10 March, 2005
A trip into the high country.
The main line north of Winter
Valley climes slowly and steadily towards High Pass (the highest elevation
on the WVRR) before dropping slowly into the mining country around Colder.
This is not Rogers Pass, or even the Yellowhead, but it’s high enough
to rate it’s own weather and winter comes early to the area. Heavy
snow often causes operational problems ‘up there’ long before
it is an issue in the valley bottom.
The local grasses are the
first to show the change in altitude and the associated change in seasons.
(Photo 1) Only a few shades of faded green show up around the bare rocks
left aside when they built this line.
Farther up on the plateau (photo
2) the snow still left over from the first fall of the season remains
on the side of the track. It melts back slowly at high altitudes even
on these warmer sunny days of mid September.
Entering the High Pass the
going gets tougher. Early snow may still stay on the trees that are sheltered
from the sun and wind (photo 3) but there are still some signs of human
activity up here. A solitary hiker uses the right-of-way as a footpath
and an old fence still sets out the boundary of an early homestead.
Deep snow covers the track
(photo 4) as we near the top of the hill. Even the bright sun is of little
help here. It’s just as cold as it looks and it won’t warm
up a lot in these parts until early June.
At the top of the hill (photo
5) the mountains hugs both sides of the track. Ancient boulders, larger
than steam engines, litter the area and some still remain where they rested
millions of years ago. The track crews preferring to go around them. Curves
are tight but grades are now next to zero.
It’s rough country up
here. Where there isn’t bush and rock (photo 6) there’s swamp
and southern samples of Arctic muskeg. In the summer this is bear and
black fly territory and in the winter you simply freeze. Not a place to
brake down. Even the lightest loads are moved up here using two reliable
The worst is over as we pass
the end of the final serious cut. The sound of the engines echo loudly
from the rock face (photo 7) and a pair of mountain sheep avoid disaster
by staying high above the track to watch us pass.
The yard a Colder is only
a few minutes away now. Soon the scenery will consist of long strings
of hoppers and a few boxcars with supplies for the mine, and the families
who make it home. Time to put away the cameras and pull on our coats.
Back home in Winter Valley
(photo 8) there’s still just a little summer in the air and so we
begin planning our next trip. And who knows where that will lead?