Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mountain Lake

With Pam's surgical date just around the corner, we jumped at the opportunity to do a final overnight trip into the local mountains. We chose to explore the Mountain Lake area, an alpine playground just south of Squamish that sees minimal traffic due to the difficulty of the approach. Our trusty 4x4 got us to the upper end of the Furry Creek valley and then three hours of steep hiking in sweltering summer heat got us into the alpine. We eagerly plunged into Wind Lake, the first of many gorgeous alpine pools we'd encounter over the next couple of days.


A large tarn above Wind Lake was the location of our first night's camp. We pitched our tent on the granite slab and left off the fly so we could lay in bed and watch the sun set over Ben Moore, the peak in the rear of this photo. It was a gorgeous location and we saw shooting stars after dark, much to Elise's delight.

The next morning we chose to climb Ben Lomond, a prominent bell-shaped peak to the south of our camp. We rose early, had a quick breakfast and then set off on a long ridge traverse toward our objective. We got this nice view of Wind Lake as we crossed the slope above.

There was good scrambling on the lower reaches of the peak and I employed a small rope to keep Elise secure. Once on the rubble-covered summit, we lounged in the sun, had snacks and watched the mist swirl around the Sky Pilot peaks in the distance.

The destination for our second night was Mountain Lake, the location of a popular BCMC mountain hut. Once again, a swim in the lake was a refreshing treat upon our arrival. The water was beautiful and Elise had a blast jumping off "cliffs", small outcrops of rock along the shore. She declared it the "best swimming ever" and we chose to repeat the activity the following day. It's nice to see her getting comfortable swimming in deep lake water. I stay close by and she hitches a ride if she gets tired.

The BCMC hut is perched on a ridge-crest below the east side of Mt. Sheer and it was a welcome site as we dropped below the Mountain Lake basin. For some reason Elise loves these mountain huts and always wants to sleep inside in the musty, hot lofts. I might have complied if the hut had been empty, but two other hikers had already claimed the front half of the loft. We chose our tent instead.

On the morning of day two, I rose early and scrambled up Mt. Sheer by myself. I got some nice early morning light, a great view of the surrounding peaks and a chance to see the alpine flower stonecrop in full bloom.

The Sky Pilot group as seen from the south. The new Sea to Sky gondola is on the far (north) side of this cluster of peaks.

A nice view of Ben Lomond from the summit of Mt. Sheer. The valley fog was rising fast, but it never reached Mountain Lake that day, which was a relief.

A final reflection of Sky Pilot from a tarn near the hut. I got back to the hut in time for breakfast with Pam and Elise. We spent the next hour drying our dew-soaked tent before packing up and starting the 8-kilometre hike back to the truck.

The only real downside to this trip was the mosquitoes. They were thick, more so than we could have imagined. Luckily, midday saw them mellow so we could swim with minimal discomfort. Overall, we really enjoyed the beauty of this unique and pristine area, and were satisfied to get one more family outing under our belt before August 18th arrives.

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