Joffre Lakes: Heading up to Tszil Mountain

Our first snowshoeing trip in Canada, November 2006

Our first snowshoeing trip in Canada, November 2006

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.

Upper Joffre Lake

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.

Our campsite

Our campsite

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.

On the summit of Tsil

On the summit of Tszil

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.

Maya, taking a nap on the summit of Tszil Mountain

Maya, taking a nap on the summit of Tszil Mountain

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.

Slalok Mountain

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.

Waterfall near the outlet of the Upper Lake

Waterfall near the outlet of the Upper Lake

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 🙂


View near the top of Tszil Mountain

This entry was posted in British Columbia (and nearby), Duffey Lake Road, Hiking & Scrambling, Trip Reports. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Joffre Lakes: Heading up to Tszil Mountain

  1. Zack Novak says:

    Great trip report, as always! Keep up the good work and I hope to see you guys soon.

  2. Jill Guthrie says:

    We just hiked Joffre after 4 years since last time and sadly saw the destruction and new “better” trail which has almost ruined this lovely hike in the forest?? Now we have an almost paved path of gravel and the dirt (mud..)..The old trail had various terrains that was in many ways easier as variety is easier on your joints rather than one steep consistent slope!

    The idea to chop down trees for a view?? It was a walk in the forest, now it is a smooth STEEP sidewalk to the most beautiful lakes near Whistler… So very sad and what a HUGE waste of Park maintenance dollars.. As one hiker from Germany quoted “who ever made this trail is clearly not a hiker”!!

    • Gili says:

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree, it’s more like a road than a hiking trail, or perhaps a “road of devastation”… I think it’s much more usual to improve an existing trail than to completely replace it, even if the original routing was not perfect. I have to wonder if there was any public consultation on this? Perhaps, but I never heard of it. Also, was it the contracting company that designed the trail? It’s a bit too late for this to matter for Joffre Lakes, unfortunately, but it could be important for future “improvements”.

  3. Jeff says:

    I just returned from Joffre Lakes and attempted the Tszil Glacier. I managed to get to the false summit but time constraints turned me around. I found the improvements to be like a two way highway now. Lots of people and they are not packing out their garbage as the bins at the parking lot were over flowing. I agree its a more difficult to walk downhill now as the side stepping down the original trail made it easier on the legs. I found myself running at times as it was easier then try to hold back my momentum.

    • Gili says:

      Thanks, Jeff. Sorry to hear about the garbage, I wish people were more responsible. Agreed on the trail – I don’t see any reason to create highway-like trails.

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