The best part of living in Vancouver is when you get sick of the rain you can head to the mountains and enjoy the snow. So, that’s exactly what we did last weekend. We packed up tents, sleeping bags, snowshoes, skis, and camping gear and headed to Garibaldi Provincial Park to do some winter camping and hiking at Elfin Lakes.
We left Vancouver at 5:45 am and got to the trail head near Squamish at 9 am. It took 2 hours to get up to the warming hut at Red Heather and then after an hour lunch break, another 2 hours to get to Elfin Lakes. 3 people in our group were on all-terrain skis with skins and the other 7 of us were on snowshoes. I thought the AT skis would have been faster, but on the uphill the snowshoes were actually just as fast, if not quicker. The hike up was a good workout. The trail is 11km long, with a 600m elevation gain – most of the climb is in the first 7km, and then there’ a 4km ridge walk.
We were prepared to sleep outside in tents, but when we got to the sleeping hut at Elfin Lakes, there were plenty of bunks available, so most of us slept inside, although John and Mark decided to make a snow cave and sleep outside. I kind of wished we would have set up our tents, just so I can say I survived winter camping. But the hut was a lot more comfy than my 3-season tent would have been. In fact, the hut was too warm and full of snorers, but with a pair of ear plugs I slept ok (thanks Dylan!).
The facilities at the Elfin Lake hut are really good. The hut is well heated and there were cook stoves, gas lamps, playing cards, poker chips, and enough bunks to sleep about 34 people. We could have packed a lot lighter had we known. We easily got bunks at 2pm, but by 6pm the groups arriving either pitched tents or slept on the floor.
We spent Saturday afternoon playing Euchre, boiling snow, and crazy carpeting. The crazy carpeting was awesome. We built a jump and had a blast playing in the snow.
The meals for the weekend consisted of sandwiches and soup for lunches, pasta for dinner, and oatmeal for breakfast – standard fare for hike-in camping.
The hike down was a lot faster and easier on the legs. The guys on skis just shot down. Christina and I were partially successful crazy carpeting down the path, but with packs on, it wasn’t easy and we wasted more time then we saved.
Before the trip I hit up MEC to grab some gear, and I was really happy I did. I dropped $350 but it’s all quality gear, including:
Poles – Super necessary when hiking with a heavy pack on.
Down Booties – I bought them as a joke almost, but they were the handiest thing I brought along. They were great for wearing around the warming hut, especially when your shoes are a bit damp. You can even wear them out in the snow and they don’t take up much room or weight in the pack.
2 quick-drying t-shirts – I would survived wearing cotton t-shirts, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t sweating into my base layer.
Hiking pants – I didn’t have anything else to wear but blue jeans.