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!”
Will B. on Mt Price:
“Four of us left Rubble Creek parking lot at about 9 am on Saturday to hike Mount Price. Up to Garibaldi Lake it was teeming, but after leaving the lake we saw a total of four other people. The trail winds through trees and over bouldery bits with occasional lovely views of the lake or the Tantalus mountains on the other side, until you reach the start of the real climb, which was steep, loose and very hot. At this point I was like a big sweaty snail. The views on top were amazing, especially of Mount Garibaldi itself. It took us 11 hours all in. Brilliant hike and a great group of hikers made it even better.”
Chris N. at Garibaldi Lake:
“Unlike the Cheakamus Lake trail, there were no blowdowns on the Garibaldi Lake trail at all! Snow patches started around 4.5 km and was largely continuous beyond the 6 km mark. It doesn’t look like many people had headed up to Taylor Meadows – hardly any tracks in that direction. Snow looked to be about 1-1.5 m deep at the lake. It was largely consolidated so snowshoes weren’t needed (and would have been a hazard in the narrower bits coming around the upper barrier lake). Microspikes will help but aren’t really necessary either. The snow gets a bit sloppy in the last 100m before the lake and around the lake edge. There are small pools of water around the lake edge and we ran into a few skiers coming off the Garibaldi traverse so I guess the lake is still crossable (though I wouldn’t risk it).”
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!”
Andy G. on the Great Garibaldi Glacier Lily Hunt:
“Glacier lilies! A familiar refrain to the ears of those who know me. It was a pleasure to introduce two Wanderung and Garibaldi Lake first-timers to those cheery yellow flowers. As expected, they were a little past their peak but we did see a few nice patches. We wandered up beyond Outhouse Junction, following the trail towards Black Tusk for a km or so where we found the best flower displays. Then we headed down to the lake to cool off our feet. The most surprising discovery of the trip was the water level in the lake: I’ve never seen it so low. Rubble Creek wasn’t flowing out of the lake at all, with nothing but old trees visible.
The trail is in excellent shape, if a little dusty right now. No snow and almost no mud. The campgrounds look to be snow-free. We encountered the crew working on upgrading the trail and rested awhile to chat with them. Bugs are mostly not a problem except at Taylor Meadows campground, where the bug rating was upgraded to irritating. I was hoping to see a bear, as that would have made for bear sightings on my last 3 callouts, but it was not to be. (I did the same trip a few days later and we saw a lone black bear grazing the meadows between Taylor Meadows and Outhouse Junction.)
Full flower update is on Live Trails and photos are on Flickr.
Many thanks to Jackie and Aaron for indulging my obsession and keeping me company on a long day of hiking.”
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.”
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.”
Andy on Round Mountain:
“Maria and I joined Carollyne on her trip up to Round Mountain and Paul Ridge. Getting to the parking lot was straightforward for a 2wd car with tire chains. The road was icy beyond the chain-up area (though it had melted by the afternoon) and compact snow from the top of the hill near the overflow parking. Snowshoes were not necessary as the trail was packed firm – only beyond the Red Heather shelter did we put them on so we could venture into the untracked powder. The snow was perfect and despite the popularity of the area it never felt crowded. We found a (very) sunny spot on the shoulder of Round Mountain and sunbathed for an hour, while taking in the views of Garibaldi, the Tantalus Range and the Sky Pilot group. On the descent we had to watch for huge snow bombs melting off the trees – we had one close call which could have been unpleasant. We ended the day with fine refreshments at the Howe Sound Brewpub and were treated to the sight of Venus, Jupiter and a very thin crescent moon over Howe Sound on the drive home. A grand day out but beware the hungry whisky jacks…!”
Evgeny doing Castle Towers in a day:
“Three of us joined in an effort to make a one day megahike to Castle Towers mountain. We started at 8:20 am and in 2 hours reached Helm Meadows campsite area. As we decided against the glacier traveling we went up Gentian Ridge along the moraine near Helm Peak. Instead of getting to the top of the ridge initially we started traversing it on the side, which was initially easier but ended up as a bad idea when the slope became too steep, so we ended up scrambling to the top of the ridge anyway. Ridge walking was easy though we noticed a strong wind that was making some difficulties to walk. We had lunch right after we bagged Fuscian Peak which is the highest bump along this ridge, which has about 5 or 6 bumps between the Helm Peak and the top of the Helm Glacier. It was a clear day with few clouds before we started descending to Gentian Pass. After that clouds covered most of the sky but we were lucky that all the rain passed us by.
We reached the top of Polemonium Ridge at 3:15 pm and realized that we need to go a substantial part down again to pass the gap between Polemonium Ridge and Castle Towers mountain itself. The descent was a nice-looking but unpleasant to scramble narrow gully filled with loose rocks that required careful walking to prevent stones to fall on the heads of people who were scrambling below. The slope of Castle Towers from the western side is a huge boulder field, which still had a last year snow fields on it. On the way up we went over the snow but on the way down we avoided them because they were shallow and steep. At 5:05 pm we summitted the west sub-summit spending 8 hours 45 minutes for ascent. We made a short break there for food and rest and went back soon after. The views were awesome but it was hard to take pictures because the wind was really strong. We made up the narrow gully before the sunset, which was at 7 pm.
Darkness fell when we were descending from Polemonium Ridge to Gentian Pass. Due to GPS visualization problems of long tracks we couldn’t trace our steps back so we used our own route finding and GPS map coordinates to get back to the car with head lamps. We got back on Gentian Ridge and scrambled our way under the gorgeous clear skies full of stars. Those skies were clear for a reason. The wind was very strong and at some mildly exposed sections of the ridge we were literally crawling to avoid being blown off the ridge. At 11 pm we stopped for a snack behind one of the bumps that protected us from the wind turned off the head lamps and enjoyed absolutely beautiful stars in the sky. Then we proceeded along the ridge looking for a convenient scramble down. That wasn’t easy with headlamps but we successfully descended to the meadows and at the midnight we were standing on the wide trail leading back to the parking lot. If we were going up for 2 hours, the way back down took us 3 hours 20 minutes. I didn’t feel very tired and had no blisters at all but soles of my feet were so beaten up by just stomping them for already 16 hours that it was unpleasant to step on them. I had no doubt that my companions felt at least the same. Nevertheless, we endured the last part of the hike in the dark forest and at 3:20 am after exactly 19 hours of hiking we were back at the car. Hey, that wasn’t all for me, I was driving back to Vancouver till 6 am… The driving was also epic but that’s another story. 🙂
Soundtrack of a hike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcv3FkL29IQ
For detailed report see: https://www.livetrails.com/report/3639/0/Castle_Towers_from_Helm_Creek“