Elsay Lake (Mt. Seymour Provincial Park) - July 4 & 5, 2015
After hearing great things about the remote Elsay Lake, three friends and I decided to give the hike a try the weekend of July 4 & 5, 2015. The lake did not disappoint, but nor did the challenge of this deceptively difficult hike. I'd rate the hike as a solid 8/10 for difficulty, and an 8/10 for fun (but only because I thought that the lake was stunning).
Though you only do 350m of net gain (or loss) one way, the hike has a lot of steep up and downs. Have a look at the graphic below. My Garmin said that the steepest point was 64%!
There are also no real water points (other than stagnant ponds), so pack in enough water to get you the 10km to the lake. The dry conditions and heat contributed to the difficulty of this hike. If it were 25C rather than 35C, the going would have been significantly easier.
TRAILHEAD TO ELSAY LAKE TRAIL TURNOFF
Access to Elsay Lake starts from the trailhead at the end of the main/top parking lot in the Mt. Seymour Provincial Park. Lot 2 had free overnight parking.
The hike starts along the First Pump Trail, past Brockton Point, until you get to the Elsay Lake Trail turn off (about 1 hours into your hike). The signs warning that the trail is for experienced hiker, i.e., for people who are fit, prepared, and back country literate.
The trail from here, incidentally, is quite well marked with orange'ish squares and flagging tape, and the forest trails are easy to follow. We were told by a Ranger that work was done to improve the trail last year, and was a joint venture between BC Parks and the Korean Hiking Club. Great job!
WES' STAIRCASE TO THE FIRST BOULDERS
You'll start going down Wes' Staircase (300m), which is as steep as an actual staircase. Getting down isn't so bad...it's the getting up on the way back that's a kick in the pants.
You'll be spit out into a long exposed section of trail/boulders that offer a beautiful view to the east. On a sunny, hot day, be sure you've planned proper sun protection, because the crossing through the boulder fields offer little shade and, when we were there, no water points.
BACK TO THE SHADE...AND ANOTHER BOULDER FIELD
After you get past this difficult section (about 1 hour) it's back into the forest for some more downhill. Enjoy the shade for the hour or so you're there, because you'll emerge to a very steep section of trail/boulders/rocks that you'll have to work your way down for another hour. Again, this exposed, 400m steep section is tricky to get down, and a grind to get back up on the return trip.
Once you've done this rocky section, you'll head back into the glorious shade of the forest. While you're not home free, the brutal up and downhill is over. About 30 minutes into this last forested section you'll run into a river with a little waterfall. Take some time to refresh before the last push to the lake. All in, our group made it in 5'ish hours, including breaks and taking into account a minor injury that slowed us down.
THE LAKE AND CAMPING SITE
The A-Frame at the end of the lake is in good condition, and a friendly Ranger explained that they re-did the outhouse floor which used to be unstable. One can only imagine the calamity of a late-night outhouse run interrupted by a collapsing floor... There is also a deflated raft behind the A-Frame, and a pump in the A-Frame. The raft looked too manky even for us to try to inflate. Instead, we made good use of the lake.
The water level is lower than usual but the water temperature is absolutely perfect - the kind of warm that cools you down but lets you swim all evening...which is pretty much what we did.
If you do venture into the lake, feel free to test the echoes that bounce off the peaks that line the lake. The park apparently stocks the lake, and we saw some fish jumping. Other than that, and a few other couples, there were just birds, stars, and bugs. Incidentally, mosquitoes and black flies were around but not super bad.
The A-Frame is a little stinky, but one guys who showed up late slept in the top level. He confirmed the presence of fat mice, so be sure to hang your food properly. Also, the back country is VERY dry right now. A couple of guys started a fire down by the lake, but kindly extinguished it after being politely asked to do so.
THE RETURN TRIP
After some early morning swimming and camp chores, it was back to reality. As mentioned above, the return trip was a real slog due to the heat. The uphill was more scrambling at parts, and Wes' Staircase was a big challenge at the end of the hike, but once you make it back to the Elsay Lake Trail Turnoff, you're pretty much home and dry...well...home and sweaty, anyway. Overall, it took about 5 hours to get back, including lunch and a half-dozen breaks.
Below are some shots of the trip. This is my first post, so I haven't quite figured out the entire "embeding photos" thing. I'll get there eventually.
Last edited by palma; 07-08-2015 at 07:38 PM.