I had decided last week that I would go for a long run with a lot of elevation to prepare myself for my 50 mile race in August. I'm a member of a Facebook group for local runners called the Buntzen Burners and posted my plans in the group to see if anyone wanted to join me.
As it was a weekend long run and people have plans I arranged to meet Neelam and Gabriela at 7am at the first parking lot at Sasamat lake. Sunday came and I met with Neelam and Gabriela who I had not met previously but that's how it goes with trail running; you meet new people and make new friends.
I had heard about Neelam from one of the other runners I met from the group and knew she was running at the Squamish race aswell. I had tried to run with Gabriela before but the timing didn't work.
Neelam had invited along Reza whom I had run with before. He is a similar level of endurance and speed to myself but he is in his sixties so he really impresses me.
My original idea was to run a half lap of Sasamat lake and up the Sugar Mountain trail and then up and over the Diez Vista ridge to the north end of Buntzen lake. As I was not running solo, I asked the others what they preferred and Gabriela suggested, she did not want to go up Sugar Mountain and wanted to go straight up to Diez Vista via another trail.
We missed that trail and which ended up being the first wrong turn of the day. So we skipped the half lap and ended up going up Sugar Mountain anyway. We had a good run at a conversational pace and it was nice to run and chat. Getting to know other runners is all good fun.
We ended up at the dam at the back of the northern end and northern beach of Buntzen lake. The plan was to go up the Swan Falls trail and around the Lindsay lake loop and back down and back over Diez Vista.
The run would be 4-6hrs approximately... well that was the plan but things don't always go to plan. Plans can change or things can go awry and in hindsight, I'm glad I packed plenty of fluids, nutrition, a cell phone and a map.
There are a number of trails that form part of the Halvor Lunden trail system, named after a Norwegian guy who moved to BC and had a great infinity for the amazing natural wonders we have here, and put together the amazing trails around Buntzen.
So I spotted a sign for the Halvor Lunden trail and assumed it was for the Swan Falls, but it turns out we had turned too early. We ran down a service road/track and part way down I felt something wasn't right and made me recall looking at my map the night before.
Part way along this service road I mentioned to the others that I thought we had taken a wrong turn and suggested we maybe should double back. The general consensus was to keep going and try the trail, we would get to along this service road.
We came to the bottom of a trail called Dilly Dally. We started up and it was very technical, difficult and steep elevation but as ultra/trail runners, we were determined and power hiked up. I think maybe we were the first to tackle this trail for the season as there was a lot of fallen trees to get over or limbo under.
In parts there was some asphalt, tracks and even a ladder and some timber laden trails, we assumed it was perhaps once an old logging route?
Due to 3 creek crossings, limboing trees, trying to find the trail markers and the steepness of the trail it was tough going and it took us about 5 hours or so to get to roughly 900mtrs.
At that point we felt that as the trail was so tough to get up and so technical, it was worth trying to push on to the summit which was about 1250mtrs so about another 350mtrs.
Perhaps not the best plan but it was a plan and one we all agreed on. It was at this point that we spotted the first patches of snow but it was not too much of an issue at that point.
At 1000mtrs the snow was high, slippy and heavy packed. It got very tricky but we couldn't face the route back and wanted to summit the peak and head back down the trail which would be Swan Falls which was the one we should have taken in the first place.
We pushed on to about 1100mtrs and the snow got even harder packed. We didn't have gloves or crampons but being the sort of runners, we were, we wanted to push on. I went ahead to see if I could find further markers and whether the snow was covering them, but I couldn't see them.
It was make or break time; risk going up and find the other trail back down or risk being stuck up on the peak and have to contact search and rescue. We got the map out but I have to be honest, I'm not the best at map reading. We decided to try to get hold of someone at search and rescue to determine if it we could summit or best to go back down.
We ended up getting a girl at the Coquitlam RCMP who thought we were in North Vancouver and not in the Tri Cities. She said we should go back down, didn't connect us to anyone, didn't take our details and didn't seem to be all the concerned. Neelam, when we got back down, was less than impressed with the call.
We took a vote and decided to head back down, as it turned out it was tough going but not as hard as the way up and we got down quicker than we thought. As a precaution I called Randi to let her know where we where and what had happened and that we were ok.
On the way up and on the way back Reza had slipped on the same creek crossing hitting his tail bone, but he just kept going. We shared our nutrition and hydration and by the time we got to the bottom we were able to joke about the ordeal. The others had come up with some new names for the Dilly Dally trail. I also found out later from a member of the local search and rescue that it's one of the toughest trails in the area.
Our cars were still parked at Sasamat so Neelam used my cell to call her husband who picked us up at Buntzen and dropped us back at our cars. In the end its was a 9 hour hike. It was certainly an adventure and I think, we will be firm friends now.