This long weekend was our last backpacking adventure of the season. Despite the ugly weather forecast, we drove to Sunshine on Friday morning, rode the shuttle bus up and started in on our 5 day trip to Mt. Assiniboine. It was only raining slightly as we started out, but by mid-afternoon we were in a full rain shower. Miserably, we trudged through the Golden Valley and Valley of the Rocks, seeing nothing but rain clouds and mud. The route is supposed to be beautiful but I don’t think we saw much but our feet after lunch.
We arrived at Og Lake campground in the evening soaking wet, set up our tents, pulled the backpacking tarp over our heads (its been used on every backpacking trip this summer) and cooked dinner in the torrential rain. Unhappy and cold, we went to bed with plans to pack up and head back to our cars the next morning. Rain continued through the night, along with a couple thunderstoms, so when I woke at 7 am to the sound of nothing on the tent roof I assumed it was just a break from the rain. I cracked open the ice coated tent door and stared in awe at the clear, clear view of Mt. Assiniboine against a cloudless blue sky. The clouds had been so low when we arrived in camp the night before I hadn’t even realised the mountain was there. Despite the cold, our spirits were lifted and we happily sat in the sun drinking instant coffee while the ice melted off tents and our wet rain gear dried.
Given that the weather had pulled a 180 we decided to stick to our original plan and keep at the hike. The hike into Lake Magog (which is practically at the base of Mt. Assiniboine) was beautiful – a sun filled, flat alpine meadow which was only 6.5 km. We set up camp in the huge campground near the lake, and went down to the shore for lunch. Unfortunately, it grew progressively chillier, and cloudier as the afternoon wore on, and by dinner time the first few flakes of dry snow were beginning to fall.
Sometime in the early morning hours, M and M, and A and A woke to tent roofs mere inches above their heads. The shaking of tents woke Jon and I, and we poked our heads out to see the campground buried in snow. Carrying a 4 season tent finally paid off, as most of the snow simply slid off and we needed only to help it along with a shake now and again. It was a sleepless rest of the night though, as the snow was falling fast enough to accumulate to a shakable depth every hour. At 7:30 we gave up on sleeping, and got out of our tent to over a foot of snow on the ground, and still more falling.
It was damp, cold and looked like it could keep snowing all day. Luckily, A and A are smarter than us, and had come up with a new plan for getting out of Magog without hiking the hard 29 km back to Sunshine before the 5:30 pm shuttle. A quick sat. phone call from the lodge and we had a ride from the other trail head – which was only about 24 km away with much less elevation gain. We set off in the snow after a complimentary cup of herbal tea (from the very nice lodge owners), following the tracks of some previous hikers and hoping that they knew the way. The falling snow lasted almost until we stopped for lunch at the Bryant Creek hut to warm up, but there was snow on the ground all the way to the trail head. Initially the snow was fun – usually we never get to see this kind of snow, even in the winter. But after 5 or 6 hours, the snow had soaked through the boots and we were looking forward to being done. We were tired, wet hikers when we finally reached the end of the fireroad (yet again) and saw A’s sister pulling into the parking lot. Mom had sent hot chocolate and a giant pot of home made soup, so soon we were warm, dry and well fed. A much better end than start to the day.
It is obvious after this weekend that it was our last back country hike for the season. We’ve had rather bad luck weather wise on our hikes this year. Last year we had 4 days of poor weather in 25 back country hiking days. This year we’ve had 4 in 8. We sure didn’t get out as much this year but with 50% bad weather, maybe its a good thing.