Red Heather

I’ve got a backlog of trip reports that I need to catch up on, this one is from December 2012

Winter had arrived and like all good winters, you get your snowshoes out and continue hiking, no stopping, not for snow, not for cold, yes for avalanche danger and not for newly diagnosed exercise induced asthma on my part, nor for the cold I had. The group decided we needed a weekend away at Red Heather Hut in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Red Heather is unique because you cannot camp there in summer, bear activity is too high so (at the time of writing) it was not permitted by the Park Board. The hut too is only a warming hut, not a sleeping hut. Seeing as we usually like to sleep outside, that’s not a problem for us, so off we went.

The drive up was packed snow, I was appreciating my new Nokian WRG2 Tyres on the Impreza. A Ford Explorer up ahead was sliding all over, and when we got to the car park, we saw several pickups sliding into other parked cars. Squamish SAR were up there too, doing safety education and alerting us that the avalanche danger had increased (we all had beacons, probes and shovels). Some free whistles later, we were off.

The first part was a straight uphill slog as it always is, lots of switchbacks on the FSR. I must admit, I was feeling the chesty cold and the asthma. Salubutemol helped but I found myself somewhat grumpy frankly. My pack was cutting into my shoulders and I wished I was touring.

I’ll be honest, this was a slog up. The road isn’t that interesting, aside from the occasional spectacular view, but worth doing for the end result. Once you get out into the trees and snowy meadows, you feel more yourself.

We arrived at the warming hut and proceeded to warm up. Then it was tenting time. We flattened areas of snow ( which takes a lot longer than you think) and while I was doing it I noticed my foot had gotten stuck. I shook it loose and continued.

A few minutes later… where the hell is my snowshoe?

I had been wondering around with just one snowshoe the entire time. Out comes the avalanche probe and shovel, and me and Harini (thanks Harini!) searched for almost an hour for it! In the cold. It was buried just below the surface but damn hard to find.

That night we befriended a few people who gave us some rather good mulled wine and then played Hearts, taught to us by Mark, most of the evening. Slept heavy.

The weather was better for the hike down so the two on skis went off touring and the snowshoers. Better weather so a few more photos, we could see over Squamish. Soon we were in the cars (which miraculously hadn’t been hit by another sliding car while we were away).

Great trip! Gear worked like a champ apart from my (aging) backpack.

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: