Big Elbow Trail to Tombstone Backcountry Campground

I recently received my Dutchware Gear Chameleon hammock that I ordered through the Kickstarter campaign that Dutch did.  I had set it up a few times in my front yard but had yet to really sleep in it. so I decided that I would put it to the test by taking it out on an easy overnight camping trip.

On 25-May-2017, I contacted the Alberta Parks Kananaskis Backcountry Permits office to request a permit to camp at Point Backcountry campground for the night of 31-May-2017.

Hi Devon,

Unfortunately, the sites that you have requested are unavailable at Point Backcountry Campground on May 31st.

If you would still like to stay, please consider the following and submit a new request:

  1. a) Changing the dates of your trip, or
  2. b) Moving the booking to a different backcountry campground which has sites available.

Cheers,
Amy

Seeing as that I wasn’t able to stay at this site, I heeded Amy’s advice and chose another site.  Tombstone appeared to be open and was only a short hike in from the trail head at Hwy 40, so I resubmitted my request for a permit.  This time I got another reply.

Hi Devon,

I have received your permit request for backcountry camping.

Please note that Highway 40 is closed until June 15th. Tombstone Backcountry Campground can be accessed via Highway 66 from the Little Elbow Day Use. Expect winter camping conditions at high elevations.

Thanks,
Amy

Hwy 40 is closed.  Uh oh.  So I pulled up Google Maps and found the Little Elbow Day Use are at the end of Hwy 66.  Working out the distance, it appeared to be a 20+KM hike.  I emailed Amy back asking;

Amy,
Would the best way to get there be to park at Little Elbow Campground and take Big Elbow trail to Tombstone Backcountry Campground?  I’ve never been there before and have little knowledge of the area.  Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Devon

Hi Devon,

Yes, you can park overnight at the Little Elbow Day Use (Trailhead) located at the end of Highway 66 in the Little Elbow Provincial Recreation Area, not in the Little Elbow Campground. Tombstone is a 20km hike from the trailhead with a 400m elevation gain. Trail Crew reported over 3 feet of snow in the campground last weekend accumulating after the Big Elbow Backcountry Campground. Be prepared for winter camping conditions.

Please let me know if you would like to proceed with the booking.

Thanks,
Amy

Yes I would like to proceed with the booking, please.
Thank you for the heads up on the snow conditions. That information is super helpful.

Amy then replied confirming my permit request and shortly thereafter I received an email requesting payment.  Once that was finished, I received an email with the permit itself.  It cost me $12 for the Backcountry permit and another $12 for the campsite reservation.

 

Get Directions

 

WHAT I DID USE

– Hammock – bug net – under-quilt – top-quilt – Pillow – Tarp – Watch – Go Pro – External battery – Headphones – Down hat – Down jacket – Rain jacket – Wind jacket – Buff – Gaiters – Shoes – Pants – T-shirt – Cook kit – Food bag – Water filter – Backpack – Trekking poles – Bear spray – Wet wipes – Sunscreen – Sit pad

WHAT I DIDN’T USE

– Head lamp – Multi-tool – Ear plugs – Repair kit – Hammock winter cover – Bug repellent – Umbrella – Stick Pic – Rain skirt

WHAT TO BRING NEXT TIME

– Shoes with better rock plate – Dirty water bag – Garbage bag (Ziploc) – Shoe laces as drip lines on continuous loops. (in case of rain)

LESSONS LEARNED

  • Hang the foot end of my hammock higher than the head end next time. Try 6″-12″.  This should result in a better lay in the hammock.  Having the head and foot end at the same height causes me to slide down into the middle of the hammock which is less comfortable than being closer to the head end in the hammock.
  • Try different tarp end tie outs instead of CRL. (Dutch Stingerz?) Adjusting the prusik knots on the continuous ridgeline is more difficult than it needs to be.  The CRL also doesn’t allow for a “V” at both the head and foot end for the hammock suspension to go through.  Not a big deal, but something to consider.
  • Try different hammock suspension. The strap / beetle buckle suspension that came with the Chameleon hammock works well, however it is a bit heavy in comparison to other options.  I think I’m going to try whoopie slings.  They offer a little less adjustability than the strap suspension does, but would be just as easy to use, take up much less space in the pack and weigh significantly less.

CONCLUSION

This was a really fun trip, even with the foot pain that I experienced.  In retrospect, I should have asked the Alberta Parks people if there bridges were still out.  I had it in my mind that if they in fact were still out, 4 years after the floods, that I would just ford the river on foot.  I didn’t take the spring thaw into consideration.  Because of this, the river was just too deep and moving too fast to safely cross.  This also lead to me having to bush bash for quite a while to get to my destination.

All in all, however, I did quite enjoy the trip and learned a few things along the way.  I’ll definitely be doing this trip again.