Hiking the Lizard Range, Fernie

Our life together began in the outdoors.  The first personal trip we did with a bunch of others, was kayaking the Gold River on Vancouver Island.  I was fresh off the plane from New Zealand, and I found myself on a grade 4 river that the boys told me was grade 3.  I would do ‘fine’ they said.  What they didn’t understand was I don’t do ‘fine’ on grade 4 rapids with no chicken chutes, and must-make moves to avoid munchy holes.  It does bad things for my mental headspace.  I watched some of them run the rapid with varying degress of success, and decided that I would rather hike up the scree slope to the road with my boat, than risk a bad experience on a rapid that had no option to portage.

That was the first of many adventures together, and thankfully, most of them have been less stressful than that first one!

We love to use the outdoors to celebrate our ‘togetherness’.  At the end of last year we reached 15 years of marriage, and this hike was to be our anniversary treat.  We loaded our packs for 3 days and 2 nights away, and planned to take a fairly leisurely pace traversing the Lizard Range, which towers above the town of Fernie, with the lower slopes being home to the Fernie Alpine Ski Resort. 360 degree vista’s show off the Elk Valley, Kootenay River Valley (now home to Lake Koocanusa), and mountain peaks stretching out to the west as far as the eye can see.

I have a tendancy to like to know where we are going and what to expect.  I’m not really a true explorer like my husband is.  I had pieced together information from a few different sources, photocopied topograpical maps, and plotted the intended route so we had some idea of our path.  As far as we were aware, this wasn’t a trip that was typical.

Our journey started by riding the Timber Chairlift, and hiking from the Lost Boys Cafe on the ski hill.  We followed a route up Elephant Head (top left and right pictures), Polar Peak (bottom right), and Grizzly Peak (bottom left),  Hiking Fernie Alpine Resort

In the late afternoon of the first day, we spent a couple hours lounging in Liverwurst Pass, resting, melting snow for drinking, and cooking dinner. Then we donned our packs again and headed up to a beautiful high vantage point, where we found a small flatish spot to pitch our tent. The views were outstanding.

Camping on Lizard Range Fernie Lizard Range Sunset FernieThe 2nd day we did a combination of ridge walking, and ascending  and descending the glacial valleys behind the peaks known locally as Mama Bear, Baby Bear, and Papa Bear.  We camped in a bowl below Big White, a prominent mountain behind Island Lake Lodge. Fernie Lizard Range HikingThe third day as we sat and ate breakfast, we got to watch a family of mountain goats traversing some crazy terrain on the cliff face in front of us.  Wowers!  Impressive!!  Once we got moving, summiting Big White was our days plan; a steep scamble up scree and alpine grasses to an elevation of over 2,200m.  I snoozed in the sun, laying amongst wildflowers, while hubby scambled up some other peaks further along the ridge line.
Big White Island Lake Lodge FernieAnd then the descent to the valley bottom, via Spineback Trail, and the reality of our real and noisy life at home.  It’s been 2 1/2 years since we have gotten away without the kids – too long.  We value time recharging & reconnecting without the interuptions and chatter of little people, and feel that it is crucial to the health and well being of our relationship.  Being able to complete a mission that is so ‘us’ is pretty satisfying!!


I would rate this route for experienced hikers only.  A good level of fitness is required. There is some challenging, exposed terrain that requires scrambling & sure footedness.  Much of the walk is on high, narrow ridges, often times with no immediate descent options.  I wouldn’t be that stoked to be up there during a thunderstorm! The route is marked on the occasional boulder, with red spray paint, from Lost boys Cafe to Grizzly Peak.  This part of the route is described in the “Mountain Footsteps” hiking guide as a day hike.   Neither of our hiking guidebooks for the area covered the entire trip that we completed. Solid navigation and route finding skills are required from Grizzly Peak to Big White, especially so in incliment weather.

This is Grizzly Bear country.  We saw evidence of their activity.  Be bear aware, pack your bear spray, and camp appropriately.

There is no water.  We carried a good amount, and then relied on patches of snow to melt for drinking and cooking.

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