hermit meadows

I moved to Revelstoke in late April, where the mountains still had a ton of snow on them and it was still fairly chilly in town as well. After a month of settling in to my new town, I decided it was time to get out for a hike, despite the snowy conditions. I’m no stranger to winter overnighting, so I figured I’d be just fine.

I did my research on Hermit Meadows, a hike in Glacier National Park (BC, not the States) and decided that this short and steep hike would be my first in my new home. I had a just one day off work and there were clear skies in the forecast, so I packed my gear as if I was going winter camping and set off.

When I got to the Roger’s Pass info center to grab my backcountry permit, the staff there looked quizzically at me. I’m sure they get a ton of inexperienced and uninformed hikers, so I explained that I knew there would be snow, I was prepared for the snow, and I had experience both in solo hiking and winter camping. They seemed pleasantly surprised and told me that I would be the first person to stay overnight there this season, which is pretty darn cool.

After about half an hour of hiking, I encountered the first bit of snow and it just piled up after that. The views were gorgeous, as you get into the alpine quite soon, but slogging through steep snow proved to be a little difficult. It was slow going, for sure. On the especially steep sections, I kicked steps and used my ice axe for stability. One slip on the wet spring snow and I’d be going for a bit of a ride - hence why I brought the ice axe. I also didn’t know if I was going the right away, because with three feet of snow, there wasn’t much indication of where a trail might be. I’m pretty sure I hiked about where I was supposed to camp, but I guess it didn’t really matter.

Finally, after three and a half hours of trudging up snow slopes, I made it. The views were breathtaking, but maybe that was just because I was completely out of breath. After hiking and shovelling snow for my tent, I was in a t-shirt, but I quickly got a chill once I had stopped and my body temperature dropped fast, so out came the jackets.

The great thing about solo camping is the time to yourself. Some people tell me they would be bored stiff just sitting around, but I enjoyed it. I tried to take some self-portraits for fun, which always devolves into ridiculousness after a while.

I wandered up a ridge before sunset, hoping to get some cool perspective of my tent and the surrounding mountains. The ridge ended up being higher than I thought and when I looked back at my tent, it was a tiny little orange dot that I could barely see.

The mountains behind me proved to be more interesting to me than the ones in front of me, surprisingly. The jagged lines of Rogers and Swiss Peak lit up with the setting sun peeking through the col between the two was gorgeous.

That night was clear and cold, but I was cozy in my cozy -10 C down sleeping bag. The alarm for 1am went off far too soon, but when I popped my head out of the tent to check the conditions for star photos, I was taken aback by the amount and brightness of the stars. I put on my jackets, grabbed my tripod, and trudged out in the cold to try and capture it. My hands quickly froze to the point of being painful, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the stars. It was one of the clearest, most beautiful starry skies I’ve seen in my life.

Once I was just too cold to keep going, I snuggled back into my sleeping bag and fell asleep for a few more hours - until the alarm once again got me up for sunrise. As if the sunset and the stars weren’t incredible enough, the sunrise was absolutely incredible. The light coming from the east illuminated the north face of Mount MacDonald while a sliver of a moon still hung just above. I couldn’t ask for better conditions.

After sunrise, I packed up everything and headed back down the mountain at 6am so I could make it to work at 11am. It was worth the aching legs and tiredness at the end of the work day. One of my favourite overnight trips by far.

Megan Voigt