All posts for the month December, 2020

Healey Pass

I’m always excited when friends decide to get into trail running. Although I enjoy the solitude of running solo through the mountains, I do enjoy it much more with another person. Adding a another person is much safer if you encounter wild life, it means you can be more adventurous with route as it mitigates risk if you get injured, it also provides hours of conversation that helps drift your mind when it gets tough.

This time I was heading out with Kyle, who knew the area and we decided on Pharaoh Loop which I estimated would be around 40km. As per Covid restrictions we drove separately and met at the Sunshine Village Lodge parking lot. The planned route was to go up Healy Pass and around Pharaoh Peak. The weather was perfect, with dry cool fall temperatures.

The run up Healy starts at the Sunshine Village parking lot and runs parallel with the gondola for a few hundred meters before venturing off. The path was a gradual climb, and a good warm up for the day.

Eventually you break the tree line and have a clear view of the valley. This time of year (End of September) the Larch trees were turning yellow and the fall colors were stunning.

Dropping down the back side of Healy takes you to Egypt lake and we stopped for our first quick break. We were both feeling great and looking forward to moving on.

Egypt Lake

As we hit the base of Pharaoh Peak, we decided it would be a good idea to climb the peak a bit to get a better view. The day was early and we were feeling good.

Pharaoh Peak

Initially the top looked close, I figured an hour to go up and down. But the more we climbed the more we realized it was going to be more than double. We debated going back, but with summit fever we just kept climbing.

We reached the ridge and the wind picked up, but the views were stunning. We got a clear view of Scarab Lake and Mummy Lake (you may notice an Egyptian theme in this area).

Scarab Lake & Mummy Lake (background)

The backside of Pharaoh Peak was steam and rocky, not being a proficient mountaineer I really didn’t want to get too close to the edge.

The last scramble was up to the peak, and having gone this far we decided to just push on to the top. By this time we had burned a lot of time and energy, so common sense was saying to turn back, but curiosity and adventure was telling up to go for the top. The climb itself is steep, but not difficult or dangerous. However, tacking it on to a 40km+ run was going to add some challenge.

Top of the Peak with Mummy Lake in the background

We stopped near the summit for some lunch and I quickly realized I planned for a quick 30-40km run, not an all day adventure – doh! I had some bars and a full bladder of water, but really didn’t plan on being out all day – let the adventure begin.

Scrambling down the scree we joined back onto the main trail and started the loop around Pharaoh Peak. Had I brought my Katadyn Befree water it would have been easy to refill my much depleted water, but today I would be running past clear cold water with no way of drinking it.

The path around the backside turned into root filled single track and made for a bit slower going.

We finally reached Shadow Lake which has cabins, and from what we heard some potable water. After talking to the lady in charge she didnt seem too keen on letting us fill our water bottles, so having to live with our poor decisions moved on without water…so thirsty.

We arrived back to Healy Pass and it was a slog getting back up to the top, but once there felt great knowing that it was just one big long downhill back to the parking lot. The sun was starting to set behind the mountains, and it was only another hour before it would be dark. There were a few groups of day trippers/hikers and at the pace they were moving would definitely not be making it back before dark.

The pass was stunning for the second time, but we were ready to be done. I really miscalculated and we burned a good chunk of the day on the Pharaoh Peak climb, but it was all worth it. We arrived back to the Sunshine Village base station just as the sun was set and the sky was turning dark.

Aside from the distance miscalculation, and insufficient food/water the day was great. The test of whether Kyle enjoyed it will be determined if he agrees to any subsequent outings.

Overall it was about 20km longer than I planned for and about 3-4 hours longer. Sounds about right!