Trip: Black Tusk, Garibaldi Provincial Park, B.C. - Via Park Trails
Ok - I've been searching through the forums and I have not found even ONE trip report about a summer hike/scramble to Black Tusk! What?! People - THIS IS A MUST DO! I realize most posts detail trips for the hardcore mountaineer and the complexity of gear required to complete them, but I assure you - if you haven't done it already - a 3-4 day summer trip into the Garibaldi Lake area will be unforgettable. It is a pilgrimage I make with my closest friends every year. Anyway here I go...
DAY 1- AUGUST 6
We began the trip at the Cheakamus trial head. Leaving early in the morning from Vancouver, we were able to start around 9:00am. The day was beautiful! (I'm on the far right).
In years past we have always started at Rubble Creek, but this year we wanted something different. Also our plans were to camp in Helm Pass, so this was a logical way to start.
The hike into the alpine was tougher than expected. I planned the whole trip on Google Earth and I figure that even though the route was longer via the Cheakamus entrance than Rubble Creek, it was also a smaller average incline and thus easier - not the case!! After roughly 3.5 hrs of endless forest, we finally broke out into alpine terrain.
After some searching, we found a nicely hidden grassy spot to set up camp for the night. As a note to camping off the designated campgrounds - it's WAY better. I will say this though we are a responsible bunch and ALWAYS leave our campsite looking untouched...
To those who throw/leave garbage anywhere in these pristine environments (or any environment)---> you simply don't deserve the privilege to be there... Shame on you!
Here is our view from our spot.
Since my first visit, I have been obsessed with bringing better and better camera gear to catalog the trip. the only trade-off has been a much heavier pack. However, I feel that my shots have benefited greatly from this obsession!
We spent the afternoon filming and shootin' the breeze. This place really is spectacular, and seeing the park from a new perspective was awesome.
That night we crashed early since the night before was totally sleepless.
Looking back towards Whistler.
DAY 2- AUGUST 7
Our goal this day was to make it down to the lake and rendevouz with another friend of ours. The hike down to the lake from Helm pass is absolutely breathtaking! In August, the flowers begin to color the whole landscape. Of course the bugs do threaten to ruin it, but I purchased dried sage and we kept it burning (it works pretty good).
Here's a few shots from the previous year's trip.
The whole area leading up to the mountain meadows is a mars like landscape of volcanic rock. I won't go into the geological history of the park, but it's very easy to see the evidence of heavy volcanic activity (as expected in the Cascade Mountain Range). We made it to the lake in a couple of hours and set up camp.
Here's a shot of the lake.
After setting up camp, we made for a hidden trail we discovered on our first trip - The Mount Price trail. The trail is marked with red tape, and is lightly beaten, but you will have a really hard time finding it if you don't know where to look. If your're interested ask me in a comment and I'll point you to it.
Mt. Price erupted the most recently out of all the volcanoes in the park. It's last eruption, roughly 9,000 years ago, is said to have created Garibaldi lake itself by filling in Rubble Creek with an enormous lava dam. If you come into the park via Rubble Creek you can easily identify this dam as "The Barrier" on your way up.
The trail is among my favorite yet. The lava rocks/boulders form a bizarre, almost surreal landscape. Next year (August 2014) we plan to make it all the way up to the summit of Mt. Price.
Here is a shot from the trail looking towards the tusk.
Heres a good elevation view of the tusk and kind of shows where you would climb it. the route is the large crack on the left of the tusk.
Looking back towards Mt. Price after returning to the lake. The light at sunset turns it completely red - hence the reason it used to be called red mountain.
At night, treat yourself to some stargazing.
DAY 3- AUGUST 8
Today we would conquer the tusk, set up camp of the beaten trail and prepare to leave to following day. We set out from the lake at around 10:00am and it took the group 2 hours to get to black tusk junction. This is a great spot to have lunch and hide your packs before the ascent. The hike from the junction up to the base of the tusk is a tough one at a very steep gradient. The trail is fairly wide and well maintained (as are all the trails in the park). If your not in good shape, it will test your spirit. Needless to say it is very much worth it!
*** ONE PIECE OF ADVISE ***
If you can do this trip during the week there will be WAY less people. Because of this parks utter beauty and its close proximity to Vancouver and Whistler, it attracts lots of people during the weekend. Sometimes there isn't even a spot to camp at the lake if you get their late, so plan on doing it during the week, or just do everything early and you'll be OK.
Here's a few shots near the base. (See all the people?...)
The Final stretch to the summit can induce an adrenaline rush for 1st and even 2nd timers. (shoot - I still get one and I've done it 4 times!). A fall from this thing is a sure way to die... There is NO room for a misplaced step or moment of non-focus. The climb is very fun though and isn't too bad - just be careful!
At the summit you will feel an enormous sense of accomplishment. I've hiked many mountains, a few over 9,000 ft, and this one is definitely the most rewarding even though it sits at 7,500 ft. It is like an alter. Every direction,(save the one you came up on) is a shear vertical drop of terrifying intensity. I've often fantasized about jumping off it with a squirrel suit.
Anyway here's a few summit shots with the first looking towards Garibaldi Lake and Mount Garibaldi.
Here's our group of misfits...
My best friend and I - speechlessly gazing...
Coming down as a cloud rolls in.
Coming down doesn't have to be as hard as everyone makes it seem. Typically people walk, step by step, down the hill with their knees paying a heavy price. I may have discovered an alternate technique that transfers the load to your calves, saves your knees, and gets you down blazingly fast. It looks a little stange to others but screw it. My technique - I call it "Swedish Mountain Skipping". All you do is literally skip down the mountain like a Gaylord and bam - your down. It's just amazing! Although I was the laughing stalk of the mountain, I think I proved its validity as a novel technique as people watched me fly past them with painless ease.
That night we set up camp off the trail and dreaded leaving. Being out there truly simplifies life in a way no other activity can. Think about it! Your problems are reduced to eating, drinking, shitting, and the next place to explore. It's pure happiness. But it's also temporary...
Here's the group again watching the day give way to night.
DAY 4- AUGUST 9
the clouds rolled in for our return hike to the cars. It was an exhausting hike back. Distance is worse than gradient I've concluded. Next year we all agree that Rubble Creek is the way to go..
Hope you liked it!
Nothing to crazy... Definitely recommend a pump water filter for longer stays.
From Vancouver, take the Sea to Sky Highway all the way to the Park entrance on your right. Their is a big sign - you can't miss it.