Author`s note: This is a fantastic trail in the summer that is already challenging in good conditions. The following trip report might make this hike look easy in fall/winter conditions but it is not, we knew what to expect and had brought additional gear for the unexpected.
In the wrong conditions, you could easily slip and die, get buried in an avalanche while crossing the boulder field, get lost and freeze to death or get stuck in the mountain out of exhaustion.
I do not recommend this trail when there is snow on the mountain.
Another Trip report regarding this hike would not be the most interesting story this year. However, the conditions and the time of the year makes it worth it to write a few lines regarding a long day pass the middle of November.
Spring, Leigh and myself drove to Mt Seymour early Saturday morning as the sun was rising in a cloudless sky.
As any other trip, we had our 10 min gear preparation session and were on to our 20 km round trip adventure.
The great feature of this time of the year is the compact snow on the ski slopes and the fact that downhill skiers are not yet invited to enjoy the mountain. This allows a very fast access (35 min) to Brockton point.
At the top of the ski resort, we enjoyed gorgeous winter views (yes winter) of the city and north shores. We then had a very enjoyable easy hike all the way to the intersection between Mount Seymour and Elsay Lake.
Unsurprisingly, plenty of tracks towards Seymour and a virgin snow towards the downhill leading to Elsay lake. At this point we had not used our snowshoes, actually, this was a snowshoe free day!
We descended towards the boulder fields, the snow was light and powdery but there was a crusty and slippery layer just under it. We had ice axes which added some security to our travel. Not necessary but well appreciated.
The decent of the first boulder field was quick because of the large amount of snow and the steepness. However, the second one was a real pain as there was less snow and involved a long traverse.
Once back into the forest, it was a cold hike all the way down to the bottom of Elsay. This involved a first easy creek crossing. The trail was well marked and I had already done Mt Elsay so routefinding was easy.
I got a bit confused after the intersection of the Mt Elsay trail, but nothing that made us loose more than 2 minutes. When we made it to the 3 km marker, we got a bit nervous as it was already pass 11:00 AM. However, I kept telling Leigh and Spring it was going to be very easy from there….
Well, not that easy, there were another 2 boulder fields to go through which were not cool… And we kept losing altitude.. We finally made it to the north of Elsay and it got fun from there as the trail was really easy and there was only a small amount of snow.
The only tough part of this section is a creek crossing (Elsay creek?) which is fairly wide and can be deep (knee high). The trail crossing was really icy and seemed difficult. We decided to go upstream and found an easier section. The broken branches on the other side proved to us that we had not been the only ones with this itinerary.
Once on the other side, it was a highway to the hut. We rushed (probably because of the cold) to the hut and enjoyed the view of the frozen (very fragile Ice) of the lake and the fantastic North face of Elsay.
The hut is in a great shape and looks very inviting for the summer. However, being on the north of such a steep mountain, I doubt that the lake gets ever direct sun light and must remain cold all year.
It had taken us roughly 5 hours to get to the hut, we thought it would take us much more to come back. I warmed up my water and had some tealess tea. We retraced our steps about 45 min after our successful landing at the Elsay lake hut.
Although we were expecting a dreadful return back to the car (much higher than the hut), it turned out to be for all 3 of us a pleasant return. The trail was well tracked by our footsteps and we were in a hurry to get back to the car since it was so cold…
Even the boulder field and the steepness did not stop us or demotivate us. However we were very happy once we were back on the skiers track as we knew it would just be a hop back to the car.
We finally made it back in the dark to the car just before 6. It had taken us only 4 hours back from the hut, not bad with these semi-wintery conditions.
Leigh and Spring kindly drove me back home although it was way out of their way… And I took my well deserved shower..I had hiked the Elsay Lake trail on a 19th of November.