Garibaldi Neve Traverse
The Garibaldi Neve traverse crosses some spectacular alpine scenery. It is usually done as a ski traverse with 2 or 3 travel days. The 3 day variation can be done as a hut to hut traverse, staying at the Elfin Lakes Shelter and then at the Burton Hut or the Sentinel Bay Glaciology Huts. The terrain is relatively easy for skiing but the route finding challenges and remoteness make this an advanced trip.
The traverse begins at the Diamond Head area of Garibaldi Park and ends at the Rubble Creek parking lot (Black Tusk Area). Although the trip can be done in either direction, this article will describe the trip from south to north. This direction is more popular since it represents a net elevation loss, and offers a couple north facing ski descents.
When To Go
The traverse is best done in winter or early spring when Garibaldi Lake is frozen. If the lake is not frozen you will need to circumnavigate the lake which involves some bushwacking. Going around the lake from Sentinal Bay is easiest by following the Warren Glacier past the Table and climbing over Clinker Peak to reach trails on the other side.
- A tent should be carried as it is very easy to become trapped by a whiteout.
- Glacier Travel
- Avalanches. This trip is rated Challenging on the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale by the Canadian Avalanche Association.
The Diamond Head parking lot is reached by driving Mamquam road which leaves highway 99 a few kilometers north of downtown Squamish (there is a Canadian Tire store at the corner). Follow Mamquam Road east past the Squamish Country Club, and through an industrial area. Here the road begins a long climb, passing through the sea to sky university campus. After a few houuses the road forks; take the left fork to Garibaldi Park. It is 14.5km from highway 99 to the upper parking lot at 950m elevation. y part. From Squamish, follow Mamquam road east until it turns to gravel and climbs way up into the mountains. Keep on the main road, and turn left at a junction after passing a few houses. There are 2 main parking areas - one at the end of the road and one about 2km down just short of a steep hill. In winter, don't go beyond the lower parking lot if you don't have chains as snow conditions can change very fast on the road with all the traffic. Use caution, this road is notorious for mishaps. It's only a 30 minute walk up from the lowest parking area to the highest, which is a lot less time than it takes to get your car out of the ditch.
The Rubble Creek turnoff for the Garibaldi Lake Trail is located about midway between Squamish and Whistler (Google Map), about 250km return. There is a prominent sign, Garibaldi - Black Tusk trailhead, indicating the turnoff. The road leads about 2km to the parking lot at approximately 600m elevation. Only the first 400m of this road is normally plowed in winter, up to a private driveway. Do not block access to this private driveway when parking along the road.
As of April 2013, fees are in effect in Garibaldi Park. Expect to pay $10 per person per night to BC Parks, even if you are camping. If you choose to stay at Elfin Lakes Shelter you need to pay $15/night/person. If you are staying at the Burton Hut, VOC would like you to pay $10 per night donation for non VOC members, payable to the VOC. This is in addition to the $10 you are paying to BC Parks. Prior to April 2013 VOC used to charge users $5 but we've noticed that this does not cover the cost of recent renovations.
Diamond Head parking lot to Elfin Lakes Hut
This section represents 11km of easy trail. From the Diamond Head parking lot follow the old jeep road through many switchbacks to the Diamond Head day use shelter (1450m). Beyond this point the trail to Elfin Lakes is marked with wands in the winter. Follow them through open meadows to the top of Paul ridge (1700m). If you have kick wax for your skis you can now take your skins off. If you don't have kick wax, leave them on as there are still a number of short uphills to negotiate before reaching Elfin Lakes Shelter (1550m).
This section is straight forward enough to do in bad weather or in the dark. It should take a total of about 3-4 hours.
Elfin Lakes to Garibaldi Lake
From the Elfin Lake hut ski northward, contouring for about 2km (approxmately following the summer trial and an old jeep road). Pass below some avalanche paths before dropping down to Ring Creek. Cross Ring Creek and continue north to the Garibaldi Glacier on the west side of the Opal Cone. Climb the glacier to the main part of the Garibaldi Neve and head NNW past the tent and over a 2178m shoulder. Don't climb too high towards The Tent, as you will just have to come right back down to avoid crevasses around the corner. The section between the Tent and the Sharkfin is the most heavily crevassed part of the trip, so be especially careful if visibility is marginal. The Sharkfin (a rocky ridge the just precariously up out of the glacier) is passed on it's east side. The position of the Sharkfin is incorrect on NTS maps. It's actual position is further east, and lower down than shown. Next ski through a broad pass west of Glacier Pikes to reach the Sentinel Glacier, which is a straightforward descent to Garibaldi Lake. This section should take a full day to complete for an average party. Consider camping up high and climbing Mt Garibaldi.
Once at Garibaldi lake (1450m) at the base of Sentinel Glacier, you have a couple options : you can stay in the small Sentinel Bay Glaciology Huts or head onto the lake and go north to the Burton Hut which is much more spacious (though not nearly as spacious as the Elfin Lakes shelter). Yet a third option is to cross the 6km lake and stay at the day use shelters at the Battleship Lake Campground, which aren't well suited to sleeping but are quite spacious.
Garibaldi Lake to Rubble Creek Parking Lot
If you haven't already done so, cross the lake to its north-western extremity and head along the trails past Barrier lake to the junction with the Taylor Meadows trail (3km). Another 6km brings you down to the parking lot. The lower portion of this trail is often quite dry even in mid-winter and may have to be walked.
- BC Parks page for Garibaldi Park.
- Neve Waypoints in gpx (KML source:Bivouac) on Google Map.
- Cropped / spliced 1:50,000 NTS map (5.7 MB .pdf, ready to print)
- BC Basemap - better topographic detail than the NTS map, printed full width (1000 px) is approximately 1:20,000