Andy G. at Elfin Lakes:
“Well I wanted a smaller group to return to Elfin Lakes 12 years after my first Wanderung hike, and I got it! Louise, Susan, and Gloria decided to brave the so-so weather forecast, which changed at the last minute to give us mostly sunny skies for the day. Garibaldi gleamed white in its dusting of snow from the day before, and the lakes were often still enough to yield perfect mountain reflections. We enjoyed a sunny lunch at a picnic table by the cook shelter rather than eating on the tent pads (which the other groups seemed to think was OK – a good opportunity to discuss some Leave No Trace principles). The shelter was empty and every bunk now has a ‘reserved’ label on it.
The trail was quite busy – the parking lot was pretty full when we arrived – many of whom were backpackers on their way out. The hikers’ trail out of Red Heather meadows is being upgraded and is currently a bit of a sticky, slippery mud-fest. One of the backpackers on their way out slipped and ended up plastered from head to toe. We stayed on the main trail on our descent which meant keeping our eyes and ears open for mountain bikers (there were quite a few).
The meadows have plenty of great fall colour but precious few berries. Our only wildlife sightings were a falcon and a bald eagle – not even a whisky jack or chipmunk though we heard pikas among the rocks.
Another great day out and a great way to celebrate 12 years with Wanderung!”
Bob H. at Elfin Lakes:
“Today was a gorgeous early Autumn day for a hike. Elfin Lakes is in Garibaldi Provincial Park, located just north of the town of Squamish. The first 6 km of the hike are uphill, 4.5 km of which are on a forest service road. There is a small section where the trail is more rugged and muddy, but then it starts again as a wide established trail. As you continue, the views get spectacular; you see Mount Garibaldi and the surrounding peaks. At the Elfin Lakes campsite (also known as the Diamond Head Area), there are two lakes, one for drinking water and one for swimming; there is also a ranger’s hut, a camper’s hut, a small dining building, tent pads and picnic tables. We made it to the lakes in 2 hours 20 mins, but didn’t have any prior plans for additional exploration, so we headed towards Opal Cone, which is about 6.5 km from the lakes. After crossing the new bridge over Ring Creek, the valley to Opal Cone is mostly a rugged rock landscape and today it was quite warm with the sun beating down. We ended up about 1.5 km and 300 m elevation short of Opal Cone – we had to turn back due to the early sunset – so close!!! Will have to plan this next year! We did a distance of 30 km today with 1500 m elevation gain in 8 hours.
Blog here… https://www.buntzenlake.ca/elfin-lakes/
Audrey at Elfin Lakes:
“I did a last minute callout on a Thursday when the weather forecast announced 4 days of amazing sunshine – indeed, the sun was out the whole time! I also found out about the shelter at Elfin Lakes and thought a weekday outside the summer seemed just perfect to enjoy such a popular spot. Elfin Lakes can be done in a day, but you would miss the best part: the sunset from the deck of the shelter, and the lovely chat with very nice people around your evening dinner 🙂
Stan and I started going up at about 1.30 pm Friday and reached Red Heather after 1h 30m, with snow from halfway. It took us 3 more hours on an amazing ridge with 360° views, to get to Elfin Lakes (which were of course, frozen!) Snowshoes were definitely required from Red Heather to Elfin Lakes because of the new, deep layer of snow that had fallen the week before. We saw many people the next day going up without them, but it was way easier and faster with them!
This was an amazing hike, with great views, a really slow way up (600 m in 11 km) and the shelter has everything you need: bunkbeds, stoves and even electricity (+ an outside pit toilet). Wow! It’s really worth the scramble in the snow! The landscape up there is gorgeous, especially with all the snow.
On Saturday, we took some time to explore the trails going further (unlike the winter trail to Elfin Lakes, which is very well marked and easy to find, trails going further are unmarked), but going further would require to spend one more day up there (especially with all the snow). It took us 3h 30m to go back and we ended the trip with a visit to Howe Sound Brewery in Squamish, yum!
What a fantastic trip, and also my first callout, thanks again for all the help through Facebook!”
Eugene Y. at Elfin Lakes:
“The upper portion of the road (the last kilometre or so) was a bit icy in the morning, although it seemed to be passable for SUVs with winter tires. However it was just too slippery for our Nissan Sentra and Mazda Protege, so we had to use chains. This proved to be tricky, as one of the chains got loose and wrapped around the driving axle(?) on the way down. The parking lot was almost full when we got there around 11:45 am.
The trail was well packed, so some people just walked in their boots and didn’t use neither snowshoes nor microspikes.
It was partially cloudy – a perfect day for photographers, however the sunscreen and sunglasses were really essential.
We walked at a leisurely pace for about 2.5 hours, while enjoying the views and taking pictures. Ellie found a perfect spot for lunch about facing Mt. Garibaldi and Diamond Head. As people were getting tired and the lakes were still about 3 km away, we decided to cut the hike short. On the way back we had plenty of opportunities to socialize with fellow hikers from other clubs.
It was a really beautiful day to be on the trail. Thanks to everyone in the group for staying together as a team and contributing to the success of the trip. Special thanks to those of you who were helping with chains, it was such dirty work!”
Kamen at Elfin Lakes:
“They said it couldn’t be done but we slowly motored our way up to the Elfin Lakes parking lot in my 2WD 1989 Mazda 323. The road was a little bumpy in places but, as long as you take your time, you will get there just fine. We hit the trail around 11 am and enjoyed a brisk pace as stunning mountain vistas revealed themselves to us as we started the gradual ascent. After passing Red Heather and turning onto the hikers’ trail, it became quite muddy which quickly turned into solid yet crunchy snow with isolated patches of bare ground. There were very few other hikers on the trail and we mostly marched in silence. We reached Elfin Lakes after just about 2.5 hours and explored the area thoroughly as we thought it would take a good deal longer to reach than it actually had. The way down was a little tougher as the sun had melted through the top layer of snow so it was slushy on the way back and slowed us down a bit. Got back to the car almost 2.5 hrs after we left and enjoyed some well-deserved food & drink at the Howe Sound Brewery.”
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).”
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.”
Stuart at Elfin Lakes:
“The Gran Fondo bike event worked in our favour with the exception of an over enthusiastic volunteer who closed off the Sea to Sky Hwy at Horseshoe Bay at 5am instead of 6.30am. After a short detour through Horseshoe Bay and breakfast in Squamish four diehards set of at the trailhead at 6.50am. We had the whole trail to ourselves in the morning and hiked the ridge in the shade as the sun was still low in the sky. We arrived at Elfin Lakes at 9.30am and lucked out as the water was like glass providing amazing reflections of the backdrops. The cabin was fairly empty with just a few hikers who came in the night before. After 1 ½ hours at the Lakes the group decided to take in the Gargoyles as it was still morning and we thought we would be able to get away from the persistent black flies to eat lunch but no such luck. Heading up the Saddle Trail and the additional 6km hike/scramble to the Gargoyles is rewarded with amazing vistas of Columnar Peak, and back towards Elfin Lakes. Watch out for the small blue frozen lake to the North, but even cooler was the hiker at the summit reading a Kindle. We returned to Elfin Lakes for a dip to cool off in the refreshing glacial waters before heading back to the parking lot. Parts of the ridge and Saddle Trails are still covered in snow providing a means to cool off.”
Rob M. at Elfin Lakes:
“We made it to the unploughed upper parking lot. One car had slid off the road into the forest – a bit of bumper and windshield visible – driver frantic on the cell phone. We seemed to be the first, breaking a snowshoe trail out to the hut. Progress was slow and draining. From the high stilted outhouse at Red Heather I could see that the poled winter route hadn’t been set. The narrow trail followed the summer route without any avi risk. We arrived quite late at the Elfin Lakes Hut feeling a little trashed. Sadly there were no tracks leading up Columnar Peak/Gargoyles saddle. Time worked against our intent of tenting out on the saddle, Columnar Peaks or ideally up on Little Diamond Head. The trump card was yet to be played.
With less than two hours of daylight a couple of skiers headed out towards the saddle but gave up breaking trail 1 km beyond the shelter. At the shelter I saw three grommets had broken loose from the metal frame of my MSR snowshoes. That and the oversized winter pack were probably the cause of some shooting pains in my hip. Three steps in 1.5 metre snow from the hut there was a collective feeling that we didn’t consume enough power gels to get us to the saddle.
A half hour later Glen tells us that his bivy setup probably wouldn’t work. The temperature was -15 and dropping – colder with the wind chill and worse at higher exposed elevations. We quickly found a spot in the meadows at the base of Columnar Peaks and began digging out a campsite and talked about what to do if the temperature went south of -20. Two of us ended up sharing a 4 season Hilleberg tent and with a bit of tweaking, everyone survived the night – woken once by the sound of snow drilling our tents; and once by the unmistakable sound of a woomph and a slide coming down the Gargoyles.
We took a mellow, get lost and smell the flowers pace back to the parking lot passing more than 50 skiers/snowboarders on Paul Ridge near Round Mountain. The trail was now a super highway. A pint and burger in town and we were home.”
Malin at Elfin Lakes:
“Six adventurous Wanderung members braved wet weather and vehicle problems on Saturday morning and headed up to Elfin Lakes for the weekend. Light rain fell continuously on our way up to the Red Heather hut, but the showers got less frequent after that. By the time we arrived at Elfin Lakes the sun actually poked through the clouds and we had lunch by the lake. After lunch we left our heavy bags in the hut and headed towards the saddle between the Gargoyles and Columnar Peak. The trail was incredibly slippery, but the hike well worth it as the clouds started burning off when we reached the saddle. From the saddle we headed up to the Gargoyles, where we enjoyed great views of the Diamond Head, Diamond Glacier, Opal Cone and Elfin Lakes. Despite the wet weather the hut filled up completely and it was nice to retreat to the quiet tents. In the morning we headed towards the Opal Cone. Surprisingly we made it all the
way, despite some heavy rain and the washed out trail. We even had some nice views! The bridge over Ring Creek was in place, but people should always check: https://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/garibaldi/trail_report.pdf for the most current information. Thanks to Rob for the directions to the
Cone and to everyone else who joined me on this great adventure.”