Remembrance Day in the Okanagan

The Vitals

Dates: November 11-13, 2016

Location: Skaha Lake area

Partners: Brittany, Christian, Eric T., Laura, Cirisse

Distance: ~90 km biked

Time: Not an issue

Resources: Kettle Valley RailwayOkanagan-Similkameen cycling routesSkaha Bluffs Provincial Park

Photos: Brittany and me

The Trip

It’s shoulder season in BC with rain in the valleys and too thin of a snowpack (where snow exists at all) for skiing up high. With all that rain a small group of friends rented a house in Kaleden for the long weekend. This is a small, quiet town located along the old Kettle Valley Railway south of Penticton on the west shore of Skaha Lake near the junction of Highway 3A and Highway 97.

Friday morning Brittany, Christian, and I left Vancouver and drove to Penticton via Hwy. 5 (no snow at the Coquihalla summit) and headed to Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park to go rock climbing. The park is on the east shore of Skaha Lake about 5 kilometers south of Penticton. This is predominantly a sport climbing destination with good crimping up single pitches of gneiss. We didn’t have a guidebook but we knew of one very popular route (Plum Line) and hoped that this late in the season would mean it would be available for us to jump on. Alas, it was occupied so we climbed a route a tad harder to the left called Stouthearted. Both of these routes are about 35 meters long which means lowering your partner with a 60 meter rope is impossible without a little creative scrambling up to a ledge by the belayer. By the time we finished Stouthearted, Plum Line had freed up. It was already starting to get dark so I led the pitch and, in order to avoid the lowering problem, I belayed Brittany and Christian from the top. After some nice edging with good, sustained movement, we were on top of the bluff with a rapidly disappearing view of the lake. We scrambled down the south side (4th class, though there may be an easier route in daylight). And scurried to the car before the gates were locked.

At the house we rented we were pleased to find a huge front room with ~20 foot ceilings with a wall of windows facing Skaha Lake and the bluffs on the east side. There was also a piano, a basket of fresh apples, and a bottle of wine from a nearby winery. This kind of touch is apparently common in the Okanagan Valley and was appreciated.

Skaha Lake in the morning before the wind whipped up

For Saturday, Brittany, Eric, Christian, and I headed by bike into a fierce headwind to Oliver via a combination of the Kettle Valley Railway, Hwy. 97, and opportunistically on smaller roads which parallel the highway. For the return trip, we followed the RDOS (Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen) signed bike routes a few kilometers to the west of Hwy. 97 which pass by the White Lakes Grasslands Protected Area and the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. The fact we were nearing the observatory was announced by signage on the road requesting you to turn off all electronic devices (e.g. cell phones) which could interfere with the research being conducted. The science theme of this ride continued a few kilometers north of the observatory where Eric showed us a rock outcrop that contains fossilized plants. He had been in the area a year ago for field school (studying Geology at SFU).

Sunday was another Geology bike tour, this time to the east side of Skaha Lake and concluded with a loop through farmland around Peach Bluff where we stopped to see some Bighorn Sheep and Quails in a field. For the return trip to Vancouver we took Hwy. 3A and Hwy. 3 and observed that the non-existent snow of Hwy. 5 also doesn’t exist in Manning Park. It will be a few cold weeks at least until a base builds up so I can return to go ski touring.