Headed for the Mountains
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Burnaby (of course), , .
Stein Traverse: Aug. 22-29, 2019
Just a quick trip report on the Stein Traverse. My daughter (16) and I completed the full traverse from east to west over 8 days / 7 nights.
We took just over 1-lb of food per day per person, which amounted to just enough. Total pack weight including 2L of water each: 69-lbs for me; 39-lbs for Krystal. We could have packed lighter, but we didn't have much time to optimize before the trip, and we are not into spartan camping to save a little pack weight.
This was the longest wilderness trip yet for Krystal. She was worried about the challenge before we left and during the first few days, but she held up very well and after we were well underway, it was smooth sailing.
Day 1: Left the Lytton trailhead at 2:00PM. The trail was well-maintained although there was more elevation gain/loss than expected. Camped at the Suspension Bridge camp.
Day 2: Suspension Bridge Camp to Cottonwood Camp. We were surprised that such a well-know trail was so poorly maintained. Overgrowth, windfall, side-slopes, poor markers, etc. made for slow going. Cottonwood is a pleasant campground right beside a nice gravel bar on Cottonwood Creek.
Day 3: Cottonwood Camp to Avalanche Camp. We found the cable car had been decommissioned (not mentioned on the map) so we had to backtrack 400m to start the day to find the bridge. After that it was a long, tough day. Just under 20 km with a few hundred metres net elevation gain doesn't look bad on the map but the cumulative elevation and on-going poor trail conditions made for slow going. The campsite has nice views though.
Day 4: Avalanche Camp to Stein Lake Camp. A shorter day to regain energy felt just right. Somewhat better trail conditions as some trail clearing had recently taken place. We had gotten used to poor trail markings by now.
Day 5: Stein Lake Camp to Puppet Lake Camp. Bad trail markings just past the cable car had us nearly cliffed out as we scrambled up a steep gully above the canyon. Many had gone up that way before but after 50 m of steepening ledges and loose soil, it got too sketchy so we backtracked very awkwardly and dangerously until we figured out where the trail was. The markers were invisible from where we left the trail. It seems they were placed with west-east travel in mind rather than east-west. But with so many people obviously making the same mistake, you would think this would have been fixed by now. Oh well, this is the wilderness and we shouldn't expect too much. After that, the climb into the alpine came as advertised: relentlessly steep. Cool weather made it bearable. Beautiful ridge walking in bright sunshine before the descent to Puppet Lake.
Day 6: Puppet Lake Camp to Tundra Lake Camp. Not much distance covered on the map but the ascent back up from Puppet Lake, the ridge walk, scree traverse and descent to Tundra Lake took a good chunk of the day, so we set up camp early and enjoyed the spectacular views. Endless alpine scenery this day!
Day 7: Tundra Lake Camp to Arrowhead Lake: Another blue-blazer day in the alpine. Boulder hopping alongside brilliant blue Tundra Lake and above Caltha Lake required much energy. As did the ascent to Cherry Pip pass, but grand scenery all along the route had us stopping to take many photos.
Day 8: Arrowhead Lake to Lizzie Trailhead: Fast descent along the trail to Lizzie Cabin, then Lizzie Lake, and finally a long but easy downhill wall along the decommissioned logging road. My wife and son found us at the trailhead at just after 1:00PM.
Overall, the 90 km trail was more challenging than I expected. In 2016 my son and I hiked over double the distance in the same amount of time on the North Boundary Trail in Jasper, so I think I was going into this trip with somewhat optimistic expectations. I knew the Stein would be tougher per km, but I didn't think it would be less than half as fast. But after some doubts during the first few days, it was well worth the effort.
We had unsettled weather for the first four days in the valley, but the last four days above treeline were brilliantly sunny. I am glad I checked the weather forecast just before leaving, which led to the decision to go east to west rather than west to east as originally planned. Much better to have clouds and rain the valley than the alpine! Also, I am glad I added a "flex day" to the original 7-day itinerary! Pushing through in 7 days would have been very difficult for us.
1. Suspension Bridge Camp. Nice tent pads and cooking area. A bit of a walk to the river though.
2. Trail conditions in the valley were often rough, like this.
3. Cottonwood Camp.
4. Cottonwood Falls. Decommissioned cable car obscured in background.
5. Nice view down the valley from Avalanche Camp.
6. Lower cable car below Stein Lake.
7. Nice view eastward back down the valley.
8. Stein Lake Camp.
9. Big heavy cable car.
10. Instagram shot from ridge above Stein Lake.
11. High point on ridge just before descent to Puppet Lake.
12. Puppet Lake.
13. Looking west toward Tundra Lake.
14. Tundra Lake.
15. Tundra Lake camp on knoll near NE corner of the lake.
16. Tundra Lake camp pre-sunrise.
17. Tundra Lake.
18. Tundra Lake.
19. Caltha Lake. We traversed above the lake on boulder fields. Probably better to follow the main route to the Lake and then up.
20. Memory shot. Caltha Peak behind.
21. High point above Cherry Pip Pass.
22. Arrowhead campsite.
23. Sunset over mountains in Garibaldi Park from just outside the tent.
24. Arrowhead Lake.
25. On trail, last day, near Lizzie Cabin.
26. At Lizzie trailhead, finally!
Last edited by BurnabyRich; 09-29-2019 at 06:38 PM.
Reason: Added photo captions.