Saturday, September 3, 2016


This summer has been a real whirlwind of a good time. Essentially, I had 2 months off of school and I wanted to make the most of it. I had very loose plans and left my schedule open to bounce from one thing to the next and make random spontaneous decisions. It's been a gas and I now feel ready to go back to school!


Long before Peter and I were together he had this dream of doing the entire Stein Valley Traverse in under 24 hours. He had attempted it a couple of times but fell short due to weather.   

Peter and I have been to the Stein Valley twice previous to this experience. He took me there when we first started dating (2008/09) and we did a 38km out and back run starting from the trailhead in Lytton. Peter has a deep love for the Stein Valley and I was stoked to be here with him. 

Fast forward 4-5 years (2013) and we found ourselves once again heading to the Stein Valley. This time we planned on fast-packing the entire 90ish km trail in 2 days. We went very light and fit everything we needed into 18L packs. We brought a 1 man-tent, jetboil stove, neoair matresses and shared a sleeping bag. We both drove to Lytton, dropped a car and drove the other to the Lizzy Lake trailhead in Pemberton. Due to some sore feet and a storm we ended up taking 2.25 days to do the entire traverse. We didn't care, we were stoked. This was the first time Peter had successfully gone from one end to the other and again I was elated to be sharing this experience with him. 

Fast forward another few years (2016) and we find ourselves hiking in the Monashees a week or so ago. It's our first time in the Monashees and we're blown away by how amazing it is and are stoked it's within an hour and half drive from our home in Vernon. Feeling inspired I began to contemplate how I wanted to spent the last week or so of my summer break and the Stein Valley Traverse in under 24 hours goal silently crept into my thoughts. There must have been something in the air because Peter says, "we could go do the Stein" and immediately I said "YES!!!!". We got back from our trip and the planning began. 


We left Vernon on Tuesday morning and dropped one car in Lytton. We then drove our other car to the Lizzy Lake creek trail head in Pemberton. Our scheduled departure time was 12:30am and we each managed a few hours of sleep before leaving. I had everything I needed in an old Salomon 13L vest pack and Peter was wearing a brand spanking new Ultimate Direction Fast Pack 20. We decided to do the first section in the night because it's pretty straight forward. When Peter first did this trail back in the 90's, you could drive a car 11km up to the road to the proper trail head. However, this road was washed out many moons ago and was never restored. When we did this section last time it was really overgrown and the dew factor made for a pretty wet event. Thanks to Richard So and the VOC, all but the last 1.5km were brushed...yipeee!!!

Photo by: Peter Watson

We made good time hiking our way towards the Cabin. The night sky was clear and hiking under the stars was immaculate. The navigation was pretty straight forward up to this point but we started running into some issues on Cheery Pip Pass before the descent to Cultha Lake. It was dark and foggy and we could hardly see through the glare of our headlamps. At this point, there were only cairns to follow for navigation and it was slow going. If you look at our GPS file, we were creating squiggles all over the map. Although it was slow going, Peter always had an idea of which direction we needed to head and we'd eventually pick up another Cairn and get back on track. I think it may have been helpful to have been doing this section in the daylight which would have meant starting at 1:30am...just a thought.

Photo by: Peter Watson
One aspect of the Stein that I love are all the boulder field crossings and there are a plenty. I cant imagine having a 50-70lb pack on (as most do) and maneuvering along them all. Kudos to those people! The boulder field traversing by Tundra Lake is by far one of my favorite sections of the entire trail. I have never seen a lake so blue. There are no words to describe the beauty of this lake. You'll have to go see it for yourself!

Tundra Lake. Photo By: Peter Watson
Before we knew it the skies had opened up (literally and figuratively) and we were heading into the exposed ridge traverse before the descent to Stein Lake. The ridge system reminds me of the false summits at the end of the Fat Dog 120 but MORE! I took stock of this last time I was here and had mentally prepared myself, however, there's always more than I think! The descent off the ridge is a bit hairy. The trail is STEEP and the ground is loose and route finding isn't easy. You are constantly losing the trail. You wont get lost here but route finding is just slow.

Photo by: Peter Watson
We were elated to arrive at Stein Lake. This would be our first intentional stop. We had done a measly 38km in almost 11.5 hours, which was an hour and a half faster than the last time we did it. Last year I had a friend tell me her and some friends (who had never been to the Stein) were going to run the stein and expected to do it in 11 hours. I warned them that I didn't think that was very realistic. If you were going after it, I think an extremely fit person with experience on this trail (and mountain experience) could complete it in roughly 16-18 hours.

Photo By: Peter Watson
The next 55ish km are pretty fun. There are no really big climbs or descents however the trail is constantly going up and down. You can definitely run along this section but not all of it. There are a ton of scree slopes and due to the rain that was falling the rocks were super slick. The river along the valley bottom is beautiful and the cable car crossings are a blast.

New trail work! Photo by: Peter Watson
The last time we were here the trail was in terrible shape. Due to a fire in 2009 the alder growth was horrendous and there were hundreds of downed trees. After that trip we decided we wouldn't come back until the trail was cleared. In fact we had just chatted about going in ourselves to help clean it up. Luckily, BC Parks had hired a crew to clear it this year. THANK YOU!!! The work they did was outstanding and the trail was incredibly enjoyable.

Photo by: Peter Watson
As with most long adventures, we got to a point where we were ready to be done. Night was coming and we had roughly 25km to go. The timing was tight and we had to keep on pace to ensure a sub 24 hour finish. We finished with 23 minutes to spare in 23:37! A 12 year long dream of Peter's was finally in the books. As far as we know (Peter did his research) this is the fastest known time for this trail. We are both keen to know just how fast it can be done! Who's up for it!?


La Sportiva Speed T-shirt: I love this shirt so much. When I first got into racing I wore a bike jersey because I liked the pockets in the back and the zipper in the front. It's great for cooling off!

La Sportiva Tech Trucker Hat: I like sun and rain protection and I feel cool when I wear it :)

La Sportiva Ultra Arm Warmer: These arm warmer's are so bad ass. The have a thumb hole and a built in mitt!! The mitt came in handy keeping my hands warm in the rain and protection on the scree/boulder fields.

La Sportiva Helios SR: These have been my go to shoe ever since La Sportiva discontinued the Crosslite. They are so light but have enough protection to be warn for the long haul.



Petzl RXP: This is the new fancy version of the one I have.

Petzl spare battery: I love this!

Petzl e-light: This is an emergency back-up.

Defeet monkey socks: I seriously love these socks. I think they are made for cycling but I've been wearing this model of sock (images vary) for 10 years and rarely have foot/blister issues.

Patagonia Houdini windbrePaker: I just love this piece.

OR Helium Waterproof jacket: I love this jacket but it was almost too warm to wear it most of the time...even in the rain.

MEC Uplink Jacket: This is my all time favorite jacket. It was my really warm layer I brought. I ended up wearing it at night when it got really cold and it kept me super warm. I also used the same one on our PCT trip and it's still going strong!

Food: miss vickies Salt and Vin, PB and J wraps, assorted GU's and vanilla powerbar gels, cliff bars, assorted candy, honey stinger waffles.

Bear Spray! We hooted and hollered a lot too!

Pristine. I used this for all my water fills, however Peter didn't. He seems to be ok so far!

Peter carried the other essentials: bear bangers, sport shield, bivy sack, first aid kit, Delorme inReach, cell phone, leuko tape.

My next race is the Golden Ultra in 3 weeks time!!! So far I've only stopped in Golden for beer! I'm looking forward to actually checking out the trails!!!



Unknown said...

I'm looking for a long adventure/project for next year, and this looks amazing! I used to spend my summers near Lytton/Lilloet and I love the area. Thanks for the inspiration!

Unknown said...

Hi Nicola - I'm heading out for a solo jog across the Stein tomorrow aiming at your 23:37 time :)

I've been across the Stein 3 times before (2010, 2011, 2012) with the last traverse in ~40 hrs, so I've got to shave quite a bit of time. Leaving the sleeping bag behind this time. I'll have my Garmin/Delorme InReach along for tracking: