Round Mountain, Paul Ridge And Elfin Lakes

Staying in Squamish, British Columbia for a few days, Zosia Zgolak and I skied to Elfin Lakes via Paul Ridge in the southwest corner of Garibaldi Provincial Park on 4 January 2017.  The normal approach to the Diamond Head parking lot as described in BC Parks' website has changed slightly.  Although the Mamquam Road was still driveable in its entirety, we nevertheless passed a confusing "Road Closed" sign just east of the Squamish Valley Golf & Country Club.  After winding our way through some forest, we emerged from the supposedly closed section of road at a T-intersection with Village Drive near Quest University.  There was also another "Road Closed" sign at this end.  We were a bit puzzled by the signs, but it is possible that this section of the Mamquam Road may be decommissioned in the future with all the new development in the area.  About a kilometre or so before the Diamond Head parking lot, we passed a lower parking lot with a sign recommending the use of tire chains to continue further.  Although this last section of road climbs steeply, it had been recently plowed, and I had no problems driving all the way to the trailhead in my 2015 Honda CR-V with all-season tires.

As we geared up, Zosia realized that she had left her AT climbing skins back at our accommodations in Squamish.  Luckily, she had all of her light touring gear (with skins) in my car, and she did not look out of place using them for this trip.  The long but easy climb up the road to Red Heather shelter is mostly in forest, and there is little inspiration other than the thought of a long downhill ski run at the end of the day.  Past the shelter, the terrain begins to open up, and we followed marker wands up onto Paul Ridge.  We took a short detour to tag the summit of Round Mountain, the highest point of Paul Ridge, but this was a much more challenging endeavour than we were expecting.  The final slope was a little too steep to skin up, but we also had to contend with deep powder when we switched to boot-packing.  Thankfully, the climb to the top was short, and we fared much better when descending the same way.

After retrieving our skis, we enjoyed a gloriously scenic ski along Paul Ridge and gradually descended to a backcountry shelter at Elfin Lakes.  Along the way, we ran into a skier who was boot-packing all the way back to the trailhead because of a broken binding.  We could not help but feel his pain.  Although the shelter was deserted when we arrived, the wood stove was still burning, and we enjoyed having a warm place to eat a snack and dry out a bit of our gear.  While it would have been nice to linger at the cozy shelter, the day was getting late, and we still had a long ski out ahead of us.  Just as a couple of other backcountry skiers returned from a day of skiing on some nearby slopes, Zosia and I reluctantly left the shelter and began climbing back over Paul Ridge.  Once we passed Round Mountain, we removed our skins for the lengthy downhill run back to the trailhead.  Much of the open terrain above Red Heather shelter had already been skied out after a busy long weekend, but we still managed to find a few pockets of untracked powder.  The ski back down the road was fast, and we managed to get back to my car just a little after sunset.

On the drive out, I got a little lost taking the proper detour along Village Drive, but a quick check of Google maps on my phone helped to point me back to the main highway.  Hopefully, signage for the route between the highway and the trailhead will be improved here in the future.
Sure, it's mundane, but the fast ski back down is fun! The road to Red Heather Shelter is an easy ski.
Yeah, but who builds a fire for a 15-minute break? Red Heather shelter is well-stocked with firewood.
How can you tell that it's after a long weekend? The terrain opens up above Red Heather shelter.
I think the summit is this way...maybe...

Sonny goes off-trail to climb up Round Mountain (not visible here).

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

We'll be seeing Atwell a lot on this day...

Zosia follows old tracks en route to Round Mountain.  In the distance is Atwell Peak of the Garibaldi massif.


We ditched our skis right at the first tree beside the broken trail. The east side of Round Mountain's summit block is quite steep.
Hmm...maybe I should have kept my skis on... Sonny flounders in deep snow while trying to boot-pack up to the summit of Round Mountain.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

It took us a little over 3 hours to get here from the trailhead. Sonny and Zosia stand on the summit of Round Mountain (1643 metres), the highest point along Paul Ridge.

I think a boat is required to tackle Mount Sedgwick.

To the southwest, the prominent knob beyond Howe Sound is Mount Wrottesley.  At far right is Mount Sedgwick.


There is much to explore here!

To the west lies the heart of the Tantalus Range with the highest peak being Mount Tantalus (rightmost of the double peak right of centre).


Just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak!

Glaciated peaks stretch across the horizon to the northwest.


An amazingly complex and beautiful mountain. Atwell Peak is the second highest of three peaks that comprise the Garibaldi massif (Mount Garibaldi and Dalton Dome are not visible here).

Can you spot the Elfin Lakes ranger cabin?

Parapet Peak and Isosceles Peak are visible at far left while Pyramid Mountain and Spire Peaks are visible at far right in this view to the northeast.


Wham! Bam! Thank you, Mamquam! Mamquam Mountain is the most prominent peak to the east.
Oh, we're still going to Elfin Lakes?? Zosia continues along Paul Ridge after retrieving her skis.

You know we have to climb all the way back up here, right?

Zosia surveys the remainder of the gentle descent to Elfin Lakes along Paul Ridge.


See the moon? Zosia traverses a broad section of Paul Ridge with Mamquam Mountain in the background.
Fortunately, we had very little wind on this day. Sastrugi are evident all along the route.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Still a little further to go to reach the shelter...sigh.

Mount Garibaldi, the highest peak of the Garibaldi massif, is visible to the right of Atwell Peak as Zosia approaches the Elfin Lakes ranger cabin.


Birdie num num. A grey jay perches on top of one of the marker wands.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Oh sure, the rangers get the lakefront property!! Zosia skis past one of the Elfin Lakes.  At left is the ranger cabin.
Hallelujah! Elfin Lakes shelter is finally within sight.
Knock, knock... Zosia arrives at Elfin Lakes shelter.
Where's the big screen TV? The interior of Elfin Lakes shelter is quite spacious.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Seems like it's uphill both ways!

Zosia skis back along Paul Ridge with the Tantalus Range in the background.


 la prochaine, Garibaldi! Here is a last glimpse of the Garibaldi massif from Paul Ridge.
It's all downhill from here! Zosia strips off the climbing skins from her light touring skis.
Zosia has legs of steel to snowplow all the way down on her skinny skis! Zosia skis down the road as the last rays of sunshine dot the surrounding landscape.
The end of a most beautiful day. Twilight falls over Howe Sound.
One of the best ski tours...ever! Total Distance:  21.7 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  7 hours 32 minutes
Net Elevation Gain to Round Mountain:  669 metres
Total Elevation Gain:  1069 metres

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