Snowshoeing in the Backcountry – Garibaldi Provincial Park
Last week I was fortunate enough to get some more outdoors time in the backcountry at Garibaldi Provincial Park. Bruce and I headed out on what turned out to be a 22 km snowshoe in the South Western corner of the park known the Diamond Head Area. 5.5 hrs later we had finished our round trip to Elfin Lakes and back, exhausted but happy.
This isn’t the same type of snowshoeing experience that I hear so many people undertake at the local mountains or resorts. Unlike snowshoeing at say Mt Seymour (local Vancouver mountain), these trails aren’t groomed, there is always an avalanche risk, and it’s extremely punishing on the legs. Not to say the backcountry is too scary for everyday folk, but you have to know what you’re getting into and be prepared for the worst. Despite all this, the backcountry provides some of the most rewarding experiences and beautiful views of nature that you can have in the winter.
As for the trail itself, we started out from the parking lot (lower left corner of the map) up to Red Heather Meadows. This was a long 6 km uphill climb all the way to a small hut sitting still below Paul’s ridge. From the parking lot to the hut took us only 1.5 hrs. We were going at very fast pace as I wanted to try to reach Elfin lake and then back before dark. Fighting the urge to stop and rest our burning legs, we continued past our initial 600m of elevation gain and pushed up to the ridge line. Once up there, we encountered some, although less severe, ups and downs until reaching our destination at Elfin Lake some 5 km later. Total running time by this point was a blistering 2 hours and 58 minutes. At this 11 km mark we were very surprised and elated to find a heated hut with a propane stove.
After a short Kraft Mac and Cheese break, we retraced our steps and headed back to the parking lot. As we were descending we both thought about how much easier it would have been if we had taken backcountry skis/snowboards with us for the descent. We crossed some skiers we met earlier in the day and boy, did that easy downhill look inviting! From the hut back to the parking lot took 2.5 hours. The 30 min savings was definitely due to our descent to lower elevations.
After it was all said and done Bruce and I had an amazing time. I’m definitely going to explore that area again in future. And definitely not just on snowshoes but backcountry skis as well. There are some nice looking runs with fresh powder just waiting for the taking.