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The Big White hike at Island Lake in Fernie

Hikers enjoying the view as they hike the Big White. - Photo By: Mike McPhee
Hikers enjoying the view as they hike the Big White.
— image credit: Photo By: Mike McPhee

By Mike McPhee

There has been one hike that has eluded me at Island Lake for a couple years now and has been on my wish list, as it is one of the few places to gain a summit in the Cedar Valley.

Island Lake hiking guides Jen and Mireille were planning a trip to the summit and graciously invited me along to check out the view. The weather was perfectly bluebird and sunny.  After gaining a fair bit of elevation on the Spineback trail and close to the top of Spineback ridge - the route heads off West along the subalpine bowls of the Lizard Range.  This section has no real trail and involves a fair bit of boulder hopping.  At the top of Geisha bowl and the base of the peak there is a fairly steep scree slope.

The wildflowers were in full bloom and we spotted a herd of white mountain goats along the top of the ridge.  After many switchbacks on the scree slope you get to ridgeline, which takes you to the final summit of Big White.

The spectacular view is certainly worth the effort.  You can see Mount Fisher near Cranbrook, the whole Lizard Range and the Elk Valley of course.

The round trip took about 6 hours, with and elevation gain of about 2,800 feet.  A guide is highly recommended, as the route is a bit difficult to navigate.

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