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.”
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“
Irina on Empetrum Peak:
“After breakfast at Galileo, our group of four started the hike from the Cheakamus Lake parking lot. A 2 km trip to the turn-off for the bridge across Cheakamus River, and the trail starts climbing up. Consistent snow started at 1080 m, near the end of switchbacks. Most of the snow was firm enough to walk on in boots as some older footprints suggested, but after each of us postholed all the way to the thigh, putting on the snowshoes was a unanimous decision.
It was a long but pleasant hike following the markers where we could find them. In 3 hours, we were at the meadows with first glimpses of mountain ranges around us. Heading west, we chose our ascent route which climbed to the saddle between two of the subsummits. Good snow quality due to lack of sunshine certainly helped, and after another uphill, we were on the ridge. Claudio and Malin chose to stay there, and handing them one of our radios, Evgeny and I continued to the Empetrum peak. It was only another 30 min to the summit, where we were treated to the close-up views of Black Tusk from this rarely visited vantage point.
After rejoining, we tried another route on the southern side of the ridge for the way back. Would have been doable with crampons and ice axes but not all in a group had them, so we retraced our steps and descended an even gentler grade along the ridge. Stayed too far west in the meadows though, and ended up crossing the creeks hiking down and up steep-ish embankments.
A good hike and fun conversations along the way made it an excellent outing. Thanks to Claudio for offering to rent a car and drive. See trip report with geotagged pictures on Live Trails.”
Heather in and around Helm Creek:
“Tyler, Ted, Bob and Heather did an overnight trip in Garibaldi park. We took Saturday to hike into Cheakamus Lake, have lunch and a quick dip, and then start the ascent up the slopes toward Helm Valley. As we had some extra time, we decided it might be nice to try and find Corrie Lake, which was estimated at 1/2 km off the trail (a beautiful blue lake that can be seen from the peak of Whistler). We made it, but the hour and a half of bushwhacking and the unbelievable mosquito clouds would not convince us to do it again! (We decided we were training for Chris Nott’s call-outs…) Camping at Helm Creek was beautiful but another incredible battle with mosquitos – full-on Goretex and mosquito nets only slightly delayed our escape into the safety of the tents. Sunday was a scenic 25 km hike up the scenic Helm Valley to Panorama Ridge – incredible views of Black Tusk, interesting cinder cones & valley floor, stunning colours of Garibaldi Lake and all the surrounding glaciers and mountains, and the most vibrant wildflowers blooming everywhere. A quick dip in Helm Lake was a refreshing stop on the long hike back to the car.”