Local mountain hike goes virtual

A hike on Kootenay Mountain will be on Google Trekker.

Adrian Leslie hikes with the Google Trekker.

A remote mountain ridge in the Nelson area will soon be featured on Google Trekker.

Last week Adrian Leslie hiked up a ridge on Kootenay Mountain to 2400 metres carrying something that looks, from a distance, like a soccer ball projected above his head from his backpack. The ball is actually 15 cameras pointed in all directions. As Leslie hiked, the cameras shot a 360-degree panorama every 2.5 seconds. The result: a virtual hike, similar to Google streetview.

Kootenay Mountain is the highest peak on the Darkwoods property, which is owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and managed by Leslie. Darkwoods consists of 55,000 hectares on the west side of the south arm of Kootenay Lake between Creston and Nelson.

The Google Trekker camera weighs 50 pounds, so keeping it steady on the two-hour hike was a challenge.

“We flew by helicopter to a ridge on Kootenay Mountain, ”Leslie told the Star, “and from the ridge we hiked down to an alpine lake and turned the trekker on and hiked as up to the ridge and as far along as we could get. We could not get to the summit because you have to keep it steady and it was too steep and jerky.”

What will we see on our virtual trek?

“You will see Kootenay Lake, alpine lakes, peaks, and you will be walking through a sub-alpine forest of alpine larch and whitebark pine, a beautiful open forest with trees hundreds of years old but very small because harsh habitat.”

In 2008, the Nature Conservancy purchased the land, then known as the Pluto Darkwoods Corporation, from a German duke who had owned it for 40 years. He had logged much of the property but wanted to leave it in the hands of someone who would take care of it long-term. The transfer to the Nature Conservancy was by far the largest purchase of land by a conservation organization in Canadian history.

“The logging we do now is ecosystem restoration,” says Leslie. “We are doing selective logging in habitats where cleaning out the forest can prevent wildfire and benefit wildlife.”

He says the wildlife includes “the full suite of native fauna” including bears, mountain caribou, wolves, deer, elk, moose, lynx, bobcat, and cougar.

There are no hiking trails and few roads. Snowmobiles and ATVs are prohibited and Leslie says they are an occasional problem but nothing serious. There are grizzly and caribou researchers active in Darkwoods.

“They use the land as a laboratory,” says Leslie.

Darkwoods is connected to other protected areas, creating a large swath of conserved forest across the region.

“To the north Darkwoods borders on West Arm Provincial Park,” says Leslie, “and then on the south end it connects to the Creston Valley Wildlife Management area, and this means over 100,000 hectares of protected area, basically connecting Nelson to the Purcell Mountains.

Leslie says it will take a month or two for Google to get the trek online.

 

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