Gwillim Lakes Hike, Valhalla Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

     I dropped the kids off at school about 6:45am, and was on the road after picking up Wally at 7:15, two hours later we were at the Canadian border crossing in Nelway where we met Robocop. After answering a few stern questions we made our way into Canada. We worked our way northwest to Playmor Junction where we found a bank and exchanged some U.S. dollars for Canadian funny money. We headed north on highway 6 for 20 something miles before turning west onto Gravel Pit Road near the town of Slocan. From the turnoff to the trailhead it was some 20 plus miles of dirt road with the last 2 miles being a crawl over boulders to the trailhead, sidenote (2.8 miles from the turnoff at Gravel Pit Road is a junction where you turn right instead of continuing left uphill).

    Wow, just the views from the Gwillim Lake trailhead alone would have made the trip worthwhile. In the parking lot we had to porcupine proof the truck by wrapping it in chicken wire and bracing it with sticks so the little bastards wouldn’t climb up from underneath and chew my brake lines. After lacing the boots and shouldering the packs we hit the trail about 12:45 in the afternoon.

    We started out in the trees as we worked our way uphill over a rough and rocky trail. We were in the Valhalla, a 126,000 square mile provincial park with only 5 trails offering a way in, one would have thought the trail would have been well graded, not the case. We continued up within earshot of the creek before breaking out into a large avalanche gully which offered our first view of Gregorio Peak. We reentered the trees for a bit before reaching a long traverse over granite talus where we passed a sign officially entering Valhalla Provincial Park. As we climbed higher the views below us began to open up, this place is just so damn big. Once across the talus we regained the steep trail before eventually gaining the headwall and hiking down to a well used camp along the shore of magnificent Drinnon Lake. The view from the west side of the lake was spectacular with the northern shoulder of Drinnon Peak as it’s back drop on full display. We lingered long to snap a few pics before making the climb up and around the lake along its west shore.

    I was out of shape, and at times the going was slow, Canada doesn’t believe in switchbacks so I was definitely feeling it. Next time I plan a trip up here I’m gonna train for it. Wally on the other hand was kicking my ass up and down the trail. Eventually, Drinnon Lake slipped away offering big views beyond to the high peaks surrounding the lake basin, it was stunning. We reached Drinnon Pass at a good camp. From the saddle we dropped a short ways to a picturesque tarn offering insane views to the east toward Drinnon Peak and it’s ragged ridge.

    After leaving the tarn we dropped steeply from the pass to an unnamed lake nestled at the base of Gregorio Peaks east shoulder. We arrived at the lake just as the last of the sun’s rays left it’s shores kissing the petals of the flowers along the lakeshore goodbye. We took in the last of the light before moving on, from here the grade increased as we worked our way higher up the mountain toward the Gwillim Lakes basin. We climbed rather steeply for a while before gaining a ridge and getting our first real lay of the land. We could make out the sound of a thousand foot waterfall as it slipped over the headwall above us and dropped into the endless valley below that stretched on forever with massive peaks standing guard on either side forbidding entrance, we are truly insignificant. We paused for a moment to try and take it all in before slipping over the ridge and following a boot path as it descended to the foot of another talus field, from here we picked what looked like the best possible route before reaching the small saddle allowing entrance to the Gwillim Lakes basin.

    We picked up the trail heading to the first lake we laid eyes on. This place is amazing. We passed through fragile meadows to the shores of the shallow alpine lake in an amphitheater surrounded by a broken wall of granite peaks reaching into the heavens above, it was as if god had placed each stone perfectly by hand. Like kids in a candy store we wandered aimlessly overwhelmed by beauty in every direction we looked, where do we start! First we explored the small peninsula of the main lake before turning back and heading southeast to take in the views toward Drinnon Peak and its impressive lineup of mountains including Mount Presley, Midgard Peak, Asgard Peak, Gladshelm Peak and many more as they carried on toward the end of the horizon. After taking in the view we wandered back past first lake and continued northwest toward a second lake before switchbacking uphill a ways along side the inlet stream before setting off cross country for a pile of rocks to take a break and enjoy some nutrition.

     What a splendid vantage point, we had three lakes at our feet, and all of the Valhalla before us, it was truly breathtaking. We lingered as long as we could while the sun fell lower on the horizon, the days are short this time of year and unfortunately it was time to say goodbye. We packed up our things and made the walk out the same way we came in, stopping one last time at the small tarn near Drinnon Pass to take in the reflection of Drinnon Peak on its mirrored surface. A short ways further we passed Drinnon Lake and dropped over the headwall making the final push over talus then through the trees to the trailhead. It would be dark soon so we quickly removed the chicken wire from the side of my truck before making the drive out. We didn’t have far to go and eventually reached our campsite at Upper Little Slocan Lake just after dark. We pitched the tent and rolled out the sleeping bags before eating dinner by the propane fire then heading to bed, we had another big day planned for tomorrow. For more pictures visit the link. https://www.flickr.com/photos/tannergrant/albums/72157690535695810

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