Trip Report: La Cloche Silhouette Trail in 5 Days - Alta Outdoors

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Trip Report: La Cloche Silhouette Trail in 5 Days


After considering our next spring backpacking trip we decided to take on the La Cloche Silhouette loop in Killarney Provincial park. This route has been on our list for quite a while but due to its length and high level of difficulty it has been postpone multiple times before. The opportunity opened up for us on the third week of May 2017 and we could not resist.

Even though the official guidelines suggest to complete the loop in 7 to 10 days we only had 5 full days to complete the route. Below is our schedule.

Day 1: George Lake campground to H8 camp site

Started a 12:50 pm and finished at H8 campsite around 7:30 pm.
  • Distance: ~14 km.
  • Challenges of the day: late start, numerous creek crossings and hiking through the "Pig's portage", extremely rocky and the tallest portage path of the Killarney park.
Day 1 terrain profile. The second peak is the top of "The Pig Portage".
Total ascend 1237 ft/381 m, total descend 1217 ft/375 m.

Day 2: from H8 camp site to H21 camp site

Started at 10 am and finished around 5:30 pm. Distance is roughly the same as on the Day 1 but much higher temperature and strenuous terrain required longer time.
  • Distance: ~14.5 km.
  • Challenges of the day: continuous up/down hill, very hot day with air temperature rising up to 28*C. On the positive side, bathing in the Threenarrows Lake was very refreshing.
Day 2 terrain profile. Continuous up and down wears you out.
Total ascend 837 ft/258 m, total descend 846 ft/260 m.

Day 3: from H21 camp site to H33 camp site

Started at 9:15 am and finished at 7:10 pm (was almost dark because of the overcast).
  • Distance: 13.5 km.
  • Challenges of the day: the biggest daily ascend/descend of the entire trail, torrential rainstorm in the afternoon, and the temperature drop from 20*C to 4*C. Started with a very steep descend on mile 1 (see below), ascend on the wet slippery "Falls" granite rock, the most challenging ascend via the Moose Pass (the highest peak below) and, on top of all that, the rainstorm set us back 3 hours and required to camp at the site H33 instead of the H35 as it was originally planned. Lesson: always factor weather conditions into a schedule.
Day 3 terrain profile. Moose Pass starts after the site H23.
Total ascend 2034 ft/626 m, total descend 1890 ft/582 m.

Day 4: from H33 camp site to H45 camp site

Started at 9:15 and finished around 6 pm.
  • Distance: ~16.5 km compensating for the previous day's rainstorm.
  • Challenges of the day: second biggest daily elevation change of the trail, the long "dry" 5 km Silver Peak segment (between the mile 1 and 5) with no water access. In addition, we had to cover longer distance from the previous day but relatively it was feeling like less work. Temperature dropped significantly after the rainstorm which also made hiking a bit less strenuous.
Day 4 terrain profile. "The Silhouette" trail is quite steep in the beginning and the end.
Total ascend 1821 ft/560 m, total descend 1768 ft/544 m.

Day 5: from H45 camp site to H50 camp site

Started at 9:15 am and finished at 5 pm.
  • Distance: ~12.7 km.
  • Challenges of the day: the last most winding segment of the "Silver Peak" segment with very poor trail marking, very crowded "The Crack" because of the weekend visitors. On the positive side this was the last "uphill" day on the trail. Further on, most of the path descends to the George lake.
Day 5 terrain profile. Slow descend at "The Crack" because of a large crowd.
Total ascend 1388 ft/427 m, total descend 1562 ft/481 m.

Day 6: from H50 camp site back to George Lake campground

Started at 9:30 am and finished around 11:45 am. This last leg of the trail took about 2 hours and, if absolutely necessary, could have been completed on the previous day making the entire trip shorter than 5 days.
  • Distance: ~6.8 km including about 1.5 km of crossing the campground.
  • Challenges of the day: all time raining, beaver dam crossing between sites H51 and H52, multiple steep ascends and descends on very wet and slippery granite boulders. On the positive side, there was a hot shower in the campground.
Last day terrain profile. Total ascend 430 ft/142 m, total descend 446 ft/137 m.

Gear list

When packing gear, it's important to consider temperature changes and weather conditions.
For colder nights the warmer sleeping bag and spare warm clothes may be necessary.
When trying to make a tight schedule also add some spare food in case of a set back.
The challenge is to keep the weight down while carrying everything necessary for a long trip (5+ days is a long trip). Because the terrain is so strenuous, all the "luxury" items must be left behind: choose the lightest first.
In our case, the heaviest in the "base weight" was warm clothes, and the heaviest among everything was the food for two people for 5 days with a spare.

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