Women snowshoers bravely trek up Mount Ottomite

Women's snowshoe trip continues with a little help from some planks

Beautiful weather greeted these women on their snowshoe trek on Mount Ottomite Saturday. The event was organized by Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning.

Thanks to some planks, a women’s snowshoe adventure was able to carry on to its destination, Saturday.

Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning had a full class of 24 women registered for its Saturday trek near the Zopkios rest area on the Coquihalla Highway — but there was an obstacle in the early stages of the 4 km route.

“The last two winter snow packs have been below normal,” said program director, Kelly Pearce, Monday. “Rain storms have saturated the snow and streams are running and dissolving the natural snow-bridges that cross the streams.

“The trail is quite popular but many people have been turning back, as there was a four to five-foot chasm to cross at the one-kilometre mark.”

Pearce and Mountain Centre volunteers got to work on a solution.

“We pre-built a bridge in sections, in Hope, using Rona lumber and spiral nails,” said Pearce, “then we skidded them in on sleds and pieced them together on Thursday.”

Pearce figured the bridge should do the job for the next few months but said it remains to be seen if the it will make it through the spring runoff so hikers can use it this summer. The next step is to obtain permission to fall some trees and place them strategically, for a more permanent solution.

“The women came from all over the Lower Mainland and some from Hope,” said Pearce. “We were targeting beginners who hadn’t snowshoed before. They went from the parking lot to the top of Mount Ottomite. It’s a 300-metre rise over four kilometres, so fairly easy. An average person can do it in a day.”

Many of the place names on the Coquihalla originated in the mind of the Kettle Valley Railway’s designing engineer, Andrew McCulloch, who loved the works of playwright William Shakespeare. Portia, Shylock, Lear and Juliet were stops on the railway — as was Othello, named after a play that mentioned Ottomites, or Ottoman Turks.

For their twenty-dollar fee, participants were supplied with snowshoes and poles and given presentations by guides Carley Fairbrother and Stephanie Blue. Centre volunteers Michelle Drummond and Denise Fitzsimmons provided support.

“Carley is a biologist and she taught the women about the plants and animals that live up there,” said Pearce. “And Stephanie taught them about back-country safety and identifying hazards, like tree wells and avalanches.”

Pearce said tree wells kill more skiers and snowshoers than avalanches, as they get stuck in the gap between the base of the tree and the snow, then they can’t free themselves. Even if uninjured, they die from exposure if not rescued promptly.

Hope Mountain Centre supplies an Iridium satellite phone for their outings, in case of emergencies, as well as first aid gear. “The Iridium works well,” said Pearce, “though it’s sometimes hindered by dense timber. There’s also cell phone service, as a new tower was put in at Zopkios — but we don’t like to count on it.”

He added that UFV’s kinesiology department and Fortis BC have made donations to Hope Mountain Centre, helping keep their program costs low or even free of charge.

There are two more snowshoe trips planned before spring.

“The Needles trip is already sold out but we still have a few more spaces for the family snowshoe at Cambie Creek, in Manning Park. It’s free.

“It’s really heartening, to see how popular our programs are,” said Pearce.

To sign up on-line, or to learn about future programs, visit hopemountain.org.