Chris M. in the Pinecone Lake area:
“With the promise of hot sunny weather, 6 of us drove in from Squamish along the Mamquam FSR. Sadly, the snow was lingering lower down than I had hoped. This meant we had to hike 6 km instead of 3 km to the end of the logging road. We had lunch then carried on. The sun had been killing us so a shady break in the trees was most welcome. Never worried about finding a trail as you just need to stay in the center of the ridge and head upwards. Just before we reached the top of Peak 5700 the day-trippers reached their turnaround time and headed back down. Well, Danielle and Tom did. Jack couldn’t bear to leave the views that were beginning to reveal themselves and he stayed with us.
Kicked steps up the last steep parts and Jack had made a wise choice – gorgeous views in every direction! We chose our campspots and relaxed. Then we soaked in a stunning sunset and relaxed some more. Very little wind, warm temps & great company made this a wonderful night. Gary and Tu Loan had brought tents. I just slept on a pad looking up at the stars. (Having no overnight gear Jack had gone back down to sleep in my car – extra blanket & pillow there.) Waking up and seeing the surrounding mountains again was awesome. The walk back down was simple and just under 3 hours to my vehicle. Be warned, the road isn’t that rough but your car will get scratches towards the end.”
Rob M. at Elfin Lakes:
“A 9am lift off out of Vancouver to get a berth in the Elfin Lakes Hut on a fair-weather long weekend might seem a bit cocky but it turned out well, even at a very relaxed pace. We dawdled long and hard at Galileo’s and putzed about the tire chains with equanimity. A brief stoke and poke into the stove at Red Heather, and we were again off. Two glorious Michaelangelic days chanting wow, wow, wow (like a bark impediment) – a simian with a camera couldn’t have taken a bad shot. Unfortunately there was someone in the cabin whose snore could have forced a bull elephant seal to stand down. Arguably, since we didn’t sleep, we also didn’t wake up. So, sleepless at Elfin Lakes and two in blister denial, we went in different rec directions – tele-skiing, snow caving and snow bunny-ing. Returning to the parking lot, the chant continued – as if it ever stopped. Great food, fab company – a Pothole Filler Imperial at the Brew Pub was the stout on the cake. The crew – Ran (host), Laura (driver), Laura (token vegetarian), Rob (lensman).”
Chris M. at Elfin Lakes:
“Glenn & Ellie joined me for one night at Elfin Lakes. Very little snow but quite cold. We had the entire shelter to ourselves. (It looked like Saturday night was going to be a LOT busier, 25+ !!) Glenn wanted to try out his winter gear and slept outside on one of the new tent pads: -12 overnight. We played crib and a great game of Jenga. It had been overcast on the way in but the hike out was crisp with clear blue skies. Around 2.5 hours each way.”
Andy at Garibaldi Lake:
“Andrea and John joined Maria and myself for a turkey-free long weekend of camping and hiking in perfect weather at Garibaldi Lake. Saturday morning, we bagged the last spot in the upper parking lot (at 8:15 am!) and were camped at the lake by 12 noon. Fortunately the majority of the vehicles were from day hikers – we had no trouble finding places to camp. Maria, Andrea and I headed for Panorama Ridge and its panoramic views while John soaked up the sun by the lake. Ear-plugs were very handy on Saturday night thanks to a couple of noisy groups who entertained everyone in earshot for a few hours. Did you know that if you howl like a wolf, the sound echoes around the lake…?
On Sunday morning the four of us headed for Mt Price. This isn’t a trail for novice hikers: part of the route involves crossing huge boulders with big dark gaps between them, and then there’s the steep ascent (and descent) of Clinker Peak on loose scree and dirt. But if you make your way through all that, the rewards are phenomenal with views even more panoramic than those from Panorama Ridge. The north face of Garibaldi looks close enough to touch, and both Clinker and Price are covered in volcanic rocks of all colours. At times it looked like we were on Mars. Sunday night was much quieter.
Monday we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before a speedy two-and-a-half hour descent to the car (where even the lower parking lot was now full!). We were back in Vancouver in time for Thanksgiving dinner.”
Steve at Nicomen Lake:
“The Nicomen Lake trail has 2 potential purposes, and a nice hike is not one of them. At 17+ km each way on a featureless trail I can only recommend walking this trail if you are a) really into fishing and want a guaranteed catch of many fish or b) as the exit point for the Heather Trail so that you don’t have to backtrack (instead of hiking 23 km back the way you came you could have left a car at Cayuse Flats).
Were it not for the excellent conversationalists that joined my callout (Jangwon and Darren), this trail would have been even more tedious. The lake itself is nice, and the camping area on its edge – brilliant – but this is no Wedgemount, or even Garibaldi. We did hike to the ridge in the morning which was worth it, but if you were hiking the Heather Trail this is how you would approach your final campsite anyways.
This was a slog as evidenced by 6 sore feet and matching legs. The trail is groomed, Garibaldi style, so at no point is it “steep”, just really really long and uphill the whole way there (leaving was far more enjoyable but still long!).”
Steve at Haylmore Melvin Divide:
“Never again will I leave my SLR camera at home. After much debate over my car being worthy of the access road, we made it easily to the trailhead and on to one of the most spectacular destinations I’ve hiked in BC. Carollyne, Paul and Laura and I camped at the higher of the twin lakes and the journey there was nothing short of an onslaught of scenic vistas one after the other. The negatives I had heard about were so overblown, it wasn’t funny. No biting bugs and the dreaded “ATV” track hardly looked different than a trail in Manning Park (though we did see one group of ATVers). In fact this was one of those trails where the ATV access is probably what made it so doable (besides at 1800 m their track ends and the awesomeness factor increases tenfold). Add this trip to your list – it easily makes my top 5 of BC (so far). A big thanks to Cara, Chris and John for their road advice and GPS tracks.”
Chris M. on Needle Peak:
“A very enjoyable night on a mountain. Susanna, Glen, Jenn joined me to sleep at 1,947 m, along the summit ridge of Needle. Though a bit hazy, the views were good and the weather warm. Snow starts after about 20 minutes along the trail. There are some rocky outcroppings along the first ridge but mostly snow covered. The summit ridge and both scrambles are completely bare. With overnight bags on, there was one awkward spot on the first scramble, but we worked together as a group and sailed through. Animals stole my liner socks during the night – we couldn’t decide whether the thieves were birds or marmots.”
Carollyne at Elfin Lakes and beyond:
“Nima and Amir joined me for this snowshoe trip that didn’t go entirely as originally planned, but was still very rewarding. The drive up was uneventful – much of the snow had melted from the chain up area onwards and as the chain up area was empty of cars, we decided to try the rest of the drive and we made it easily with snow tires. The upper parking lot was a little jammed and the ranger doubled as a parking attendant, asking people to move their vehicles to make more room.
Along the winter route, the weather was better than the forecast, resulting in great views of big dark clouds looming over the mountains along with sunny breaks as we made our way to Elfin Shelter. The snow was a lot softer than two weeks before, requiring snowshoes while still in the trees. A very peculiar sight was a perfectly rectangular black cloud. Snow is deep enough at Elfin Shelter that the entrance is on the second floor and the main floor is more like a cave. We had a choice of bunks when we arrived, though by sunset the floor was covered with thermarests and by morning there were a few people sleeping downstairs as well. After dinner, a gorgeous sunset and orange moonrise made it hard to stay inside. Earplugs provided me a restful sleep eventually.
The next day, in brilliant sunshine, we set out for the Gargoyles and Little Diamond Head joined by a skier we met at the hut. My backcountry skier envy temporarily ceased when I saw the difficulty of negotiating tight switchbacks on the way up. However, following the route already set was still easier than breaking trail up the soft and somewhat sticky snow. Along the way, we saw recent avalanche run-outs from Columnar Peak that were within a metre of our route. Up on the saddle between Columnar and the Gargoyles we enjoyed the view, felt the amazingly cold wind from the glacier and watched another skier cut a a knee-deep track down to the pass between where we were and Little Diamond Head. Mini avalanches were falling from the north facing cornices on Columnar and we started wondering about the avalanche risk, our lack of avi equipment and tried to estimate how many hours it would take us to go down to the bottom, go back up and do the same on the return. We could see the route through the pass but could not see any tracks on the south face of Little Diamond Head. We decided to go up toward the peak of the Gargoyles to see if we could get a better view, and after being blasted with blowing snow and ice granules, ultimately decided the original plan was a bit too risky and might take too long, so we opted for a return.
We might have just psyched ourselves out, but next time I do this I’ll bring avi gear. So, our two-nighter ended up as a one-nighter with a return trip to the car with under bluebird skies. Still a great day, just not entirely as planned.”
Dennis at Keith’s Hut:
“From the beginning, this was a hike full of warnings and red flags. The Duffey Lake area is known for avalanches. Going into the weekend the Canadian Avalanche Centre had a high avalanche warning for the region. On this note, I received more than one stern warning from concerned Wanderungers. Nevertheless, four brave souls (Ian, Liz, Calum and Rita) joined me on this ominous trip.
Recent heavy snowfall and cold weather have made the Sea-to-Sky north of Squamish a nightmare for anyone not equipped with a 4wd or chains. As we drove towards Squamish, the warnings continued with Mountain Radio describing the road past Squamish as a sheet of ice and to avoid driving in that direction if possible. The drive up was a slog in stop and go traffic through a couple different sections on the highway due to accidents. If you plan on heading to this region in winter weather, be prepared for these kinds of delays, especially on weekends when many inexperienced drivers head up to Whistler. In total, the delays added 2 hours to our travel time which I had not anticipated.
The parking lot is a pullout just off the highway and was easy to spot with 3 other cars already parked there. The hike up to the hut was straightforward on a well-marked and frequently used trail. The new snow however made for a bit of a workout breaking trail. The evening was spent pleasantly socializing and drinking wine with seven other backcountry skiers also staying overnight. Great location and lots of firewood. Despite all of these amenities, Calum feeling more adventurous and much more energetic than the rest of us, dug a snow cave and slept in it overnight.
The next morning we quickly ate breakfast and left the hut with plans to do some light exploring before returning to the car. I had all but abandoned my original plans to summit Vantage. But, after judging the snow conditions of the route leading to the Matier-Vantage col, we decided it was safe to make our way up to the col. The trail and cairns marking it are hidden under snow at this time of year, but a route is fairly obvious nonetheless. It took us an hour to the col and back. At the top we were rewarded with spectacular views of what I assume was Joffre Peak.
The drive back was again sluggish due to winter road conditions and accidents. So, I repeat, do not attempt to drive here without a 4wd or chains. Finally, I cannot say enough good things about everyone who joined me on this hike. All strong hikers who radiate positivity. I would recommend them to any organizer. Thanks again guys for making this a great trip.”
Steve on the Helm Creek cross-over:
“This was a manly trip. Five rugged men (Ben, Greg, John, Steve and Cam) with full packs dumped a car at Rubble Creek and then entered Garibaldi Park from the Cheakamus River end. We took snowshoes not being sure exactly what kind of conditions we’d be facing. We did really well on the ascent and as we lunched at the Helm Creek campsite we realized we were ahead of schedule and could afford to hike further before camping. There, as the sun beat down on us, I was convinced we wouldn’t need the snowshoes… but I was wrong. Another 200 m of gain and we hit the Cinder Flats completely covered by powdery snow. It was beautiful, and warm, ideal snowshoe conditions. We decided to go up Cinder Cone and take a look, the views of Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge etc. were great from there. Though we had prepared for “chilly” camping, some of us may have been a little under-prepared for a -15 C night on snow (at least I was). My feet have only just thawed as I type this. The exit via Garibaldi Lake (still snow free) was quite scenic as many of the leaves had turned. The Whisky Jacks were in full force and the photo weather of the lake itself as nice as I’ve ever seen it. A big thanks to Cam who shared his Winter camping tips with us!
For anyone planing a trip next weekend into Garibaldi, I’d say your window is closing. Any crossing like we did will be a winter trip for sure. Skis or snowshoes mandatory. And if you are planning going to the lake, I suspect ice and snow are coming soon.”