Marriott Basin, 24-25 Sep 2022

Opinion:

A beautiful area that has clearly become more popular in recent years given the welcome upgrades to the parking arrangements and the trail itself. Despite it being known as a backpacking destination, the camping is not particularly good with only a few spots squeezed in between boulders, occupying delicate meadows, and sited far too close to the creek. But I guess you have to work with what you’ve got. At least there’s now a decent outhouse. Getting to Mount Marriott is a significant undertaking and really needs a day to itself: we made it about 80% of the way before running out of time. Don’t underestimate the terrain, though, as the (partially-flagged) route is almost all on boulders.

Fact

The logging road has been brushed out and the entrance widened so it was much more obvious from the highway. Small speed bumps/water bars have been added but they posed no issue for even a relatively low clearance car (Toyota Matrix). The pullout at about 1 km has been cleared and expanded and can now take at least ten vehicles. A composting outhouse has been added too. The rest of the road hasn’t changed and is still bumpy, prone to deep puddles near the end, and with only a few pullouts and a small parking lot at the end.

The trail has seen significant upgrades since our last visit in 2015. In the wet and boggy sections near the beginning, ladder-like boardwalk has been put in place which helped avoid the mud. Great, although I found the steps to be a little awkwardly spaced and the surface quite slippery. The steep climb after the Rohr Lake junction has had some welcome switchbacks added to the route. Many of the wet meadows have had trees felled to make bridges which I was very pleased to see. These, too, could be quite slippery so hiking poles were helpful for balance. Beyond the creek crossing, the trail has been diverted up the slope away from the lower meadows, which I initially found disappointing as I love that view when you first emerge from the trees into the meadows. But I soon realized that it was for the best, especially given how well bedded-in the new trail was. The new trail is mostly well graded and was in great condition. It made the transition to hiking over the boulders even more jarring. Watch for occasional cairns; if in doubt, follow the dirty rocks! Once off the rocks, the rest of the trail was in good shape with just a couple of slick, muddy sections to walk over.

Camping options were as limited as I remember and we chose a less-than-ideal spot on a small meadow next to the creek, big enough to set up a pair of tents. There were a few other alternatives, the downside of one being that access to our spot required walking through the middle of it. Other campers had found spaces between the rocks closer to the edge of the meadow by the trees. We didn’t check them out so I can’t say how good they were.

The Wendy Thompson hut has seen some nice upgrades too with a pair of composting outhouses next to the hut. Hikers should use these rather than attempting to find a spot to dig a cathole. The hut has a sign forbidding campfires in the area: that didn’t stop previous hikers from having one right on the meadow where we camped. That sign really should be at the trailhead, in at least two locations to drive home the message.

Flora was mostly done with just a few arnica flowers lingering. The alpine colour show was just getting under way with some glorious leaf colour from blueberry and huckleberry bushes, white rhododendron and mountain ash. The leaves in the forest had yet to begin changing colour.

Fauna: we heard and saw pikas and marmots, encountered a family of five ptarmigan blending in with the rocks, heard and saw a dipper on Marriott Lake, saw whisky jacks and a small woodpecker near the hut, chickadees in the forest.

This hike is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded lands of the Lil’wat and St’at’imc people.

Distance: 20 km
Elevation gain: 1210 m
Time: 2 days
Route on AllTrails

Key moments

  • πŸ˜€ Standing on the ridge before Mount Marriott with stunning views of the Joffre Group and other familiar peaks all around us
  • πŸ˜€ Admiring the pink sunset sky behind Mount Rohr
  • πŸ˜€ Finding safe ways around the tricky cliffs (see below) was immensely satisfying!
  • πŸ˜€ Encountering a family of five ptarmigan doing an amazing job of blending in with the rocks
  • πŸ˜€ Lying in the tent listening to the gentlest of running creeks
  • πŸ˜€ Eating dinner under the stars and watching in a mixture of amazement and horror at the train of Starlink satellites
  • πŸ™ Finding ourselves stuck above cliffs on our descent along a small ridge definitely raised our heart rates
  • πŸ™ It’s a weird thing when you encounter other hikers going the same way as you who so clearly don’t want to interact with you or acknowledge your existence. Was it an age thing?

Story

Grab a drink and a snack – this is a long post as I’ve written about the whole weekend here. Feel free to skim to see the pretty pictures!

Prologue: Friday night

The weekend began in uninspiring fashion with a gloomy, albeit very quiet, drive up the Sea to Sky highway, cheered only by a momentary splash of golden light over the Sunshine Coast. Light drizzle greeted us in Squamish, where we met Brenda at the Locavore for a quick dinner. Back on the road, we continued our quiet drive through to Pemberton, interrupted by a brief stop at Nairn Falls (where the campground was full and crickets were still chirping) before heading up onto the Duffey Lake road. As we rounded a corner I was convinced I saw a bear in someone’s driveway but maybe it was just fleeting shadows cast by our headlights?

We zig-zagged up the steep, winding road and pulled off onto a logging road that we’d checked out previously on our trip to Joffre Lakes back in June. On that occasional there were a couple of vehicles already there but tonight I was surprised to find the area empty. Suits me! We parked the cars on a flat spot and turned off the engines, the darkness enveloping us as the lights faded. Within a few minutes our eyes adjusted to the dark and we could see a wonderfully starry sky above us, the clouds having parted as we drove north. We craned our necks upwards to pick out the familiar constellations: Cygnus overhead, Aquila lower down, and Lyra – their brightest stars forming the Summer Triangle. Pegasus was rising in the east, and the Big Dipper/Plough pointed the way – through some cloud – to the North Star, Polaris.

We decided that we didn’t feel like setting up the tents and opted to sleep in our respective cars instead. It didn’t take us long to get set up and, with that done, Maria and Brenda crawled into their sleeping bags while I stood outside for a bit longer, sipping a can of Dark Matter. Staring up at the inky night sky, it was the perfect beer for that moment. With that finished, it was time to settle down to sleep with the sight of myriad stars through the windows.

Saturday morning – hiking in to Marriott Basin

I often don’t sleep well in the car but this night was an exception and I enjoyed a comfortable and peaceful night. It wasn’t even that cold. I stirred just after 6 am for a comfort break, saw that clouds had rolled in to cover the sky, and promptly got back into my sleeping bag to doze for another hour or so. As the day brightened, we stirred and packed away our sleeping gear. I could see the glow of sunshine behind the clouds and realized they were just a layer above us, orange morning light bathing mountain slopes near Saxifrage Peak, which gave me great hope for the day ahead.

With breakfast done and washed down with our morning tea and coffee, we got on the road for the short drive to the trailhead. We passed the parking lot for Joffre Lakes where a sign warned visitors that the day’s allocation of passes was complete, so there was no chance of anyone turning up on spec and hiking that trail today. We crested Cayoosh Pass and soon reached the logging road that led to the trailhead. To my surprise, the entrance was much more obvious than in previous years, and the road had clearly been brushed out. I had planned to park at a large pullout along the road before it got too rough, but another surprise was waiting for us. This pullout had been expanded and cleared to create a much larger parking area, now capable of hosting maybe a dozen (or more) cars, compared with maybe three or four previously. A new composting outhouse had also been added; another welcome change. It looked very recent, too; we’d parked here in 2021 and the road was as it had always been.

We finalized our packs, tied on our boots, and set off up the trail – it was 8:45 am. It felt good to get under way in the still-cool morning air. The road was easy walking and we settled into a rhythm, our packs not feeling especially heavy with only one night’s worth of gear and food. Naturally the road was somewhat longer than I remembered, seeming to take quite a while to reach the start of the rougher section and finally the end of the road. In reality it was less than 1.5 km before we entered the forest, but the fact that it was a viewless walk probably made it feel longer. We could have easily driven further, and there were some more parking spaces (we passed three more cars), but it’s not always worth it to save a few minutes of walking.

The trail led us into the forest and onto slick mud, rocks, and roots… We alternated between pocket meadows and rhododendron and berry-filled forest

The trail led us into the forest and onto slick mud, rocks, and roots, which soon changed to sections of (new to us) boardwalk, laid down over the muddiest areas like horizontal ladders. We detoured around a fallen tree and crossed a couple of creeks on log bridges before beginning a gentle climb. After a short time, we reached the junction with the trail to Rohr Lake, the direction formerly marked “Aspen” was now labelled with a big sign for the Wendy Thompson hut, abbreviated to WTH on a piece of wood (which turned out to be the old “Aspen” sign). We wondered out loud about how the late Wendy Thompson probably won’t have a waterfall named after her…

New switchbacks guided us upwards, a definite improvement on the old direct route up the slope, while new bridges had been created over the sensitive (and boggy) meadows from carefully felled trees. Although they were a bit tricky when damp with the morning dew, I was pleased to see them to help protect the meadows. We alternated between these pocket meadows and rhododendron- and berry-filled forest. The leaves were still mostly green with some just beginning to turn yellow. To our surprise, the berry bushes had very few berries – when we spied a few ripe huckleberries we were eager to try them, only to be disappointed by their mealy texture. So unlike huckleberries! We wondered if they’d suffered in the warm, dry weather. But all was not lost: we tried one more and it was good!

The clouds had dissipated and sunlight now streamed through the trees. We came to the main creek crossing where, with the creek being quite low, we had no issues walking over the log with its loose hand-line for emergency use. Another log just upstream looked to be the high-water crossing as it was higher above the water and had a heavier duty strap to hold onto. We continued our climb, gently at first, then more steeply as we zig-zagged up through the forest. I recognized that we were moving away from the meadows, which made me feel a little disappointed as I remember the impression the view made as we entered those meadows on our first visit back in 2009. But a second’s thought made me realize it was a good thing that hikers weren’t traipsing through those sensitive meadows any more. And in any case, the new trail was a well-chosen route and was quite well graded with plenty of switchbacks to ease the climb.

Pikas squeaked at our presence and darted over the rocks… a marmot waddled its way to a more comfortable rock

The ground began to level off as we reached the edge of the trees and entered subalpine terrain, passing a small pond with a stunning reflection of the sunlit trees and blue sky. We emerged into glorious meadows full of alpine colour contrasting against extensive grey boulder fields. Pikas squeaked at our presence and we caught glimpses of them as they darted over the rocks. Less bothered by us was a marmot that waddled its way to find a more comfortable rock. The pungent scent of the decaying meadows filled our noses as we breathed in the cool alpine air.

We picked our way over a series of boulders, climbing a bit then descending before climbing again and returning to a clear trail through heathery meadows. Surprisingly, the route was not always obvious despite the increased hiker traffic. We were now alongside the lake (which we’ve always called Marriott Lake, but it doesn’t have an official name) and the full glory of the valley was revealed with clear views up the slopes on either side of us. It was a stunning sight in the autumn sunshine. The upper slopes were still mostly green but were starting to take on a burnished tinge here and there. That surprised me as we’ve hiked in similar places much earlier in September and the meadows have turned completely to autumn colours. Again, I suspected the recent warmer-than-usual weather was responsible.

The lake was a gorgeous mixture of jewel-like greens and blues, and the slopes behind it were reflected beautifully in its still surface. Very pretty to look at but very difficult to capture in a photograph. Of course, we didn’t let that stop us taking photos anyway, the cameras out and in frequent use. The trail descended to lake level where we transitioned to rocks again to cross the inlet creek, passing the small peninsula where we camped on our first visit. I must admit I found myself scratching my head as the ground was overgrown with low willows and other shrubs. How was it okay to camp here, I wondered? On the other hand, it was probably a good thing as it now looked a far less appealing spot to set up a tent.

We followed the trail around the end of the lake and began to climb up through more subalpine meadows, the path staying close to a lovely tumbling creek with its series of little cascades. I could feel myself slowing down as I began to tire on the climb – we’d been on the move for just over two hours or so and had only stopped once so far. The trail was quite easy going, and not as steep as I remembered, just a bit longer than I remembered. But it was all in my mind and we soon levelled off in the bouldery meadows near the Wendy Thompson hut. We dropped our packs and spent a few minutes seeking out a suitable camping spot.

There was no one else here. We picked a site big enough for our two tents and unpacked our bags to set up our homes for the night. It wasn’t ideal; a small patch of grassy meadow surrounded on three sides by water, but it was flat and soft. The creek on one side of us burbled the most gentle of burbles and we looked forward to falling asleep to its sound later.

We wandered back over to the hut to check out (and partake of) the updated facilities and have a quick snack before setting off on our afternoon adventure. The whistles of marmots echoed around the headwall of the valley prompting me to scan the sky for raptors. I heard and then spotted a small woodpecker in one of the trees next to the hut, which quickly flew off as I stepped towards it to get a closer look. Then from behind me a voice called out my name, and I turned to see someone I knew from work – it turned out she was up here with a group of friends who had booked the hut for the weekend to celebrate a wedding. We chatted for a few minutes and went our separate ways for the afternoon. Passing a group of three backpackers resting by the hut, we naturally said hello but barely got an acknowledgment in return, the trio giving off some serious stink-eye vibes. Shrug. Ah well.

Saturday afternoon – to Mount Marriott?

We checked the book description of the route from here but didn’t need it as a clear trail (complete with pink and orange flagging) led away up the slope behind the hut, zig-zagging steeply upwards through sparsely-treed meadows to reach the boulder-filled draw mentioned in the book. Cairns (some with pieces of flagging tape tied on) now marked the route up onto the edge of a shallow rock-filled bowl, from where we had a fantastic view right back down the valley to Marriott Lake and beyond to Mount Rohr. Later, we found that multiple ways through or around the boulders had been marked.

Boulders… After the wonderful trails of our recent Rockies trip it was back to the reality of hiking in the Coast Mountains

Ah, yes; the boulders. Once we’d left the trail behind our way consisted almost entirely of stepping from boulder to boulder, trying to pick the easiest route and avoiding the biggest hunks of rock. Some of the time it was easy going, like walking over stepping stones, but we often needed to take great care in choosing where to step next. Occasionally, a rock would tip underfoot – an unsettling experience among those boulders – hitting the rock below with a deep “thunk”, a sound that became a bit too frequent for my liking later. After the wonderful trails of our recent Rockies trip it was back to the reality of hiking in the Coast Mountains!

We came to the shore of a small tarn which we recognized from our visit in 2009. Here, our friend Merewyn had swam while Maria and I cooled our feet. But I couldn’t do it for long as I distinctly remember the diving beetles finding my feet and nipping at the skin. Ow! Why?

Back to the boulders – hunks of pale grey granite, bright in the afternoon sun. We made our way over the many rocks, finding occasional sections of trail, and angled up towards another small gully that led towards the upper tarn. A boot-wide path materialized in the heather at the edge of the rocks and we followed it upwards to reach a small tarn before hiking over some wonderful glacially-polished slabs to gain a view over the upper tarn. We decided this would make a fine lunch spot and dropped our packs. We heard voices nearby and looked over to see that the group of three backpackers we’d “met” at the hut had found a spot to set up a tent by this lake. I wondered if we should’ve done the same as it would have made the rest of the day a little easier, so I filed away that idea for a future visit.

We relaxed in the warm sun as we enjoyed a leisurely lunch. When it was time to move on, we took another look at the book description to check our route and headed off west, crossing the outflow creek and picking our way upwards, marked by occasional cairns and fragments of path towards the “mini valley”. As we entered this little valley, we saw just how many boulders lay ahead of us and my heart sank a little, though I was consoled by the obvious route up the headwall to gain the ridge in the distance.

It quickly became a game of finding the easiest route through the boulders again, a game we couldn’t play very quickly on account of the size and stability of the rocks underfoot. Tip, wobble – thunk! The irony of calling out “this rock rocks!” when one moved beneath our feet. We decided to angle up the slope to reach a mix of dirt and heather at the edge of the boulders in order to avoid being trapped among rocks that approached the size of small cars and – later – snow patches.

The way ahead looked ambiguous but it seemed that a direct climb up to the ridge line was possible, rather than angle across to pick up the book route. We crossed an unavoidable snow patch into more boulders before following a loose dirt and gravel slope upwards, reassured (perhaps falsely) by the presence of occasional mini-cairns. But I soon began to regret this move as it was much steeper than it looked, much less stable, and much less fun than I hoped. The saving grace was the fact that the views behind us were getting better with every step, the great glaciated summits of Cayoosh Mountain and the Joffre Group demanding our attention. Our progress was quite slow on this section and I really wasn’t looking forward to descending this way, but eventually we levelled off on slabs of solid rock and found ourselves staring at a stunning view off the other side of the ridge.

In the valley below lay a pair of gorgeous turquoise lakes which I’d spotted on Google Earth but had since forgotten about so it was a real treat to see them as we gained the ridge. Beyond lay a long, green meadowed ridge-line that I recognized as lying above the Barkley Valley area, including Twin Lakes (a beautiful place we’ve visited on two occasions). To the south-east were the peaks and ridges of the Blowdown Pass area, while behind us lay the jagged glaciated peaks of the Joffre Group – we could see upper Joffre Lake too – and Cayoosh Mountain.

We came to our first close-up view of Mount Marriott itself and the jagged ridge leading to its summit. From this angle the peak looked spectacular and forbidding, a huge triangle of broken rock poking up into the sky.

Beyond Mount Rohr we could just make out the Cerise Creek area and part of the landslide from the north face of Joffre Peak that obliterated the forest below in May 2019. However, the real eye-opener was our first close-up view of Mount Marriott itself and the jagged ridge leading to its summit. From this angle the peak looked spectacular and forbidding, a huge triangle of broken rock poking up into the sky.

We scrambled along the ridge over bluffs and slabs, angling up a granite ramp to a corner with a little bit of exposure to gain the higher part of the ridge where the views just got better and better. It was tempting to stop and admire them but we knew we were running short on time and we still had to get to the point where the route to Mount Marriott descended off the ridge. We bypassed the blocky high point in order to scope out our descent off the ridge, hoping to try the route suggested in the Scrambles book rather than descend the nasty stuff we’d climbed. Much to my relief, the route looked manageable and we hiked over to the other side of the ridge to reach our turnaround point. It was time for a well-earned snack and to take a few precious moments to absorb our surroundings.

It’s not always necessary to bag the peak and our turnaround point for the day was overflowing with exceptional views.

Mount Marriott was clearly too far for today: there was no way we’d make it there and back before dark, so we simply enjoyed where we were and vowed to give the mountain a full day of attention on a return visit. We loved the angle on the summit from here, it looked so mighty – truly a monster, as described by one of our friends – with huge sweeping slopes that plunged to the valley floor on our left. Gazing towards the western horizon we could make out the Tenquille Lake area, the Place Glacier group, Saxifrage and Cassiope (which we’d visited at the beginning of September), and so many more peaks. I used PeakFinder to take some photos to identify them later. Although we hadn’t reached the summit itself, that didn’t really matter; I’m a big fan of hikes that take you to places that have stunning views of impressive peaks – it’s not always necessary to bag the peaks themselves – and our turnaround point for the day was overflowing with such exceptional views.

Being surrounded by so many mountains was humbling and awe-inspiring, the view far exceeding my expectations. Not only that, but we were the only people here and it was so very peaceful. We could easily have spent hours in this place. Alas, we didn’t have even a fraction of that time to spend with only two-and-a-half hours until sunset, and it had take us longer than that to get here. With one last, longing look at Mount Marriott, we turned and began our descent, oh so reluctantly, picking up the route from the Scrambles book which we found to be nice and easy. Well, easy by the standards of exploring steep, trail-less terrain, that is: I don’t want to give anyone the impression that what we were doing was easy! We walked down a mixture of scree, gravel, and rock ramps – still quite steep but so much more manageable than our ascent route. After picking our way through some awkward boulders at the bottom, we levelled off on heather and rock on the ridge bounding the east side of the “mini-valley”. Rather than retrace our route through all the boulders, we decided to try following the ridge. Of course, we had no idea of the terrain before us, but we knew we’d be able to hike along the ridge for at least some of the way back.

It started out nice and easy over glaciated slabs dotted with small erratics (imagine that: these rocks have barely moved in over 10,000 years!), traversing over the first bump on the ridge where we got our first taste of what might lie ahead; a steep, narrow rocky, heather- and juniper-filled gully to reach the col between the bumps. Let me tell you: that juniper was spiky! From here we angled around to the side of the ridge overlooking the boulders below before reaching a sheer cliff. Thankfully that was easy to avoid and we continued descending along the ridge, passing a point where we could drop down into the mini-valley, and continuing instead down over slabs and heather to reach the end of the ridge.

This is where things began to get awkward…

This is where things began to get awkward. What had started off as easy walking had turned into steep ramps with some rock steps that were big enough to need care to descend. Our first descent option turned out to be a dead end: there was no way down, so we had to back-track (uphill) and find another heathery ramp to descend. The next option looked more promising and it was going very well until we reached a small cliff that just looked like we could scramble down. Well, we tried but soon felt like we were out of our depth and it required some teamwork and a few deep breaths to get ourselves back onto safer ground. Back up we went, eventually finding another steep heather ramp that we could descend. Maybe this was it? As before, it was looking really good until we reached an even bigger cliff with absolutely no way down for us. By now our energy and confidence was waning and we knew we just had to get off this ridge as soon as possible.

With no choice but to head back up the slope (again), we regained height until we could cross over onto yet another heather and juniper covered ramp which, to our delight, led us safely all the way down to the plateau below. The sense of relief was immense and the tension broke into smiles again. In retrospect, I would not recommend that route; we should either have returned to our ascent route, or taken the escape route that we ignored. I still wonder if there’s an easier route off the east side of that little ridge, but at that moment I didn’t care. To be honest, I was more than happy to be back on boulders, at least for a few minutes.

We’d absorbed a significant amount of time in our attempts to find a way down and the sun was getting very low in the sky. It had already set over the ridge to our west so we were deep in shade. We picked our way through the boulders only for me to be stopped by a muted sound, a bird call, right by my feet. I looked ahead and barely a couple of metres away was a ptarmigan making cute little clucking noises, calling to its brood of one, two, four near-full-grown chicks. I stopped to take a few photos, the birds disappearing and reappearing before my eyes as they stopped, their plumage blending in beautifully with the dappled granite.

The upper tarn was so perfectly still in the calm of the early evening and reflected the sunlit peaks in the distance

Moving on, we were soon back at the upper tarn, so perfectly still in the calm of the early evening and reflecting the sunlit peaks in the distance. Alas we didn’t have time to linger and hurried on around the shore, back over the outlet creek to begin our descent to the lower lake. We passed the tiny tarn and followed a small gully down, at first thinking it was the one we had ascended only to realize that we’d come down a parallel route – an unrecognized small waterfall and a patch of arnica still blooming clueing us in. Not that we minded and we soon levelled off among the boulders again. What had felt difficult on the way out seemed much easier on the return and it wasn’t long before we came to the lower tarn, bypassing it and making our way to the edge of this little bouldery plateau.

The southern and eastern sky had turned a wonderful pastel pink and lit up the pale grey granite all around us in the most delicate shade of dusky pink. It was quite stunning. Ahead of us, Mount Rohr stood out against a backdrop of pink, the colour no doubt caused by the smoke we’d seen over the Stein Valley to the south. Below us, another tarn reflected that same pink sky. We stood for a few moments to watch the light fade before following the cairns and flagging once again to descend to the hut. This was trickier than it sounds, and in the half-light it was easy to make mistakes. Thankfully, despite a couple of mis-steps we were able to make it back to the hut without any further incident. By now it was getting properly dark and we pulled out our headlamps as we returned to the tents.

We sat by the light of our headlamps and ate a welcome hot dinner, enjoying the sight of the night sky above us, Jupiter shining bright in the south

We retrieved our food bags and wandered away from the tents to find a spot with some nice rocks to sit on as the first stars showed up above us. A bright moving object caught my eye, and I guessed it was the International Space Station (so I waved, just in case). I checked after we got home and was pleased to find out that’s indeed what it was. We sat by the light of our headlamps and ate a welcome hot dinner, enjoying the sight of the night sky above us, Jupiter shining bright in the south. More movement caught our attention and we were astonished to see a line of dots rising in the west. In a moment I realized what we were seeing: the satellite train from a recent launch of Starlink satellites (turned out to be that day). Whatever you think of the project itself, it was a surreal moment to watch upwards of 40 satellites follow each other on the same path across the sky, coming into view and brightening before fading as they entered the Earth’s shadow. I had left the camera by the tent so could do nothing but watch with a mixture of amazement and horror. As a former astronomer, it pained me to see these satellites and to know that there will be thousands of others to come. I dread to think just how badly they will affect the sensitive observations at observatories around the world.

With dinner and drinks finished, it was time to retire to our tents. We were all very tired and no doubt tomorrow would bring stiff, unwilling legs. Maria and Brenda sensibly sought the comfort of their sleeping bags, while I decided to linger outside to get some starry night photos, the temperature dropping quickly in the damp meadow. The tent fly was already sopping wet with dew and I was very glad to crawl inside to warm up.

What a day we’d just had! The views had been breathtaking and I really enjoyed seeing all the polished, glaciated rock dotted with so many erratics, each sitting in the same place that the ice had left them so many years ago. We felt good about rising to the challenge of finding a safe route off the ridge, working together as a team despite the anxious, even scary, moments. Now it was time to let go of the day and fall asleep to the sound of the burbling creek a few metres away.

Sunday – hiking out and heading home

Though not a cold night, I spent most of it feeling cold thanks to my air mattress deflating itself again. To be honest I was glad that it was time to get moving when Brenda said ‘Good morning!’ from her tent. I crawled out, pulled on my boots, and looked up to see the sun lighting up the ridge-tops, then looked down to see them reflected in the creek. I retrieved the food bags and set about making hot drinks as Maria packed away her sleeping gear. A couple of pikas squeaked in the rocks nearby as they, too, began stirring. The sunshine gradually crept down the slopes, the sun eventually rising over the ridge to the south-east, lighting up the meadows and bathing us in welcome warmth as we ate breakfast and repacked our backpacks. Finally it was time to pack away the tent, the fly sopping wet with dew. It was indeed a vain hope that a few minutes of sunshine might dry out the tent before it was time to leave. But shaking it out is a good way to get a cold shower!

We shouldered our packs and set off around 9:30 am, Brenda setting off down the trail while we detoured via the hut where we bumped into my friend again, stopping to chat for a few minutes before beginning our walk back down the trail (now carrying a pound or two of leftover cake to take home!).

It was a beautiful and peaceful morning, the scent of the meadows and sun-warmed firs filling our senses. The lake was perfectly still… and glowed a gorgeous emerald green in the morning sun

It was a beautiful and peaceful morning, the scent of the meadows and sun-warmed firs filling our senses, and we revelled in the walk back down through the colourful subalpine meadows, soon reaching Marriott Lake where we caught up with Brenda. The lake was perfectly still, reflecting the slopes across the water, and glowed a gorgeous emerald green in the morning sun. We followed the trail as it climbed up away from the lake, pausing for a few minutes to admire the panoramic scene before us. A familiar sound caught my ear and I looked down to see a dipper flying low over the lake to the shore off to our left. Moments later it returned and we spotted it close to a rock, bobbing up and down and sending semi-circular ripples out across the lake.

We reached the first of the boulders and joked about having PTSD from yesterday’s never-ending boulder experience. Thankfully there weren’t too many, though they were occasionally slick with dew, and we enjoyed hiking with the sun on our faces. Around us the meadows were aglow with intense reds, oranges, and yellows, the berry and rhododendron leaves backlit by the sun. Ahead of us we could see the upper reaches of Joffre Peak, which was a nice surprise. Thinking back to previous visits, the conditions had prevented us from seeing the mountain so this was the first time we’d seen it. We passed below bouldery slopes edged with colourful meadows before beginning our descent through the trees, the forest gradually thickening as we lost elevation.

All around us the meadows were aglow with intense reds, oranges, and yellows. Descending through the sunlit forest, the cool air was welcome on my face.

It wasn’t long before we came to the main creek crossing, the logs slippery with dew and needing careful footwork. We hiked back through the damp meadows, over the equally slick log bridges and descending through the sunlit forest, the cool air very welcome on my face. And it was so quiet with just the sounds of our footsteps and the occasional chickadee to be heard. The ground was littered with the middens of Douglas squirrels, a myriad seeds and remains of cones from subalpine firs – to my surprise we heard nothing from the culprits who are usually so vocal. Down and down we went, sometimes following a miniature ridge or rib through the trees – I guess trail builders seek them out but it feels like we end up on such features quite often. They’re really enjoyable to hike.

We met a lone hiker on his way up, and soon two more couples (in both cases the guy was carrying a backpack while his female companion carried nothing – something else we’ve seen on many occasions) but that was it. That suited us just fine: we were relishing the quiet of the trail. Soon we were walking the last section of the trail, through the damp forest, over a couple of creeks on more slick logs, and back onto the equally slick boardwalks before exiting the forest onto the logging road. It had taken us a leisurely and thoroughly enjoyable two hours to get here.

The peace and quiet of the forest was soon shattered as we met the first of several large hiking groups. There must have been at least a dozen people standing around in the middle of the road, seemingly unaware of our need to pass them. Large groups have such weird dynamics – no one acknowledged us, and even some of the smaller groups paid no attention, more wrapped up in their own experience I guess. Of course the road walk seemed to last an age again and it was with some relief that we reached the cars, the parking lot now crowded with vehicles.

Ah, the relief of pulling off those boots! We changed into fresh(er) clothes, cooler footwear, and began the drive back down to Pemberton, eager to escape the throng of inbound hikers. We passed the crowds at Joffre Lakes, catching a glimpse of the Matier Glacier under the midday sun, then passing many more cars driving up to visit those lakes. We, on the other hand, had a very quiet drive down, and enjoyed the mountain views, especially our new-found appreciation of Cassiope and Saxifrage. Back in Pemberton, we pulled in at Mile One and said goodbye to Brenda who was trying to catch a mid-afternoon ferry. We sat back and savoured a delicious lunch in the sun before the long drive back into Vancouver. We chatted about how we might have stayed longer to attempt another viewpoint, but we were both so content with what we’d seen yesterday that we didn’t feel the need to explore further. Plus, when we saw the groups on their way in, we were glad to have had the quiet time to ourselves.

The roads were quiet, although getting back over the bridge into town was slow, and it was nearly sunset before we reached home, opening the blinds to catch the last rays of sun, and noting how it was setting towards the south-west now that we were past the equinox. A short and sweet weekend away, but one that filled our eyes and hearts with some incredible sights and memories. It’s always amazing how long a couple of days can feel.

3 thoughts on “Marriott Basin, 24-25 Sep 2022

  1. It’s interesting that you see couples doing such long, intensive hikes where only one member has a pack. How do they carry enough for both of them? And doesn’t the one carrying the pack get tired out much faster? (Maybe they are much more fit, or carrying the pack is the only way to get the other person to come along. :)) I’d feel guilty making hubby carry all that weight! πŸ™‚

    1. I think the answer is that they’re usually not carrying enough – so many hikers take short cuts when hiking in good weather, even in remote areas. This is also a popular day hike and very close to the insanely popular Joffre Lakes which attracts a very wide range of hikers. Yes, I think there’s definitely sometimes an element of enticing a partner out to do something they’re not super keen on by offering to carry everything.

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