Eight years ago, soon after arriving to Vancouver, our first winter trip was a snowshoeing trip to Joffre Lakes. At the time we didn’t know what we were getting into, and had barely seen snow. On that two day trip we only made it as far as the middle lake, and the trip ended with us wet and shivering on the way home, which is also when we discovered the heating in the car was not working. Since then we’ve become a bit better at doing winter trips, but I still find that alpine lakes are so much more beautiful in the summer, when their turquoise colour can be seen fully, as opposed to winter when they are like a boring white football field.
We tend to prefer hiking to remote, unheard of places. But this is shaping up to be the summer in which we catch up, and head to some incredible places that have easy access and hordes of people on weekends. Lucky for us, we can get up there midweek, and enjoy a less urban experience.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is located about half an hour drive past Pemberton, up the Duffey Lake Road. It’s a very popular place, partly because the first lake is only a two minute walk from the car, allowing one to see the Matier Glacier clearly, and partly because it is simply astoundingly beautiful.
We left Vancouver sometime after lunch, heading up the trail at 4:45pm, not exactly an alpine start… But we were in no hurry – the hike to the upper lake is an easy two hour hike. We were surprised to find workers constructing a new trail that parallels the old one and will replace it. There was a notice instructing us to use the old trail for now, so we hiked up the eroded trail, full of tangled roots and rocks.
Once at the Upper Lake, we were surprised to find quite a few people there, including a group of kids, but we found a prime camp spot on the shore of the lake. After dinner I hung out outside, doing some exercises and watching the stars – it was a beautiful clear night.
After a leisurely wakeup and breakfast, we hiked up the forested trail signed for the Tszil Glacier. Soon we emerged from the forest to beautiful views of the Stonecrop Glacier on the side of Slalok Mountain, as well as our target, Tszil Mountain, in front of us. The trail led us up a steep and narrow moraine, on a slowly crumbling trail. The narrowest part is like a knife edge ridge, and I could easily imagine one of us tumbling down the steep bank.
After a short scramble and a bit more hiking, we arrived to the summit of Tszil Mountain. We admired panoramic views of familiar friends: Cassiope, Saxifrage, Cayoosh, Marriot, Slalok and more. We had our lunch while hiding from the wind, Maya took a nap while I admired the glacier on Slalok’s flanks, and we headed back down to our tent.
After packing, we hiked back down the new trail, admiring the waterfall at the outflow of the Upper Lake. The new trail has a more gradual and consistent gradient, and is (so far) covered with soft dirt, making this short hike even easier.
On the way down we were somewhat surprised though to see how many trees had been taken down, many of them above or below the trail: some to clear the view, and others – who knows why? It really looks like a trail of destruction. Even though the new trail is great, one has to ask – is it really worth it to make a new trail when a reasonable one exists? Perhaps the old trail could have been fixed up?
Back at the car, we were starting to feel pangs of hunger, so we finally managed to try the Mile One Eating House in Pemberton, and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of their burgers and poutine, all made with local beef, excellent and fresh rolls, potatoes (roasted, not fried!) and cheese. Highly recommended. Both the hike and the burger joint 🙂