Pemberton, British Columbia – Glacier slide – traces of a catastrophe

Duffey Lake Road as Hwy # 99 is called here winds in an endless sequence of curves in dizzying elevation above Cayoosh Creek. Crash barriers seem to be seen as superfluous. Sometimes I just prefer to look up to the mountains than down to the river. At Cayoosh Pass in 1275 m elevation you can walk to the three Joffre Lakes, turquoise gems in the middle of mountains and glaciers. Afterwards the road continuously descends 1000 m on a distance of only 13 km. In Pemberton we stop at the visitor centre since there is a public dump station.

Until august 6th 2010 it would have been possible to visit Meager Hot Springs close by if somebody would have been willing to drive 70 km, 35 km from it extremely bad gravelled forestry road. Unfortunately the hot springs aren’t accessible any more. North America’s biggest mud slide just buried the track. In the early morning of August 6th a piece of the glacier from Meager Mountain broke off and swept masses of mud, gravel and stones away down Capricorn Creek, where it temporarily blocked Lillooet River and the only access road to this remote area. Meager Hot Springs have been renovated due to an earlier landslide, just opened for a couple of weeks, and closed again because of the heat in August. Heat is one of the factors that favour landslides. The active volcanic region is known for flooding, rockfalls, snow and mud avalanches – there were 57 major slides during the past 100 years. This time 13 people were encircled by the masses of stones, some miners and some campers, but all of them have been able to get themselves to safety on higher terrain. The rumour of the approaching rock mass has warned them on time. Later on they were removed by helicopters.

A local tells us at the visitor centre that the completely buried road is passable again since short time. Loaders have cleared the way through the boulders to open a passage for the mining and logging companies who want to continue working. The gravel road is in a very bad condition. The entire dimension of the catastrophe reveals where Meager Creek and Lillooet River meet. Glacial ice has mixed up with millions of tons of rock meal, and carried stones, rocks and an enormous number of trees away, and buried the scenery on a width of more than two kilometres. Work machines burrowed their way through the chaos for weeks to unearth the road. Scree piles up three metres high to the left and right. The campground 36 km in front of the hot springs miraculously escaped. The mud slide split up and flew around the campground. So we are lucky and have an overnight place, and besides a couple on motorbikes we are alone here.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.