From Helm To Rubble

September 1st – 3rd, 2018, Garibaldi Provincial Park

Total Distance:95 Km
Total Elevation Gain:2745 m

Making the most of the Labour Day weekend we planned a group hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park from Helm Creek to Rubble Creek, a 21 km stretch that would allow us to hike Garibaldi Lake, Panorama Ridge, and the Black Tusk.

Helm Creek Campsite, our home for the next two nights

Saturday morning found us bleary eyed in the parking lot of Park Royal waiting for our convoy to assemble to coordinate our arrivals at the Rubble Creek trailhead – our endpoint, where we parked one car – and the Helm Creek trailhead where we were starting and parking the remaining two cars. I was a little nervous about hiking as a group – I don’t do it often – and this was a large group of eight – Mandy, Patrik, Shauna, Natalie, Lachie, Rob, Keegan, and myself – with varying fitness, experience, and personalities. We spread out as we hiked, me trailing behind, enjoying a little solitude before the madness of the weekend truly began. I felt sluggish and the slow pace needed to keep my distance was comfortable, giving me time to pick wild blueberries until my fingers and lips were purple and distracting me from the trail’s steep switchbacks. Even though it felt longer it only took a couple hours to cover the 7 kms and 700 m’s of elevation to the Helm Creek Campsite, our home for the next two nights. We chose five tent pads next to the creek that were close together, and not too far from the bear boxes and bathrooms. Our little corner of the campsite becoming full of laughter as we pitched our tents and sat down for lunch, debating when we should set off for Black Tusk.

By 2:00 pm we were well on our way, Natalie having turned back before we reached the creek that cut through the black sand and junction. By 5:00 pm we’d climbed as far as we were going too, I stayed lower than the rest, content to sit in the evening sun slightly sheltered from the wind and watch some bear cubs play on the other side of the valley. Racing to retrace our steps as the sun set leaving us in the mountains chilled shadows, we jogged to keep warm and wondered where the hell camp was. It was after 8:00 pm when we reached camp, tired we hurried to cook dinner, warming hands on cups of tea before retreating into our tents, sleeping deeply and dreamlessly – well everyone but Mandy who woke up in the middle of the night panicking because she couldn’t breathe from overheating from too many layers and Patrik who then had to watch her sleep.

Panorama Ridge

Eating breakfast on my unreasonably large tent pad we took an easy morning, recovering from our accidental 30 km first day by playing games and stretching, dragging our feet slightly before hiking to Panorama Ridge. The day was hot with little shade as we headed once more along the trail to the junction where we had lunch before climbing up the ridge. The slippery rocky trail quickly forgotten as we stood in awe on the summit, views of Mt. Garibaldi and its glacier, Table Mountain, Whistler’s Suspension Bridge, and more mountains than have names were pointed out as we rotated, taking in the full 360-degree view. We ventured along the ridge, away from the crowd of other hikes, buffeted by the wind until we’d finished our exploring and headed back to camp. Dinner was a livelier affair, moods and energy rejuvenated, as we toasted wine and fireball, dancing and laughing late into the night – so, like, 10:00 pm.

Frozen Tents

The morning arrived draped in frost, our tents covered in frozen little pearls of dew. With the sun hiding behind the mountains and a minimum of 14kms to the car we shook the ice from our tents, jumping up and down waving them around like misshaped kites. After a little stalling we shouldered our packs, back on the trail to the junction for the fifth and thankfully last time, fueled by the talk of burgers and beers awaiting us in Squamish. I was feeling energized and happy, my feet eager to hike, as I forged ahead of the group for the first time all weekend, even stopping to sit and wait for them at the Taylor Meadows junction. The trail got busier as we neared Garibaldi lake, swarms of day hikers trying to get the perfect picture blocking our way as we looked for a place to have lunch, settling on some rocks near the dock. Stripping to their underwear I egged them on from the safety of the dock as they jumped into the milky glacial water, screaming as the cold water hit them and racing to get back out.

A True Champion

The group spaced back out on the hike out, Mandy running to catch Patrik and Rob because she was hangry – Patrik was carrying the last of their food, half a granola bar, that’s it, no lie, also, somehow she managed to overtake them and no one can figure out how – Shauna and Keegan in the middle and Natalie, Lachie, and I trailing behind. Natalie had been struggling a bit all weekend and unfortunately her car was one of the ones parked back at Helm Creek so the other drivers (Rob and Mandy/Patrik) had to wait for her before leaving to collect them. Halfway back to the parking lot I was beyond frustrated and grateful when Lachie offered for us to take Natalie’s pack so she could go ahead, it didn’t take much convincing and she set off with her poles, water bottle, and keys – she ended up passing off her poles to Shauna when she caught up to her – and managed to reach the parking lot not long after Mandy, Rob, and Patrik. Lachie and I carried the pack awkwardly between us for a while, before taking it in turns to carry both our own pack and Natalie’s. Moving faster we were surprised to turn a corner and find Shauna and Keegan trudging along like champs despite being sore and blistered, meeting my smiles with frowns as I skipped past. At this point Lachie was fading so I switched my pack to my front and shouldered Natalie’s pack, carrying both out the rest of the way. With nothing to do but wait we stripped off our shoes and sat, hiding in the shade and mentally picturing the burgers that would soon be ours.

Barrier Lookout