Not quite in our backyard this time but not too far away either: It takes about 2 hours to drive from Kelowna to the Coquihalla Summit, on the main highway to Vancouver. After a few gloomy and rainy days, we picked the perfect bluebird day for our excursion to this area.
A bit of snow had come down on the Connector (the first part of this highway) and we enjoyed the white/blue contrast of snow and sky from the comfort of the car. Mike, Bunny, Graham and myself were getting excited to start this hike that had been recommended by friends.
After arriving at the trailhead, which is now a major construction zone related to the gas pipeline, we quickly got ready and hit the trail – keen to leave the highway noise behind us. We started seeing a bit of snow which got deeper the further we climbed up.
Right away it became clear that this would not be a walk in the park!
The trail starts out in the trees which were dripping with moisture and melting snow, making the steep climb over tree roots and rocks difficult. At least the ground was mostly frozen and hard packed. No switchbacks … just straight up!
Slowly the snow was getting deeper in the shady areas but the views were also getting better where the trees opened up.
Towards the “junction” (where you have to decide between going left to Needle Peak and right to Flatiron Peak) the landscape became subalpine with great views!
First we headed over to Flatiron and the lake below it, giving the Needle scramble some more time and sun to dry out.
Just a gorgeous area … rocks and open landscape, then the beautiful lake.
We climbed to the top, tagged the “monument” and made our way back to the lake for lunch.
Heading back up to the junction, the sun was getting stronger and we no longer needed jackets and hats. Views in all directions!
Needle Peak is where the real scramble begins. After a few more minutes, we hit the first tricky part that is supported by ropes.
It was time for Keyla to wait as this is not a dog friendly setup … steep smooth rocks, difficult for humans to climb and impossible for most dogs. Keyla is a wonder dog at 13 years old (on Sunday!) – she is always keen to hike and adventure, never stops and completed the rest of the hike without any issues. And some of the steps and jumps were big for her!
Graham and Bunny decided to wait with Keyla, so Mike and I ventured further. After the first rope section, a much easier undulating trail gets you to the last steep climb. That was the end of my confidence so Mike “spider-manned” it up to the top alone, through chutes and up more big boulders. Well done!
After he came back, we met up with the others and started the downhill.
The sun had dried the upper, more exposed section of the trail but had also melted most of the snow in the trees so the last 2km were a mud bath … slippery, very steep and with slick tree roots. Going up was much much easier, despite the grade!
Overall a wonderful day in the alpine, with blue skies all around. It’s a popular trail so we saw other hikers all day long. We completed 15km in 6.5 hours, including most breaks. It’s not a trail for speed records but so worth the climb and the drive.