Distance: ~15 km
Elevation gain: ~500 mView mapDownload GPS track
We'd been wanting to do this hike for quite some time, but had been discouraged by descriptions portraying the trail as unusually difficult. After hiking it, all I can say is that it is an actual trail. Not road-wide, not meticulously maintained, no foolish signs or garbage - just a trail - and a relatively easy to follow one at that with no real difficulties along the way.
In fact, the trail starts on old roads and follows these for about an hour, gaining elevation at a fairly gradual pace. It does thicken and you'll be brushing against small evergreen trees for quite a distance, but they're the soft and bushy kind rather than the spiky kind. If it's wet like it was today you'll get soaked through, so be sure to have rain gear if it's recently rained.
Eventually the trail narrows and steepens, winding it's way through really nice forest with unusually large trees. There is a fair amount of deadfall to climb over along the trail, but nothing difficult or crotch-killing. After about 2 hours, the trail emerges from the trees and ascends the relatively short headwall to the basins. Reaching the top you have two basins to explore and the routes are obvious and easy.
Unfortunately for us the weather was atrocious! Although Environment Canada was forecasting "sunny, high 17" it was cloudy and either spitting rain or snow, depending on the elevation. In the basins, it was snowing with gale force winds that bounced off the mountains, coming at us from all directions and making finding shelter next to impossible. When we eventually did find shelter to eat lunch, not even 4 layers of clothing, including toques, down vests, and windbreakers could keep us warm and we were forced to make a rapid retreat before fully exploring the basin to the left and missing the other basin entirely.
On the plus side, our retreat led us past a family of ptarmigan. They're so tame and camouflaged that I nearly stepped on the closest one before he moved, and upon closer inspection ended up finding 7 more! I have never seen so many in one spot before, and their camouflage was impressive. The basin was also full of pika's scurrying about gathering food in the snow, but I was lacking my telephoto lens and my fingers were too frozen to wait to get any decent shots. The sun did, of course, appear in brief bursts on the way out, just enough to warm us up.
All in all a great hike, and one that I'm definitely going to repeat in much better weather.
As always, the photos are far more spectacular full-screen. Use the mouse-over function "dim-the-lights" or use the slideshow button.