K2inCanada's Blog

August 26, 2014

An old classic – glaciers and vulcanos – Aug 17

Filed under: Canada, Hike — K2 in Canada @ 10:29 PM

We had done this hike before in Aug 2003 and I had it in my head to be an easy one. The first part to Elfin Lakes is a very popular trail – so popular that we had to park along the logging road since the parking lot was full by the time we arrived. The weather was not picture perfect at the start – as we had for the last 3 hikes – it was dry with a promise for the sun to come out but the clouds were hanging low in the mountains still. The trail start is at about 950m already and you follow an old jeep trail up through the forest all the way to Red Heather Cabin where the forest thins out and the heather and blueberry bushes take over. We passed a lot of people along the way. Once past Red Heather the trail goes along a nice ridge but due to the low clouds we missed out on all the views – it was still cool though. Except for the hordes of people and the odd mountain biker. It’s a hiking highway all the way to Elfin Lake. You reach the high point of 1565m at about half way and loose some 150m down towards Elfin Lakes. Here is were most people stop – some 11km from the start. There is a cabin and a wilderness campground for people who want to do a multi-day outing in the area. Back in the winter of 2003 or 2004 we spent a couple nights at that cabin between Christmas and New Years snowshoeing in. Today – with the sun finally making it’s appearance we continued on on our quest to get to the top of Opal Cone – an extinct volcano – about 300m higher than Elfin. But first you continue going down all the way down to Ring Creek probably loosing about 250m or so. The views started to open up on us here and there and you see the big mountains of Garibaldi Provincial Park towering around you with the final destination ahead. After crossing the newly build bridge over Ring Creek (the old trail we used to take seem to have disappeared as the creek continues to carve into the mountain side) you start to climb back up again. Slowly first but it get continuously steeper going up the east side of the creek. The higher you get the better the views of Diamond Head to the west and it’s big glacier until you round the top of the ridge and you look straight at Pyramid Mountain and it’s glacier. Stunning! From here the trails is more level again along the foot of Opal Cone until you are almost past your destination and the trail turns off to the left along a narrow ridge. To your right you look down into the barrens with a turquoise lake – carved out by “recent” glacier activity – and Pyramid Mountain and glaciers in the background. To your left you look across a deep ravine straight up to Opal Cone. Pretty awesome views!!! Once you reach the end of the little ridge you go straight up the Cone – pretty slippery “trail” or really just a sandy face people scramble up on to get to the top. Well, you are not quite at the top once you reach sure footing again – it’s still about 500m and some 50m up over rocks and snow to get to the highest point of the cone. 360 degree view from up there – forested hills to the south looking back towards Elfin, Diamond Head to the west, Pyramid Mountain to the east, both with beautiful glaciers, and more mountains to the north – enjoy the video:

Before we headed back we went down into the barrens to rinse off some of the sweat in that turquoise lake we could see from the ridge. It’s such a desolate area – you feel like you are on a different planet.  The hike back was long and a lot more up than down it seemed.  But the clouds were almost completely gone and Jeff got a bit annoyed that I had to stop for the same pictures all over again :-). Especially the part from Elfin to the high point seemed steeper than normal and the jeep road dragged on forever. Well it was the longest hike we have done this year – a good 35km even though not overly steep – and it took us about 8hrs.

We meant to stop in in our favourite Squamish Pub for some well deserved food and beer – The Shady Tree – but they were also very busy and food would have been 45min to 1 hrs away.  So we decided to hit the road instead and have some salmon at home. We barely left Squamish until we hit the traffic jam on highway 99. We spent a good 30min sitting in traffic – the whole way to Vancouver was slow! But we felt good having done another hard hike in prep for Africa.

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