Banging Across Telkwa Pass, Skeena Country, British Columbia

westslope Oct 17, 2020

  1. westslope

    westslope First Fill-Up (of many) Supporting Member

    Wildfire country, BC
    Spent some time fishing hard and not catching much in the Skeena watershed of north-central British Columbia during the month of September. At one point I decided to go from near Terrace to Smithers not by the usual highway route through Hazelton but rather up the Zymoetz (Copper) River, across the Telkwa Pass and then down the Telkwa River to where it flows into the Bulkely River at the town of Telkwa.

    Wow! That was the toughest, most intimidating piece of off-road I have ever done. Doubt I will ever repeat the adventure, unless on an ATV or in somebody else's 4X4. Thought some of you might enjoy the tale, including the cautionary bits.

    The ~54 kilometers of the Copper River is an active logging road and in pretty good shape. As is the piece of road on the east side of the pass that is close to the Telkwa River. I'll do 80km/h on the straight bits. BC Hydro and Pacific Natural gas use these roads to access transmission lines and a natural gas pipeline all of which go to the coastal town of Kitimat. The first few kilometres of the road off the Copper River that goes through the pass was so easy, I thought that a 2WD vehicle with reasonable clearance could do the job.

    Then everything changed.

    The trail turned into ~23 km of trail through creeks flowing down head-sized and larger rocks. In some place the trail consisted of smooth boulders. Steep roller coasters. In some places the trail traversed active slides and the trail itself was on what felt like a 40 degree slope (probably less). Slip and the ground stops you 300 metres below. (!)

    I kept the Xterra in 4WD high, drive for most of it but geared right down for some of the descents.

    Man, did I bang around. At one point, I was wondering if this jaunt would cost me over a few grand in repairs. Well, it looked like the radiator might have already had a small leak. That became more noticeable, so a replacement is in the near future. Toyorad A2807 unless there is something more violent-shaking proof to recommend.


    From All Trails

    All Trails full trail  2020-10-17 091008.jpg

    Closer focus on the pass itself with the help of an old version of Backroad Maps.
    Telkwa Pass BackRoads  2020-10-17 090538_1.jpg

    The BC Backcountry maps are not as detailed as 1:50,000 topographic maps but interesting due to the culture, some of which is obsolete to the extent that a number of overgrown half century old logging roads are included. The maps are like other maps, simple models of a complex reality and like other maps, contain mistakes. The vertical Kitnayakwa River label in the bottom left is a misnomer. The Kitnayakwa is actually a tributary that comes in from the southeast. That label should have read Zymoetz River.

    I overlaid Backroad Maps .kmz files on Google Earth Pro to create that map. Google Earth Pro has lots of photos and by itself gives a much better of the steepness of these coastal mountains.

    Some photos with captions if any below.

    Zymoetz (Copper) River

    The road to the Telkwa Pass starts out nice 'n easy.

    Then it gets tougher though photos were last thing on my mind in the really tough, white-knuckle stretches.

    In the middle of nowhere....

    Wonder what the background to this story is.

    Yes, smoke that blew north from western US wildfires and forest fires was hanging in the hills.

    The trailhead on the east side of the Telkwa Pass.

    Good stuff. Undisciplined ATV use can just hammer the hell out of the bush.

    Cautionary bits:

    Failure to do insufficient research. I learned about this pass a couple of decades ago and knew it was tough and occasionally impassable. But I only did enough research to insure that it was open. If I had done more research, I probably would have avoided the pass.

    On the east side of the pass, there were kilometers of ingrown alders that added to the BC pinstriping. Thankfully the Dark Armour colour does not show all the horizontal scratches.

    For non-Canadians: In a few years, the worst of this novel Corona virus pandemic will be behind us. Until then, don't come. The locals will get really mad. Once it is largely over, then, yeah, check it out.
    BCXterra, TerryD and TheCrabby1 like this.
  2. BEEFY

    BEEFY I Smile when Gasoline Can Freeze

    Prince George, BC, Canada
    I ran the Telkwa pass on the September long weekend from Telkwa to Terrace. It had been raining to for a couple days prior and rained hard all day going through the pass. I tried a little to hard to get up a step lose hill while pulling my trailer on one on the hills past top lake (I think it was the second hill) and thats where I destroyed a tire, rim, axle shaft, track bar and oil filter. But got managed to get fixed and finished the trip.

    If you are ever planning on running a trail up this way, let me know. I would like to tag along.

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