We spent a magical weekend backpacking into Gwillim Lakes. This is truly my favourite West Kootenay hike and an overnighter was the only way to do it justice!

Hiking in

It took us 2 hours to drive from Nelson to the trailhead and the consensus was the road was in better shape then last year. The last few kilometres were still rough, but were much less an ordeal then remembered, whew!

We schlepped on our backpacks, and began a slow and steady climb to Drinnon Pass. Sunday’s skies were relatively clear and the wildfire smoke only hazed the very distant mountains.

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Looking up at Wicca Peak, on top of Drinnon Pass

We arrived at Gwillim Lakes after about 3 hours of hiking. The campground was a busy place over the long weekend, but we timed things right and got a choice campsite.

Upper Gwillim Lakes/Almost Lucifer Pass

The afternoon’s plan was to make it to the top of Lucifer Pass, a mere +414m climb and 1.5km from the campground.

After climbing to the Upper Gwillim Lakes, we struck a course for the pass, eyeing up a chute that seemed to contain the least amount of giant boulders.

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Approaching Lucifer Pass
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Halfway up Lucifer Pass – Looking back at Upper Gwillim Lakes

Our second move was a bad one. We cut a course straight up to the pass and this landed us in a complex boulder field with large amounts of undercut snow. After much tired problem-solving on the hot rocks, we decided to call it and head back down to camp.

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Almost Lucifer Pass – there is is up there!

Night at Gwillim

The campsite was getting busier with new tents by the time we returned. We headed over to the cooking area by the lake and made dinner with the mosquitoes and flies (there were heaps!).

Watching the sunset glow and fade over the distant peaks was a beautiful way to end the day. The mountains shifted from blue to purple to red and the mirrored pools at Gwillim shone with light.

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Twilight over Gregorio Peak

Just before bedtime, the full moon rose over the distant mountains, huge and brilliant.

Morning Smoke

We awoke to find that wildfire smoke had settled thickly in the Valhallas overnight. The distant peaks had vanished into the sky and the near mountains were glazed over.

The smoke gave everything a mysterious apocalyptic edge. We went for a short walk around one of the lakes to take some pictures, then we packed up camp and headed home.

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Clear Panorama on Sunday
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Smokey Panorama on Monday
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The trail home, down into the smoke
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Smoke at Drinnon Pass

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Polly Topolinsky

Absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Thank you for posting the pictures. I looking to dig out my back pack and hiking boots.