After kicking around several ideas including tenting or staying in a hut, it was decided to do a long day hike. I have been having some knee issues so figured a non-technical hike with plenty of distance would be a good test. The goal of the day became Little Diamond Head
(LDH) was to be the goal for the day.
After a long but traffic-free drive in the dark, we arrived at the trailhead and got moving around 7:15 am. There was a bus in the parking lot and a notice at the trailhead saying 52 students were staying at Elfin all week. I guess we were lucky that we didn't stay there the previous night.
Off we went. We soon passed a group on bikes coming down from a night at Elfin Lakes. The first part of the hike went quick, with a few extended breaks to munch on the abundant blueberries. The views toward our destination under Atwell Peak appeared and we soon saw a couple more bikes coming down. After a quick chat we learned they had ridden their fat-tired bikes all the way from Squamish to Elfin in 4.5 hours. Damn. I have to give biking to Elfin a try sometime!
Nearing the lake we started passing some of the students marching out after spending 4 nights at Elfin. Their packs looked huge on their small body frames. They were all friendly and cheerful but seemed glad to finally be heading home. One girl mentioned hiking to the saddle near the gargoyles (our route as well) in around 1.5 hours from the hut. We came across the rest of the students stretching and packing up their tents on the pads as we arrived at Elfin. I guess it has been some time since I had been there because I don't remember the food hang cables or tent pads. We stopped to peek in the hut and have some snacks on one of the tent pads as we took in the views.
On the road again... The hike to the saddle between the Gargoyles and Columnar is pretty straight forward, with a few loose steps here and there - and lots more blueberries. Yum. A trail-running couple flew by us like we were standing still and made the ascent to the saddle in no time. I envied them for a second and then realized at that speed they wouldn't be stopping for blueberries or even see them for that matter - more for us! Once at the saddle I thought about going up the gargoyles, but figured I would leave it for the way back if I had the energy. From the saddle it was a bit of a drop in elevation before the long ascent on talus to LDH.
Halfway to LDH we looked back and could see 2 people ascending The Gargoyles from the saddle. This is also about where the trail runners went flying by us once again, already on their way back from LDH. As we approached the ridge leading to our high point the views toward Sqamish opened up. Great views towards Sky Pilot from here... The Chief looked tiny. On the ridge I dropped some extra weight from my pack for the final push to the summit. The final ascent was fairly easy (a bit sketchier going down). The GPS read 17km distance once at the top, so this would be one of the longer day hikes either of us have done. While having a long lunch break up top and taking in the views of Atwell, glaciers, Opal Cone etc. we saw a solo hiker made his way up to us. Turns out he was one of the 2 we spotted ascending the Gargoyles. Apparently his friend had had enough after reaching the first gargoyle and went back to Elfin Lakes. They had biked in to the hut from the parking lot that morning. Man I wish I had a bike at the hut to ride back on. We finished our lunches, took a few more pictures and headed down. It was now around 2:30 having spent about an hour at the summit.
The way back to the saddle was basically just a beeline across the field of rocks/boulders.
The lighting was starting to change so we frequently stopped to take more photos of the same views we had on the way in. Once at the base of the ascent back to the saddle I picked up the pace as I was going to scoot up the Gargoyles on the way back. This went faster than I thought and in no time I was on the top. I made my way across the narrow ridge of jagged rock as far as one can go, passing a cairn along the way. A few more pictures here and I headed back. The way down to the saddle from the Gargoyles is the only sketchy part really as the slope is steep with loose sand and tiny pebbles. Back at the saddle again...
From the saddle it was basically hike, eat blueberries, fill up water at the lake and trudge back along the trail/road to the parking lot.
As it got closer to dark we passed many groups heading up to spend the night at Elfin. A couple told us they had just passed a mother bear with cubs near Red Heather shelter. We were both on alert as we passed that area, but saw nothing. One guy coming up was an old friend from way back that we hadn't seen in ages. Small world... if you're reading this, let's make plans for a hike sometime. The last 20 minutes to the car was very dark, but we were both too lazy to take out our lights. Got to the car at 8:15. A dark, busy drive back to Surrey with a stop for some food and that was that. Over 34km and 13 hours on the trail including breaks. I guess my knees passed the test.