Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Elsay Lake hike

This past Sunday, Jenna and I did the hike to Elsay Lake, and although it was a longer study break than intended it was not unwelcome. Turns out that Elsay lake is the beautiful back side of Mt. Seymour that you'll want to see! That being said, this was a challenging route, so plan appropriately.

The stats:
Distance: 19.9km round trip
Climbing: 1160m ascent/1160m descent
Time: 6hours (that's how long it took us with some running, a lot of walking and no stops)

Starting from the Seymour parking lot, we headed toward the trail and the sign post for Dog Mountain. Instead of taking the sharp left to Dog, we headed up Mt. Seymour trail, still to the left, but you can tell it's going to go straight up the mountain. This part is a good incline and a bit rocky but everything is well packed in, so definitely runnable in portions. After about 2km uphill, just before the first pump of Seymour, we reached a bit of a plateau and a sign post indicating the direction to Elsay Lake and Elsay Mountain. The distance markers were rubbed off, but it was clear where to go. We were sure because of the warning signs saying "not the way to the parking lot" and the overhead cable signs indicating the extreme risk of avalanche. After questioning what we were doing and the meaning of life, we proceeded past the signs to the first descent. This section wound between the forested section on the right and the boulder field on the left, dropping about 250m.

First descent after the turn-off from Mt. Seymour trail.
From here the trail stayed left to cross the boulder field. This section was still downhill, but somewhat less steep, dropping another 50 meters or so.

Crossing the boulder field below the peaks of Mt. Seymour. Trail is visible on the far side of the valley.
Despite the hot summer we had, there was still some snow on the trail. I'm guessing this route is not accessible for a good portion of the year, and given the potential for avalanches in winter, perhaps not the smartest route to choose anyway.

Jenna carefully crossing the snowy patch.
On the far side of the valley as we got back into the trees and started going up again, there were a few markers indicating a small trail going up to the left (Approx: 49.398026, -122.929947). This trail went to Mt. Elsay and apparently can be connected for a loop to the peak of Mt. Elsay from Mt. Seymour. We took the trail to the right to continue to the lake.

After the short up, there was a short but steep downhill to a series of small ponds. This section required some skill to keep our feet dry as we hopped across the mossy/marshy area. The pond was tranquil with the still water reflecting the mossy rocks and surrounding trees. Although this isn't the campsite, it looks like there is an area you could pitch a tent if needed.

The mossy pond. Careful keeping your feet dry!
Continuing on, we followed the outflow of the ponds down a small valley, eventually reaching another steep descent, followed by an open boulder field. The valley provided a nice soft section to run on and the first part of the descent was switchbacks through the trees along the narrow trail, so not too bad. The boulders however were quite large and the trail markers were not super clear, making this section challenging. As we only had small running packs on we were able to scramble over and down the rocks, but I could see this being tough with a big backpack.

At the far end of the boulders, there were trail signs indicating the direction to the lake and back to the parking lot. Only 2.5km to the lake now, but we had to hurry as we were getting close to our turn around time.

This section up to the lake was a slight incline over beautiful spongy trail. Made for some fantastic running! Before getting to the lake we crossed several small streams and one larger one.

One of the bigger stream crossings shortly before Elsay Lake.
Arriving at the lake we were treated to views of the surrounding mountain peaks and the warm sun shimmering off the water. It really felt like summer still!

Left/south toward Mt. Elsay.
On the far side of the lake we could see a small A-frame. Didn't expect that! Maybe should have done more reading before the hike... Anyhow, just a few minutes around the lake to get to the cabin.

Looking across to the cabin.
The emergency shelter (as the sign indicated) looked nice from the outside and looked big enough to fit quite a number of people, but the inside could really use a little cleanup. The outhouse appeared to be clean, just need to remember to bring TP if we go back to stay overnight.
The emergency shelter up close. No fires :(

A little messy inside, but the loft was clean and roomy.

I was not able to identify this one, so let me know what it might be if you have an idea.
More neat and very large fungi along the trail.

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