2022 in review: Top Trips and Stats

Initial thoughts

After the past two years of excellent hiking I had lowered my expectations about how this year might go. We made the effort to book three big trips, reserving backcountry spots for two trips in Banff and one in Yoho, plus another week-long adventure in the South Chilcotins. But apart from that, I set myself no goals for, say, chasing glacier lilies, or seeking more nights in our tent. And yet we still had an absolutely stellar summer of hiking – at least once I recovered from a foot issue that put me out of action for a month.

I really can’t believe just how good a year we’ve just had and I don’t see how we can do better in years to come. We probably shouldn’t even try and, besides, I want the memories of this year’s experiences to linger in my mind for as long as possible before being replaced by new ones.

Between the middle of June and the middle of December, we got out hiking or camping on every weekend, except two. That’s 25 out of 27 weeks in a row! And to be honest, we needed those weekend breaks to clean up and catch our breath. Of those 25 weekends, 13 were spent on backpacking or other overnight trips which might be the greatest number of overnight trips we’ve done in a year.

Out of our 45 trips in 2022, 13 were on new (or new-adjacent) trails while two were long-overdue returns to places we visited many years ago. The top 6 are summarized below. I could’ve had a top 7, 8, or more but I seem to have settled on 6 as a compromise.

The Top Six Trips

  1. South Chilcotins – Grant Creek Circuit: What can I say? The South Chilcotin Mountains are an extraordinary place to hike and explore. A full week of backcountry adventures coupled with creek crossings and a helicopter drop-off and pick-up made this a trip like no other. It felt more like an expedition than just a backpacking trip, with the sense of achievement that comes from completing such a trip, and we had an absolutely amazing time. The highlights were many but the flower meadows stand out as being some of the densest and most extensive we’ve seen while our distant grizzly sighting immediately became our most incredible wildlife encounter yet. This trip will be hard to beat, and all it did was give us ideas of where to explore further…
  2. Egypt Lake (Banff NP): There’s really not much between these top two trips. They were both superb for different reasons, and it seems unfair to rank one higher than the other. Hiking in the Rockies is just so good and so much easier than on the coast (and especially the substantially trail-less South Chilcotins). We followed some wonderful trails that led us through rich flower meadows, past stunning mountain lakes, and over spectacular mountain passes. Sure, the bugs were horrendous but I didn’t care, and this was a truly exceptional trip. This area would be stunning in larch season too.
  3. Silent Hub: The perfect Thanksgiving weekend? For us, sure. We camped by an alpine lake in a remote valley and our only company was a few marmots, pikas, and a lone wolf that howled away to itself in the distance. We spent one day summiting the highest peak in the area which was a terrific adventure. The views from the top were jaw-dropping with a never-ending sea of mountains in all directions.
  4. Skoki Valley: Somehow this famous area in the Rockies took a long time to get onto our radar. Despite a boring beginning and end, the main part of this hike was absolutely stunning – beautiful lakes, towering mountains, and expansive scenery – even with the smoke-muted views of our visit. Like most Rockies trips, the hiking was superb and thoroughly enjoyable, and three days gave us barely enough time to get a taste of this area but it’s whetted our appetite for a longer return visit.
  5. Lake O’Hara: A long-awaited return to Lake O’Hara with a group of friends made this a special trip. Of course, the hiking was spectacular, even if the weather was most definitely not, but it was so much fun to share this experience with friends seeing Lake O’Hara for the first time. I still think the Alpine Circuit is one of the best (if not the best) day hike we’ve ever done.
  6. Valentine Lake: The best trips are often those where you experience some kind of personal growth, and that was certainly true of this one. Even with a full day lost to a torrential rain storm – possibly the worst weather we’ve experienced on a backpacking trip – we had a fantastic time exploring this area and reaching the summit of Cassiope Mountain, navigating complex mountain terrain, and overcoming fears to tackle an exposed ridge.

All of the above were backpacking or other multi-day backcountry trips. Very honourable mentions must go to our overnight excursions to Marriott Basin and Panorama Ridge, the awesome day-hike to Zupjok, Llama, and Alpaca peaks, and a surprisingly enjoyable hike on Sumas Mountain. Add to that are the hikes we got out on with friends, which honestly made every one of those hikes a better day out.

One of my goals for 2022 was to try out winter camping for the first time. Winter came and went without so much as a peek at the tent but we made up for it by camping on snow at Elfin Lakes in July (July?!) and later experiencing our coldest night yet on our trip to Panorama Ridge. Both showed that we could survive a dash of winter in the tent, and I’d like to try it again, perhaps in early spring to take advantage of a bit more daylight. Those nights also taught us a few lessons as our water froze solid and our normal sleeping pads were most definitely not suitable for camping on snow.

Highs…

  • Our five grizzly bear sightings and hearing a wolf howling
  • The profusion of flowers on the Healy Pass trail and Upper Tosh/Powell Creek drainages (South Chilcotins)
  • Hiking the Lake O’Hara alpine circuit again was an absolute delight – I wanted to do it all again on our last day but we were content to do only part of it
  • The simple joy of getting out for a hike again at Alice Lake after several weeks of foot issues
  • Standing atop the summit of Silent Hub, in silence, with a seemingly-endless sea of mountains all around us
  • Quiet, starry nights in the backcountry and waking up to sunshine
  • Those pinch-me moments sitting by beautiful lakes or by a tumbling mountain stream
  • The many fine moments on the trail with friends

…And Lows

  • Our rainy day at Valentine Lake was an exercise in patience – it was probably rainier than Canada Day 2020. The very definition of character-building.
  • The mosquitoes and horse flies were among the worst we’ve experienced
  • The physical and mental effort required to keep going up the Tosh Creek valley was exhausting
  • I had some foot issues in June that threatened to derail our summer hiking plans – the longest and most frustrating few weeks I’ve ever experienced that taught me a lot about what it means to have limited mobility
  • The disappointment at struggling to reach the summit of Mount Elsay only to be enshrouded in cloud and realize we now had to hike the whole trail again in reverse

Summits, Lakes, and Passes

We’re not peak-baggers so it’s not our priority to reach mountain tops when we hike, but that’s not to say we don’t enjoy a good summit or two! About half of our hikes took us to summits, and nine were new peaks. Mountain summits are always special places and, remarkably, we had several of them to ourselves where we could savour the experience. Our favourites were Silent Hub, Cassiope Mountain, and the trio of Zupjok, Llama, and Alpaca, which were all so peaceful we could have spent hours there. Dorrie Peak was our highest at 2800 m (nearly 9200 feet) but was very windy, while the unofficially named Sphinx Peak near Egypt Lake was spectacular but so very hot and buggy.

Many hikes visit lakes, either as the destination or as a feature along the way. The trip to the Egypt Lakes area offered up a cornucopia of jaw-dropping lakes, almost all of which were set below sheer, towering cliffs, some with waterfalls and others with glaciers. Lake O’Hara – of course – has its fair share of incredible lakes, including Lake O’Hara itself, Lake Oesa, and the amazingly blue Lake McArthur. The list of stunning Rockies lakes was lengthened further by the four we visited on our Skoki Valley trip. Lorna Lake in the South Chilcotins is one of the few lakes in the area and is without doubt one of the most stunningly-blue lakes we’ve seen. We’ve visited it twice now, and it is definitely one of our favourites. The trio of Joffre Lakes is always a pleasure to visit despite its popularity, and we really enjoyed time spent by Pushki Lake, as well as the lakes and tarns of the Marriott Basin.

Mountain passes are some of my favourite places to visit – there’s something about that transition from one valley to another that I really like, the promise of a new view, a new area to explore – and our trips to Grant Creek and Egypt Lake took us over half-a-dozen wonderful passes. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but Healy Pass (Egypt Lake) stands out for its flowers while Powell Pass (Grant Creek trip) was a fantastic place to camp, at least in good weather. Packer’s and Deception Passes on our Skoki Valley trip were also stunning locations with exceptional views over the lakes in the Boulder Pass valley. And though not a pass per se, the col between Saxifrage and Cassiope Peaks yielded exceptional views towards the Joffre Group and other summits of the Duffey Lake road.

Flora and Fauna

This summary is already pretty long so I’ve separated out the year’s flora and fauna sightings into separate posts – find them here:

  • Flora – brought to you by the number 150;
  • Fauna – brought to you by the impressive-for-a-different-reason numbers 1 and 5.

By the Numbers

Well, here’s the proof. We walked further and climbed more this year than in any of the past ten years, and by quite some way – which was most unexpected. Our trio of week-long trips undoubtedly helped push up those numbers, as time in the Rockies almost always increases our distance on account of the superior hiking compared with much of the Coast Mountains.

We seemed to go out on fewer trips (though I’m not always consistent about what consists a trip) but we hiked on more days in 2022 than in previous years. Our average daily distance has remained remarkably consistent over the past few years at around 10 km (with a standard deviation of only 0.5 km), while our average daily elevation gain has gradually been creeping upwards and is now over 540 m, an indication that we have been tackling tougher hikes. It was a delight to spend more nights backpacking – we got out on nine backcountry trips which almost doubled our number of nights in the backcountry over last year, and increased our total number of nights in the tent by over 25%.

CategoryValueChange over 2021
Number of hikes45-7
Number of days hiking67+8
Total distance719 km+132 km
Total elevation gain36375 m+2995 m
Average per trip16.0 km / 808 m+4.7 km / +165 m
Average per day of hiking10.7 km / 543 m+0.8 km / -23 m
Number of nights backpacking22+10
Number of nights car camping11-3

On the blog I published 33 posts, which seems like a decent amount, including a long-overdue write-up of our trip to Mount Assiniboine in 2019. Alas my backlog seems to only get longer and this year has only given me more work to do with multi-day reports to write up from the highlight trips above. I started a monthly update series to give me a space to say something about our trips soon after they happen so I can share a little of what we experienced and post a photo or two. I hope to continue this series throughout this year, though I don’t want them to distract me from the full write-ups.

As for 2023, well, I don’t think we can beat 2022 in any way. I would like to try winter camping for real, and it would be nice to make use of our Parks Canada pass again – we’ve had our eyes on the Tonquin Valley for many years now, and it’s about time we revisited Jasper (our last visit was in 2012!). Apart from that, I have designs on visiting the Southern Gulf Islands or Vancouver Island in the spring to photograph wildflowers – that probably won’t involve much hiking but it will mean time well-spent in nature. Wells Gray provincial park crops up in my mind from time to time (another place we haven’t visited in over a decade) and witnessing the spectacular glacier lily bloom is definitely on my list. Let’s see if we can make it happen!

I’ll end with a quick-fire slideshow of our hikes in 2022 (just under 2.5 minutes). Hope you have a great 2023!

5 thoughts on “2022 in review: Top Trips and Stats

    1. It’s just amazing isn’t it? We couldn’t believe how the lake became so flat calm. I have some very grey photos of the same view too and it can look way more foreboding!

    1. Definitely! We have started making some plans for later in the year but I think we’ll be content to have a quieter year.

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