Return to Keyhole Hot Springs

After Tough Mudder 2012 I went to Keyhole Hot Springs to relax, and liked it. So I took one of my hiking buddies, Stephen, and his friend, Jen, back there for another trip in late September.

The road was just as dusty, no snow to be seen. Seemed to still be graded. Dusty as ever. The fjord that you cross is a lot lower.

The last short hill after the fjord.

The last short hill after the fjord.

First thing I noticed was that most of the flagging tape I had put up had been taken down. The route was still passable of course, and as steep as ever. Remember there is no access to drinking water at the campground or the hot springs, so carry extra with you (it’s a short hike in anyway).

You’ll be treated to some spectacular views on the way down.

Remember though, it’s steep. Be ready for careful footwork and slidy, dusty dirt on the way down.

This is what I mean, and there is 30 minutes of this, both directions.

This is what I mean, and there is 30 minutes of this, both directions.

Once you get there though, the camp ground is pretty good (but it doesn’t look it). Flat, lots of trees to keep the wind down and out of the sun so you’re tent doesn’t get too hot.

Then head north west (right if facing the river) to the pathway that takes you to the hot springs.

Once you see them, it’s more careful footing and hope you brought a towel along to get changed under. There is nothing private down there to say the least.

At this later point in the year, the lower pool was open. Warm, but not as hot as the upper one, and larger too. It’s great!

Ahhh! The hotsprings at last (note the lower pool is now usable, see my other post for what it was like earlier in the year)

Ahhh! The hot springs at last (note the lower pool is now usable, see my other post for what it was like earlier in the year)

Remember, the original post has lots of links etc on how to get to Keyhole Hot Springs and the area.

Joffre Lakes

As usual, I’m off into the outdoors for the weekend! This time we were off to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Plan was 2 nights up there, hike up on Friday evening (late in the day/in the dark for Harini, Hannah and myself), day hike on Saturday to somewhere and then hike down Sunday. Jesse (Hannah’s dog) would be coming with us for the first time, and yes, I was excited about canine company on the hike. Christina and Mark had to leave North Van after us, so they would hike up separately.

The way up included quite a lot of scrambling over boulder fields and the like. The route is supposed to be 5.5km, but it’s steep. If you’ve done the Chief or the Grind, you can do this, but you will be slower since you’ll have all the camping gear to haul up. On the way up we even saw a note from the trail crew, asking us to haul up some planks to build a bridge… I think that’s optional. Thanks of course to them for directing us to the camp site on the other side of the lake.

When we got there, we found the campsite was in a boulder/moraine field, so it’s got quite a lot of stone dust around… but they have tent sized patches ready set up, along with an outhouse, bear cache and you are right by the water! Just go find yourself a patch (the first night we had a more muddy one, but the second night we moved to a drier peninsula) and pitch up. You’re a long way from the outhouse at the camp site, so make sure you have your light available after sunset… and make sure you have brought Toilet Paper with you (it will not be waiting for you up there, everything has to be heli’ed in).

Dinner of Mountain House Buffalo Chicken Wraps as always, some wine from our funky lightweight Platypus wine preservers, some Baileys and Hot Chocolate and as we were about to hit bed, Christina and Mark finally show up! It turns out they had been somewhat more significantly delayed than first thought. So we all bed down,  Hannah had an unfortunate problem with small rodents running under her tent, but Jesse saw them off (we later found out that the drier camp sites don’t have this issue).

The next day we had a slow start (intentionally, we all wanted to relax). Did a massive photo session by the lake in the morning light! I had hauled up some pancakes and a frying pan, they were very well received by the group! Just make sure you have a way to melt your honey to make it more runny.

So we head off up a nearby valley for Tszil Mountain/Glacier and Mount Taylor. This involved more scrambling over boulders and this time the route isn’t as well marked, so bring along the Duffey Lake Map (which shows Joffre well). There is a toilet on the way just on the other side of the forest (kind of random as it’s a long way from the camp site etc, and you almost pass the one nearer to the site to get to this one). Bring some decent boots with you, glad I had mine to protect your ankles. Also, my REI Flash 18 Backpack is GREAT for taking up as a quick daypack!

Jesse found it OK on the way up, although he was especially pleased to see a lake about 3/4 of the way up. We took the chance to fill up on good clear water (remember your purification drops/tabs). The final quarter was snow and rocks to climb over. At the viewpoint we reached, we looped round the back of Mount Taylor and looked out over another valley. Great stop for a small rest while Christina & Mark head for the summit. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it down in time so I built them an arrow made of rocks and we headed off.

Jesse had a harder time on the way down, occasionally he would refuse to jump off a rock etc. We gave him a hand… and for my trouble, he scratched my nipple through my t-shirt! Yes it hurt. The snow was a bit more tricky going down as well.

As we were getting down, I filled up on water again at a stream we crossed (stream water tastes miles better than lake water). We got back and quickly set about dinner as we were all starving. More wine (including some French Rabbit in a TetraPak container) and story sharing (no this was not as childish as it seems, not this kind of stories). Jesse, exhausted from the day, came down to bark at Hannah, ordering her to go to bed immediately.

We did notice it was a bit windy that evening… the next morning I really noticed that the fly had blown off the tent! Still didn’t get up for a few minutes! We decided to load up on trail mi and hike down. It does take 2.5hrs to get down as the rocky sections mean careful footwork required, and you are covering quite a lot of horizontal distance.

Once we were back at the car, we wasted no time heading for Mile One Eating House for a frigging GREAT lunch!

Here are the photos (sorry these aren’t in separate galleries throughout the article, I didn’t have time to do so).

A great trip, well worth doing. I’ll update this post with some Photosynths from the area later.

Here are those Photosynths:

Here are a few places you can read about Joffre Lakes:

Keyhole Hot Springs

I’m posting this one retrospectively as this was a great trip. My great friend Ben was over and we had just done Tough Mudder on Whistler the day before. A good night of drinking was had with Stephen, then we headed off towards Pemberton to relax. I had found out about Keyhole Hot Springs on Whistler Hiatus and thought it looked perfect for sore muscles.

So we drive out there, you have to spend about 1 hour driving on a gravel forest service road. It’s groomed and graded in summer, but in winter, the signage says it’s not. You’ll know you’re going the right way when you come across the 2010 Mount Meager landslide! The 2nd largest (in fact some measurements say it is the largest) landslide in Canadian history, you will see a soily, branch covered desert in the middle of a valley. Worth a stop.

Once you get up a bit, you will have to fjord a river. You can do this in a All Wheel Drive city car like a 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i when the water level is what it was for us. I think a 2WD car could do it too (many say it can), but make your own call on that, there is parking before the river and it’s only a few hundred meters to get to the trailhead. This river is also the last spot where you can get water that you can purify. I recommend bringing extra water down to the camp site as we couldn’t find any local sources and the river had a lot of sediment. I would bring quite a few liters just to be safe (note: beer does not count).

The trailhead has parking for about 5 cars (maybe 6). I personally added a load of orange trail markers on the bush that leads to it, and trail markers down to the campsite, where you will find a bear cache. When we went, there were a couple of collapsed picnic tables and some abandoned tarps and tent poles (shame on their owners for not packing them out!). We set up camp and explored.

For anyone down there, the hot springs are located to the North West of the campsite, that is to the right if you are standing in the campsite and facing the river (or further up the valley away from Pemberton in a third way to put it). We did get tricked by some deceptive trail markers that took us the other way, but I’ve added some markers that will get you to some log stairs (right Ben?).

Once you get there, you will see several pools, including some that were built by a well wisher. There is an old, bear mauled, water drum down there, but you might want to bring your own collapsable bucket or sturdy drybag to be safe. The main pool is down some more log stairs, and you can get 6 people in. There is a further pool but it was covered by river water when we were there. The river can be fast flowing (was for us) so be careful. The upper pools get very hot but you can add water to them to make them more pleasant. There is quite a bit of green slimy weed/algea in the pools, but this didn’t hurt us (other than making the white parts of my shorts look green, and I forgot to wash them until we got to St. Lucia!).

We were sharing the pools with a group, and got talking, they were saying that the waterfall you can see was basically hot water, and if it could be channeled, it could be used to make more pools.

Anyway, all very relaxing. We were glad we took headlamps down there because we came back to camp after dark for dinner. You can hear the river if you are close to the edge, but I had no trouble sleeping for almost 14 hours (after Tough Mudder remember).

The next day I got up late and we headed back up, I added trail markers as we went, so hopefully the route is better signed now. It’s a steep uphill hike, so be ready.

We went down to Keyhole Falls, which is a drive further up the hill (i.e. North West, away from Pemberton), then keep left at the fork in the road and stop when you come to the bridge. Worth it for a little jaunt, and again, I added trail markers (used the last of my roll). Be careful with you car as there are more rocks/rockfalls near here.

You’ll come back with a muddy car and some soothed muscles!

Some more photos can be found here

Also, I shot a few Photosynths of the area:

I’m tempted to start a project to rebuild some of the existing pools, and add a few more. Anyone interested?