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Needle Peak 22-08-2009 Trip Report Have passed up and down through “the coke” for years since it was opened in 1987, and for quite a few years before that took the “old” short cut along the transmission maintenance road over the former Kettle Valley rail bed on my way to and from the Okanogan. But I never stopped in the Pass; always somewhere else to be. So, with the coming end of summer, and a need to stretch my convalescing knee in a new setting, thought I’d take the opportunity to visit the area over a couple of days. Get a couple of hikes in and become a bit more familiar with what there is to do in the Coquihalla Summit Recreation area. It’s pretty quick to get there. If you leave town early on a Saturday morning (6 am), you can be at the Needle Peak staging area (usually the Highway Dept sand sheds (going north) 3.1 km north of the Great Bear snow shed) in about 2 ½ hours. There’s an underpass that provides passage to the Zopkios Ridge Parking area (concession trailer during summer) and washrooms (clean up after the trip) and an on ramp for the drive back. The staging area is a couple of kilometres before the Coquihalla Summit (4,147 ft 1244 m) but gets you high enough to make a variety of objectives easily do-able in a day. There are hikes like Needle, Zoa, and Zopkios ridge, which provides access to not only Yak Peak but also to Nak and Thar. There are several scrambles in the area, over Markor to the North Buttress of Needle (mid 4th) is a good one, and there are the numerous climbs on Yak ranging from a moderate mid 5th class along the west ridge to Yak Check (15p D 5.10a) and more. Coquihalla pass isn’t as high as the pass on the Kelowna connector, but the Peaks in the area (Yak 6,700 ft 2,040 m -Needle 6,800 ft 2,075 m) are high enough to catch and cause, sudden weather changes, so be prepared for high alpine conditions any time of the year. It’s a good area to visit in late summer early fall as the high cool air ensures a virtual absence of flies and mosquitoes. Being on the lee (dry) side of the Coast Mountains also increases the chances of useable days. Quick and ready access to high elevation off road parking without interference from snowmobilers makes it a great place for early season backcountry skiing as well. There’s a nice tour to be had up towards Needle, and then back down over Flatiron before descending to the highway below the Great Bear snow shed. Geez, kinda obvious now, should of stopped here before, Will have to head back this winter for a ski tour. Met Ellen (from Summerland) at the sheds and headed out on the trail at 9. Creek crossing behind the parking area provides a good place to fill water bottles and for washing and freshening up after the hike. The trail is well described in Matt Gunn’s “Scrambles” but note that when he suggests that “ ….after the saddle where the trail turns east, follows the ridge crest and begins to steepen at a blocky step move a few meters up to the right before contouring back left into a corner” He really means it! Move a only a few meters to the right. Corey and I carried on up the blocky ridge a little too far and clearly got off the anticipated class 2 route. Aside from that little adventure the hike to the summit was enjoyable a blue sky day with about 15 other souls making the trek, enjoying the views and exchanging small talk on our lunch break at the summit. Corey managed to snap some pics of goats and young, While others snoozed, Neil and Corey got to do a little practice climbing off the back side of the summit block, Refreshed and pleased with the day we headed back to the cars. After a brief pit stop and change we headed for the Falls Lake parking area where we’d have dinner and spend the night before heading up Zoa on Sunday. For further info about overnighting in the area see separate Zoa Report following.
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