Garibaldi winter hike

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

So there we were, making our second attempt to snowshoe to Garibaldi Lake in the middle of winter. Last year we had tried our luck but had to turn back due to a few logistical errors, such as starting out too late and getting our car stuck in the snow. However, this year we had improved our planning based on our previous mistakes.

It was Friday morning 5.30am when our alarms went off. Waking up dreary eyed and confused, my first priority was coffee. Lora was still sound asleep so I decided that this was the best time to loudly wake her up and remind her of the challenge that lay ahead.

By 6.30am, we were on the road. We calorie loaded at McDonalds in Squamish while working out the final details using the last of the reception we would have for the next few days. The plan was drive up the slightly snowy service road to the trailhead in our rented 4×4 car, start hiking the trail until the snow became too deep which was when we would strap on our snowshoes to continue the hike. We would do all of this while maintaining that fierceness in our eyes.

Fast forward to 8.30am. We arrived at the highway turn-off to the Garibaldi lake trail and I immediately pulled over while popping the 4×4 car into low gear. “We’re ready,” I told myself as I drove toward the service road, but what I saw next shocked me! The road was completely blocked with over two feet of snow! Incredible…

Since we couldn’t drive up the road we had to park at the turn off, adding another 2km to our hike. Perhaps I should of known this would happen. Keep in mind, that the same time last year we were able to drive up the service road in a Toyota Prius so I wasn’t expecting the snow to be an obstacle so soon.

So we got out of the car and strapped our snowshoes on. Although the road was quite flat, the going was slow. Trail breaking in knee deep snow was not fun and was quite demoralizing for us. By the time we reached the trail head, it was nearly 9.30am. We ate a few snacks which brought our spirits back up. Fortunately, since the trail was sheltered by trees, the snow was more packed down, making for easier snowshoeing.

At the start of hike, the pace was moderate and our spirits were high. Then came the switchbacks. The switchbacks were not too steep at first but we started slowing down. As we approached 1,000 meters of elevation, the snow was getting really deep – so much so that the trail had vanished in some parts! The terrain was steep and for several meters we were forced to kick steps into the snow with the side of our snowshoes so we wouldn’t slip and fall down the mountain.

By about 1.30pm we made it to the Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake junction. Although we were slower than expected, we had already gone further than last time. What a relief! We ate lunch – rewarding ourselves with a Snickers bar – and decided to spend the night by Garibaldi Lake and spend the second night in Taylor Meadows.

The last 3km of the trail was even more strenuous and took us 2 hours. The snow was knee deep and untouched and I really doubt anyone had come this way all week. We were forced to trail break again. Bridges were snowed over and were dangerous to cross, so each step across the bridge was cautious and calculated. As we approached the final descent to the lake at the junction between Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk, we spied the expansive, snow covered lake through the pine trees – we were almost there!

When we descended to the lake, we realized the lake was completely frozen over. Instead of trying to find the snowed over trail bordering the lake, we just walked across the lake’s surface which made the last stretch of hiking easy. At this point, the sun was starting to set and the mountains were glowing orange and reds, as if the sky was lighting them on fire!

When we finally arrived at the campground shelter, we dropped our backpacks onto the plush snow. Victory! We found a flat spot in front of the shelter and started packing down the snow by stomping our snowshoes until the snow was compressed enough. Despite having to bury the tent pegs deep within the snow, the tent set up was rather quick and before we knew it, home was made for the night! We retreated into the shelter to begin dinner and relax. It was still very cold in the shelter because the building was not insulated, but after a warm dinner of rice and beans we were warm inside.

We finished off the night amazed by the stars and the moon in the clear sky. Watching the satellites and shooting stars pass us before we turned in for the evening was perfect.

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