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Powell River hikers explore South Powell Divide

Group traverses mountainous terrain on annual adventure
Powell River hikers
RAMBLE ON: Two hikers, among a group of local hiking friends enjoying a recent eight-day trek of the South Powell Divide, stopped to take in the view over Goat and Powell lakes. Clarke Slootweg photo

Natural beauty and the varied geography of the Upper Sunshine Coast offer seemingly limitless opportunities for outdoor adventures. For one local group of friends, an annual summer hike has provided the perfect staycation for several years.

This year, the hikers, led by Bob Perry, took on the South Powell Divide, a mountainous area between Powell Lake and Jervis Inlet. Perry and fellow hiker Clarke Slootweg completed the trip some years ago and had GPS coordinates to help guide the group. Slootweg also served as unofficial photographer.

“Six of us enjoyed an epic, some would say world-class, trek of over 70 kilometres of ridges from Ice Lake at the foot of Mount Alfred ending near Freda Lake,” said Slootweg. “We had eight challenging, fun-filled days with nice, but cool swimming spots for five of the camps.”

The group hiked the hilly terrain, encountering patches of snow and ice along the way.

“It’s what you would call alpine, above the treeline,” said Perry.  “Most of the trip was between 4,300 and 6,500 feet.”

The hikers were initially dropped off near Mile 37 on the Goat Lake logging road and travelled to their first campsite near Ice Lake. The next day they climbed to the ridge above Boulder Lake where Peter Behr, who had been dropped off by helicopter, joined the group.

That night they stopped at Emma Lake cabin before proceeding on to Emerald Valley, a stunning alpine area with three pristine blue-green lakes. On day five they hiked to the summit of a mountain peak known locally as The Prince. Although conditions were smoky around the province, the hikers found their visibility was good, said Perry.

“When you gain a little bit of elevation you miss a lot of the smoke,” he added.

On the final two days the hikers explored Triple Peaks, passing through a tricky area known as The Key.

“We used a short length of rope for safety as we scrambled up,” said Perry.

They spent their last evening camping at Freda Lake, where they met up with another friend, Rick Cepella, who had also travelled in by helicopter. Before joining the group, Cepella had been capturing the scenery by sketching and photographing the landscape, including a bear that had taken a mud bath in a nearby pond.

For safety, the hikers carried a satellite phone, FM radio, bear spray, first aid kits and climbing rope, said Perry. In addition to the bear, they encountered a marmot, two hawks, two ptarmigan, a chipmunk and a mouse.

The hikers prepared their own breakfast and lunch but enjoyed communal dinners throughout the trip.

“The food was excellent and company and conversation was unbeatable,” said Slootweg.

The hikers were met on the logging road at Freda Lake and taken back to civilization. Many in the group on this particular trip had previously completed the North Powell Divide hike together.

A nice aspect of the South Powell Divide is that the campsites are spaced about a day’s hike apart, said Perry.

“You’re always camped on a tiny alpine lake or at least a large pond of water,” he added. “Even after five weeks of virtually no rain there was always lots of water.”

Now the group is thinking about next year’s adventures with memories of this summer’s trek to sustain them until then.

“As usual,” added Slootweg, “it was awesome.”