While in BC for a family wedding my father-in-law suggested that the 'boys' should go bag a peak somewhere. Well, since I'm a prolific peak bagger I couldn't resist this chance! At first the idea was to climb Golden Ears. Once I researched that scramble I realized that our group did not have the necessary experience or gear to attempt this objective. Dad suggested Elk Mountain, since he'd done it a few times with his high school students. After researching Elk, I realized that this could turn into a two peak day with Elk and Thurston and with Elk being mainly a hike and Thurston only an hour further along a ridge this sounded like the perfect objective for a half-day outing.
The morning dawned clear and cool. For parking / driving we followed directions I found on the web. This worked reasonably well, except we did not drive 2km after the paved road - it was much closer to 1km. We drove too far and ended up turning around before parking at an obvious pullout right alongside the road with 3 other vehicles.
The trail from the parking lot was wide and obvious. It gained height quickly through the cool forest. Even though the day was hot and sunny, the hiking was very comfortable due to the shade. Being from Alberta, I'm used to being in the hot sun, even in the forest! Our trees are so small on this side of the Divide that they don't block all the sun light!
[The gang sets off through the forest.]
[Just after crossing a logging road. The trail gets much steeper after this point.]
Trees are good for the hike, but I was slightly disappointed by them higher up. As we approached the summit the trail became a bit more scrambly which made some members of our hiking group a wee bit nervous. It was nothing more than very easy scrambling though and soon we were at the top of Elk Mountain with a great view of Mount Baker, McGuire, Tomihoi, Border Peaks and Slesse. The view to the north was blocked by trees - something that I'm not used to on a summit! In Alberta we spend at least half of the trip above tree line on 99% of our peaks. Our summits are almost all completely bare of any vegetation which grants us 360 degree panoramas. Guess I'm a little spoiled eh? ;-)
[Josh looks over at the always-impressive Mount Baker from a point on the trail where the hiking becomes a bit more of a scramble.]
[Josh and Serge negotiate the stairs that someone kindly built on the steep upper section of the hike.]
We also realized that Elk Mountain is a popular launching point for hang gliders. I'm not sure what's more impressive though. Leaping off a mountain into thin air or hiking up 800 vertical meters with a glider on your back?! After appreciating the views for a while, three of us decided to continue on to Mount Thurston while the remaining group members decided to hang out and then start slowly down.
[The wild flowers were amazing - and very prolific!]
[The group on the summit of Elk Mountain with Mount Baker in the background.]
[Summit panorama - from right to left we have Baker, McGuire, Tomihoi, Border Peaks and Slesse (R to L). ++]
[Grinding our way up the middle bump on the way to Mount Thurston.]
[A view towards Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley. ++]