Othello Tunnels, 1 Apr 2013

I’d always wanted to visit these tunnels from the old Kettle Valley Railway, but wasn’t going to take a day trip to Hope just to walk the short distance through and back. Somehow I’d have to find a way to tack them on to another trip, and our weekend in Manning Park proved to be the perfect opportunity. Well, except for the fact that the tunnels were still officially closed for the winter. The warning sign said “Extreme rockfall danger” – I’m guessing that the freeze-thaw action in colder weather is more likely to cause problems with falling rocks. But it was a dry day; in fact it had been dry for several days, and warm too so a couple of us cased out the gates and found a way to clamber over.

We were immediately in the first and longest tunnel, wet in places from water dripping from above. I have to admit I moved quickly through this first tunnel, largely because of the concrete and wooden beams in place shoring up the entrance to the tunnel. Hmm…. But we were fine. Louise and I emerged from the darkness into a short section with a steep cliff up to our right and the raging Coquihalla River down to our left. The next tunnel was right in front of us, and we paused to admire the large crack that travelled from the top of the tunnel all the way up to reach the sky… Hmmm, again. However, this tunnel was short and we emerged into bright sunshine on a bridge over the river as it squeezed between the canyon walls.

The river raged below our feet, and we could see the high-water mark from spring floods, fortunately below the level of the bridge. That must be quite something to see all that volume of water pressing through the canyon. The third tunnel greeted us at the far end of the bridge, and it was another short one, bringing us out onto another bridge, this time an upgraded version of one of the original railway trestles. The river swung round under our feet again and carved its way around the next bend as we entered the fourth and final tunnel.

Entering the last tunnel was a little unnerving as it curved away to our right and at first we could not see the exit. A few metres into the tunnel and a bright opening appeared about 50 metres distant. Again we moved quite quickly to reach the light at the end of the tunnel (ha ha – you just knew I had to work that one in somewhere :-) only to find ourselves barricaded in by another gate. A swift bit of scrambling took us over the concrete blocks and out into the open air once more. We followed the old railway bed for a short distance before giving up and turning round. By now we were under trees, the canyon had widened and there wasn’t much else to look at. We hopped the gate again, just as another group was making its way over, and retraced our steps to re-join the others.

The location of the tunnels in the canyon is really quite dramatic. Well worth the stop off, but I was glad we waited until we were in the area for other reasons.

Distance: 1 km
Elevation gain: about 6 m (climbing over the gates ;-)

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