Two weekends ago we drove up the Coquihalla highway, past the old toll booth (deactivated last year), and up a wide and good gravel road (Tulameen FSR). At the junction with Illal FSR I for some reason thought to try and drive the last 3km despite the cross ditches. After going about 300m and maybe 5 ditches we decided this wasn’t the best idea, but there was no room to turn around. I managed to drive in reverse a bit to a place where I could just barely turn the car around. On the way out we heard a loud psssstt sound and I thought we had a puncture, but it was just the exhaust getting blocked and releasing pressure. Anyway, 30 minutes later we were back at the turnoff, ready to go…
We hiked up the logging road to the trail head, and then along an excellent trail that led us to the Illal Meadows. This area has become more popular since its inclusion in the new 103 Hikes guidebook, but we only saw a few people. The trail peters out in the sub alpine meadows, and we continued cross country past a few small lakes, heading for Jim Kelly Peak. The rocks here seem to have broken into regular flat pieces, nice for hiking on. We ditched our backpacks and scrambled up along the northwest ridge. On the way up I found a camera. It took me a few hours to remember that I knew who the camera belonged to! Before the trip I had read some trip reports of hikes to the area, and one of them had mentioned losing a camera. We also saw a family of mountain goats, which were hopping easily along steep cliffs on Coquihalla Mtn. with not a care in the world.
We spent some time on the summit, looking through the summit register, napping and inspecting the weird ship’s mast and golf club that someone hauled up there for an unknown reason. The views were somewhat hazy, probably due to the recent fires and lack of rain. We headed back down, and camped by a beautiful little lake, right underneath Jim Kelly Peak. Later a deer came to say hello.
The next day we decided to climb Coquihalla Mtn, with its five prominent peaks. From camp, we hiked to the north on rocks until we hit the north ridge leading straight up to the summit. This looked rather steep from there, but we managed (some class 4 moves). From the top of the ridge we were surprised to spot a completely white mountain – Mt. Baker, far far away. We also got a good view of a red lake we had seen the day before. From there it was a short walk to the summit. The summit register contains some entries from the 30’s. On the way down we decided to take a different route which was supposed to be easier, but we both agreed it was longer and more tiring. On the way down we saw the same family of mountain goats we had seen the day before. We had lunch on a neat rocky slab, and then continued down. I was surprised to find excellent blueberries even high up in the sub alpine, a very welcome snack.
Back at camp, the sky had cleared and turned into a beautiful combination of blue hues and wonky clouds. We packed up our things and headed down, with many stops for blueberries and huckleberries.