S2S = Sea to Sky Stein Traverse: Aug. 22-29, 2019 - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-29-2019, 06:26 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Burnaby (of course), , .
Posts: 208
Default 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!
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martin, guntis, sidetrip and 3 others like this.

Last edited by BurnabyRich; 09-29-2019 at 06:38 PM. Reason: Added photo captions.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 09-30-2019, 03:13 PM
Hittin' the Trails
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Great trip report and great photos!
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 09-30-2019, 08:28 PM
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Terrific post and photos!
Dad and daughter look fantastic togeter
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-30-2019, 10:32 PM
Headed for the Mountains
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Location: Langley, B.C, Canada.
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Congrats of the completion of the traverse. I have done it twice now both west to east and got off trail both times on the part you mentioned between Stein lake and Puppet lake. It really is the section that requires the most attention. Good call on reversing the direction as the alpine is beautiful and the views are outstanding along the ridge from Puppet to Iceburg lake. It's awesome to see you getting out there with your daughter I only wish my parents would have taken me on trips like this when I was young.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 10-01-2019, 04:57 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
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Location: Burnaby (of course), , .
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Thanks guys.

MikeW: Yeah, the east-to-west was a fortunate call given the weather. And also I had planned to spend an extra day in the Alpine but had we gone west-to-east we would have spent that day there and then possibly run out of time to get to Lytton on schedule. But I wouldn't mind a repeat visit but just doing a loop through the west half of the trip. The valley portion was nice, but I don't feel a desire to repeat it.

And yes, hiking with my kids has been very satisfying over the years. My parents only did day trips with us when we were young, but I wanted my kids to experience at least a few multi-day wilderness trips.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 10-02-2019, 02:56 AM
High on the Mountain Top
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Right on man! a very enjoyable read and some great photos in there. You'll remember this trip for sure!
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 10-03-2019, 01:01 AM
High on the Mountain Top
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Way to go! Big pack weights, I remember what that feels like. Ouch. Love that you did it with your daughter - I hope mine will want to hang out with me when she's that age!
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 10-03-2019, 05:17 PM
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Awesome stuff. I hope to do the Stein Traverse in the next few years. Pack weight is a personal thing, but I know I would have a significantly less enjoyable time and go much slower carrying almost half of my body weight on trail! For the other side of the spectrum, I recommend looking on the R/ultralight subreddit which really shows how much you can comfortably reduce your pack weight.

First time I did the howe sound crest trail I carried a 45 pound backpack and made it to Magnesia Meadows absolutely dead. Few years after this I did the West Coast Trail in 7 days with a 30 pound pack including food. This year my Howe Sound Crest Trail pack was 14 pounds including all of my food, personal tent, and an amenity I needed. I was able to go twice as far, and felt much better the next day. You can choose to go the expensive way, or just get stuff off AliExpress for cheap! Worth a thought at least
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 10-03-2019, 07:39 PM
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Light packing is skill. One of best advices I heard was "Put down on the floor everything you plan on taking. Then examine every item & ask yourself 'do I really need that'". Then it is question of ultra-light gear. Today one can find 1-person tents ~1kg. It is costly, but worthy investment if you do long backpacks on regular basis. But if you just do HSCT 1-2 nights every year than anything works really.

Biggest issue for me is food, because you have to eat & I don't like these dehydrated meals. Besides price, it is not practical; I am not going to stop in the middle of day on trail to boil water etc; and in the evening in camp I don't need/want big meal.

Rest is just luxury. Backpack is not backpack without photos. But pocket camera or even phones solve that today. So if I am going to take SLR which is bulky and heavy it is non-essential. Same with beer (LOL). Everyone has their own luxury items & knows price they are willing to pay for it.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 10-04-2019, 02:07 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
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Location: Burnaby (of course), , .
Posts: 208

Guntis: If you take your daughter out into the mountains regularly over time, I'm sure she will go with you on a bigger trip when she's old enough...even if she's not too keen on it at first. I had to finesse things a bit to make it happen. Like with my son a few years ago, I pushed the idea of the trip and built it up by talking about it a lot. She was interested but not overly enthusiastic - she was a bit worried about the effort and discomfort involved. I tried to find the best weather window at the end of summer for minimal insects, and then made sure we packed for more comfortable camping. Fortunately it worked. In the end she was very glad she went despite the struggles along the way.

russellcoffin: Good points about pack weight. I have read a fair amount on the internet about how to reduce weight. Some good ideas there, but most of it I'm not willing to implement as I don't want to sacrifice certain comforts. Spartan camping wouldn't endear my daughter to multi-day trips and I don't care for it either. For example a three-man tent for two people is a few extra lbs, but makes a huge difference in sleeping comfort for tall people as well as for gear management (keeping packs and boots inside to save them from rodents). Also, I packed more stove fuel than we needed, but having run out one time on the Bowron Lakes, I now take a bit extra to be conservative. But there are definitely a few things I could have dropped or lightened up, which are on the list for next time.

zeljok: Yes, light packing is a skill, but I prefer to call it "right packing"....to personal preference, balancing comfort vs. weight. I actually quite like Mountain House dehydrated dinners at the end of the day. Expensive, but light, calorie-dense, easy to prepare, and no dishes to clean except a spoon. Again, though, personal preference. But no trip is complete without a few small luxuries: 2-oz bottles of Crown Royal and Baileys were totally unnecessary, but totally worth it on the 6th night!
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 10-08-2019, 07:16 PM
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I missed this one. Great pictures, thanks for the writeup!
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 10-09-2019, 07:17 AM
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outstanding thanks for posting
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 10-15-2019, 02:58 PM
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A trip to remember! Looks like a great time.
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