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Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days
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Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 09/15/2010 12:07:59 MDT Print View

My wife and I spent 7 nights, 8 days traversing the length of the of the Stein watershed from Lytton, BC to Lilleot Lake.

Sept 6-13th, 2010.

Day 1 - Lytton Trailhead (0km) to Riverside Camp (14km)
We arrived at the trailhead at 1pm and hiked 14km (9 miles) of easy going to the 'Riverside Camp'.

At the trailhead with 25 lbs of food (40 lbs total) in my ULA Ohm:
Stein 1

The first 60km (37 miles) follows this river to Stein Lake: Stein 2

Using my BushBuddy Ultra:
Stein 3

MYOG Cuben Fly:Stein 4

Day 2 - Riverside Camp (14km) to Cotton Wood creek (30km)
Today was easy going for the first half and then we got to an area where there was a forest fire last summer. It looks easy in the pictures but there was a ton of fallen logs to crawl over/under which really slowed us down.

Forest Fire area:
Stein 5

Cottonwood Falls:
Stein 6

Day 3 - Cottonwood Creek (30km) to stealth camp @ 45km.
Today was really tough going with all the forest fire burn problems. There was huge shrub/weed growth making the trail tough to follow plus tons of trees down. Very slow going in areas especially just past LogJam camp for 3km where the trail was nearly impossible to find.

Having rehydrated chili that night:
Stein 7

Day 4 - stealth camp (45km) to Stein Lake at 60km.
Today we finally got out of the forest fire area and the trail was much better. We made it to Stein Lake early so I caught a few trout.

Cable car across the Stein:
Stein 8

Lookout back at where we've come from:
Stein 9

Stein Lake:
Stein 10

Small Rainbow Trout at Stein Lake.
Stein 11

Day 5 - Stein Lake (60km) to near Tundra Lake (67km)
Today was the start of the second alpine half of the trip. We climbed 4000 feet from Stein Lake to the alpine.

Stein Lake below:
Stein 12

Things got a lot colder up here with some flurries:
Stein 13

Myself taking in the view:
Stein 14

Our 'mountaineering' dog Asia:
Stein 15

Just before our goal of Tundra Lake we got chased off the ridge by high winds and rain. We descended 500 ft to this bowl below Tundra Peak:
Stein 15

Day 6 - near Tundra Lake (67km) to Caltha Lake (73km)
We got rain that night with some snow higher up. Thankfully the weather cleared by morning. We didn't cover a lot of distance today, but it was really slow going as we crossed some huge boulder fields.

Stein 16

We made it to Tundra Lake after an hour:
Stein 17

Looking back at Tundra Lake. It took a long time to hop all those boulders along the left shoreline:
Stein 18

Here was the biggest mistake of the trip. After high winds the previous night caused an worrying amount of tent deflection, I opted to camp in this low lying but sheltered area as the winds again seemed high but it didn't look like rain. I mis-estimated the amount of rain that would be need to cause problems.
Stein 19

Day 7 - Caltha Lake (73km) to Lizzie Cabin (81km)
I woke up in the night to "Dan the tent is collapsing" as a heavy 1" or so of slushy snow was apparently too much for the Fibraplex carbon poles. I knocked of the snow/slush and fell back asleep thinking we would be fine in this low lying area since it was snowing rather than raining.

A few hours later I awoke and realized I was actually floating on water on my NeoAir. I was impressed that my tent floor hadn't leaked because we were sitting in several inches of water. The bummer was that most of our clothes and our shoes were totally soaked being in the vestibules. Lesson learned!
Stein 20

We had to choose between moving the tent nearby and waiting out the snow/rain storm with mostly soaked clothing/gear, or hiking 8km with large elevation changes at 6500-7500 ft in the snow storm to Lizzie cabin. We opted to make a break for it.

6000 ft. Everything of mine was soaked so all I was wearing was soaked shoes, soaked socks, rain pants, soaked underwear, 1/2 soaked montbell down inner and a rain jkt. We had to keep hiking hard to stay warm.
Stein 21

7500 ft. We couldn't see the trail at all at this point with the snowfall so we were relying on spotting the cairns. On a few occasions I was worried I would have to rely on navigating by altimeter and compass in near white out conditions. Stein 22

After 3 hours we finally started descending down to the cabin.
Stein 23

Woohoo! We made it to the cabin which is open to the public. There was dry fire wood so we set about warming up and drying our gear:
Stein 24

Bannock & Chili for dinner:
Stein 25

Day 8 - Lizzie Cabin (81km) to Lilleot Lake FSR (97km)
Dry and feeling much better we set off on our last day for the exit.

'Shangri-La' boulder field:
Stein 26

After a few kms we came out to the old trail head at km 84. The 13 km logging road up to this trailhead washed out in 4 places 8 years ago so we still had to hike down this old logging road which was now not much more than a trail with all the new plant growth. Our goal is that lake way in the distance:
Stein 27

Crossing one of the Lizzie Creek washouts near the exit:
Stein 28

Edited by dandydan on 09/15/2010 12:15:01 MDT.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Stein Valley Traverse, BC 8 days on 09/15/2010 13:05:30 MDT Print View

Nice pictures Dan, It's looks cold up there in BC! When does the hiking season end in British Columbia?

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 09/15/2010 13:22:07 MDT Print View

Awesome pics. I HATE boulders.

The combination of rain, sleet and snow at temps just above and below freezing are the worst. If it was cold enough that just snow fell, you probably would have been just fine in that depression.

Re: hiking season. There has been an usual amount of snow in the higher elevations in BC and Alberta. Jasper at 5000ft currently has snow. The pic in my avatar was taken at 10,000 ft just about 3 weeks ago. 5 days prior there was zero snow.

wander lust
(sol)
thx for the trip report on 09/15/2010 13:25:05 MDT Print View

Hey Dan,

Thx for the nice trip report and the pictures. Seems like you had a good trip and experienced all the weather that the Stein Valley can drop on you during that time. Too bad that you got soaked.

How did you like the boulder fields around Tundra Lake? :)
I started to hate them last year, cause there are so many there.
Have you been able to see the magnificant and changing colors of that lake?

I have been just to Tundra Lake last year, hiking in from Lillooet Lake, we had to fall back due to the forest fire situation. This Summer is definitely quite different than last year. We had 6 hot and sunny days in the end of August.

Did you see any bears?

@Jay: September is usually nice, but weather can change fast here in the alpine and you can get all 4 season in one day or get heavy rain for hours, especially close to the coast. And it seems that fall is coming really early this year. The leaves are already starting to fall here in Vancouver. The guide book for the Stein Valley says that July till September is the perfect hiking season for the alpine areas.

Edited by sol on 09/15/2010 13:25:48 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Stein on 09/15/2010 19:09:14 MDT Print View

Yeah the hiking season really varies. On Vancouver Island along the low elevation coastal trails (ie. Juan de Fuca, Sunshine Coast Trail, West Coast Trail) you can hike them pretty late. I imagine you could do the JDF any time of the year but at a higher risk of storms blowing in. On YouTube there is a video of someone doing the WCT in Jan or Feb.

For higher elevation trails in the mtns the end is probably sept-ish but sometimes you get nice weather into mid-November here in the Whistler area. That gets risky though so you gotta be prepared for anything.

We only saw one bear. It was a nice sized black bear in the forest fire burn area. No grizzlies this time. We saw one by the suspension bridge in the spring.

Edited by dandydan on 09/15/2010 19:10:14 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
More Pics on 09/15/2010 19:25:45 MDT Print View

Here's a few more pics:

Tara and I in the forest fire burn area:
Stein 29

Cottonwood Falls:
Stein 30

Burnt old growth cedars:
Stein 31

'Logjam Camp':
Stein 32

For dessert one night we had brie heated up over the bushbuddy coals with brown sugar. Delicious!
Stein 33

One day I'll get better at taking these 'glowing tent' shots. I need a tripod:
Stein 34

The middle of nowhere:
Stein 35

Another trout. Too bad I only had 45 min or so to fish. The lake seemed loaded with trout. I caught 3 and had a few more get away. Stein 36

A rainbow 'all the way across the sky!':
Stein 37

On the first ridge above Stein Lake:
Stein 38

Same ridge:
Stein 39

Whoa!
Stein 40

Tundra lake is so awesome. Such a deep blue. I wish I had a few more days in the area to explore other places like Elton lake and 5000' meadows.
Stein 41

Our dog Asia warming up:
Stein 42

Drying everything in the cabin:
Stein 43

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 09/15/2010 19:32:43 MDT Print View

Just curious why you didn't have everything sans food inside your tent with you?

Philip Delvoie
(PhilipD) - MLife

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 09/15/2010 20:55:52 MDT Print View

Dan,

Great trip report. Looks like you and Tara had an amazing time. Quite the shocker I imagine going into day 7 with the weather and the wet kit...good call on pushing through to the cabin.

Nicholas Truax
(nicktruax) - F

Locale: Montanada
Re: Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 09/15/2010 21:09:34 MDT Print View

Thanks Dan, excellent trip report and pics!

brent driggers
(cadyak) - MLife

Locale: southwest georgia
thanks on 09/16/2010 07:16:28 MDT Print View

That looks like a great trip.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Re: Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 09/16/2010 11:55:16 MDT Print View

"Just curious why you didn't have everything sans food inside your tent with you?"

I should have had more stuff inside the tent with me. Some mistakes were definitely made here and I've been learning from and mulling over this situation to prevent it in the future. Maybe you have some suggestions?

Normally I would have had everything in the tent except for food, shoes and water/fuel bottles. I usually sleep with my pack and spare clothes under my feet.

In this case though, a lot of our stuff had gotten at least partially wet the previous evening when rain/snow chased us off that ridge to a hasty camp. That previous evening I didn't get my pack cover and rain gear on as quickly as I should have because I was helping my wife and because I was a bit too concerned with just getting the tent setup (mistake #1).

The day before this night-time flood, we had almost all of our clothes drying on a clothes line but it was pretty humid out and they were drying slowly. The only dry clothes I had was my down jkt, down pants, 1 underwear and 1 hiking shirt. When it was time to go to bed I took the wet stuff down in case of rain and put the 1/2 dry clothes in a cuben stuff sack that I thought was waterproof. I left this sack in the vestibule (mistake #2). I could have put it in the tent but I didn't think much of it.

So yeah, when I woke up the stuff sack was sitting in several inches of water and the clothes were totally saturated because they had been soaked up water, I guess through the seams. The clothes were 100% soaked. Prior to this, a lot of the stuff (ie. hiking pants, gloves, socks) would have been mostly dry.

When we set out on our hike I opted not to wear my down pants because I wanted to ensure they stayed dry in case our hike was unsuccessful and we were forced to camp in the cold, snowy conditions. I did wear my montbell inner down jkt but it got somewhat wet because the sleeves keep sneaking out past my rain jkt sleeves and because every time I bend over my rain jkt rides up and the down gets exposed. I was aware of these problems and tried to stay on top of them, but in hours of snow/slush/rain it's a battle that I was slowly losing. Besides really cold, wet hands I was fine for our hike that day. The rain pants didn't provide much insulation but a wind barrier was enough with the heat I was generating. Maybe a synthetic insulating jkt would be better gear choice than down because a jkt is a hard thing to ensure it stays dry.

My wife was in a bit better position that I was because I put her 1/2 wet clothes in a different cuben stuff sack in the vestibule and that one did not leak. She had wool gloves, MYOG silnylon rain mitts, wool cap, extra shirt and hiking pants.

Vestibule

Edited by dandydan on 09/16/2010 12:02:48 MDT.

Korby Hopton.
(kobracom77) - F
Your Pup on 01/19/2011 00:01:17 MST Print View

Hi there, first time poster here. Awesome trip report guys!!! Makes me want to hike the Stein even more. I plan on doing it within a couple of years. It loos as though you had a wonderfull trip. Thanks for the TR, it was fun to check out. Have you done any other hikes around BC?

Korby Hopton.
(kobracom77) - F
Re: Your Pup on 01/19/2011 00:03:01 MST Print View

Sorry, I forgot to ask you if that blue tent was your dogs or just more storage space? Thanks in advance.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 01/19/2011 12:13:12 MST Print View

Great trip report and thanks for sharing your mistakes too. It is an especially good reminder about site selection, something I've made my share of mistakes with in the past too.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 01/19/2011 13:14:31 MST Print View

Dan, I was fishing in Alaska when you first posted this and missed the whole thing. What a great trip.
Maybe if you have time, make a brief post report on what you did right and what you would change, maybe in bullet form.

What is your recipe for the Bannock? do you carry fat or oil?

You also married way over your head! (what a trooper)

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 01/20/2011 07:04:57 MST Print View

Dan,

+1 for >>You also married way over your head! (what a trooper)<<

You are a lucky man.

I enjoyed the trip report and the awesome pictures.

I'll do cold and I'll do wet. But I supremely dislike cold and wet! ;-)

I really liked the map pic of "2 Days From any Help" a.k.a. "The Middle of Nowhere".

Party On,

Newton

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 01/23/2011 05:42:12 MST Print View

Nice TR! Between Cottonwood Falls, old growth, and mountain ridges I'd say you had it all. I'm always amazed at what a difference a low wet spot can make, but like you said...live & learn.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Stein Valley Traverse, BC - 8 Days on 01/23/2011 08:29:20 MST Print View

Great trip, thanks for the report and the pictures.

The REI quarterdome T2 was my first backpacking tent (I like my room!). I also woke up one morning (in Vermont) on a waterbed! It had rained so hard the night before parts of the campground we were staying in had been evacuated, and the road right outside the campground entrance had washed away.

But I stayed dry in that tent. There was probably at least 2 inches of standing water right outside (and underneath!) my tent, but the floor didn't let any of it in! I hope my current shelters prove as waterproof if the need arises!

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Up from the dead... on 05/03/2011 18:41:37 MDT Print View

I guess this thread has risen up from the dead.

"I forgot to ask you if that blue tent was your dogs or just more storage space?"
That's a little tent I whipped up for our dog. She's a bit annoying to sleep with because she's often moving around. She carries this tent in her saddle bags. It's about 6oz.

"Makes me want to hike the Stein even more. I plan on doing it within a couple of years."
This Stein is really awesome. I think it's the remote-ness that makes it so cool. We saw ~2 other groups in 8 days, so you really get the feeling that you're in the middle of nowhere. I'd highly recommend the Stein. They are supposed to clear all the fallen forest fire logs this spring.

"What is your recipe for the Bannock? do you carry fat or oil?"
We used olive oil to make it. I don't recall the recipe. It was a basic bannock recipe I quickly grabbed online. What made it delicious was that we dipped it in garlic power / parsley / olive oil.

"Maybe if you have time, make a brief post report on what you did right and what you would change, maybe in bullet form."
The main mistake was the site selection made that one night, which made us vulnerable to more serious subsequent trouble. Aside from some wet clothes discomfort, it did cause any major trouble but it could have. A serious situation could have resulted from this mistake if a few other things went wrong as well. Had the tent floored leaked (and soaked our sleeping bags) and then if we were unable to navigate through the snow the next day and we were forced to camp in cold conditions with wet sleeping bags then it could have been a serious problem, depending on how cold it got and how long it lasted. I do think we still would have likely been okay though, because we did have dry down pants each and fairly dry down jackets and extra food. Our baselayers were very quick drying as well, so those could have been dried easily in the tent by wearing them for a short period.

So the things we did right were:
1) Not having all our eggs (insulation) in one basket. Even if our sleeping bags got soaked we still had down jackets and pants.
2) Using very quick drying baselayers
3) Successfully navigating through difficult trail conditions

I plan on hiking the Stein again this summer. I will likely do it a bit earlier (August) although September is normally a great time to do it. I might do the full traverse again or I might start at Blowdown pass instead of Lytton and hike to the same destination. The trip length would be similar and I would be a little different which is nice. My other big trip planned for this summer is the Cottonwood trail up in Kluane National Park (Yukon).

Edited by dandydan on 05/03/2011 19:09:25 MDT.