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  • Writer's pictureKarl Koerber

Today's Hike - Drinnon Pass

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

July 18, 2023

After a busy time of gardening, visitors and social engagements I managed to get out for a hike yesterday to one of my favorite spots—the Drinnon Pass area of the Valhallas. I lucked out, and got to spend a glorious, sunny, relatively smoke-free day in the mountains.

This young moose was on the road near Little Slocan Lake, and stood still just long enough for me to get a quick shot through my not-so-clean windshield. I don’t see moose around here very often, so it was a nice, albeit brief, treat.

I stopped for a break by the upper Hoder Creek crossing, where this cedar waxwing was hanging around in a spruce sapling.

The trail to Drinnon, Wicca and Gwillim Lakes starts out in a moist, shady subalpine forest, with lush herbaceous growth, including cow parsnip.

The trail can get steep and rugged in places, such as this crossing of a talus slide about halfway to Drinnon Lake. In the middle of the slide is a somewhat worse-for-wear marker indicating the boundary of Valhalla Park.

These rockslides are great habitat for a number of critters like this hoary marmot who seemed a bit startled when I appeared around the bend.

Columbian ground squirrels are ubiquitous in these subalpine areas. They hibernate for eight to nine months, making only a brief appearance in the summer to fatten up before their next long sleep.

And let’s not forget the cutest of them all, the pikas, aka rock rabbits, who can be found busily laying by hay for the winter along the edges of the talus. This little guy was on lunch break and consumed a long stem of grass in a matter of seconds.

The transition area at the edge of the slide is a natural rock garden, with patches of penstemmon and pink monkeyflower, among others, displaying their colours.

Drinnon is the first lake along the trail and is always worth a photo, with the Devil's Dome and other peaks of the Devil’s Range in the backdrop.

There are always small trout hovering in the outlet of the lake, waiting for morsels to be swept down in the current.

After ascending to the gently sloped Drinnon Pass area, I veered off the trail and climbed northward toward a ridge along the flank of Mt. Gregorio that had looked interesting on Google Earth. A pair of curious gray jays (I still like to call them whiskey jacks) stopped by to check me out.

Mt. Drinnon, south of the lake, has some crazy rock formations along its crest.

I was pleasantly surprised when I reached the ridge to find a wide, quite level area, with spectacular views in all directions.

Mt. Gregorio, which forms the western wall of the Gwillim Creek basin, rose up beside me.

Gwillim Creek originates in this basin, while the Gwillim Lakes are in a sub-basin below the Black Prince (the peak on the right.)

There's a good view from here of some of the peaks in the Devil’s Range, named by members of the Kootenay Mountaineering Club (perhaps because they were devilishly hard to access?) Those visible in this photo are (I'm fairly certain): 1- Black Prince, 2 – Lucifer, 3 – Trident, 4 – Rosemary’s Baby, 5 – Mephistopheles, 6 – Devil’s Dome, 7 – Devil’s Spire, 8 – Devil’s Couch.

Here is a closer look at the Devil’s Couch. With a good mattress it could be quite comfy.

Wicca Lake is situated in the pass just before the trail descends into the Gwillim Creek valley.

Looking back at Drinnon Lake with Mt. Drinnon in the background.

The meadows here are subdued but lovely, with yellow, pink and white heather all growing together.

I took a slightly different route back down to the trail and came across this little meadow of both yellow and red columbine, along with some paintbrush and other flowers. A cheerful scene to take with me as I trudged back down the trail to my vehicle.

I was well into my fifties before I finally discovered hiking in Valhalla Park. Since then, it’s become a special treasure to me, a place of serene beauty and overpowering grandeur. I’m thankful that I live in the neighborhood.

Here is a link to some interesting info about the Devil's Range, on Ron Perrier's website Only Where You Have Walked Have You Been.

More information and photos about the Gwillim/Drinnon Pass trail can be found on the West Kootenay Hiking website.

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1 Comment

Rose Millett
Rose Millett
Jul 21, 2023

Beautiful photos as usuall, love the different way you look at things! Also love the interesting commentary for each photo, always a learning experience. Thanks Karl!

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