Sunday, September 9, 2012

Russet Lake

Our final outdoor adventure for the Squamish summer was an overnight backpacking trip to Russet lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Elise had done well at Elfin Lakes the weekend before, so we decided to do an overnight family trip while the nice weather lasted. Initially, I had assumed this would be a much easier outing than Elfin Lakes, but was very wrong in my judgement of the distances involved and the elevation changes. It was a tiring two days, but we were rewarded with a truly amazing setting for a night of camping in the mountains.

We started by getting Elise out of school at noon on Friday. The weather was good through Saturday evening so we knew this would be our best window. We drove to Whistler, purchased a lift pass and rode the gondola into the alpine. Here, Elise and Pam pose outside.

Next, we hiked down to the base of the Peak Chair then rode that to the summit of Whistler Mountain. Elise seemed very keen to see all the terrain she'd only seen in the winter. It was quite interesting, actually. Here, she poses at the top with the rubber duck collection.

From the top of the Peak we set out on our hike, about 10km of rolling terrain through the alpine. It was 2:00pm, so we didn't have time to doddle. We followed Mathew's Traverse along the top of the mountain passing the entrance to the Glacier Saddle, a blue run Elise had skied a number of times and knew well. Here she poses at the entrance.

We continued across through Symphony Bowl following signs to Singing Pass.

The first big uphill portion of the hike was to the top of Flute. Here we stopped for a snack break and rest. At this point we left the Whistler ski area boundary and entered Garibaldi Provincial Park.

The hike was gorgeous and followed a narrow trail over the Musical Bumps toward Singing Pass.

Singing Pass is the forested valley in front of Pam in this picture, and our destination is a lake hidden below the highest peak left of the photo's centre. Still a long way to go...

From Singing Pass to Russet Lake was a three-kilometre uphill grind along many switchbacks. Elise did very well keeping it together through the toughest part of the hike. Here she rests in a meadow of red heather.

Near Russet Lake, we encountered snow. Elise couldn't wait to get some to throw at me! If you look closely, you'll see an evil grin on her face.

Finally the lake came into view. The large peak is Mt. Fissile and the snowfield behind it (on the left) is the Overlord Glacier.

We made haste to the lake knowing we had limited sun left. After a long sweaty hike, we all were eager to rinse off in the lake. I was the only one to fully submerge, though!

Our final destination? The Himmelsbach Hut at the back of the lake. This is where we cooked our meals. Of course Elise couldn't wait to get inside and check it out, especially the sleeping loft. There was a guided group from Boston so we shared the small quarters with about six other people. But we all camped outside in our tents.

The hut with Mt. Fissile behind. The setting was stunning.

We cooked on the benches along the wall. If you look VERY closely you can see Elsie playing in the loft above the ladder.

Sunset view of Russet Lake.

Elise and I on the lake shore.

The night was very peaceful, except for one incident where Elise lost "BK" and we had to turn on our headlamps to find him buried in her sleeping bag. We woke to a warm morning sun, cooked up a pancake breakfast and then relaxed by the lake while Elise built "fairy forts". At about noon, we decided it was time to start the journey home.

After three kilometres of hiking back to Singing Pass, we faced a decision: hike 9.5 km (much of it gently uphill) to the top of the Whistler gondola and ride back down, or hike the Singing Pass trail for 11.5 km downhill, all the way to the village in Whistler (over 5,000 vertical feet of elevation loss). We choose the latter...

The descent started shakily. Despite the trail being wide and gently downhill, Elise kept slipping on the loose pebbles. One slip was quite jarring and she skinned her knee. Tears flowed and band aids were applied. Afterward, I held her hand and the descent continued with much less drama. Here, Pam and Elise pose on the bridge across Flute Creek.

There were hundreds of wild blueberry bushes lining the trail, and we feasted regularly. After having our fill, we continued to the washout at Harmony Creek. Luckily the water was low and crossing was easy.

About 7.5 km down and only four more to go. Everyone was getting pretty tired by this point.

The last four kilometers was brutal and we were all super tired by the time we got to the village. For doing such an amazing job, Elise got a treat of her choosing at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Afterward, we were lucky enough to stop into Comor's and grab her a "new" used pair of skis for the upcoming season, which were a real bargain. It was a successful weekend all around!

We leave for Majorca in two weeks and have compiled lots of information about snorkeling and hiking on the island. My shoulder continues to be problematic, and I'm really crossing my fingers that I'll be able to do some good climbing while on this trip. Our final preparations are underway...

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