Everyone goes to the Rae Glacier to ski before Hwy. 40 closes. So we were definitely the odd people out. “Oh, you don’t have skis!” said Nancy and Doug who passed us on the way up when we stopped for a mars bar. We explained that we like to mix it up a bit and wanted to see how the trail played out with snowshoes.
First comes the steep trog to Elbow Lake. (As usual, I can’t believe it’s only 1. 4 km to the lakeshore. It seems much longer.) Chasing the sun, we went round the west shore to Elbow Pass. Quite a few people had turned left here and gone down the valley to Desolation Flats. Staying in the sun. We returned along the east shore trail, cutting off left onto the Rae Glacier ascent trail which was well packed and obvious despite a mishmash of descending ski tracks. And on a late November afternoon totally in the shadow of the high ridge to the west.
The going was easy to the meadows which gave a breathtaking view of Elpoca and Tombstone mountains bathed in sunlight. Then came the descent into the creek bed where we met the up-slope wind. With sufficient snow covering the scree, we were able to make good time along the creek bed and up the right-hand track to the hanging valley, our calf muscles protesting a little in our haste to keep warm.
In the narrow valley below the glacier an avalanche had poured down the west slope and splayed across the valley floor. Nancy and Doug had bypassed it on the left slope and were slowly climbing the headwall, but there seemed little point in us following them as we weren’t going to get a good run down! And it was going to take us twice as long as the skiers to get back to the parking lot. So we turned around.
Actually, the descent went pretty fast, and as we descended the final hill of Elbow Lake trail, we agreed this is an excellent trail for snowshoers, both going up and coming down. There is an objective, views are great, the trails are enjoyable and well-packed. Have to be quick, though, because the road closes at midnight on the 30th. Distance about 7.2 km return . Height gain 381 m+ (1250 ft+).