kootenay. The resulting increased use will be more than made up for by you discovering this truly magnificent area.
HISTORY of MOUNTAIN WRITING
The oldest of the publications is by the famous explorer Walter Moberly, one of whose men was the original discoverer of Rogers Pass, before Rogers. A copy of his book is in the Archives of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff.
Two famous and indispensable books for the guidebook author and the historian of these mountains are those by Arthur O. Wheeler (1905) and Howard Palmer (1914). Both are collectors’ items now found in mountaineering libraries. The atmosphere of the early exploration of the Columbia Mountains (then the Interior Ranges) is well conveyed; the two authors were active mountaineers, and Wheeler a mapmaker as well. An outstanding group of companions in the early history of these mountains was Holway, Butters and Palmer. Today, their climbs are nothing unusual, but in their own day their ascents were done in such isolation that they were bold indeed and an accident could mean a serious threat. The biography of Holway is given by his friend Howard Palmer (1931). “The Guiding Spirit” is largely a biography of the well known mountain guide Edward Feuz, Jr. and is quite entertaining. There is only a little reference to the area of this guidebook, however.
J. Monroe Thorington was the first of the modern guidebook authors (preceded by Wheeler and Parker, 1912) and produced the 1937, 1947 and 1955 editions of the “Climber’s Guide to the Interior Ranges of British Columbia”. His book on the Purcells (1946) is a recounting of his adventures there and is another collectors’ item. Thorington sometimes climbed with the superbly competent guide Conrad Kain whose autobiography is titled “Where the Clouds Can Go”. Roland Neave’s book about Wells Gray Park is not a mountain guidebook for the most part, but has a few descriptions of mountain routes.
The internet also carries information on access – the Canadian Mtn. Encyclopedia and www.bivouac.com.
But most of these books did not include much about the area the Kootenay Mountaineering Club frequents most – the southern portion of all the ranges. Most of the early mountaineering happened around Rogers Pass. It is suggested that most mountains in the West Kootenay were probably climbed by the early 1900s – by miners – and these guys were not well known for writing guide books.
There have been several books written on hiking specifically about the West Kootenay. I believe the first was “Exploring the Southern Selkirks” by John Carter and Douglas Leighton. Published in 1980, it had many of the trail hikes that we do today in the Selkirks, but excluded the Monashees and Purcells. In 1993, John Carter published “Hiking the West Kootenay”. Two sections on the Purcells and many smaller trails were added for a total of 84 described hikes. But, just as a second edition was to come to press, in February 1996, John Carter died in an avalanche. The book was never published and there was a need for a new trail guide as many new trails had been built.
That void was filled by the Copelands, an American couple who make their living by writing hiking guidebooks. In Canada, they wrote their controversial “Don’t Waste Your Time” books on the Canadian Rockies, Cascades, and BC Coast Mountains. They then moved to Riondel and wrote “Don’t Waste Your Time in the West Kootenay” published in 2000. It gives reliable road access information and trail descriptions and is well liked by many locals. Hikes were rated from one to four boots and reflected their opinionated views. To quote them: “Asking locals for trail information led us to mountaineers who bushwhack like baboons and climb like lizards and whose advice therefore emphasizes vertical, trail less terrain. What’s a hiker to do? Our precise, comprehensive directions will guide you to a transcendent mountain experience!” They were referring to the members of the Kootenay Mountaineering Club that showed them many of the routes, of which I am a proud member. 68 hikes were covered including several in north Washington and Idaho. Many were minor including 16 on lakes that nobody goes to. I find them very wordy. Going past the end of the trail is only for experienced mountaineers and no information is given. Virtually every KMC trip climbs a mountain. They renamed things – the “Old Growth Trail” was changed to “Cedar Grove”. Some hikes were duplicated – Kokanee Glacier exists as a day hike and a backpack (admittedly to Lemon Pass). In 2005, they followed up with “Where the Locals Hike in the West Kootenay”. Now with colour pictures but only 50 hikes, this was another economic venture for the Copelands. These two books were the only ones available for purchase in 2015.
The Purcells were first written about in 1978, in “Exploring the Purcell Wilderness” by Anne Edwards, Patrick Morrow, and Arthur Twomey. Janice Strong continued on with “Mountain Footsteps – Hikes in the East Kootenay of Southeastern British Columbia”. It is now in its third edition last updated in 2011. It covers some of the hikes on the west side of the Purcells.
None of these books discuss anything past the end of the trail. Little is mentioned of the mountains, whether walk-ups, scrambles or technical climbs. They also don’t include the many mountains we climb without trail access.
Hiking & Climbing Guides
The American Alpine Club has published A Climbers Guide to the Interior Ranges of British Columbia covering the Bugaboos, Cariboo, Monashee, Purcell and Selkirk mountains since 1937. Earl Whipple was the principle editor of these guides since 1971 and new editions were produced in 1975,1977, 1982,1987, and 1992. In 1975, the guidebook was divided into two volumes: North and South. The title was changed from Interior Ranges to Columbia Mountains. As of 1992, it was published in three volumes: North, West & South, and East. I have only seen the second volume and I doubt the others ever existed. It covers the entire Cariboos, Monashees and southern Selkirks.
Climbing Guide: The Columbia Mountains of Canada: West & South by Earl Whipple, Roger Laurilla, and William Putnam. Published by the American Alpine Club, the seventh and last edition came out in 1992. A new edition was to be published but conflicts arose between the ACC and Mr. Whipple and future editions will probably never see the light of day.
David Jones of Revelstoke has written great climbing guides to the north Selkirks.
The only information published on the south Purcell Mountains is in Climbers guide to the Interior Ranges of British Columbia – South by Robert Krnszyna and William L Putnam and that formed the backbone of the Southern Purcells.
Other guides used were: (I would like to thank them for their great milages)
Exploring the Purcell Wilderness by Anne Edwards, Patrick Monroe, and Arthur Twomey
Hiking the West Kootenay by John Carter
Where Locals Hike & Don’t Waste your Time in the West Kootenay by Kathy & Craig Copeland.
Hiking in the Okanagan and the Southern Monashees by Paul S Phillips
Hiking Trails enjoyed by The Vernon Outdoors Club
Mountain Footsteps – Hikes in the East Kootenay of Southeastern British Columbia by Janice Strong
The Kootenay Mountaineering Club started in 1964 and has been the focus of most climbing and off trail hiking in the West Kootenay. They published an annual journal, the Kootenay Karabiner, until 2000 and many local climbs were described. Since 1974, the club has also produced a Newsletter, and that has been the only publication of the club since 2000. Over the years, virtually every mountain has been climbed by club members and described in either of these. Reporting has been of variable quality but some members have made significant contributions to writing about our mountains. Visit at www.kootenaymountaineeringclub.ca. where all volumes of the Karabiner and the Kootenay Mountaineer since 2002 are available. Their value is greatly increased with an index.
Kim Kratky climbed most every mountain in the West Kootenay. His one goal was to climb every one in the Kokanee Range, a more difficult task than one might think. Several of these are remote and protected by famous West Kootenay brush. He reportably climbed over 500 mountains in his life. He was an English professor at Selkirk College and, more importantly, he wrote elegant descriptions of every climb he ever did. He should be the one writing this book, but unfortunately, Kim died prematurely before any of his notes were collated. They formed the backbone of all the KMC publications but not all of his routes were published. Kim coauthored Earl Whipple’s digital guide books.
In 2017, Earl Whipple made his guidebooks available digitally. http://kootenaymountaineeringclub.ca/mountain-info/guidebooks.html.
I will be forever indebted to Mr Whipple. Earl has been active in the Columbia Mountains all his life and a member of the Kootenay Mountaineering Club. He has made them available for free and can be linked through the club website.
Backroad Mapbook Volume IV, the Kootenays. This outdoor recreation guide provides info on trails and maps with all the roads.
The Canadian Alpine Journal, the journal of the Alpine Club of Canada has had some articles on the West Kootenay. The Canadian climbing magazine “Gripped” likewise includes some. With the advent of the Internet, many online forums like bivouac.com and trails.com are additional sources.
What is different about this e-guide is:
1. I hope to include hikes with and without trails and climbs together.
2. I want to include every trail, hike and climb, even ones that are not particularly popular or possibly even used anymore. Reports will be concise.
3. The trip reports are formatted the same, have clear driving instructions, and should all have a map. I will endeavour to organize the material so it will be easy to understand and access from the web site.
4. I have included articles extracted from the KMC Newsletter and Karabiner and added them to trail and mountain reports. The addition and author is designated by a superscript capital letter.
One disappointment is that the entire e-book will be on my web site and thus not as accessible as it could be. It would be much better and more accessible to have its own web site or to be on the Kootenay Mountaineering Club website. The hope is that this on-line book, when finished, will include every mountain and trail in the West Kootenay. Hopefully, it become open source so that anyone can write trip reports and edit past reports. Until that happens, simply copy and paste what I have written, make additions and suggestions and email to me. A specific format is recommended and templates are available. All input is appreciated. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.