For eight years we had avoided Garibaldi Lake in summer. This beautiful turquoise jewel of a lake, high up in Garibaldi Park, draws hordes of visitors in summer months. In fact, it’s probably one of the most popular hikes in BC, and for good reason: it’s surrounded by high mountain peaks and glaciers, and has the most unbelievably beautiful blue colour. Especially prized by blue lovers such as myself.
We had been to the shore of the lake in winter three times and crossed it twice, but in winter this huge beauty of a lake looks like any old flat snowfield. The mountains, of course, are beautiful in winter as well, but the lake loses its majestic colour.
Anyway, we finally managed to take off a couple of days midweek, when there are less people up there. After the hour and a half drive from Vancouver I had to wake up Maya who complained about the short drive. Then it was an easy 3-4 hour hike up to the lake, up the infamous switchbacks, which can be an icy mess, like a luge track, in winter, but in summer it’s actually a pleasant hike.
Arriving to the lake and the alpine views, after a few hours in the dark forest, is perhaps like the arrival of spring to Vancouver after a long and dark winter – a delight. We found a camp spot near the lake, on those ridiculous wooden platforms, and had lunch. After a nap we decided we would head towards Price Mountain. The trail is a tiny little track which can be hard to follow at times, and is pretty annoying since it keeps going up and down and has a few steep sections.
When we finally broke out into the alpine and got onto the snow, it was already the evening, and we considered turning around. But once we got to the summit of Clinker Peak, all thoughts of turning around had melted: it was one of the best views of Garibaldi Mountain we had seen. We decided we didn’t have time to go to Price Mountain, so we headed back along the irksome trail. We arrived back to camp in time to enjoy the orange sunset colours on the line of peaks on the horizon: Castle Towers, Phyllis’ Engine, Mt. Carr, the Bookworms, Sphinx and Guard, which as the name implies, appears to stand guard over the lake.
We slept late, had a quick breakfast, and started hiking towards Panorama Ridge. The trail was longer than the trail to Clinker Peak, but much easier – it is a well maintained trail. After passing Mimulus Lake and Black Tusk Lake we started climbing up a snowy ridge, the backside of Panorama Ridge. When we were close to the top, we met two guys hiking down – they had turned around, saying they had “run out of trail”. Too bad, since they were almost at the top.
We kept going, easily, along snow patches and boulders, to the summit, which has one of the best views I’ve seen. Somehow, to appreciate the beauty of expansive places, it really helps to be above them. Garibaldi Lake, like a beautiful blue carpet, lay at our feet, and we had our lunch and a nap while admiring the views and identifying many of the peaks.
We arrived back to camp late in the afternoon, packed up our things, had a relaxing dip in the lake, and hiked back down the switchbacks of doom. Our knees and legs felt somewhat beat near the end of the hike, but we made it down and magically felt no after effects the day after. We managed to hold off on dinner until we got to Vancouver, just before 11pm, and had the famous roast lamb at Stepho’s. We were dismayed to found out they had raised the long standing price from $10 to $14. Some things DO change…