Snowshoe to Rae Glacier

Rea Glacier Snowshoe

Rea Glacier from the lip of the hanging valley.

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+).


2 comments… add one
  • Gillean Daffern Nov 27, 2012, 8:55 pm

    Crossing that half log on snowshoes was interesting! Am leery about crossing lakes in October AND November before there has been a really big freeze-up. Especially on snowshoes.

  • thepassionatehiker Nov 27, 2012, 6:33 pm

    Agreed! It’s an awesome trip. I was up there on October 27. By great fortune, I found myself about an hour or so behind a large party of skiers headed for the glacier, so I hardly needed snowshoes – could have hiked up there! They flattened the route all the way from the car park. It is a sensational place to visit and an extra bonus to have Elbow Lake to relax by on the way in or out. I love standing on the FIRST bridge across the Elbow (a half-log). Even at that time (a month ago) the lake was frozen over and there was lots of snow up on the glacier trail.

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