Winter Or Summer We’ve Got You Covered 

GIN PEAK via Hanging Lake – Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak is an extremely popular (but awesome) moderate single day ski tour accessed via the Whistler Olympic Park. The route is uncomplicated and the views are spectacular. It’s an ideal target for beginner, intermediate and expert ski tourers & splitboarders seeking great views and fabulous turns with moderate effort! There is plenty of variety for the uphill and downhill making it easy to choose a route suitable for your ability level and the avalanche conditions. Gin Peak is amazing, but can get quite busy! Be prepared for a crowd on most weekend days in prime winter months.

Remember the Backcountry Basics

 

The Breakdown

Distance (Round Trip) 10-11km
Elevation Gain 900m
Time Needed3-6 Hours
Pets AllowedYes
Primary Aspect Northwest
Terrain TypeMixed Trees & Open Alpine Terrain
Highest Point1,750m
ATES (2) Moderate

 

Safety Gear Required

Gin Peak is one of the most popular ski touring targets in the Callaghan Valley. Many Skiers, snowboarders, snowshoer’s and snowmobiles climb to its summit on a regular basis. Although it may feel more comfortable with lots of other people around, remember to never let your guard down and make terrain choices that you and your group feel comfortable and confident about.

I would personally give the route an Avalanche Terrain Exposure rating of 2 (Moderate). This is because there are many different route options of varying difficulties and ways to avoid avalanche paths on the ascent and descent. However, there are some depressions, gullies and cliffs that you should keep your distance from when descending. If the avalanche risk is high on any given day you can always opt to stop at hanging lake instead and enjoy a few laps through the trees! Avalanche’s happen in this area every year and it is necessary to carry your avalanche gear and know how to use it. Also if you have the option I always recommend carrying along a GPS device like a SPOT X or Garmin In-Reach and wear an avalanche airbag pack for worst case scenarios!

 

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

 

Directions

 

Gin Peak is most easily accessed by backcountry skiers from the hanging lake trailhead located in the Whister Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley. The Whistler Olympic Park is located at the end of Callaghan Road 20 minutes South of Whistler and about 1 ½ hours North of Vancouver. There is a $16 charge for backcountry skier parking so make sure you carpool with your buddies before heading out! Park in the small lot to the right of the Biathlon range.

 

Time Required

Callaghan road is gated through the night and early AM and is opened at 8:30am on weekends and 9am on weekdays. The gate closes at 4:30pm so make sure to plan your day accordingly. The round trip to Gin Peak and back to your vehicle can take anywhere between 3-6 hours depending on your ski touring abilities and speed. Many people can manage to climb up and get a few laps before heading back down to their vehicle. Just make sure you don’t get locked inside the gate because sleeping in the car will be chilly!

 

 

 

The Route

The Ascent

The ascent begins on the Hanging Lake Trail which is located about 50 meters past the Olympic Biathalon Penalty Lap and continues on the hikers left into the forest. The Hanging Lake trail is extremely well-marked with orange flashes on the trees and follows the summer use trail that weaves its way up to the lake. The uphill track is straight forward but can be steep and narrow at some points. If there has not been much fresh snow expect this portion of the ascent to be extremely icy. We were brutally slowed down through the trees as the ice was so bad we were slipping and side stepping on a lot of the steep portions. If you have a set of ski crampons, I would 100% recommend popping them in your bag.

 

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

 

You will follow the trail through the trees gaining 452m over 2.1km until you reach some boulder fields. Stay to the left of the boulder fields continuing up until you reach Hanging Lake.

 

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

 

The lake is breathtaking in the winter! I have a weird obsession with frozen lakes and am always thrilled to skin across them. There are loads of terrain options surrounding hanging lake. You could close your eyes, spin in a circle, throw a dart and wherever it landed would be a reasonably fun place to climb up and ski.

The mountain straight across the lake is Rainbow Mountain and Gin Peak is up and to the right (East) of Hanging Lake. At this point you will be entering the alpine and more consequential avalanche terrain. Your group will have to make your first real decision about your route. There is typically a well walked skin track on the right about halfway across the lake. On the day we last visited avalanche risk was extremely low so we followed the skin track up the steep Gully as this was fastest. On a day with higher avalanche risk you could make the decision to cross the lake and work your way up to the ridge on gentler slopes.

 

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

 

On your climb up I would recommend paying close attention to the surrounding terrain and maybe even take a few pictures of the terrain below Gin Peak so you can have a clear idea of how you would like to attack the descent especially if the conditions are optimal and you want to play around with some of the cliffs/chutes off of the face.

 

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

 

The climb up to the ridge is the steepest portion of the alpine ascent. Once you reach the ridge follow it to the right and arc left up towards the Gin Peak summit. The higher you climb the more exceptional the views become. You will be able to see Whistler Blackcomb, The Black Tusk, Rainbow Mountain, Hanging Lake and the endless surrounding mountains.

 

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

 

We decided to hang out on an awesome flat spot just below the summit, soak in the views, cook up some lunch and play around a little bit with a drone.

 

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

 

The Descent

You can descend however you fancy depending on your terrain preference, risk tolerance and the conditions. There is a technical set of cliff bands directly beneath the Gin Peak. We skied our way around these cliffs to the skiers right and down to the bottom of hanging lake. The alpine snow wasn’t reminiscent of the horrible ice we faced on the uphill through the trees and we had a blast slaying turns down to Hanging Lake. This is one of the most popular touring spots in the area so don’t expect untouched fresh tracks on the most obvious routes down unless it is a fresh snow day.

 

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

Gin Peak via Hanging Lake Backcountry Skiing Guide

 

If you have the time, transition back into your skins and hike up for another round!

 

When returning from Hanging Lake to the parking lot you can enjoy some turns through the trees following a similar route to the one you hiked up or make an entirely different descent of your own!

Please remember your safety equipment, understand the forecast and manage risk appropriately.

Enjoy the hike & more importantly ENJOY THOSE TURNS!

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Correction – not a summer use trail.

    I’m the builder of this trail and I would like to clarify that it is not a summer use trail. There is a different summer use trail to Hanging Lake that starts from a completely different location. It is the northern end of the Rainbow-Madeley trail.

    This trail is known as the “Hanging Lake winter trail” and it is not built for summer use. The lower half is fairly easy going but the upper half is a slippery bushwhack.

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