One of the best options for alpine camping nearish to Vancouver is Semaphore Lakes above the Pemberton Valley. Taking the dirt road to Gold Bridge, the trail head can be found near the summit of the pass on the left side of the road after driving up from the valley. An hour hike puts you in the alpine and completes most of the elevation gain with a further 30 minutes to the first of many good tent sites. Small but scenic salamander filled ponds sit in full view of glacier packed peaks and waterfalls.
The short distance to the camp site meant that we were much more willing to carry the luxuries of booze, wine, fresh pasta and camping chairs. There was also plenty of dead wood for camp fires. We enjoyed home made pesto with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and grated pecorino pepato for dinner washed down with red and white wine, beer and some choice tequila brought back from Mexico.
The peak of Locomotive Mountain is only a further 2 hours down the trail and features scrambling beside glaciers and scenic views of Pemberton valley.
The late summer and early fall are south west BC’s premier alpine hiking season. This year marked our fourth attempt and first successful summiting of Cypress peak near Whistler. Not to be confused with Cypress Provincial Park on the Vancouver’s north shore, Cypress Peak is located across the highway from Garibaldi Provincial Park not far from Black Tusk.
I’d recommend using four-wheel drive to prevent a long logging road approach to the trailhead. The trail first descends into a creek which soon opens up into alpine meadows and scree slopes. If the water is high, it can be tricky finding a point to cross the creek so the hike is best attempted after a dry period.
We sourced the hike description from Matt Gunn’s excellent guide Scrambles in Southwest BC and the route finding right away set’s Cypress apart from less technical hikes. After the creek crossing, it’s best to follow a series of cairns to the right (looking up) of the scree slope. The soil and rock is some of the loosest we’ve come across so it’s avoid being directly beneath another hiker. There’s no real trail so it shouldn’t make much difference. Falling while stepping on loose rock or setting rocks rolling down the steep slope definitely tested the limits of our mental fortitude.
In late July, the scree slope was in full bloom with wild flowers.
The scree slope eventually opened up to a basin with a stunning glacier and a view of the peak.
We zig-zagged up the right of the glacier to a saddle and then proceeded south along the ridge to the summit approach which involved a slightly exposed step to the right of the ridge that we all enjoyed scrambling up.
We passed a lone ptarmigan on the last few metres to the summit where we were rewarded by dramatic views of the coast mountains.
During the drive back to the highway, you pass by Secret Lake which has exellent swimming. We were too knackered to bother with the short hike to the beach but did once skip the hike altogether on a hot day for a swim and picnic at the lake.
Definitely one of the best scrambles we’ve done in the area with most of the hiking done in the alpine, scenic glaciers, some exposure to keep things exciting and epic views!