An Inaugural Hike of the Robson Valleys newest trail; The East Twin - Chalco
Story by Roy Howard
After a summer of considerable and focused volunteer effort, a new 30km section of the National Hiking Trail is nearing completion in the Rocky Mountains. In the fall five FHA members took on the adventuresome task of ground-truthing the entire route of the new trail. The trail runs between the East Twin and Chalco Creek drainages (with trail heads at the ends of the two partially deactivated logging roads).
On a wet Sunday morning in late September, locals Brian Jenecke, David Marchant and I, plus Shane Koscielniak, from Vancouver, and Mark Harvey, from upstate New York (who joined us on a phone call and a whim) drove to the back of Chalco Creek to begin a four day hike across mostly unknown terrain. We left the truck at an impassable washout and walked the 6km in a light drizzle to the actual trailhead - the confluence of the Chalco & Wolverine Creeks (the Forest Service placed a salvaged rail car for a bridge across the Chalco).
We walked another 3km through a 20-year old logging block before intersecting an old horse trail that took us the rest of the way through the trees. It wasn't very long before we were happily eating lunch in the alpine next to the Wolverine Creek Headwaters.
It was generally one of those uneventful days, with low cloud masking the views and it wasn't until the afternoon that the trip took a more exciting turn. We first glimpsed a single wolf off in the distance, and then a little later we watched for some time, as two more wolves ran away from us, up an adjacent mountain. One wolf was as white as the thin layer of snow that blanketed the mountain they were ascending. Finally as we reached our intended campsite in the headwaters of Renshaw Creek, we were treated to a long viewing of yet another two wolves.
Day two started wet. Dawn saw one of the two tents pitched in a good-sized puddle that had been the dry the previous evening. Brian and Dave had prior commitments for the next few days and so headed back to the truck. Mark, Shane and I continued west, and in short order were at the headwaters of Cushing Creek. The many ptarmigan that we flushed were about two-thirds complete in their annual transition to all white winter plumage.
By noon we were at a point that I had thought might be a bit of a challenge. A high sharp ridge, just to the west of Mt. Rensahaw, divides McKale, Cushing and Renshaw Creeks. The two alternatives were to climb the crest of the 3km long, 7000ft. plus elevation ridge, or try to circumnavigate it to one side. The ridge route looked reasonable on the maps, but as we got closer we began to have second thoughts. Cornices were already forming from early snowfalls and, as we ate lunch at its base in indecision, the weather rolled in. Snow started falling and soon we were in a whiteout. Plan "A" was now out of the question. We chose instead to go south - to descend into Cushing Creek, follow it around the ridge, and climb back to our original route.
The new plan was much easier said than done. After a fairly harrowing, semi-controlled steep slide to the bottom, a miserable bushwhack along the creek, and a cold wet camp in less than ideal conditions, noon of day three finally had us back to our gentle high elevation route in a gorgeous alpine meadow. (N.B. Air photo's show that it's probably best to avoid the ridge along the north side. It may also be possible to pass over the top when it is sufficiently marked to follow in a whiteout!)
We stopped early that afternoon to rest in a heather patch near a gravelled glacial outflow. We dried our gear out in the afternoon sun,and later, laid down to the most comfortable and dry sleep of the trip. On day four we were up early and on the 'trail' in short order. By mid-morning we were in the headwaters of East Twin Creek, then to our actual constructed trail and exit vehicle by mid-afternoon. The entire hike was about 45km (which includes a wild-goose chase where the trip planner -who shall remain nameless- went in the wrong direction.
A grand opening to the general public is expected this summer after the hikers and their cohorts eagerly return to verify the ridge route and place markers over the entire trail length.
Photo credits: Roy Howard