J and I have had some prettys good winter adventures over the holidays and with our recent spell of cold and snow (aka deep freeze), I was eager to find another mountain adventure.
I had been pestering J to do a winter hike to Elfin Lakes for a while. This week we made tentative plans for Elfin lakes, weather permitting. It didn’t hurt that J. had new skate skis he wanted to test out. By Thursday the weather looked like it would hold (sunny, maybe a bit cloudy and not too cold). We didn’t know the road conditions but with J’s truck which has 4WD and chains we figured we were as prepared as you could be.
Friday night was spent prepping for our adventure as we wanted to get out the door quickly. Saturday morning we were up at 5 am and on the road by 6am. No traffic at that hour so our drive was reasonably quick.
The roads were dark and the moonlight reflecting off the water along the Sea -to – Sky was beautiful. The sky was dark but as we drove up the forest service road to the trail we could barely see the mountains silhouetted against a dark sky. By the time we parked, the inky darkness had faded into light, and a light moon hung in the sky.
As we started our hike, the sky coloured pink. Travelling in the winter was considerably slower than it had been in the fall/summer. And at J.’s insistence we had brought our zip sled which yours truly ended towing most of the way up :p. Also, our packs were loaded with our gear. J. had even bought a wilderness survival booklet at MEC (given however, there was not a shrub in sight to eat I’m not sure how much the booklet would have come in handy had it come down to it :D). I grumbled a bit, as I like to travel fast and light in the mountains, but visions of potentially what could go wrong on winter adventures were dancing in my head. So, I carried the essentials (emergency kit, bivy, headlamp, fully charged phone, whistle, extra calories, extra mittens, and a rolled up down jacket and extra fleece layer). He had all that, plus a compass, lantern with candles, matches, etc.
With the stops, equipment adjustments, it took us an hour 15 minutes approximately to the Heather hut shelter. We pressed on, eager to reach the top. The views began to open up, and we followed the bright orange poles marking the winter trail. The weather was spectacular; we had picked a good day to tackle this trail.
J. would turn around every so often and I would be lagging behind, spotting yet another photo taking opportunity. The views are spectacular and I could lose myself for hours in these mountains (literally and figuratively).
While Elfin lakes is described as moderately rolling, a full week of running before our adventure meant my legs were already tired starting the hike. Luckily J, likes to stop, look around and enjoy the scenery. He reminds me that sometimes it is good to slow down, to take my time.
I didn’t find out until the end of the day, but his feet were hurting the whole way up. The combination of different socks and new skate skis might have done it. Meanwhile, I kept running ahead to the next marker, or lagging behind to gawk at the scenery. I could lose myself in these mountains (figuratively and literally).
At the top, we found a great little hut with spectacular views. We spent an hour and a half playing at the top, warming ourselves with this little candle lantern J. had picked up. I also discovered the wonders of reusable handwarmers (so good). The hot soup we had packed into his thermos and the flask of red wine I lugged up (in addition to the water) was working wonders.
I could have stayed up there all day, but eventually we headed out as I didn’t want to be on the mountain after dark. (we did have a very good headlamp and warm clothes but still…) The afternoon sun was warm enough I peeled off layers as we made our way down the mountain. We chased the sunset down the mountain and of course my phone died at the very moment I was trying to capture (in my opinion) the best shot of the day (pastel pink colours, the fading contours of the mountains and a wide expanse of water). The whole scene reminded me of a Group of Seven painting. Sadly no photo of that moment, but we did capture some other moments.
We made it back to the car after sunset. I am deliriously happy (and happy to be done). J. was just tired. It was an epic day on the mountains and can’t wait for more adventures. The early wake up call was definitely worth it.
As a p.s – we make it a practice to tell someone where we are going, when we start the hike etc, and check back in after we are done. My mom had no idea we were in Garibaldi this particular day, but as we were driving back from Squamish, I see a text from her that reads: “out risking your life again?” I had to laugh.