Ottomite Peak Snow Camp

I didn’t do much hiking in the Fall last year, but as soon as winter hit I’ve been out exploring in full force! I only did one snow camp last year and was really keen to try and fit 2 in this year. It’s always a challenge because I like to ski a lot too and the snow season is so short.

Fortunately, the weather aligned for us to make a trip out to the Coquihalla in early February. After a very snowy December, it’s been a pretty warm start to the year and all the local mountains were above zero degrees. The Coquihalla can get cold, but it reliably has snow, so it’s one of my favourite places to go in the winter. To date, we’ve been to Falls Lake and Zoa Peak.


It rained most of our drive up the Coquihalla, but it switched to snow just before we got to the Summit Rec Area, which was very lucky. I’d never even heard of Ottomite Peak, but Carolyn came across it somewhere and it’s a pretty low risk trail, so we decided to check it out. You park in the lot at the base of Yak Peak (across the road from the Needle Peak parking lot) where there is a really nice rest stop bathroom. The trail starts around the edge of the bathroom and runs slightly parallel the highway as you ascend up towards the peak.


I tracked just over 4km from the parking lot to Ottomite Peak. The trail is mostly in the trees and is all simple avalanche terrain until Ottomite. It’s also popular for ski touring and most of the skiers were continuing past Ottomite to Iago Peak. We considered it, but the trails goes into challenging terrain near Iago Peak and the avalanche risk was considerable in the alpine at the time, so we opted not to. There was a beaten track until the branch to Ottomite Peak, which has a really beautiful view and would also be great for camping.


The trail continued on towards Iago, but we had to break the trail to Ottomite Peak. It’s pretty rare to have to break trail in Southwest BC, the only other time I’ve done it was when we snow camped at Poland Lake last winter. It’s a lot more work, but fortunately it’s not too far to the peak of Ottomite Peak. Overall it took us about 2 hours from bottom to top. There’s a great view of the north mountains from Ottomite Peak, so we decided to camp at the top.


As usual, there were 4 of us on the trip, but Steve couldn’t make it, so our friend Marie accompanied Carolyn instead! Brandon and I shared his big 4 season orange tent as usual, and Carolyn experimented with her summer tent. She typically uses her 3 season MSR Elixir, but she has a non-freestanding 2p Durston tent that she wanted to try out. It took her a while to get it set up properly as it’s a bit tricky since it relies on using your hiking poles and tension to stand. But she managed to get a good pitch and said it worked fine for the night.


The weather was surprisingly nice on Saturday. We were expecting it to be overcast and snowy, but it cleared up a lot while we were hiking in and we actually got some blue sky and sun while we were setting up. Eventually the clouds moved back it, but we got some really lovely views from the peak, which we easily could have missed.


We built a nice big snow kitchen where we hung out for the better part of 4 hours while melting snow and preparing supper. Marie made hot lemon whisky and I made Kahlua hot chocolate bombs for happy hour and Brandon made our favourite thai chicken curry for supper. Then we had Marie’s apple crumble for dessert, so it was quite a spread! If you think me and Carolyn got off easy, I made lunch sandwiches and she made us homemade egg mcmuffins for breakfast!


The temperature was really hovering around zero, so it was one of our warmer snow camps and we were lucky it didn’t rain to be honest. We stayed up until around 8:30pm, which is pretty late for snow camping, before hitting the sack for a long night’s sleep. I slept pretty good early in the night, but then I was treated to the symphony of Brandon’s snores later in the night. The moon came up overnight and I enjoyed a beautiful view when I got up to pee, with the moonlight reflecting off the snow, it was super bright and I didn’t even need my headlamp.


Otherwise it was a low key morning and we packed up our gear and headed back to the parking lot. It was a lot faster hiking out and we stopped in Hope on the way back for the Blue Moose CafĂ©. Considering how little known this trail is – I really liked it! It is in avalanche terrain, but it’s pretty low risk terrain, so I think it’s good for beginners. I’d definitely like to go back some day and go all the way to Iago Peak, or maybe revisit in the summer, when you can hike several peaks back into the wilderness! Overall, another successful trip!


Elfin Lakes Trex Backpacking Trip

Am I really going to write yet another post about Elfin Lakes? My blog, my rules, so yes I am.

I always say that the Skyline II Trail in Manning Park is my favourite hike, but I might have to eventually cede the number one spot to Elfin Lakes because I never get tired of visiting. I’ve been in Autumn, I’ve been in Winter, I’ve backpacked to Opal Cone, I’ve backpacked to Mamquam Lake. It’s not even my first time going with Guide Girls. The first time I went with girl guides, I accompanied a group from the North Shore as a back-up guider. This time, I took my own troop for a one night trip in late September. But it’s always interesting no matter when you go because the weather makes it a different experience every time!


Both of my trips with girl guides took place on the last weekend in September, but the first trip dumped about 15cm of snow on us, while this trip was sunny and warm enough for shorts! Trex is a special ops unit in Guiding that only does outdoor adventure (as opposed to the full program). I’ve wanted a trex unit for years, so I finally started my own in New West last year and we focused on a backpacking series for our first year. We hiked to Viewpoint Beach in Golden Ears in June, 3 Brothers Mountain in Manning Park in August, and Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park in September to finish the series.

It was the longest distance they had done carrying their backpacks, but they did very well. It was pretty cloudy and chilly when we started, but we made good time going up towards the Red Heather Hut. We’d been warned of bears by the park rangers, so we made sure to be loud on the way up and didn’t see any, but some of the trex were really nervous about it.


We stopped for a nice hot lunch at the hut before continuing on to the lake. From there things got interesting. The trail branches when you leave the hut, with the mountain bike trail on top and the hiking trail below it. We immediately ran into a mama bear with cubs, but you’re probably not surprised to hear that bears are even more afraid of a noisy group of 10 girls than we were of it, so they quickly scampered. They were the only bears we saw on the way up, but we saw a lot more coming back down and I think our final bear count at the end of the weekend was 10 bears! Definitely a record for me. They weren’t interested in people at all though and were only interested in bulking up on the late season berries.


I love the hike from Red Heather Hut to Elfin Lakes. It’s so scenic as you traverse up and over the ridge. Trex enjoyed it too and they made really good time to the hut. The sleeping hut is still closed due to COVID, but there are 50 tent pads you can avail of instead. We set up our tents and had lots of time to relax and soak in the views. We had an earlier supper so that we could watch the sunset over the lake.

I don’t really plan any activities once we’ve arrived because it usually takes most of the day to get there, set up camp, and eat. But I decided to run a little workshop on star photography for anyone who was interested, which was everyone! I love the long days in the summer, but one of my favourite parts of the diminishing light is not having to stay up late to watch the stars. I lugged my tripod up and we went up on the hill overlooking the lake to try our luck. Fortunately it was a clear night and the moon was no where to be seen, so it was a great opportunity.


Very shortly after we started (I hadn’t even set up the tripod yet), trex started freaking out when a series of lights started flashing across the sky! They were even more concerned when I didn’t know what it was. It was super creepy and felt very end-of-days when you’re not expecting it. It was a series of lights that were moving in a perfectly straight line across the sky – they were all spaced equidistant and moving at the same pace. They did this for about 5 minutes before the last one finally disappeared. I made a guess that it was a satellite launch and another camper confirmed for us later that it was indeed Starlink! So our timing was excellent. We didn’t get any photos on the camera, but the girls were able to capture a few cell phone pictures of the phenomenon and it was quite a treat to see.


After that we settled into actual star photography and everyone got really into it for the better part of an hour. We did portraits of everyone with the starscape before turning in for the night. It was a completely clear morning and ended up being a very hot day, so we were driven out of our tents by the sun when it peaked over the mountains and illuminated the campsite. Staying at Elfin is a real treat because it’s definitely one of the most scenic campsites with the 360 degree view of the mountains.


We had a quick breakfast and packed up our campsites to head back the way we came. We made a slower pace as we came up to the hut because the whole area was crawling with bears and there were a lot of people. One cub had been scared up a tree, which made us nervous because we didn’t know where Mama was, but we passed through without any incident and had a hot lunch in Red Heather Hut before hiking back to the parking lot.

Everyone did really well on the trip, so we treated ourselves to ice cream at Alice & Brohm before heading back to town to conclude the trip. I think this trail lends itself well to a girl guide group because it’s a challenge, but not too hard, and it has lots of tent pads and an amazing view. I just have to work on convincing the girls to go back and stay again in the winter!


5 Simple Backcountry Breakfasts

I’m far from an expert on backcountry cuisine, but I’ve spent a lot of time backpacking and figuring out what works and doesn’t work (for me at least). I have lots of thoughts on meal planning and dehydrating, so I decided to do a series dedicated to food! I’ve already shared an introduction to dehydrating and I’ve been working on follow-up posts dedicated to meal planning for Breakfast, Lunch, and Supper, so stay tuned!

I’ve been muddling through online resources and recipes over the years, trying existing recipes, as well as creating my own. I’m not a fan of complicated recipes that require a lot of prep, nor am I fan of expensive freeze-dried meals. So I decided to share some of the ideas that work for me. Most of the time I like a quick breakfast that’s “just add water”, but sometimes if I have a bit more time to spare, I get a little bit more creative. Here’s my Go-To breakfasts:


1. Oatmeal with the fixin’s

I know, nothing revolutionary here. There’s a reason oatmeal is a classic – it’s quick, tasty, and timeless! I bring 2 instant oatmeal packets from home that are already flavoured and add my preferred fixin’s and hot water! Usually I just add some of my trail mix to my oatmeal because I’m a big fan of the melted chocolate, but sometimes I’ll also bring brown sugar or freeze dried berries or apple. If you’re looking to add more calories for energy intensive trips, add PB2 (peanut butter powder) or flax, chia, or hemp seeds. I mix it all into one ziploc baggie before the trip.

2. Sunrise Spuds

90% of the time when I’m backcountry camping I alternate between oatmeal and sunrise spuds every other day, but given the choice between the two, sunrise spuds are my favourite. Some people find this one a bit weird, but I learned it from Girl Guides and it’s always a huge hit at my camps, even in the frontcountry. Sunrise spuds is just instant mashed potatoes with fixin’s! Don’t buy the big box of instant mashed potato because it’s unflavoured and pretty tasteless (since it relies on adding butter), instead buy the single serving flavour packets from Idahoan. My favourites are butter and herb and four-cheese. The simplest is to add bacon bits, pepperoni sticks, and hard cheese or babybel to it, but sometimes I also bring sundried-tomatoes and dehydrated chives or parmesan if I’m feeling fancy.

3. Eggs and Hash

This is a tasty meal, but one that I’ll only do if I’m not in a rush. It consists of powdered eggs and dehydrated hash browns. I know a lot of people aren’t a fan of powdered eggs (myself included), but I find they’re much more palatable mixed with the hash browns. You can buy already dehydrated potato flakes from Costco that you just have to re-hydrate and fry. It helps to have a bit of oil for this recipe and then I add some spices (salt, pepper, paprika). It does take a while to fry the hash browns, so start with that and then add the powdered eggs towards the end. The key with powdered eggs is to mix them with water first and then cook. I usually add some bacon bits, sun-dried tomato, and/or cheese. Sometimes I even bring bacon jerky to complete the meal (though pepperoni sticks or Korean BBQ pork from Costco works well too)!

4. Apple Crisp

This is a recipe I really like, but I’ve struggled to master because it is best with freeze-dried apple. I can’t take credit for this recipe, I found it on Fresh Off The Grid, but I’ve made it several times and find it really yummy. Usually I make it as a dessert, but I also find it makes for a nice breakfast. It’s a very easy recipe as all you have to do is rehydrate and heat the apples with some spices and then add the topping, but the apples are the tricky part. Pending where you live, it might be easy to get freeze-dried apples, but I’ve struggled to find them for a reasonable price and resorted to trying to make my own last year (it took about 2 months in my freezer, so I don’t recommend). It can be made with dehydrated apple slices, but it really works best with freeze-dried as they rehydrate a lot better. Fortunately, Superstore recently started stocking freeze-dried apples, which saved me a lot of trouble!

5. PB&J

I often make PB&J’s for lunch, but they make a great breakfast too. The simplest way is to take one tortilla and those single packets of peanut butter and jam that you get from diners and breakfast restaurants. If you can’t find those, or you want something more lightweight, I’ve used dehydrated versions for both. PB2 doesn’t really taste like peanut butter when you rehydrate it, but it’s close enough that when you eat it on tortilla with jam it still tastes good (on it’s own it’s not that great). My secret for dehydrated jam is to crush up some dehydrated berries and add sugar. Both powders can be rehydrated with cold water, so it’s a really lightweight option for PB&J.