2 hikers dead on the Kepler Track

Thinking of Étienne Lemieux and Louis-Vincent Lessard today. :-(

Police in New Zealand believe two bodies found in avalanche debris are Louis-Vincent Lessard and Étienne Lemieux, two Quebec travellers who went missing during an outdoor adventure trip. …

The first body was found over the weekend in a field of avalanche debris about 350 metres below the Kepler track, where the two had planned to go hiking. A second body was discovered Monday at about 10:30 a.m. New Zealand time. …

“The majority of people who walk the Kepler track do it in summer and there’s seldom any snow. Totally different story in winter, when large volumes of snow can fall in that area. Not many people at all walk the Kepler track in winter.” …

CBC

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climbing Mount Sopris, CO

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

I’m arrived Colorado. :-) Only my second hiking trip to this fantastic State.

As a warm-up leg stretcher, on Saturday I attempted Sopris, the imposing peak above Carbondale. Elevation 12,953 feet.

Sopris

We were up at 6am. My host, Brion, owner of Independence Run and Hike, wished it had been 5am. The Colorado Rockies are famous for mid-day lightning storms.

At the trailhead Brion took off for a training run. I turned the opposite direction to start up Sopris.

DSCN1315Brion warned me of aggressive cows and possibly even bulls. They weren’t aggressive with us. But they were a bit of a pain.

DSCN1317I met Matt – recently moved to Colorado from the East coast – at the start. He and I walked together to the top.

DSCN1324We took no breaks up to the Thomas lakes. Happy with the speed of ascent, we decided to carry on and have our first break above the treeline.

DSCN1322Lunch  on the ridge was terrific. Big vistas down both sides.

DSCN1327Above the treeline the scramble up Sopris begins. The trail disappears at times up unstable boulders.

DSCN1330Our goal was the first summit. It looked an easy hour from our lunch vantage.

DSCN1331Up on the scree ridge footing gets easier leading to the false summit. Many stop here as the views are just about as good as on the summit. But Matt and I felt good. Wanted to go all the way.

DSCN1332And the weather was holding. Check this blue sky. :-)

DSCN1336Sadly, in the other direction big scary clouds were rushing up the valley. When we saw the first lightning bolts, we turned back. :-)

DSCN1338I planned to hurry down to the lakes. And cool my feet in cold alpine waters.

DSCN1339It’s far more dangerous going down than climbing up. Be careful.

DSCN1345A real highlight this time of year is wild flowers.

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As the weather worsened, I increased my pace. But still got caught in a downpour the last 20 minutes to the parking lot.

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I hid from the rain at the pit toilet, changing clothes for the long mountain bike ride back to Carbondale.

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I always carry empty dry bags in my pack just for this kind of soaking rain.

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It was a fun, muddy roll down the mountain. The best part of the day.

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related – Hiking in Colorado – Mount Sopris

hiking glossary

mother nature – examples:

dirtbag — a subculture consisting of ski bums, vagabonds and climbers well practiced in the ways of avoiding work, while spending as much time as possible pursuing their outdoor passions. …

holloway — a sunken path worn down due to foot traffic, rain and erosion that has fallen significantly below the vegetative banks on each side. …

krummholz — bent, stunted trees found in mountainous and arctic regions, twisted by steady winds and short growing seasons. …

verglas — a thin coating of ice that forms on rocks overnight, or when snow melts and then refreezes. …

A beginner’s glossary to hiking and camping

cairn

cairn

trip report – Sunshine Coast Trail

by site editor Rick McCharles 

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Eleven hikers from flat, dry central Canada – Saskatchewan – met up at Nancy’s bakery in remote Lund, B.C.

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Our plan was to hike from Sarah Point to Powell River in 5 days, 4 nights. The first section of the 180km Sunshine Coast Trail.

We ended up exiting after 2 nights walking out from Manzanita hut right back … to the bakery. :-)

start of the Sunshine Coast Trail

We’d booked a water taxi from Lund to the trailhead at Sarah Point.

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Our skipper was excellent. The weather perfect. Yet the scramble up steep, slippery rock to the trailhead was challenging. I’d hate to do it in rough seas.

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We were off. :-)

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The trail is well flagged but requires frequent scrambles over, under or around fallen trees. Our packs felt very heavy at this point.

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Early July 2015 the Pacific N.W. was atypically hot and humid. Forest fire hazy clouded the sky.

Mosquitoes and wasps were a real pest. Four of our group were stung over 3 days.

It quickly became evident our large group, starting late in the day, would never make it to our intended destination – camping at Wednesday lake.

Instead we dropped down to a disused campsite at Cochrane Bay. It turned out to be a lovely spot. The pit toilet (which we found the next morning) still in working order.

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It was dark when we went to hang the food.

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Rodents quickly pounced on my  dinner pot (salmon) once I set it on the ground.

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The sea a glassy lake next morning.

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We suffered some foot and knee pain. And morning stiffness, of course.

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A steep, sweaty climb up from the sea  brought us to Wednesday lake where we refilled all our water bottles. You need at least 3 litres / person on this dry section of the Trail.

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We needed this refreshing break as the climb up to the Manzanita bluff was particularly gruelling.

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Joan’s last hike?

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It was with relief that we arrived at Manzanita hut early in the day.

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It is a treat to have tables and fire pit after the wilderness camp of the previous night.

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We split up some sleeping in their tents, some in their tents in the loft.

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Running low on water, some of the keeners walked about 1.5km down hill to find a stagnant spring. Carried it back up. You need to treat all water on the SCT.

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By morning it was decided. We were going to quit the SCT and exit to Lund. Our spiritual leader Bill Wallace and his doppelgänger consulted the guidebook, brochure map and some local day hikers to calculate the best route.

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The manly men checked to see if they were strong enough for the escape … by trying to do a chin-up with full pack.

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Bill leading the quitters to safety.

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Civilization. :-)

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siesta

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We checked in at the Willingdon Beach campground in Powell River. It’s a good spot, walking distance from the ferry.

The sunset is gorgeous from here. Sandy descended the steep, slippery cliff to shore faster than anyone else. :-)

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Willingdon Beach Trail was a fascinating history lesson. Much enjoyed.

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With the extra time we decided to kayak Desolation Sound. It turned out to be the best day of the week!

Back to Saskatoon. Back to reality. :-)

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Lessons learned on the Sunshine Coast Trail:

  • it’s mostly inland
  • great vistas are infrequent. Many sections are tree-locked.
  • it’s rarely flat
  • much more challenging than expected

Two ladies who had done half the Pacific Crest Trail found the long day from Sarah Point to Manzanita hut a serious day. They went straight to bed after dinner and were gone by 6am next morning. Do not underestimate this trail. 

I’m hoping to get back in September / October when the bugs are less a problem. Cold doesn’t worry me.

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Some of our high resolution photos on flickr. Most of those were taken by Warren Long.

besthike Sunshine Coast Trail information page

 

we love the Pacific N.W.

We’ve just added an information page on the region.

Definitions of the Pacific Northwest region vary and there is no commonly agreed upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. A common conception of the Pacific Northwest includes … Oregon and Washington as well as British Columbia.

AT A GLANCE

  • fantastic coastal adventures including the West Coast Trail, our #1 hike in the world
  • fantastic alpine hiking 
  • easy access via Seattle, Portland or Vancouver
  • best weather June through September. But there are many great options year round due to the comparatively mild climate

GREAT Pacific N.W. hikes include …

We’re hiking the Sunshine Coast this week. :-)

sunshine-coast-map

 

Dungeness Spit, Washington State

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Dungeness Spit is a 5.5-mile (8.9 km) long sand spit jutting out from the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula in … Washington, USA, into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is the longest natural sand spit in the United States. …

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Some say it’s the world’s longest naturally occurring sandspit.

Diana and I wanted to visit the New Dungeness Light, in continuous operation since 1857.

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It’s fairly easy to find the trailhead from the highway near Sequim.

Sequim map

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Here’s the light station at 34x zoom.

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It was a long but interesting day hike.

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There was a family of volunteers manning the lighthouse. Father had scheduled this week about 6 years ago when his youngest daughter was age-2. Children must be at least age-8 to stay out here.

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We didn’t catch much sea life. But there were a couple of interesting things out at sea. :-)

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see more of our full resolution photos

related – Washington Trails – Dungeness Spit

High Divide Loop (7 Lakes Basin)

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

I was en route to hike the Cape Alava to Rialto Beach “Shipwreck Coast” on the Olympic peninsula end of June.

But when I dropped by the the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles on the way to the trailhead, Rangers informed me that famed High Divide Loop (7 Lakes Basin) was open early this year. Winter had dropped very little snow on the high peaks.

I instantly changed my plan. You can hike the Shipwreck Coast almost any time. But the High Divide Loop window is time limited. Late July to mid-October most years.

The High Divide Loop is very weather dependent. I arrived during a heat wave. Blue skies. Quite rare in the high mountains of the rainy coast.

It turned out to be a good call.

Rick Mt Olympus

AT A GLANCE

  • the jumping off point (and best finish) for the High Divide Loop is Sol Duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park
  • 20.3mi (32.6km) including sidetrips to Lunch Lake and Bogachiel Peak
  • must carry a tent and be completely self-sufficient
  • cumulative elevation 5200ft

On the advice of a Ranger, I booked 2 campsites:

  1. Deer Lake
  2. Sol Duc Park (near Heart Lake)

Circuit map

I started with the day hikers heading up to Sol Duc Falls.

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It’s a steep up,up,up from there to Deer lake. Nice campsite. But it did have mosquitos. I was happy to have carried my mesh bug shirt.

Deer lake

The Park was extremely dry while I was there. Normally you get wet feet on this hike. Boardwalk helps.

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I used the instagator technique to keep pebbles and dust out of my approach shoes.

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This was my first glimpse of Mt Olympus next morning. I was very pleased the skies stayed clear. This summit is usually cloud shrouded.

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Though the old growth forest trails are tranquil, it was fantastic to get above the tree line.

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I love the bear grass, but wildflowers were less prolific than expected.

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I stashed my pack on the ridge and dropped into  into 7 Lakes Basin for some day hiking.

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It is marvellous.

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Climbing back up to the ridge I continued to one of the most famous viewpoints in the Olympics, Bogachiel peak.

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The ridge walk above the basin is fantastic in clear weather. You look down on the many-more-than-7-lakes.

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I was exhausted and dehydrated by the time I finally dropped down towards Heart Lake.

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Rangers there told me where I could find good water. There was none on the ridge. :-(

I had been counting on melting snow. Unfortunately I found no snow.

With relief I set up my tent at Sol Duc Park campsite. Washed my feet. And took an hour siesta.

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In the late afternoon I made a long day hike past Cat Basin campground to see what my guidebook claimed was the best view of Olympus. I wasn’t disappointed. :-)

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Next morning was an easy downhill exit through old growth. Very mellow.

If you’d like to see 7 Lakes Basin and Mt Olympus for yourself, check our new information page.