Needle Peak

October 17, 2007

With the hiking season coming to an end, I decided to do a last visit to Needle Peak. This is the same place where I brought Hiroshi and Shauna one month ago, sadly for me, the rainy day ruined my expectations. I hope next year I can convince them to visit this beautiful place.

To reach the trailhead take exit 217 on the Coquihalla Highway. Drive 100 meters west of the maintenance road and park before the creek. From there you can see the sign showing the start of the hike.

The first part of the hike is a steep climb into the forest. At this time of the year the trail is very slippery and great care is required. In less than a hour you will reach the first viewpoint where you can see the south face of Yak Peak. Yak Peak is the highest peak on Zopkios Ridge, the other two being Nak and Thar Peaks.


Yak Peak

There is a second viewpoint and then the sub-alpine zone is reached. There are some good spots for camping, if you want to stay please keep in mind that fires are not allowed.

Kw'ikw'iya:la (Coquihalla) in the Halq'emeylem language of the Stó:lō, is a place name meaning "stingy container". It refers specifically to a fishing rock near the mouth of what is now known as the Coquihalla River. This rock is a good platform for spearing salmon. According to Stó:lō oral history, the skw'exweq (water babies, underwater people) who inhabit a pool close by the rock, would swim out and pull the salmon off the spears, allowing only certain fisherman to catch the salmon.

From the top you can see a small lake that can easily be reach during winter time. I was introduced to this short hike by the Chilliwack Outdoor Club. A very organized outing club that offers a little bit of everything: hiking, backpacking, climbing, cycling, kayaking, canoeing, downhill and cross-country skiing plus snowshoeing.

The next part of the hike is mostly a walk on a small ridge. A ridge is a geological feature that features a continuous elevational crest for some distance. Ridges are usually termed hills or mountains as well, depending on size.

In summer you walk mostly on top of big boulders, but in winter it is a very nice showshoe trip. After 25 minutes you will see a pile of rock, this is the point where the trail splits in two, the left one is the final part to reach Neddle Peak, the right one leads to a small lake not visible from here.

At this point you should have a break and enjoy rarely seen views. I hope not to be wrong but I believe the mountains show on the picture are Zum Peak, Vicuna Peak and Guanaco Peak. My guess is because Vicuna is one of the highest peaks in the Anderson River Group (2126 m - 6975 ft), the only drawback for Vancouver-area based climbers is that the quickest access is up the Coldwater Road which is on the "wrong" side of the Coquihalla tollbooth. 

To reach the lake you need to follow the trail on the right. After a short descent and 30 minutes later you will reach a nice little alpine lake.

Needle Peak is a granitic summit. I have read mixed reviews about the climb, the routes are much easier than the name suggests, as Needle is not that inaccessible. The rock is somewhat granular and crumbly in places, but the peak boasts good scrambles along the ridges, and a more technical climb or two. Some of the steeper faces and walls have yet to see ascents.

The mountain behind Needle Peak is called Markhor Peak. It is a twin peak, with a slightly lower south summit named according to the Caribou/Goat theme of the region. The markhor is a goat found in the sparse woodland of the western Himalayas.


Needle Peak and Markhor Peak

This is an area with a high snowfall, I read reports where you can have up to 60 cm of new snow in a matter of hours. I found a lonely hiker all excited because he wanted to come back next weekend for some backcountry skiing.

The picture on the left shows a clear act of vandalism. It takes decades to these trees to grow due to the harsh conditions and there are like three signs along the trail telling people that fires are not allowed. Please respect the enviroment, so future generations can enjoy it as well.

The picture on the right is an example of a geological phenomenon know as exfoliation -- rock expansion produced when the rock is exposed by weathering and removal of the overlying rock. This decreases the confining pressure on the rock promoting cracking --. 

Download Video of the Hike - 0:37 minutes
Windows - WMV File - 3.52 MB

Coordinates
1. N 49.5950 W 121.1243 Elev: 1220m Trailhead
2. N 49.5701 W 121.1372 Elev: 1814m Junction, go right
3. N 49.5636 W 121.1496 Elev: 1799m Lake

Roundtrip length: 10.09 km (6.3 miles)
Time: 5 hours
Elevation gain: 594 m (1948 ft)

Download route in GTM format available for free at www.gpstm.com
Download route in plain text


Driving distance from Vancouver: 197.1 kilometers / 122.5 miles (2.5 hours)

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