I took my cheap Canon Rebel up to Wedgemount Lake one cool day in September this year. On this particular day I was in a stunningly bad mood and decided to try and walk it off by storming up to Wedgemount Lake, just outside of Whistler, where I live. I always find that exercise – especially in the mountains – helps me to clear my head and get a better perspective on my situation. Usually, the conclusion is that I am a tiny ant, on an enormous, beautiful planet, and my problems are solvable if only I take the initiative to solve them. So off I trotted (read: huffed and puffed) to Wedgemount Lake.
The Wedgemount Lake hike – for those who haven’t hiked it yet – is the yardstick by which all other local hikes should be measured. There’s no getting around it, this hike is tough. There is almost no section of it that isn’t aggressively uphill, gaining 1160 metres in just 7km. And like some of the best hikes in the area, it ends with a scramble up an old rockslide. Going back down ain’t so easy on the knees, either. But if you’re willing to suffer a bit (or a lot), the payoff is absolutely worth it for this mountain paradise. On this day, I got up in just under 2 hours, but with an overnight pack is usually takes me around 3. The lighting was super harsh, with sun and super bright cloud causing major glare off the lake and glacier. Whilst there was no golden hour for me this day, I still took home a couple of shots that I was happy with and it encouraged me to work on my framing a little more. These are the photos I got back from the wonderful team at Rocket Repro. And yes, it fixed my bad mood!
To get there, drive 11km north of Whistler Village, until you see a blue sign saying Wedgemount (Garibaldi). It appears not long after you lose sight of Green Lake. Turn right here and cross the bridge into Green River campground, then turn immediately left onto Wedge Creek Forest Service Road. At the next fork shortly after, turn right and head up the just-about-drivable-without-4WD gravel road to the parking lot 1.5km ahead. Most cars get up here without issue as long as you drive sensibly.
The trail begins with a deceptively minimal incline as it meanders its way through second-generation growth forest. After about 20 minutes, you come to two fairly decrepit bridges that cross Wedge Creek, and the ascent really begins. The switchbacks are steep and unforgiving. When you cross the second rockslide, and the trail briefly mellows out at an opening, you are about halfway. This is a good spot for some lunch and a rest stop. When you’re ready to continue climbing, and an hour (or two) later you will reach the treeline where the trail opens up to reveal a beautiful view of the valley, so don’t forget to look back over your shoulder. At this point you will probably ask yourself what the hell you are doing, especially when you catch sight of the rockslide you now have to scramble up.
This last section of the trail is certainly the steepest and can be tricky as you climb your way over the unsteady rocks. There aren’t any obvious trail markers, but you will see where the rocks have eroded on the looker’s left from other hikers. Follow these marks, using your hands to support you as you carefully climb up this section, watching your footing on the wobbly rocks. Be aware of people above and below you, as falling rocks are a real hazard here. At the top of the rockslide, when you truly question your will to live, the trail will reappear and mercifully begin to level out as the lake creeps into view.
Camping at Wedgemount Lake
There are 20 beautiful tent pitch spots located around the edge of Wedgemount Lake, some are higher and on wooden platforms, others are right down by the lake’s shore. These spots all must be reserved on Discovercamping.ca. The same goes if you would like a spot inside the lovely (but basic) Wedge Hut, run by the BCMC (British Columbia Mountaineering Club). The hut technically sleeps 6 (at a squeeze) and is very minimal, but it has a very entertaining guest book to flick through.
Tips for Wedgemount Lake
Tip #1: Bring layers! No matter how hot it is on the way up, this glacial lake gets COLD. If you are staying the night, wrap up warm. In mid summer, the bugs can be relentless, so layers and bug spray will really help.
Tip #2: Leave early to avoid doing the toughest part of the hike in the heat and pack as light as you can. Obviously don’t forget a head torch and water, but consider leaving the dry shampoo at home. Day hikers without a pack can do this hike in a couple of hours (each way), but the serious elevation gain means that carrying a heavy overnight pack will slow you down a lot. The first time I did this trail, I turned back after ten minutes, dripping in sweat, and left half my (admittedly unnecessary) overnight supplies in the car and started again.
Tip #3: If you are doing the Wedge hike in a day, make sure to leave plenty of time to return as the descent takes just as long as the ascent. Heading down is quite tricky due to the dramatic elevation loss, especially in spots with loose earth and slippery wet tree roots. There’s no getting around it, the descent is pretty killer on the joints and you’ll likely be quite sore the next day.
Tip #4: You can only camp in the designated camp sites in Garibaldi Provincial Park and you must book a spot via their online booking system. Wilderness camping (or camping outside of a designated campsite) is strictly prohibited and is enforced to protect the vegetation in the area.
Tip #5: As always, pack out what you pack in and leave no trace.