Flora Lake 02/07/11

Dennis on the Flora Lake trail:
“In my callout, I made a remark about “103 Hikes” time estimates being overly generous. Ironically, it took us the prescribed 10 hours to complete this loop. For some of our party, I’m guessing this hike turned out to be a lot tougher than they had anticipated. Our group of four hit the trail at approximately 11 am. The beginning is pretty straightforward as you follow the book’s (103 Hikes) description and the obvious trail markers. The trail is steep for a good 3 – 4 hours as it meanders along numerous switchbacks. But the payoff is worth it. As you climb, the views of the surrounding mountain ranges are immediate and abundant. The view of the Chilliwack lake below in particular is unsurpassed and truly picturesque. As we slowly approached the col, the trail brought us very near a small but pretty waterfall.

At this point, the steepness of the trail begins to relent and the snow makes its first appearance. By my estimate, our first sighting of snow was roughly at 1250 m. Although the grade of the trail eases, do not let this deceive you – our remaining hike in snow proved to be very cumbersome as we post holed many times. Snow levels were still high due to last winter’s heavy snowfall. This combined with the recent warming of the climate made for very soft, wet and unstable snow. In addition, there were no visible trail markers beyond this point. Following the book’s vague description, Dan, our most experience hiker, and I decided to ascend up the hill to where it meets the lowest point of the ridge. At the top, another dilemma – a fork in our “path”. The obvious choice was to head West towards Flora lake and the general direction of the loop. However, as some of you may know, the obvious route is not always the correct one. We decided to choose by process of elimination. I scurried up the “path” (more of a clearing really) heading East. Since this direction led nowhere, we headed West. Remember, there were no visible trail markers after the first appearance of snow. A GPS, compass and strong route finding abilities are recommended in these conditions.

Over the ridge and past the col the only direction is down. As the others cautiously trudged down the steep snow covered hillside, I quickly changed into my rain gear. My descent down the hill as a human crazy carpet began. No matter how old you get, sliding is always fun isn’t it? Naturally, the others wanted to give it a try. So there we were, the four of us Dan, Ulrike, Grace and myself sliding down the hill. At the lake we had snacks and took pictures. The lake was still mostly frozen and surrounded by snow. Beyond the lake, the trail really got tricky. The snow was so high, there was no obvious path or trail to follow. If you go and this is the case, stick to the book’s description. We did and we stayed west of the lake. Boulder fields anyone? Boulder field after boulder field we slowly began our descent down to Lindeman Lake post holing all the way. With no obvious path and trail markers and cairns hard to spot or completely covered in snow, the natural instinct is to head to lower ground and follow the river. Do not do this. Stick to the boulder fields, this is where the path is and what is described in the book. If you get lost at this point, there are five boulder fields immediately after the lake you must cross before the path becomes visible and clear of snow. We found this out the hard way and briefly got “lost” (though we were always headed in the right direction) for 20 minutes or so before returning to the boulder fields.

After this point, the trail is very straightforward and trail markers are abundant. You know what else is abundant? That’s right, more boulder fields. I counted over 12 boulder fields you must traverse through the course of this loop after Flora lake. The trail down the Lindeman side is beautiful and one that I have done many times. Many lakes, waterfalls and small river and creek crossings abound. We made it to the car utterly exhausted. Well, I wasn’t exhausted, just hungry really :). One last tip before I end this lengthy report. This is a long hike. Book time is 10 hours. Absolutely, positively bring a head lamp and always have at least crampons and sunglasses when travelling on snow. Food helps too. Thanks for the snacks Ulrike and Dan! Now all of you reading, go take a hike!”

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