Hikers will soon be able head to the alpine from the Pemberton valley bottom thanks to the completion of the Mount Currie trail.
"I think it's fantastic," said Chris Allen, who has been managing the project for The Pemberton Valley Trails Association (PVTA). "For Pemberton and a lot of the northern Sea to Sky Corridor, there aren't a lot of hikes that go all the way from the valley bottom up to the alpine, so in that way I think it's awesome."
The PVTA plans to hold a soft opening later this month for the Mount Currie hiking trail, which is nearly complete and ready for visitors to make a trek on foot into the iconic peak's sub-alpine.
Work has been ongoing over the past year to complete the trail, and an event showcasing the finished product has been tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19 with details still to be announced. The event will be a volunteer trail day for those interested, though visitors will be welcome to simply try the trail if they wish (check www.piquenewsmagazine.com for an update on the event).
The five-kilometre trail running up the mountain's southwest side currently terminates at a lookout in the sub-alpine, approximately 600 metres below Mount Currie's peak. A team of workers led by John Chilton has finished the lower three kilometres of the route, and while some work remains on the upper section, the trail has been cleared at least three-metres wide the rest of the way, and its course is well marked.
"If you're standing there and look straight down, you can see the town of Pemberton and up the Meadows," said Allen. "If you look to your right-hand side up the mountain you can see some of the sub peaks of Mount Currie."
Access to the trailhead is about two kilometres from the forest service bridge near the Green River Motocross Park. Taken at a comfortable pace, a round trip to the lookout and back can be finished in less than eight hours, making day hikes doable for most. Four-wheel drive access is recommended beyond the bridge to the trailhead.
But it doesn't take a trip all the way to the lookout to make the hike worthwhile, said Allen. About an hour from the trailhead, hikers will start being treated to incredible views, the first looking south towards Whistler.
"The nice thing is, even if you only hike for an hour-and-a-half up, with no intention of going to the lookout, it's still quite rewarding trail," said Allen.
The PVTA has had some external funding help to make the trail a reality, securing a $10,000 grant from Mountain Equipment Co-op and an additional $20,000 in matching funds from the Pemberton Valley Utilities and Services Committee (PVUS). The total project cost was estimated at $60,000.
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who sat on the PVUS board at the time of the funding commitment, said he's thrilled to see a Mount Currie hike added to the list of many spectacular trails or routes throughout the region.
"It really adds tremendously to the overall destination hiking opportunities in the whole Sea to Sky," said Sturdy, noting that the new trail reinvigorates what was once a popular family hike in the 1960s and '70s.
"I am very much looking forward to doing it myself."
Trail construction didn't come without challenges, said Allen. The steep grade and a number of large, talus slopes made it difficult on crews at times. Several sections had to be bench-cut, which creates a flat trail bed for hikers to traverse across off-camber slopes.
Although the PVTA was originally hoping to have the trail opened this summer, Allen said he's pleased with how the project has come together over the past year.
"Overall, it's gone pretty good," he said. "It wasn't until early September (last year) that we got approval from the Ministry of Forests to build the trail, so they only got about a month's work in last fall. In spring, we started in June and worked until now, and now we've got a usable trail.
"Next year, we'll also be doing more improvements up the trail in areas we don't get to this year."