The Upper Columbia Valley has always offered a backcountry bonanza for hikers and this year the trail menu will be even more refined.
The Summit Trail Makers Society — one of the Valley’s most dedicated group of backwoods volunteers — did a tremendous job of upgrading the Pedley Pass extension trail last summer, and are getting ready to do the same this summer on Mount Pinto.
The two trails are practically neighbours on the east side of the Valley, both accessed off the Westroc Mine Road or the logging roads branching from it. Both offer drop-dead gorgeous, above-treeline vistas of the Valley from atop open alpine ridgelines or summits. And both have existed for some time as unofficial, unsanctioned trails, but are seeing work from the Summit Trail Makers following grants from the Columbia Basin Trust.
Last year the trust gave $17,500 for upgrades on Pedley, this year $13,000 is going to efforts on Mount Pinto.
“We’re going to take the trail going up Pinto, and make it more distinct — there are some spots, crossing alpine meadows, for instance, where hikers can lose it — and we’re going to make a bit more suitable for a broader ranges of hikers,” Summit Trail Makers Society president Brian Wesley told the Pioneer. “Another section is kind of a goat track. We want to make that a bit more accessible with some switchbacks.”
The process to “officialize” a trail is not necessarily a quick one — the society applied to the provincial Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations about three years ago to have the trails legalized.
“Once the minister or deputy minister signs off on it, then we can go ahead trying to source grants to do the work,” said Mr. Wesley. The society’s efforts on the Pedley Pass extension were 99 per cent done last summer (“It’s there, it’s done. There are just a few small things we need to do, and we need to sign it and publicize it,” Mr. Wesley told the Pioneer) and the society anticipates similar for Mount Pinto this summer.
“It (Mount Pinto) is a great hike. To start with, it’s quite close to Invermere and easy to access. That’s part of the charm. A lot of the trails we (the society) maintain are beautiful but involve quite a long drive down a logging road just to get started. Not Pinto, it’s only about a 20 minute drive from town. Yet it still takes you in the high alpine, right up to a mountain top in fact,” said Mr. Wesley. “And it still offers grand views over the valley.”
The sweeping panorama from the top, at least when looking west, will be similar to the one from Mount Swansea, albeit a good deal higher up, and, as Mr. Wesley points, out hikers wishing for a more solitary experience than that offered by the multi-use Mount Swansea trail network will likely enjoy having the trail on Pinto to themselves.
The Mount Pinto trail, when complete, will be about six kilometres long, and as it involves summiting a peak, it will entail a good deal of elevation gain.