This is perhaps one of the greatest and more strenous one-day hikes of the book "103 Hikes In SouthWestern British Columbia". Today I had the rare opportunity of having two companions for this long journey, Victor and Hiroshi.
To reach the trailhead pass PetroCanada gas station at Permberton and keep driving towards Mount Curie on D'Arcy Road. After leaving the Indian Reserve, start to count the BC Rail crossings. After the third one, at around 600 metres you will see a track on your right. Drive 200 m towards the railroad tracks and park there.
Retreat your steps 50 meters and walk on another road that may have the signs "Private Property". The owners allow people to cross their property to reach the trailhead. After the railroad tracks, climb a locked gate. keep walking 100 meters and you will cross the first power line. When you go into the trees, go left and almost inmmediately turn right and keep going straight for 200 meters to the second power line. Don't put attention to the cows as Hiroshi did and keep going straight where you will see the flags showing the trailhead.
Very soon the trail starts to go uphill, you will reach a slide area that is dangerously reaching the trail. Try to stay as far as you can from the slide. It takes less than 10 minutes to cross this part. Very soon you will start to feel a fine spray on your face and the rushing of the water will become more and more loudly. You will see one of the most spectacular falls that BC can offer.
Sooner or later you will have a more closer view of the falls, nevertheless to say that you should be very cautious.
Bridal Veil Falls
This trail keeps going almost parallel to the falls, after you reach the top, the trail flattens for a little bit, enjoy because more climbing is coming. There is a small waterfall where you can refill your bottles.
After 400 meters you will reach a place called "Vodka Rock", a good destination if you only intend to see the falls. On a sunny day you can have views of the Birkenhead Valley and Sun God Mountain in the northwest. There are small slide areas that need to be cross with great care
Keep going, always uphill. You will reach a spot where you will do the first of two crossings on Place Creek. The elevation gain at this point is around 1420 m (4660 ft) and you have already ascended 900 meters (3018 ft). At this point only 1/3 of the trail has been covered.
For a short period of time the trail eases while you enjoy the shadow generously given by the trees, then you go back to the creek that you need to recross again before going into a very bushy area. This part of the trail is totally overgrowth, fortunately it only takes five minutes to cross it.
Suddenly the trail goes uphill, a good resting point. You go uphill over pulverized rock called rock flour which is formed when the ice and the load of rock fragments slide over the bedrock and function as sandpaper that smooths and polishes the surface situated below.
The trail again flattens a little bit, then you will see another slide area. There is big boulder (show on the picture inside a red circle) that eventually you will reach.
After you reach the boulder, turn right 45 degrees towards the headwall and keep going west for another 15-20 minutes. Stay close to the headwall and then keep going towards the creek.
When you reach the creek, you will see the falls. The trail is basically a line on the polished (and slippery when wet) rock. When you almost reach the falls turn left following some vegetation growing on that tiny line. There is one more switchback before the grade eases.
From here you can have the first views of the Geological Survey of Canada's equipment located on the top of the big rock. Keep going on the right of the creek and then do a new switchback before you hit the big rock.
After reaching the east side of the lake you will see the dam built in the 60s as part of the glacier research.
Then you will see a small moraine covering the view of the glacier. If you want to get close cross the lake on the west side. The lake levels are higher on early summer and you may have some trouble crossing. Otherwise, it's only an easy scramble.
At this point you are just meters away from the scientist's hut which is usable by the public if you want to spend the night over here.
Place Glacier has been monitored for mass balance since 1965, and a stream gauge was operated just below the glacier terminus from 1969 to 1989. Glacier mass balance is the difference between accumulation and ablation (melting and sublimation).
Mass balance is measured by determining the amount of snow accumulated during winter, and later measuring the amount of snow and ice removed by melting in the summer. The difference between these two parameters is the mass balance.
At this point you will have more views of Sun God Mountain, a fairly high summit (2421 m - 7943 ft) located 6 km west of Birkenhead Lake and 2.5 km south of Tenquille Creek.
Sun God Mountain
There is a native legend of the Lili'wat telling of a girl named Chinook-Wind, who married Glacier, and moved to his country, which was in the area of today's Birkenhead River. She pined for her warm sea-home in the southwest, and sent a message to her people. They came to her in a vision in the form of snowflakes, and told her they were coming to get her. They came in great number and quarrelled with Glacier over her, but they overwhelmed him and she went home with them
While on the one hand the tale tells a tribal family-relations story, and family/tribal history as well, the tale also seems to be a parable of a typical weather pattern of this region, at first bringing snow, then rain, and also of the melting of a glacier, perhaps the Place Glacier or the once-great Birkenhead River glacier 10,000 years ago, when most of this region was icefield.
Our total trail time was just over 9 hours - right as the book predicted. I'd like to thank all participants for the company and good teamwork that made this trip successful and enjoyable, please Victor accept my apologies for not having lunch but it was the only way to get to the parking lot before dark. Hiroshi, sorry for the wasps, it takes a lot of courage to do this hike with 15 wasp stings all over your body.
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1 Elev: 508m N 50'28.299" W 122'38.583" Parking Lot
2 Elev: 503m N 50'28.141" W 122'38.322" Trailhead after leaving second Power Line
3 Elev: 1134m N 50'27.469" W 122'38.013" Vodka Rock
4 Elev: 1437m N 50'27.133" W 122'37.599" First Log crossing
5 Elev: 1830m N 50'26.193" W 122'36.806" Close to the hut
6 Elev: 1840m N 50'25.883" W 122'36.552" Just before Place Glacier
Roundtrip to viewpoint: 22 km (13.75 miles)
Allow 9 hours
Elevation gain : 1380 m (4527 ft)
Driving distance from Vancouver 180 km 112.5 miles