We are planning to do the Great Divide Trail this summer and wanted to take advantage of the long weekend to do a quick shakedown trip. The main things we were testing out on this hike were: (1) a new sleep system (MYOG double quilt and Exped Synmat HL Duo); (2) Andrew Skurka’s recipes as dinner options; (3) using my pack (GG Crown) without the hipbelt.
We decided on doing the Lower Stein Valley in Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Park since it was accessible from Vancouver and should be mostly snow free unlike most of the other trails closer to home.
It’s possible to do the trip as a traverse (Dan Durston has outlined several trip options), but this early in the year there is still significant snow at higher elevations, so we stuck to the lower valley and just did this as an in and out. Getting to the trailhead is super straightforward – just follow Hwy 1 to Lytton, turn onto Hwy 12, then immediately after turn onto the ferry road and take a cool two car ferry across the river. Once you are across, the trailhead is about 15 minutes down the road – the road is gravel, but very well maintained so you don’t need 4WD or even a vehicle with clearance.
Our initial plan was to do an easy 3 nights/4 days: 13km to Suspension Bridge Camp, 16km to Cottonwood Creek Camp, 22km to Teepee Camp, 7km to the trailhead.
What we ended up doing was 2 nights/3 days and hiked the whole way out to the trailhead on the third day (29km). Up until Ponderosa Camp (at about 21km), the trail is in great condition; after Ponderosa Camp though there are quite a few blowdowns on the trail which slowed our pace quite a bit on the second day.
Most people seemed to stick to the first half of the lower valley – despite the parking lot being relatively full when we started, there was only one other group camped at the Suspension Bridge Camp with us and we were the only ones at the Cottonwood Creek Camp.
More detailed daily reports have been posted previously on our blog.
MYOG Double Quilt – My partner has a down allergy and there aren’t really any synthetic double quilts or lighter sleeping bag options than what we already have (Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15’s), so after a bit of research I purchased a kit from Ray Jardine to sew our own quilt.
We hadn’t used quilts before, so the first night (which got to be at least 0C as water froze in our bladder hoses) my partner was cold and couldn’t sleep until he figured out to tuck the quilt under himself; I was a bit on the cool side, but was warm enough to sleep. The second night was above freezing and both of us were nice and toasty.
Overall I think the quilt will serve us well on the GDT. I’d rate it to be comfy to 0C with normal base layers and good even lower with more layers.
Exped Synmat HL Duo – Previously we’ve used Neoair XLites with coupling straps. The Synmat Duo is so much nicer as there is actually no gap – if you are on the fence, I would definitely recommend it.
A few minor downsides to the Synmat Duo – (1) It seems to slide around more than the XLites (our tent is a ZPacks Duplex). Our sites both nights were quite flat, but each morning we found the pad moved significantly. (2) Since there is no gap, it is easy for your sleeping partner to invade your space and not realize it. (3) The pad takes up a lot more space in the tent than our XLites (183cm long vs 166cm long).
We tried out the Pesto Noodles and Beans and Rice and would highly recommend both! For Canadians looking for a source of instant beans, we used Alpineaire Spicy Cheddar Bean Dip and it worked perfectly.
My pack was at 10kg including 3 days of food and 2L of water. Overall I was fine not using a hipbelt but definitely found that my shoulders were sore at the end of the first 2 days. Do I just need to build up my shoulders’ tolerance? I didn’t really notice any advantages for not having a hipbelt though in terms of how I was walking or anything else, so I think I’ll return to using it.