My sister was up there with a group of friends last weekend. Here is what she has to say on the matter:
The first part of the hike is quite easy, minimal incline and relatively wide path. No snow to speak of. A little higher up, there is more and more snow on the path but it’s still possible to hike without snowshoes. It isn’t until you hit the last bridge – a rickety old wooden affair with chicken wire on it to give your boots grip, the trail takes a sharp, steep turn left just after it – that the snow becomes something that requires snowshoes.
I went with a group of about eight people on January 9/10, 2016, leaving the dock on Pitt Lake at around 8:30AM. We had three canoes and one kayak, and as far as I know you cannot rent canoes at the Pitt Lake dock during the winter. Arrived at Widgeon Creek campground around 9:30AM, and started hiking around 10:00AM. We made very good time to the last bridge, and beyond that there is more logging road with deeper and deeper snow. We put on snowshoes here, and while it was tiring it went okay. However, the last part of the trail is extremely difficult. You reach a point where you take a sharp turn upwards into the trees, just after you see sunlight coming through the trees and think you’ve reached the lake. This is not the case. You have to go up and over a ridge, first, and the snow is DEEP.
One of our group members did not have snowshoes, and as a 6’4’’, over 200 lb man he was sinking in, often up to his waist, with every step and having a lot of difficulty getting up. The path traverses creek-beds and crosses roots and fallen trees, and every time you sink in there is a risk of getting your foot stuck or falling through to water or rocks below. So, snowshoes required, as far as I’m concerned! That said, we had two individuals follow us up afterwards wearing nothing but microspikes, and they did quite well. They also had a lot more general experience with snow and difficult hiking terrain than the rest of us. Even with snowshoes, there was much breaking through the snow and falling into holes from the rest of us.
Around 3:15/3:30PM we called a stop to the hike, because we did not know how much farther we had to go. Our GPS units GPS said it was less than 1km and 150 m of elevation left to go, but a few of our group members (myself included) were extremely worn out and it was unclear whether we would be able to make that distance with the daylight we had left, and be in fit shape to set up camp in the dark if we did get there. We backtracked for about five or ten minutes to a spot on the trail where we could carve out a couple of tent pads from the side of the trail and set up camp. This was where our other two group members caught up with us, and though they had been determined to reach the lake they stopped to set up camp with us.
The next morning, four of our group members decided to pack up their bags, leave them at the camp and continue on to the lake, while the rest of us started back down. The trip down was much easier than the trip up (obviously) even for the group member without snowshoes. It seemed there was a harder crust on the snow that early in the morning, plus wading out of a hole downhill is very much easier than wading out of it heading uphill. We left camp at about 10:15AM, arrived at Widgeon Creek about 2:50PM, after a slow and leisurely last few kilometres (I had a bad chest cough and one leg was bothering me, we also stopped to filter some water at one of the creek beds).
We waited at Widgeon Creek Campground for the other four members of our group, and they arrived about forty-five minutes later. Three of them were probably the fittest members of our group, and it had taken them half-an-hour (without packs) to get to the lake from where we had spent the night. Given how much slower the rest of us had been going the afternoon before, it seemed that we had made a good choice to stop and set up camp where we did.
We got back to the Pitt Lake dock just as the sun was going down on the 10th. The main points, I suppose are that it is crucial (in my opinion) to have snowshoes – particularly those with crampons and grip all along the outer frame, not just in the middle of the shoe and
under your foot. You want to be able to dig in side of the shoe for going up the last difficult part; poles are also very useful. I did all right without, but was much better balanced when another group member lent me one of his. Second, in hindsight I would have taken a shovel of some kind to make it easier to set up camp wherever we needed to (we made it work, but a shovel would have gone a long way). And third, start earlier than we did to maximize daylight, and make sure you are ready to park it on the side of the trail if it turns out you’re not able to make it all the way.
The trail is well flagged, with orange tape and the plastic diamonds, but I would also recommend having GPS waypoints. Unfortunately, I’m not too sure where my other group members got them from, but I think they were available on the internet.
I have never snowshoed before, but I did all right according to my more experienced group members. I have no experience with Alouette or Evan’s Peak, so not too sure what ‘intermediate’ snowshoer really signifies. Hopefully some of this information helps someone out there.