Irina at the Gargoyles:
“Ah, finally, the summer is here! Bright blue skies and snow-clad mountains are calling 🙂 Our group of nine started off from the Elfin Lakes parking lot. Snowshoes, although not strictly necessary, went on from the start. We used the winter route along Paul Ridge, and with stops for snacks and pictures, made it to the Elfin shelter in just over 3 hours. Atwell and Garibaldi were seen from many vantage points along the trail, and we were excited to be getting even closer.
For four in the group, it was a second day out in the baking sun, and they opted for staying at the shelter, while the rest of us were eyeing the route to our destination. The decision was made to go up the safe zone until the end of the tree line, then re-assess the traverse below the steep East face of Columnar Peak from there. Instead of the dreaded sugary snow, we found ourselves walking up firm and well-settled snow. Although moist, it held well. From higher up, the traverse looked much more approachable: the longer-propagating sluffs off Columnar were old, and the fresher ones were short runs-offs at the highest steepest portions of the ridge. We continued on to the Columnar-Gargoyles saddle.
The ridge up Columnar Peak was narrow and heavily corniced, while that of Gargoyles, quite a bit wider. Up we went, reaching the West summit of Gargoyles in about an hour of travel from the shelter. Views of the cornices on the East summit killed any desire to explore that peak. Without regrets, we called it a day and relaxed and enjoyed another hour of the beautiful sunny day on the top, surrounded by mountains, breathing in the warm summer air for the first time this season. A tiny speck of a solo hiker was moving towards Little Diamond Head, and the vastness of the white space around him was intimidating.
Returning to the shelter, we re-joined our group and headed back. I hope all enjoyed a great day in the mountains; I sure did, and a wonderful company was certainly a big part of it. Huge thanks go to our drivers Susanne and Darcy. See full report and geotagged pictures on Live Trails.”