Mountain Roads

Gina's brother, Mike, and I leave Nelson at 9 in the morning and begin the 2-1/2 hour drive north to the Macbeth Icefield trailhead. The road winds along the shores of Kootenay Lake for over an hour before we turn east and head up the dirt road towards Jumbo Pass. You can see the wildflowers that line the road, as pictured above.

Moose taking a drink

I catch this moose taking a bath along the highway, near Nancy Greene summit.

Macbeth Icefield Trailhead

After successfully negotiating a four-wheel-drive-only road in our Dodge Neon rental car, we mount our packs and head towards the trail head.

Ready to rock and roll

ere we are at the bottom, ready to begin 4 hours of tough slogging on a cruely steep trail.

Glacier run-off

For the first two or three hours, we're never far away from the creek that's carrying the glacier run-off.

Really big trees

Trees hundreds of years old tower above us--some of the old growth reaches over 300 feet high.

Log stairwell

You have to love the BC Ministry of Parks and Forests. The trail, although rugged and steep, is made passable with bridges and steps carved naturally into the eco-system. Mike pauses for a picture at the top of this log stairwell.

Spectacular valley

This is what we've been hiking for. We crest a final knoll into the alpine zone, and a towering waterfall and glacial lake come into view

We make camp

We make our camp at the end of the lake.

Alone in the alpine wilderness

We have the valley all to ourselves--thousands of acres of pristine alpine wilderness to explore and enjoy. We don't see another soul for our entire trip.

800-foot cascading waterfall

We hike up to the waterfall to get a closer look. It's plummeting off the edge of the cliffside, and then cascading down for 600-800 feet. If you can't believe it's that tall, look at my brother-in-law for a frame of reference. He's standing in this photo, about 35 feet to the left of the waterfall, just over halfway up the photo. Still can't find him? Here, I circled him for you.


Posing with the waterfall

I scrambled up the cliffside by the waterfall for a few hundred feet, and then snapped this photo. Then Mike and I climbed down and went to bed.

Day hike: snow appears

The next morning we started hiking at 7am, with our eyes set on seeing Macbeth Icefield and conquering a peak. We don't hike for long before we start seeing some snow.

Macbeth Icefield

After another hour, the icefield appears. It's still blanketed in snow from a long, hard winter and a cold spring, but the old ice is starting to appear. I'm sure it would be spectacular to see in late August.

Going for the summit

We continue to head towards the peaks. The snow is a little deeper--there's about 5 inches of fresh powder on top of the hardpack.

Fog rolls in

A fog starts to roll in. Mike examines the valley below us.

Tracks in the snow

After another hour, we reach a vantage point where we can see our lone tracks cutting a path through the snow.

Reaching our peak

A rocky outcrop punches out of the snow. We reach its pinnacle and have a snack. Just to my left, the cliff drops off in a sheer vertical face of about 300 feet. The fog is getting thicker, and the visibility drops to about 100 feet. We decide to start our descent instead of trying to conquer the penultimate peak in less than ideal conditions.

The fast way down

We opt for the shortcut down the mountain. We run, bound, and leap, hurling ourselves off ledges and cliffs and landing in a cushion of deep snow.


Mike jumps

Mike makes the jump.


We boot-ski down all the steep sections. If you've never boot-skied, you haven't lived. It's like real skiing, but you can only do it on extremely streep slopes--probably 30% grades and above. And you don't wear skis--just your boots. And you need to be avalanche-conscious, too. We avoid any areas where the snow is potentially unstable.

On the way down

We're now getting close to our camp again. The snow is coming to an end, and the red rock dominates the ground (it has a high iron content, and it's actually rusting--albeit naturally). We descend to our camp, pack up, and leave the alpine behind. In a few hours, we're back in car, driving towards Nelson and planning our next hike.