In the wilderness of British Columbia east of Mica Creek near the continental divide lies one of the most remote backcountry areas in the southern Canadian Rockies. It is full of waterfalls, glaciers, grizzlies, and that most underrated commodity of our time - the unknown.
Waterfall, Clemenceau Creek area, near Hamber Prov. Park Tusk Peak, Clemenceau area, between Cummins R and Hamber PP Looking south from north end of Fortress Lake, Hamber Park
Around 1993, the BC Forest Service was involved with establishing a hiking trail linking Athabasca Pass to Fortress Lake. These were the days when the Forest Service actually did things - when they held sway over the forest industry to, when required, change their logging plans in order to balance environmental/social/economic interests and when they built and maintained hiking trails.
As the planning forester for the area at the time, I was involved in a number of different projects, and happily was able to have a small role in this one.
From what I remember, this was one of the most optimistic backcountry projects ever undertaken by the Recreation section in the Province. As part of the project, the trail was cleared and marked up to Athabasca Pass, a suspension bridge was put in spanning the upper Wood River canyon, and a portion of a trail was started in an easterly direction spearheading it's way to Fortress Lake. If completed, that trail would have made an incredible backpacking loop trip starting and ending in Jasper Park.
Hiker on Wood River suspension bridge, Cauldron Canyon, Near Fortress Lake, B.C.
In the ensuing decade, under the direction of Recreation Officer Ken Gibson, the heritage trail up to Athabasca Pass was recce'd, cleared and GPS'd. However, that Athabasca-Fortress grand loop was never completed, with the trail overgrown and the suspension bridge a lonely reminder to what might of been. This area waits for the next round of visionary recreationalists to find a way to make it happen. Things like this usually go in cycles, you know.
I was amazed a couple of years ago when I heard that Ben Brochu and Luke Schmidt, on a wild and "never doing that again" packraft trip actually found this suspension bridge and used it to cross the upper Wood River so that they could continue the hiking part of their loop trip up to Athabasca Pass. The bridge must of looked like something out of a lost world, giving them more questions than answers. It's amazing that the bridge was still there after all these years, a testament to the prowess of the trail builders like Golden residents Jim Oseychuck, Phil Hein, and others.
I'm going back, someday. Who's coming?
If you would like to see an image of the iconic Athabasca Pass itself, check out the first image in this gallery