Garibaldi Lake Circumnavigation

This trip had been on my mind for many years, and seems to be becoming somewhat of a classic SW BC loop. One can follow the high divide or stick to climbing and descending passes. I originally intended to stay high most of the time, but didn’t fancy the glacier travel on my own and did a combination of the two routes.

The total trip time including camping was 52 hours, climbing 8 peaks along the way.

Garibaldi Lake and summited peaks.

Tuesday July 24

11:30 AM – 7 PM, Ascents of Mount Price and Clinker Peak

I was in no rush to leave Vancouver and did not reach the Rubble Creek Parking lot until 11AM. I somehow managed to snag a spot up by trailhead and began grunting up the switchbacks in the heat. I reached the lake in short order, about 2 hours, and took a small snack break.

The heat was unbearable at this point and I was already becoming very dehydrated. For some reason I didn’t fill my bottles at the lake and set off to find the route up Price. I wandered around for a bit with no luck and then just punched through some bush to an obvious draw leading towards Price. Following this I picked up the well-trod trail with no issues and set off to Price.

The trail has many small up-and-down sections as it weaves its way through the Clinker Lava flow (the same one responsible for The Barrier, holding back Garibaldi Lake). The terrain here is unique and travel would be anything but fast aside for the trail. As it was, I reached the col about 1.5 hours after leaving the lake, and very much in need of water.

Unique volcanic terrain near Mount Price made for slow travel.

I melted two litres of snow and chugged them down, then set off for Clinker Peak. It was a fast 15 minutes to the summit, until I realized the true summit was to my west on another small ridge system. Up and down sharp lava and I’m on the uninspired summit of Clinker Peak. I drop off the south side of the peak and regain the col in short time. More water is forced into my body and then 15 minutes later I’m standing on the flat, sandy top of Price – great place for a bivy.

Sphinx Bay from Mount Price.
Views of Garibaldi from Price.

The views are fantastic and the solitude is much preferred to the chaos across the lake. Mount Garibaldi and The Table are particularly striking. The view over the lake is stunning, as it is from every angle.

I drop back to my back and begin the bushwhack down to Table Meadows. For some reason I thought that the obvious burn would bring me down to far, and I chose to side hill much of the south slopes of Price, ending up in steep forest. Slipping and sliding my way down, the bush is not bad and I reach the flats of the meadows quickly.

Table Mountain from Table Meadows.

Lack of snacks and the heat has me exhausted and I stagger up the 100m elevation of Table’s long, low, NW ridge. I reach my intended spot, near the top of the ridge and near some snow patches. It is 7:00PM. I am very surprised to find two tents pitched in my intended meadow, but I’m tired and throw my bug net up 50 ft away.

My neighbours tonight are four recent high-school graduates out for a week of camping around the lake. They are in high spirits despite the constant onslaught of bugs. Definitely the worst bugs I have experienced in years.

Dinner was simple and I went to sleep early only to discover a large hole in my sleeping mattress that required me to refill it every 3 hours. So much for a good night’s rest.

Camping in Table Meadows.

Wednesday July 25

8 AM – 5 PM, Ascents of Guard Mountain and Deception Peak

I left camp leisurely in the morning, reading a few chapter of my book, grumpy with my poor sleep. Instead of following the gentle ridge towards The Table and then down to Sentinel Bay, I dropped directly off the ridge, side-hilling across steep, fine, hard-packed moraine-like material and loose rubble. At one point, descending a slide path, I slipped on wet grass and took a 50m slide, managing to grab onto some shrubbery to slow my descent.

Columnar basalt near camp on the second morning.

I reached the Glaciology Huts and stopped for a bit of exploration. The door hinge on the main hut was rusted away and the log books were covered in mould. Don’t think many people are spending the nights here nowadays.

Glaciology Huts in Sentinel Bay.

I chose a successfully bush free route to the Guard-Deception col, and within an hour of baking in the sun, was resting on sandy flat terrain, looking down to Sphinx Bay.

Views to Garibaldi on my way to the col.

From here my intent was to summit Guard, then continue with my bag over Deception and to Sphinx and Carr. I changed my plans upon seeing the glacier, now intending to summit both Guard and Deception and drop to Sphinx Bay. From there I would head to Gentian Pass.

The scramble up Guard was one I was looking forward to for quite some time. Information on summits is hard to come by online and supposedly requires some exposed class 4 moves. I left the col and quickly reached a prominent horn above the col. The down climb from this, while not exposed, was definitely the loosest terrain on the route.

Scrambling over highly fractured rock brought me easily to the southern sub-summit. From here the route looked difficult, but while somewhat exposed, it never exceeded 4th class scrambling.

Summit of Guard.

The summit offered stunning views over Garibaldi Lake. Some of the notes in the register reminded me how badass some people truly are.

An epic day trip!
Great views of Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk, and Mount Price from the summit.
Deception Peaks from Guard – I would hike to both summits after descending.

The traverse back to the false summit was simple, and the descent from there to the col fairly straightforward with only the small horn to bypass.

True summit from false summit, Guard Mountain.

At the col I took a short break and made my way up Deception Peak – one of the few times the ice axe came out for the trip. To gain the summit area was an easy plod up somewhat steep, but firm snow.

On the plateau area are two seemingly equal summits – I climbed both for fun, getting grand views to places I’d visits years before around Garibaldi Neve. The scrambles here required some thinking but were only 15m long. The descent to the col was fast on the snow, and soon I was shouldering my big bag and boot skiing down the glacier into Sphinx Bay.

Summit views from Deception towards Garibaldi Lake.
Sphinx, which I would leave for another trip.

I made quick time dropping elevation down the small glacier originating from the Deception – Guard col, and then took a break photographing a small family of goats below the shattered Sphinx Glacier.

Family of mountain goats.

From here I traversed fresh glacial moraine and forded small creeks to reach the upper most lake in Sphinx Bay. I had read reports of people having difficulty fording the creek down by the cabin, so decided to cross high.

Crossing the outflow in Sphinx Bay.

Despite the heat, and time of day (near 2PM) I was able to hop my way across without removing boots! Truly, my most heroic deed of the trip.

From here, some pre-arranged navigating brought me above a significant patch of slide alder, and into a pleasant forest, climbing steadily to the broad ridge which drops off Polemonium’s SW side.

Cutting through forest to regain the sub-alpine from Sphinx Bay.

I crossed the creek draining the bowl due west of Castle Towers, and continued to a pleasant meadow system around 1900m on a plateau on the ridge.

Looking up the meadow towards camp for the night.

My climbing for the day was done. I slowed down and meandered into the beautiful, rolling terrain of Gentian Pass.

I dropped a bit of elevation and then climbed slowly up the meandering creek, to a campsite just above, and to the east of, the small lake in the pass. Reading and eating brought my energy back up, and a strange encounter with a deer had me excited for tomorrow. I packed up my gear and was huddled up for another clear night of infinite stars, below the massive north west slopes of Castle Towers.

This deer appeared perfectly healthy, but circled my tent where I sat about ten times, coming with a few feet.

Thursday July 26

5:30 AM – 3:30 PM Ascents of Polemonium, Castle Towers, Gentian, Panorama

Making my way up the NW ridge of Polemonium early.

I was up early for an ascent of Castle Towers – something I had been looking forward to the entire trip. I had lots of energy although my feet were quite sore due to my poor choice of footwear. I hiked up the NW ridge of Polemonium, making quick work of the ~500 m elevation. From there I easily located the gully descending to the Castle Towers col. This was the worst part of the route.

At the bottom I followed cairns and a loose trail up to the broad NW ridge of Castle Towers. I traversed a bit to far and climbed the W ridge proper, turning a class 2 boulder hike into some fun class 3 scrambling. I was on the false summit before I knew it and lingered for a minute or so before looking for a way onwards to the true summit.

I easily located a loose, angled gully, that first trended skiers left, then right, before ending about 2 m above the col with some loose flakes blocking the way and a decent drop to the NW face to the left. After testing the flakes, I committed to them and was easily on to the col, where I followed easy slopes to the summit.

Views from the false summit are still pretty good.
Looking down on the tourist summit from the top of Castle Towers.

Great views into the eastern and southern parts of the park. Still lots of exploring left to do here for me!

Cool views down the ridge of Castle Towers.

I lingered on the summit for close to an hour, taking photos, eating, and making phone calls. I retraced my steps off the summit to the section with the flakes, and gingerly climbed back up my gully. Looking at other reports, it seems most people descend right off the false summit, not left as I did.

Looking back at Castle Towers and the route from camp at the lake.

The descent to the col was only interrupted by the slog back up to Polemonium, and I was back before 9. I had a nice long rest before I packed up camp. Three guys out day tripping Castle Towers stumbled past me just before I headed out, letting me know I had just missed seeing a wolverine near Helm Glacier!

I weaved my way out of the pass and up the meadows south slopes of Gentian Peak. Carrying all my gear, I crossed over Gentian Peak, which offered great views of the lake and Panorama Ridge, but it was getting a bit hazy.

Summit views from Gentian.

I dropped to a high col with a permanent snow field and some amazing tarns and quartz outcrops. The quartz was visible from kilometers away.

Quartz on the ridge to Panorama Ridge.
Gorgeous patterns in the snow.

For the last elevation of the trip, I grunted my way up the south slopes of Panorama Ridge, to be greeted by hordes of hikers.

Panorama Ridge views to Black Tusk are amazing.

It was a drastic change from my three days of solitude, and reminded me it is always worth the effort to get off the beaten path.

Heading home from a great remote trip in a popular area.

I sat and snacked on seaweed and chips for over an hour, talking briefly to tourists and taking some photos for people. I could see the entirety of my route stretched out in front of me. Mostly I think I was scared to put my blistered feet back in my boots. After some time I stuffed my stumps back in and headed down the glacier to horror of many people. I picked up the trail quickly after saving a few hundred meters of rocky descent.

The rest of the descent to the parking lot was straightforward on a massive trail, and included the usual comedic distractions that come along with hiking in Garibaldi Park.

I reached the parking lot at 3:30 PM, 52 hours after leaving and quite happy with my trip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s