My first trip report in here, I usually post on on the bagger challenge group in FB but I got all the beta for this trip on this forum so I feel this should be in here. I didn't take many pictures but lots of short videos so I will put them on FB group where I know how to upload them and link to this report afterward.
Indian Arm Trail
This was the run that I had been looking forward to do during all those rainy days in June, since last year I*run the west side of the trail and down to the FSR to Squamish I had been daydreaming of doing the east side too on the same day. Last year, was in the back of my head if I went fast enough maybe...but my inability to find the trail down from Dickens prevented it plus I dont think I had the trail as well prepared as this year.
The initial plan was to start at 3am from Seymour but I was quite nervous about not making it and definitely*I didn't want to spend an unplanned night out (feeling bad enough about leaving the little one for a full day)or come short and have to "bail" to Squamish so I changed my mind last minute and decided to start earlier, which proved to be a mistake for several reasons.
Left my bed at midnight and started running in complete darkness 1ish, I know that trail really well and it's very straight forward until Rector so having a couple of Petzl Battery packs felt like enough safety net to go for it, not much to say really I have an overly lengthy description on the trip report from last year so about the same but this time felt just like a preamble so just focusing on not screwing up more than anything. In a boulder field I banged up my ankle pretty hard, nothing serious, I didnt even stop to check. A broken sock, a small scar to remember the day and a bit of blood but it is quite swollen now, probably not cleaning it for 19h didnt help, despite having with me a first aid kit I didnt realize that the cut was deep until I got home. Also, my bad choice of shoes meant lots of sliding and falling on my butt on anything bushy downhill (that description was half the next 20h anyhow). It had rain a bit on Friday afternoon and with the morning dew, everything was soaked. Huge thanks to the group of peak baggers that cleared the trail down to Vicar lakes because I remember that being a nightmare and now is very clear, even on the ridge the sheer volume of Peak baggers has open a nice footpath for most of the way plus the recent flagging made it pretty cruisy even in the dark.
The daylight started as I poked out of the forest just before Bishop and up I went, I didn't bother with Bishop (or any of the previous summits really), skirted the west slope of Deacon, so missed the bag for 40m or so but again a kind of down to business morning. Presbyter continues to be my favorite summit of the North Shore...the views are just insane, plus you can see everything from there.
The descent trail to Fanning lake felt much easier than last year, no route finding issues and Fanning lake as beautiful as always this time covered with an early morning fog on it, again walked in the lake to cross it (no swim this time but got plenty of swimming done anyway)and up Dickens without issue.
Here started the new territory, now with the new beta it was easy to find the downhill trail. In the map looks like right after the summit but in reality its a small bump or two past it. There are three flags marking the place where to start going down. The trail is perfectly flagged, spare flagging*at the top but enough to ensure you are more or less going the right direction (which is straight down) and towards the middle where it is bushy and meanders more lots of flagging showing the right route down, the flagging stops at about 350m of elevation (or my ability to follow it anyway) when the terrain gets a bit steeper on a dry creekbed*that will join the Wigam*Creek, I traversed left and continue going down with a flag here and there but choose your own adventure type thing, when things started to get bushier traversed south and got to the Wigam creek, completely dry until Indian Arm (higher up there was water). At some point coming down I heard voices and started yelling, such a happy treat to find people in such remote areas especially when they are familiar faces! Sure enough, a selection of the best and brightest from peak bagger group split into two groups! (Steve I did my best to stall Tim on his way up, hope it worked :P ). Also I was thinking probably Darien would be the youngest person to set their feet at the summit of Dickens! No whiskey though or there are exceptions in the backcountry I will need to check the rules of the peak bagger group again.
So there I was at the Indian Arm, and the reason my early start was a mistake: I had run slightly faster than expected combined with the fact that my initial timing for the start was to arrive to the Inidan*Arm in Low(ish) tide meant that I was spot on a high Tide. The plan of walking across it with short 20m swims across the delta was ruined and instead I was looking at a 700m swim across the Indian Arm. This was one of the highlights of the day and I couldn't stop laughing thinking about the situation. It was nearly impossible to go around the shoreline from the yacht club to get close to the river as the water arrived pretty much until the rocks and some thick bushes so I managed to get 100m north of the Yatch club*or so and surrendered to either crossing or waiting.* I had a backup plan, the ultimate weapon: a 5.99 pool floatie from Candian Tire! I started deploying with care, I mean, 5.99 only gets you so far in terms of durability and there were bushes everywhere. As I did that a group of seals came to check what the hell I was doing, I assume people sometimes feed them from the yacht club or something. Everything in the dry sack inside the running pack and there I go underwear and goretex shoes(they didn't fit on the pack meaning that I couldn't use my legs to kick at risk of losing them and having to go barefoot to Squamish) as my only attire. The water was pretty cold but with half my body off the water it was enjoyable enough, the seals were coming to check me out diving underneath... I didn't enjoy that on the least. I have scuba dive and swim with seals before and I know how playful they are and a little nibble on the floatie and the situation would turn upside down. To be clear, I have done 5k open water swims so I was not at high risk here, but I was carrying a heavy backpack and shoes and didnt want to have to ditch any of them (if I did there was plenty of people from Squamish in the Indian Arm as the road seems completely redone, but again would ruin my plan and a few hundred bucks in gear). The swim was amazing and the perfect refreshment for a hot day! Big smile thinking about the sight of someone launching on that precarious "yacht" to cross the Indian Arm in underwear and shoes. I got to to the split, where a couple was camping ( I aimed there instead of the peer directly east of the yacht club just in case the current was strong to at least hit on of the peers, but there was none). The couple camping there were the nicest people on earth, shocked by what was happening, initially thought I was a child getting adrift from the yacht club, then a crazy surfer and finally a deranged murderer with very weird M.O., I guess after a couple of words noticed that I was only a danger to myself and offered me food and water and a towel to dry. I was quite cold after a good 15min of swimming so gladly accepted the towel and some water to refill. After 20min of chilling on the sun and chatting I gave them my floatie ( a present but mostly to avoid carrying half a kilo for the rest of the day) and moved on. The trail on to Granite falls is full-on runnable with a private campground around, so pretty easy until there.
Here I completely ignored the Indian Arm trail route as shown on online maps from Openstreet (I think GPX from the east side traverse done in 2010 and described in Clubtread) or the original Don Macpherson route that followed a now overgrown decommissioned*logging road. Instead of bushwacking, I climbed a series of STUNNING waterfalls, toboggans,waterholes... I cannot wait to go back there, and camp by the Indian Arm and have fun on it! I think this was the second highlight of my day...its just such a beautiful place! I kept following the Grand Creek as it joins the openstreet route higher up, but again instead of going up (south) a small stream I took the bigger one before. I saw photos from their trip report and seemed quite bushy whereas this one was quite open. I followed the stream up for awhile but the rock there sucked, on granite falls was all clean grippy granite, but here it was all mossy and slippery so eventually jumped on the forest left of the creek(north) and went straight up to the 500m old logging road crossing.
Here I filled the 2l blader*(last time I did on the day) and picked up the flagging and Indian Arm tree markers, the flagging is perfect here as well! I would say is even better marked than the North shore (west)side of the trail. Then came up to the clearing at 700m where another old logging road would've been (pufff long gone for sure) and I went on. The peak bagger group mentioned that Ian and Nate were attempting the trail from the Eastside as well so I was paying attention to hopefully see them, again when you are running alone in remote places feels such a relief knowing that there are people around. I had never met them in person but I had followed their adventures online so was really looking forward to meeting them so blew the whistle a few times that I thought I heard voices (my backpack rubbing on my back) but at some point above 700m and bellow the first summit we came head-on following the trail. They were looking strong! We shared some beta on what we had to look forward for the rest of the day. They would follow the trail to Vicar Lakes and then down to the damn and back home, which it's insane! They were not going all the way to Seymour but...going East to West meant also that they started at Bunzen lake at a mere 150m and not at 1000m as I did, plus checking their run, they didn't*stash a bike either just in case the run was too short! I mean those guys are just insanely strong!! Maybe one day I can keep up with such endurance machines! I think every interaction I had that day be it the peak bagger groups, the campers or Ian and Nate were such a highlight, I think when running in busy trails you forget how cool is seeing other people and just stopping to say hi to people that you dont know but you obviously share a hobby and a passion for nature. I was thinking during this run that as much as I like running solo, I love the feeling of being alone, feeling small in big landscapes and vulnerable to nature and knowing that any mistake has consequences so you need to keep focus not just follow your partner's footsteps, I will try running with people as missing a bit of the social aspect of it.
After a quick break to chat with them continued up. At some point, you leave the forest and start the subalpine territory which would follow me until the end, heather a few blueberries and other bushes, nothing crazy and more importantly no Devil's Cub. I reached Goat oasis pondering if refilling the water but meh I had still a lot on the 2l bladder and I would have more chances to drink from puddles if need be. The north side of that range is amazing, as well as the fall on the north side to the Grand Creek. It is never scary or too close to the edge but gives the perfect sense of grandeur. I wonder what the tallest peak of that ridge is (the Eagle ridge continues north from where you join it at 1300m) as it gets more alpine and rugged but still looks hikable/scrambable a bit of a mini Habrich dome thing but no time to explore today so gained the ridge and 90degree turn south. The trail and flagging follow more or less the ridge with a few detours left or right of bluffs again everything is perfectly flagged on the key spots so no issues. That said I was really tired by then and rather than following the easier path of less resistance, I found myself bushwacking waist deep just to find a flag and a better way 5m from me. Also, a few times started to think damn I haven't seen a flag in 10 min...I am doing this wrong? to discover that I was literally standing arm's length to one. I guess mental exhaustion was more of an issue than the physical one.
That east side of the trail I think all and all is less bushy and less steep than for example the Needles/Coliseum connector and better flagged, however much longer and with better views. This trail deserves more attention as the views of both Indian Arm/Coquitlam Lake are breathtaking and even without much usage the trail is so intuitive and mostly a succession of gametrails/waterways that even if not done in 10y is still in great shape. Amazing trail-building. Some ropes are...well not in great shape but they are always an aid and never something that you are climbing full-on trusting your life, so never felt like an issue.
I was so happy that I could see my place from parts of the ridge, it will make my morning commute for quite some time looking up and remembering that I was there. I looked back at some point and saw the Indian Arm in low tide, exactly how I expected it to be, and started laughing by myself again, well hopefully Ian and Nate got it on better conditions.
Surprisingly on the Indian Arm and much of the East ridge I had cell phone reception so I told my wife about the progress and as I was getting closer the initial plan to take the bus and skytrain transformed into if arriving before 8pm (Dafne's bed time and when they lock the gate in Bunzen) then she could pick me up. I had been going pretty slow on the East ridge, basically, since meeting Ian and Nate and learning on the conditions of the rest I knew I would finish with daylight without issue and with having to tie my shoes every 20min no speed record*was going to be broken so slowed down to take in the views.
Once my wife told me she could pick me up that changed and went back into running/fast hiking mode aiming to arrive before 7.45 to the car park and save myself 1h of public transit. Once the downhill trail was finished and the logging road* came in I realized that would be tight to make the pick up time so put some punk rock loud on the phone ( I know its poor trail etiquette but the park was closing so I knew wouldn't encounter anyone) and run the fastest I could on that logging road back to the parking lot. My brain agility must have sucked cause arrived a bit past* 7.30 to the parking lot, thought of going to take a picture of the lake and maybe one last dip but...instead just collapsed on the grass on the side of the road waiting for my partner.
All and all an amazing day out, and in time to put the little one to bed. My wife drove the entire way to Burnaby with all the windows open and wondered if I would've been aloud in public transit in those conditions.
I think the trail it's an amazing adventure: a strenuous*one day point to point but would be a more reasonable fastpacking 2 day trip with the best campground in the lower mainland in the Indian Arm stuary or even better a very civilized two/three day trip for a bigger group travelling light on the first day and using the water taxi to bring the overnight gear/suplies, use the ferry to cross, do some proper camping a night or two at the stuary and then pack out and finish in Bunzen. I am quite excited about exploring this area in more detail and will definitely repeat next year as an overnighter to play around the Waterfalls or north end of the ridge.
A few personal notes:
Too much food and gear, I was a bit nervous about the reputation of this trail so I carried way too much food, I barely ate half of the gummies/salted peanuts I carried and none of the 4 gels and two bars...Also I carried a power bank with cables, a cheap heavy one, just in case I needed to recharge the phone/watch/headlamp. That is a full-on 1kg with no purpose, sure last year I could've*used it, but now with a new phone it would definitely last more than a day in power saving no matter what and my new watch lasts over 24h of recording so...1kg of waist.
Start time too early, messed up the tides and finished the run at 7.30ish. I mean its great to finish early but its better to finish on time.* Starting*at 3am would've meant running faster the first half, hitting the tide at the right time to avoid shenanigans and still*get to the junction with the Dilly Dally trail with light anyway. Again the reputation of the trail made me change plans last minute to play it safe instead of trusting the times I thought I could do.
Shoes... I cannot complain enough about my choice! The shoes per se are great my choice terrible. I have destroyed pretty much a pair of runners per adventure run, so I thought enough is enough I am going with my trusty 5y old "light" hiking shoes. They are light enough to run ok they are super durable so ok whatever... not really! they are still twice the weight of normal runners and over X elevation you start hating them. Also being 5y with 100s of km means no tread on the sole so I was falling a few times when stepping on wet bushes and worse than all the rest combined... the goddam rounded too long shoelaces! They kept coming off, at least every hour on the second half of the day. Ok I just googled it and apparently rounded shoe laces require a different lacing technique and I am just an idiot but still so frustrated and was missing my VT2 with the pocket for the laces that NEVER becomes undone. Did I mention that these are Goretex*shoes? In a hot summer day, crossing Fanning lake and the Indian arm I mean basically the exact circumstances in which you don't want Goretex: to ensure your feet are warm and soggy all day. However no blisters and the shoes continue looking like new 5y after, so extra kudos for Salomon.
Water: I carried the 2l bladder from the running best and a 400ml plastic water bottle to attach to the straw(empty the whole day). I think I filled and drank the 400ml bottle in Fanning Lake to save the good water that I had filled on the way down from Presbyter in case no water until Wigam Inn but mostly just filled the 2l whenever saw good drinkable running water and that was more than enough. From the 500m elev on the East side when I left the creek I think I didn't refill*nor was too thirsty until Bunzen. Although today I just heard back from a friend that had a bad time doing the Capilano to Cathedral route due to lack of water for which I feel terrible, I usually carry potabilizing tablets and a filtering straw so if need be I drink from puddles without much hesitation so if I say there was water I mean water not necessarily drinking water. Although in this trip I never resorted to puddle drinking.
Candian tire floatie: The best emergency gear I have ever carried and I actually used it. Also could be slashed and turned into a poncho or do Han Solo in the Empire Strikes back and use it as a bivy sac... just saying most fun anyone has had for 6 dollars and a few 100grams,1 of 10 essentials?
Route selection: All the deviations from the original route felt amazing! Going down from Dickens is way nicer and shorter than the original way down the bear claw and having to run down the FSR, seems to me like a big detour to avoid getting a bit wet. Plus I should say that I have read that the land north of Dickens is now private property that belongs to First Nations. Last year I went through that because I couldn't find any other way down, and would do the same if lost, safety first, but not feeling very comfortable about that when there is a nice flagged way that keeps the run within the boundaries of the provincial park (other than when you are at Fannin Lake). Going up the waterfall was one of my highlights so would for sure repeat it and taking the first creek up was ok and in line with the terrain before and after. I notice that Ian and Nate didn't follow the waterfalls or that creek down, maybe they found a nicer trail there plus I think maybe going up its nicer than going down to the edge of the waterfalls and trying to figure out a way down so probably made sense in their direction.
Either way very happy with the day!
PS: Pictures uploaded in the FB group of peak bagger and strava link for maps/gpx if anyone wants to give it ago: https://www.strava.com/activities/3835945595