Back in the “before” when Pemberton had no sidewalks, seed potatoes were pretty much the only claim to fame of the place you landed if you accidentally drove past Whistler. The alpine around Pemberton was the secret playground of salt-of-the-earth farm families who punched trails straight up mountainsides in order to beat the summer heat.
(Before that, the Lil’wat are the rightful storytellers to speak of what alpine adventures were to be had.)
These days, Pemberton has come out of the shadows of its southern neighbour, having been put on the map by the likes of the nine year old Slow Food Cycle Sunday, an award winning vodka distillery, the resurrected Pemberton Music Festival (coming July 18-20 2014) and soon, the most epic valley-to-summit alpine stairmaster hiking trail imaginable.
At least, that’s how former pro skier and mountain man, Johnny “Foon” Chilton envisions the Mt Currie Trail, a steep 8km climb for intermediate to advanced hikers. “The vision is to create an access to the alpine around Currie and above Pemberton. We don’t have enough of that.”
Having routed the trail, secured permission from the provincial government, and found kickstarter funding from the regional district and outdoor retailer MEC, local trail-builders have completed the first section of the trail. This fall, the push is on to get to “The Lookout” where a beautiful view down on Pemberton is reward for about 2 hours of straight-up hiking.
“The trail is strictly hiking,” says Chilton. “It will always be too steep and rough for mountain biking.”
2014 will see the push to get the trail through to the alpine. Says Chilton, “The full vision is to bust a grade V trail through to the alpine then spend a few years eventually upgrading to a grade III trail.”
Even upgraded, the hike will be strenuous. Mt Currie is, after all, a wild mountain. At 8517 feet (or 2596 metres) high, the sheer vertical relief of Currie (that is, the difference in height between the bottom and top) is over two-thirds that of Mt Everest, and amongst the highest in the world.)
And no gondola will ever offer a shortcut. This will be one summit that has to be earned.
Until the trail is through, I’d argue that the top 3 hiker’s hikes in Pemberton are the vertical scoots up Wedgemount Lake, Tenquille and Joffre. Not built for dilettantes, debutantes or dabblers, these trails will get you into the alpine under your own steam.
(Save them for the summer, as the snowline is already coming down, and use them as training for the Mt Currie Epic. And always remember the cardinal rule of alpine adventuring, even on a sunny afternoon jaunt from your car… Respect the Mountains. As our local Search and Rescue boss says, “There are a myriad of ways people get into trouble here.”)
That said, the hard-core will be rewarded by grueling but spectacular outings up to an iridescent alpine lake and back down to aching knees and a well-earned thirst.
And if “tough” isn’t a word you answer to, check out our Best Family Friendly Hikes in Pemberton. Or get your tickets to the Pemberton Music Festival and enjoy Mt Currie’s viewspiration with a soundtrack instead of a sweat-track. No one will judge you. It is, after all, our favourite view, too.