The original plan for this trip was to ride our bikes up to Elphin Lakes where we’d go for a swim and eat a potluck style feast of snacks in the sun. However, it became apparent pretty quickly that mother nature had other plans for us this time around. It was already lightly drizzling when we unloaded our bikes in the empty trailhead parking lot, and a quick glance at the forecast promised much more rain in store for us that afternoon. We resolved to accept that the “swim” part of the adventure would be less of a final dip and more of a constant shower. We left the lower parking lot around 9:00 AM and headed up the Climb Trail, also known as Stl’lhalem Sintl’.
It didn’t take long for us to peel off our rain jackets since climb was actually quite a steep grind and the trees kept most of the rain off of us. Aside from a few slippery roots and tight corners, the climb was as flowy and smooth as it was absolutely beautiful. Far from any crowds or cars, the one word I’d pick to summarize the mood on this part of the climb is peaceful. We took a couple of snack/rest breaks where we munched on some bars and gummy bears and admired the view.
About two hours into the journey, the things started to kick up a notch. The switchbacks became tighter, the rocks and roots more abundant. A good amount of walking was involved to get us up the last few hundred vertical meters. 1,181m up from our starting point, we reevaluated the plan at the top of the climb trail. Out of the trees and up in elevation, it’d become much rainier and colder than our mellow, temperate beginning. On top of that, a few of us were starting to experience some leg/stomach cramping. All in all, it seemed unlikely that we’d make it another 5+ km to the first warming hut (Red Heather) let alone Elfin Lakes. Cold and tired, the best choice was probably to head back down and leave the huts for another day. But our group was reluctant to abandon our goal just yet. Instead, we fueled up on a block of cheese and some (hot!) tea that Alberto brought, and revived our collective motivation to get to the fireplace at Red Heather Hut.
In all honesty, the following 5km were quite a doozie. It was now fully pouring rain, the road was really steep, and the slippery rocky double track ensured that it was not going to be an easy spin. But all of that was forgotten when we finally pulled up to Red Heather, got a fire going, met some friendly backpackers, and made quesadillas.
Time flies when you’re chatting and being warm and avoiding inevitable cold/tiredness. It was probably an hour our two before we successfully dragged ourselves back into the downpour. Nothing wakes you up quite like putting a damp, cold, rain jacket onto your warm body to prepare to roll down a mountain in the rain. The group split up at this point, as Alex and Lucy took the road back down and Alberto and I hit the trails. We took Meadow of the Grizzly (Spélhx̱en tl’a Stl’lhalem) to Pseudo-Tsuga back down. Was it slippery and a little sketchy at points? Yeah. But these trails were an absolute blast more than anything else.
We got back to the car a little before 5:00 PM where we had dry clothes waiting for us. The group all agreed that there is a defiantly a feeling of accomplishment when you wind up back in the car, warm and dry again after spending an entire day messing around in the mud and rain. This was my first trip with the VOC/first adventure since moving to BC this term, so I’m really happy to say it was a great one. Huge thanks to Lucy and Alberto for making this happen, and for the whole group for a great day in the woods. Feelin stoked to get back out there soon! -Anya