It’s that time of year again where we look back at the trips we enjoyed over the past 12 months. We had a pretty good year, setting a couple of records that will be hard to beat: finding glacier lilies on 7 hikes, and getting out hiking every weekend between the beginning of June and the end of November. (A slight qualification: technically, we did miss a weekend in August while my sister was visiting, but I think we made up for it by going camping twice and hiking while she was here!)
Of course we revisited many old favourites but managed to sample nine new hikes, four of which made it into our top five! Backpacking trips were limited to only five but, again, three of those are also in our top five. However, we spent quite a few more nights in the tent, car camping. Some of our planned exploration was cut short by the sabotage at the Sea to Sky Gondola, though we made good use of our passes to revisit the peaks around Grouse Mountain.
Our top five, then, more or less in order:
- Mount Assiniboine: as spectacular as we remembered from our first visit a decade ago, this 7-day backpacking trip was stunning beyond our expectations. While the weather wasn’t the greatest (it was mid-September after all), it was rarely too bad to be outside and we were fortunate in that our timing coincided with the first half of peak season for the golden larches. It’s truly a spectacular sight to be in a forest surrounded by golden-yellow conifers, and even more to see the landscape from above, carpeted in yellow. To add some novelty, we hiked in from the south this time, covering some new ground, and seeing more beautiful sights. It was truly a joy to be back in the Canadian Rockies after a six-year absence. We should never wait that long again.
- Excelsior Pass: a new destination for us, and one we didn’t really know much about until a couple of weeks beforehand. After a couple of early summer hikes reignited our interest in the Mount Baker area, a little more research alerted us to this stunning yet easy-to-reach ridge-walking destination (provided the road is open). Even better, it didn’t have to be just a day hike. A sunny weekend in July was just about the perfect time to hike the ridge of the High Divide Trail, with warm nights, peak wildflower blooms, and awesome views in all directions. Excelsior Pass has the potential for a multi-day crossover hike to Yellow Aster Butte which would be spectacular.
- Skywalk North: as I wrote in the summary of this hike, I think it might be the best hike in the Whistler area. If not then it’s in the top few. A superb loop trail (well, lollipop I suppose) that takes in a wonderful mixture of forest and subalpine terrain with a stop at a small glacial lake. The sheer variety on this trail just kept us on the move, keen to find out what was around the next corner. I was surprised (and secretly pleased, of course) at the number of wildflowers on this route too, though I was less enamoured with the number of mosquitoes. An awesome hike!
- Ring Lake: a lesser-known destination but one to which we will definitely return. Moody weather perhaps downplayed the trip at the time, but on the other hand I came away with one of my favourite photos of the year that would not have worked as well in better weather. Definitely not an easy hike, despite relatively modest stats, while the rain and the mosquito onslaught made it a particularly trying experience at times. But perhaps that made it all the more satisfying, the achievement felt all the greater. In any case, we’ll be back as there is much to explore in the area.
- Church Mountain: another hike that wasn’t really even on our radar until we dug a little deeper into our guide book. Despite fearsome stats the well-graded Washington-state trails make this hike an absolute delight. The end point is a stunning sub-summit of Church with amazing 360-degree views, and, like most hikes in the area, it’s a wildflower paradise in the summer. Glorious!
This year’s honourable mentions include our two-night backpacking trip to Hanging Lake and the Washington-based Goat Mountain (which promises to be as good as any of the hikes above at the right time of year). Hanging Lake was a slight disappointment as an overnight trip, although maybe we were too ambitious with our goal of ascending Rainbow Mountain. I would like to return with the energy to explore more of the surrounding terrain, preferably when there are fewer mosquitoes. It was redeemed by its peace and quiet, and a good flower show, including one that was new to us. Other good trips were our hikes to Joffre Lakes and the Half Note Trail in Whistler that we were able to show off to my sister and nephew. It was fun to see those destinations through new eyes.
Now for the stats. Despite getting out on more trips and hiking further, our averages mostly went down slightly, which surprised me as we seemed to tackle quite a few hikes with substantial (1000+ m) elevation gain quite early in the season. I guess that most of the remaining hikes were relatively modest by comparison. No matter: getting outside is what counts.
- Number of trips: 39 (+5)
- Number of days hiking: 50 (+3)
- Total distance: 508 km (+31 km)
- Total elevation gain: 26400 m (+90 m)
- Average per trip: 13.0 km / 676 m (-1.0 km / -107 m)
- Average per equivalent day hike: 10.2 km / 528 m (+0.1 km / -31 m)
As for 2020, we have plans to revisit the Rockies and the Mount Baker area to make use of our annual passes, and it would be great to revisit the Southern Chilcotins. The pressure to find glacier lilies is surely off although I won’t object to finding more. I’d like to get out backpacking even sooner if possible, so we’ll be keeping an eye on the snow levels to see if we can work out a May destination.