Throwback Thursday: 2015’s Hiking Glory Part I

You’ve all seen that 2016 has been a wash for hiking but, man, was 2015 a glorious year. I hiked so many new trails, and even made time for old favourites. The season was long and snow free from late May to November.  It was trail perfection. Thus, I thought it only fitting to compile a list of all of the new trails I hiked in 2015. There were almost 35 total, and I may have even missed a few. Sweet holy hell, no wonder I was so fit! If you’re panicking about reading close to 35 trail reviews, rest easy! This will be my first two-part series. Oh the excitement!

Check ’em out, hyperlinked for your reading pleasure, with a few key stats to inspire you (or dissuade you, as the case may be):

Sarrail Ridge (Kananaskis)
Stats: 11 km return, 655 meters of elevation
My POV: Stunning views from the Ridge, and you may be lucky to catch a perfect reflection of surrounding mountains in Rawson Lake along the way. It doesn’t seem like much elevation gain, but I believe you gain 300 m of elevation in the last kilometer alone. You will feel the final stretch to the ridge, but the views will be worth it.

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Wedgemount Lake (Whistler)
Stats: 14 km return, 1160 m elevation gain
My POV: People love this hike. I mean, they go batty over it. And I hated every. last. second of it.  Sure, the lake is beautiful and the surrounding mountains are stunning. But heed this warning: you will slog through forest and trees for 6.5 km to get there, all of which is roots and rock and none of which is remotely rewarding. Skip it and go to Joffre Lakes for half the distance and equal beauty.

Marriot Basin (Pemberton)
Stats: 16 km return, 460 m elevation gain
My POV: This was stunning. I had no expectations whatsoever and, despite a crap ton of black flies that flocked to me any time I stopped, it blew my mind. The lake is gorgeous and the backdrop for the Wendy Thompson Hut was a rocky basin delight.  Do this trail. But don’t tell people because it’s delightfully uncrowded and I’d like it to stay that way.

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Skyline Divide (Mt. Baker)
Stats: 9.0 miles return, 2500 ft. elevation gain
My POV: I pretty much saw nothing but low hanging cloud and the odd sliver of mountains, but even so I think this trail is something special. If you see a photo from a clear day, it looks damn spectacular. The road to the trailhead is an adventure in itself in a low-clearance car, but it’s passable. This one’s on my list to re-do.

Heliotrope Ridge (Mt. Baker)
Stats: 5.5 miles return, 1400 ft elevation gain
My POV: I have done this trail several times, and not once have I seen it fully clear. However, even on a low-cloud day, you can get damn close to Coleman Glacier and it’s spiky seracs are impressive no matter what the weather. It’s an easy hike, save one creek crossing which I found horrifying, but I am deathly afraid of river crossings, so…probably anyone else would be fine.

Goat Mountain (Mt. Baker)
Stats: 11 miles round trip, 4100 ft. elevation
My POV: To be honest, I think I only went 3.75 miles one-way on this trail, to the first “knoll” because it was the second hike of the day for me. Still, I remember the view was adequate payoff for the mind-numbingly dull slog through forest to get there.

Lake Ann/Curtis Glacier (Mt Baker)
Stats: 8.2 miles round trip (to the lake), 1900 ft. elevation gain
My POV: It was smoky as all hell the day I did this trip, so surrounding mountains went from eery, tv-dream-sequence haziness to almost invisible by end of day. Still, I can promise this hike would be stunning on a clear day and it is beyond worth it to continue beyond the lake. I think it’s less than a mile further to stand directly beside Curtis Glacier, where you will feel small in relation to its greatness.

Upper Pierce Lake (Chilliwack)
Stats: 21 km return, 1350 m elevation gain
My POV: Your legs and lungs will not like you on this trail. When it is steep, which is almost all the way, it is unrelentingly so. The first lake may be a bit of a disappointment (I might even say uninspiring), but Upper Pierce Lake is a gem, nestled amidst stunning, rocky peaks. At one edge of the cirque, you can catch views all the way down the valley.  Even better, continue upwards to Mount MacFarlane. I’ve yet to make it all the way to the summit due to time, ice, and/or my own fear of plummeting to my death, but even half way is pretty damn awesome.

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Williams Ridge (Chilliwack)
Stats: 11 km, 1400 m elevation gain
My POV: This is one of those trails that you hate, until you get to the very last stretch, at which point the horror of all the steep, forest-enclosed crap you endured up to that point is instantly erased from your memory. You’ll have views for days, including Lake Chilliwack and, if you leave yourself more time than I did, you can even take a quick jaunt up to Williams Peak. Word of caution here: the trailhead is not well-marked nor particularly easy to find.

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Flora Lake (Chilliwack)
Stats: 14 km return, 1136 m elevation gain
My POV: I have done this trail many, MANY times and have never actually gone all the way to Flora Lake.  Here’s why: you climb and climb and climb (as Chilliwack hikes always seem to force you to do) and to get to Flora Lake you would have to descend 400 m. Given that it’s not a particularly stunning lake, or at least doesn’t look so from above, this seemed a waste of energy. Instead, I recommend hitting the pass and veering off to climb Flora Peak. It’s a short climb, with better views of surrounding peaks and Chilliwack Lake. Your legs will thank me.

Lions-Binkert Trail (Lions Bay)
Stats: 16 km return, 1280 m elevation gain
My POV: This is a west coast quintessential hike, so I had to do it. Full disclosure: I didn’t summit the Lions themselves. I read a lot about how terrifying it is, and watched two young guys spend 25 minutes trying to figure out a route. They never succeeded, and their entire effort looked like an exercise in avoiding a death plummet. No thanks.  The views from the ridge are great but, in my opinion, not worth the rocky, root-filled, forest-enclosed trail to get there. For me, it’s a “one and done” trail, never to be repeated.

Crown Mountain (North Shore)
Stats: 9.8 km return (or 12.5ish if you hike from base of Grouse), 385 m elevation gain (or 1200 m if you start from the base of Grouse)
My POV: If you want to climb 850 m on the Grouse Grind or BCMC, climb some more, then descend 250 m only to climb back up another 421 m, be my guest. In my eyes, it’s a lot of up and down for the same view you’d get from any other peak in the area. Plus, as with all North Shore trails, you’ll get roots and mud galore even on a dry year. Consider this your real warning: the 250 m descent into Crown Pass will crush your soul and steal years of life from your knees.

Black Tusk (Garibaldi Provincial Park)
Stats: 29 km return, 1740 m elevation
My POV: Yessssssssssss. Even though I chickened out about a half kilometre before the end (loose shale + narrow trail + exposure are not a winning combination for me), this was worth every second–even the take a step, slide two steps back portion near the final ridge.  Stunning views of Garibaldi Lake and its surrounding peaks and a great workout. Your warning here: even on a hot day it’s hella cold on the ridge. It was 30 degrees the day I hiked this and I was freezing cold at the top, even with a jacket.

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Panorama Ridge (Garibaldi Provincial Park)
Stats: 30 km return (32 if you swing past the lake first), 1520 m elevation gain
My POV: If I had to pick a ridge to sit on for the rest of my life, this might be it.  Turquoise waters. Glaciated peaks. Hidden glacial tarns. Lush valleys. You can see it all. Do this hike. Depending on your fitness level this is a highly doable day hike, but there’s ample camping en route to break up the journey. Whatever your choice, plan to spend time on the Ridge. I’m usually one to spend maybe 5-10 minutes at a summit, but I’ve been known to hang out here for a solid 30-40 minutes. If that’s not a rave review, I don’t know what is.

judy

Mount Harvey (Lion’s Bay)
Stats: 13 km return, 1450 m elevation
My POV: Once this trail splits from the Lions-Binkert trail, expect a couple kilometers of unrelenting steep trail before popping out into some open views of the Lions.  From there, the grade moderates somewhat and there’s some fun rock scrambling (the super easy variety) towards the summit.  Considering it’s a similar view to most trails in the area (Howe Sound, the Lions, etc.), I enjoyed this hike. It’s a great workout, rarely crowded (I’ve gone without seeing anyone) and has some good variety in terrain. I give it a thumbs up.

Coliseum Mountain (North Shore)
Stats: 23.5 km return, 1245 m elevation
My POV: I once wrote a whole post about my disdain for this trail and cannot spend even another second contemplating its awfulness.

Elk Mountain (Chilliwack)
Stats: 7-15 km return (depending on how far you go along the ridge), 800 m elevation gain
My POV: This has become a favourite maintenance hike. I can either stop at the summit of Elk Mountain or continue to Thurston Mountain for a longer expedition. Either way, there are stunning views of Baker and nearby peaks as soon as you pop out on to the backside of the mountain and, on a clear day, I could stare at those views for hours.

Stay tuned for the rest of the list next week…

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