East Elk Pass

On 4 March 2023, Ali Shariat, Zosia Zgolak and I skied to Elk Lakes Cabin in British Columbia's Elk Lakes Provincial Park via the trail network in Alberta's Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  While Zosia and I had already done this ski tour a couple of times before, this would be Ali's first visit to the cabin.  The main impetus for this trip was to visit some friends staying at the cabin over the weekend, but on the way there, we made a lengthy detour to seldom-visited East Elk Pass which has long been on Zosia's mind.

Starting from the Elk Pass trailhead in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Ali, Zosia and I skied the signed and track-set trail to Elk Pass without any serious issues.  With the exception of our friends at Elk Lakes Cabin, we would not see another soul throughout our trip.  From the three-way junction with Hydroline trail, we descended Tyrwhitt trail for about 800 metres to where it crosses the Boulton Creek drainage.  We left the track-set trail here and headed southeast following the path of least resistance along the drainage.  Although the terrain is generally flat here, the deep snow warranted the use of climbing skins, and both Ali and Zosia did a heroic job of breaking trail while I only helped in pointing them in the right direction.  Upon reaching the open flats of East Elk Pass, we visited a man-made snow couch and wind-break located near the edge of the forest to the east.  From there, we turned westward with intentions of ascending an unnamed hill to the southwest.

Ali, Zosia and I discovered an outfitters' hut hidden in the forest on the west side of East Elk Pass, and shortly after, we stumbled onto a cut line marking the provincial boundary.  The cut line provided a convenient route to gain the north end of the unnamed hill, and we followed it to where it makes an abrupt turn to the northwest.  At this point, we left the cut line and headed due south through forest until we reached what seemed to be the high point of the unnamed hill according to my GPS map.  Since no one else is likely to ever bother going there, Zosia and I decided to dub this "East Elk Pass Hill".  With the nebulous high point covered in trees, we found no reason to linger and simply returned to where we left the boundary cut line.  We then continued northwest along the boundary cut line for about 500 metres before abandoning it to descend moderately-angled slopes to the west.  Considering that we were using light touring gear, the ski through the forest here was actually not bad, and we eventually popped out onto the main trail from Elk Pass without much grief.  While Zosia had already removed her climbing skins back at the high point, Ali and I had opted to keep ours on for better control while descending the cut line and forested slopes.  Now that we were back on a packed trail, Ali and I finally removed our skins for good, and the three of us skied the rest of the way to Elk Lakes Cabin without any trouble.

After spending about ninety minutes eating lunch and socializing with our friends inside the comfortably warm Elk Lakes Cabin, Ali, Zosia and I reluctantly departed for our return trip.  The climb back to Elk Pass along the main trail was long but not difficult.  Our grip wax worked very well, and there was no need to reattach our climbing skins.  Upon reaching Elk Pass, we agreed that the more direct Hydroline trail would be a bore to ski, and we opted to return to the trailhead the same way we came.  We had no problems and arrived at the parking lot less than 2.5 hours after leaving Elk Lakes Cabin.
Beautiful but chilly morning! Mount Fox looks brilliant in the morning sun as Ali and Zosia reach the junction between Patterson and Elk Pass trails.
Took us 1.5 hours to get here from the trailhead.

Ali and Zosia arrive at Elk Pass.

Not the "most difficult" part of this trip!

After leaving Elk Pass, Ali descends along Tyrwhitt trail.

Looks more like we're going downstream than upstream! Abandoning Tyrwhitt trail, Zosia and Ali break trail along Boulton Creek drainage.
Guess how deep the snow is here...

Zosia and Ali stop to put climbing skins on their skis.

Hard to believe we're still going uphill here! The terrain along Boulton Creek drainage looks mostly flat but is in fact rising very gently toward East Elk Pass.
It took us 1.5 hours to travel less than 2 kilometres to the pass after leaving Tyrwhitt trail!

Ali and Zosia arrive at East Elk Pass.

Boy, somebody had a lot of time on their hands to build these things! Zosia and Ali check out a man-made snow couch and wind-break near the pass.

Need good weather to make it worthwhile to come here.

Here is a more comprehensive view of East Elk Pass with the Elk Range in the background.


Looks more like a storage shed...

An outfitters' hut is hidden in the forest on the west side of East Elk Pass.

Looking pretty badass, Ali!

Somehow, Ali is suddenly sporting a Fu Manchu moustache!

How convenient! This cut line is the provincial boundary between British Columbia (left) and Alberta (right).
Maybe a first ascent? Ali, Zosia and Sonny stand on presumably the high point of "East Elk Pass Hill" (2046 metres).
Kind of a cool place to visit despite the lack of views. The provincial boundary makes an abrupt turn at this half-chewed sign.
This was actually kinda fun! After abandoning the provincial boundary cut line, Zosia and Ali descend through moderately thick forest.
Cruisin' time! Zosia and Ali regain the main trail to Elk Lakes Cabin.
Zosia and I didn't remember this part being so open and scenic the last time we were here. The slope to the right seems to have been logged within the last few years.

Best view of the day.

Zosia enjoys the scenic views resulting from logging along this section of trail.


A mother is missing in this photo. Elk Lakes Cabin is fully booked for the weekend.
It took us 1:22 to ski 4.7 kilometres with 230 metres elevation gain from the cabin to the pass. Zosia makes the long climb back up to Elk Pass on the way out.
A very full and satisfying day of ski touring. Total Distance:  26.6 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  9 hours 48 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  613 metres

GPX Data