Memories of summer

On a soggy day at the beginning of November it’s nice to be able to look back at those sunnier days on summer trips. Our backpacking trip to the Southern Chilcotins was the highlight of our summer, especially this day up on Harris Ridge – even though we got chased off by a thunderstorm that chucked hail pellets and snow at us for an hour!

It’s been pretty wet over the past few days; it feels like autumn has finally caught up with us as the first hints of snow are decorating the tips of the North Shore mountains. Summer seemed to come and go quickly this year but we did get out on some memorable trips, not least of all our week in the Southern Chilcotins.

While we enjoyed travelling through the landscape, it’s our two days of day-hiking that stand out as our favourites, and especially the second of those days on which we hiked up and along Harris Ridge.

After a bit of hard work we ended up on the broad expanse of the ridge, walked to its end, and sat down for an early lunch with the view above. The sun came and went, and we waited as long as we dared to get this shot as the storm clouds rolled in our direction.

This view was one of our favourites as we looked down into the meadow where we’d camped for two nights – the same meadow we watched a grizzly bear patrol while we cleaned up after breakfast – and up to Windy Pass with its endless views to the west. It’s possible to gain the ridge from those meadows although it looks quite steep from down there.

We tried to outrun the weather but it caught up with us as we began our descent back to the tent, pelting us with hail that turned the landscape white for a time. As I said, a memorable trip…!

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Mamquam Framed

Mamquam Mountain framed.

The minute I saw Mamquam Mountain over to the east of our lunch spot on an open rocky bluff I knew I had to find a way to capture it. And it didn’t take long. I noticed the tree on the upper right with its arching canopy and decided to make that the top of a frame to give the mountain some context. After all, it’s a long way off (20 km) and while distant mountains are nice to look at, they don’t always make interesting photos.

All that I had to do to complete my framing was to gain a little more height so I could get an unobstructed view the icefield on the mountain. Thankfully it didn’t take much, and I was able to do it safely without venturing anywhere near the steep drop-off. The trees have the added benefit of obscuring some of the logging roads and clearcuts on the intervening slopes.

Back home I knew a square crop would work. Apart from that, the only other change I made was to apply a warming filter to the shady part of the rock to take out some of the blue in the shadows. Very simple, and I’m really happy with the result.

The Best View

Mountains, mountains, and yet more mountains! This might be the most amazing view I’ve seen in the Lower Mainland: Sky Pilot, Mt Habrich, Mt Garibaldi, the Tantalus Range, and so many more. Absolutely incredible! And a bit of autumn colour to finish off. Definitely one of my favourite hikes of the year, though not for beginners…! Finished the day at Backcountry Brewing for good beer and pizza.

I don’t know where to begin in trying to describe how it felt to be greeted by the stunning view of Sky Pilot and Mount Habrich when we reached the top of the ridge. It was utterly breathtaking. We had worked hard for those views and it was worth every step; we were running short on time and had we been a bit more conservative we might not have seen them at all! But we took a chance and it paid off, big time! We still made it back down to the gondola in plenty of time too, so we could have explored a bit further. That’ll have to wait until next time.

  1. Sky Pilot – the craggy multiple peaks of the Sky Pilot group, so captivating no matter what angle they’re viewed at. But up close they are simply stunning, and even better from here than on the neighbouring Skyline Ridge.
  2. Mount Habrich – a gorgeous imposing cone of a peak, with slabs of sheer granite on all sides, it’s definitely a climber’s summit. Mount Baker can be seen on the horizon to the right of Habrich; Meslilloet to the left (the nearest glacier to Vancouver).
  3. Mount Garibaldi – a regular sight on this hike, with many opportunities to stop and admire our nearest volcano. Each of those viewpoints would have made a good-enough turnaround point, but we’re so glad we pushed on higher. All the snow coating Garibaldi’s lower flanks two weeks previously (seen on our trip to Watersprite Lake) had melted. I’m sure it’ll get some new snow this week.
  4. Tantalus Range – I really like this angle on the Tantalus Range, and that tree in the middle of the granite bluff is just so photogenic.
  5. Autumn colour – there wasn’t much in the way of colourful shrubbery, but these two bushes were glowing beautifully in the late afternoon sunshine.
  6. A maple avenue – walking back to the car between the gondola and Shannon Falls, we passed through a tunnel of vine and big-leaf maples whose leaves had turned a lovely golden colour. Many leaves had fallen, creating a bright, cheery carpet for us to walk on in the deepening pre-sunset shadow.

Sights from the North Shore

Sights from the North Shore – a couple of hours well spent rambling through subalpine forest with occasional spectacular views of distant cities, mountains, and islands.

We had one of those rare events in Vancouver: a sunny weekend! Alas we had in-town commitments (naturally…) so we couldn’t get out for a whole day, but I was able to grab a couple of hours up exploring some trails on Dog Mountain while Maria was in Deep Cove.

  1. One of my favourite photos from the afternoon, I really like the little puddle in the foreground, the rugged rocks of the bluffs beyond, a bit of autumn colour, the shadows, and the distant view of Cathedral Mountain (and even Mount Garibaldi in Squamish). It all adds up to many layers and a natural path for the viewer’s eyes to follow from front to back.
  2. Vancouver far below, the bright afternoon sun reflecting off the Salish Sea and Burrard Inlet between Stanley Park and the west side of the city. In the distance, the mountains of Vancouver Island are visible – later as we drove home along the Upper Levels Highway, we had a stunning view of the orange sky behind the silhouette of Mount Arrowsmith, between Nanaimo and Port Alberni. Just glorious!
  3. Decaying skunk cabbage leaves, nicely arranged on the forest floor. It’s amazing to think that those giant, robust green leaves of summer soon wither and decay to paper-thin fragments.
  4. Reflections in a small tarn – the trail passed by several small tarns or ponds, all of which reflected the surrounding trees and bushes just beautifully. I really like the tufts of grass at the water’s edge in this view.
  5. A dab of colour – many of the bushes and shrubs change colour to gorgeous shades of orange, yellow, and red. It may not be the spectacular maple displays of the eastern deciduous forests, but the subalpine and alpine plants put on their own diminutive show. I just love the vivid primary colours on display: red, yellow, green, blue…
  6. Mushrooms! I was surprised that there weren’t more on display – I only really found this little group and another nice patch of fly agaric. I don’t know what they are so if anyone can identify them then please let me know.
  7. OK so this might actually be my favourite from the day. There’s just something about dead trees; they’re often so photogenic and full of character. I always think about how old these trees are, how many summers and winters they have lived through, watching people come and go.
  8. Last but not least is another favourite showing the terrain dropping away into bowl below the bluffs, and the distance mountains of Coliseum and Cathedral, Garibaldi barely showing up at the edge of the treed slope of Mount Seymour.

So there you have it, my attempt at showcasing the glorious sunny subalpine experience I had last Saturday.

All photos taken on a Pixel 2 phone, edited to taste in Google Photos.

Summer views

Another Friday, another flashback. I posted a photo of this view back in October last year after the first fall of snow (feel free to scroll back through my feed to find it). It was nice to revisit it on a warmer day.

As we headed out on our hike, I kept an eye on the view back towards the lake to see if it would be possible to recognize the spot where we sat in the snow last October. It turned out to be easy and I could even identify the very rock we’d sat on. Without being able to see exactly what I’d taken last year, I did my best to size up what seemed to be the most likely composition, hoping that consistency would be on my side.

Reproducing the scene turned out to be surprisingly easy, but where I got it wrong was in my editing of the photo above; I was a little too keen to crop out the right-hand side, and I used a different aspect ratio (4:3 rather than 3:2) which I can put down to using a different camera. The end result makes for quite a nice comparison. See for yourself:

Winter in July

Flashback-Friday to four weeks ago and a thundery summer hailstorm that turned the surrounding landscape white while we huddled under a tarp.

We suspected that we’d be in for some wild weather as we watched the sunlit snow pellets float towards us on the wind. For the longest time it looked like we might escape as we watched heavy showers drift either side of us. But as we retraced our steps back down to Camel Pass, a clap of thunder had us scurrying down towards the treeline as fast as we could safely scramble. The thunder got closer and we walked faster as hail began to fall.

We made it to a small clump of spruce trees, stashed the metal items in our possession several metres away, and pulled out our never-before-used Siltarp to provide some cover against the now-stinging hailstones. Then a flash and crack of thunder right overhead. We’d definitely made the right call to get off the ridge: thunderstorms in the alpine are no joke.

The tarp was our shelter for the next hour as a mix of hail and snow fell all around us, decorating the landscape in a thin coat of white. Our sunflower butter and apple chip wraps included pea-size hail pellets for a little extra crunch. As it finally tapered off and ended, we picked up our gear and walked the rest of the way back down to our tent, marvelling at how the scenery had changed in such a short time. By the end of the day it had all melted, but for a few hours we had a bracing dose of winter in July.

Exploration

The South Chilcotin Mountains provincial park is absolutely stunning and one of the best backpacking areas I’ve ever visited. I cannot wait to plan more trips there! But it’s not a place for beginners – do not venture into this area without significant planning and experience. Most of the park has no facilities so you must be self-sufficient and practice your best leave no trace skills.

So many photos to choose from, I picked this one of Harris Ridge with the Dickson Range as backdrop to get me started. Wow!

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The South Chilcotin Mountains provincial park is absolutely stunning and one of the best backpacking areas I've ever visited. I cannot wait to plan more trips there! But it's not a place for beginners – do not venture into this area without significant planning and experience. Most of the park has no facilities so you must be self-sufficient and practice your best leave no trace skills. So many photos to choose from, I picked this one of Harris Ridge with the Dickson Range as backdrop to get me started. Wow! #backpacking #hiking #southchilcotinmountainsprovincialpark #southernchilcotins #bcparks #explorebc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #beautifulbc #leavenotrace #lnt #tripplanning #mountainmonday

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“Wow” doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt to explore this small part of the Southern Chilcotins. It felt vast, endless, remote, and yet approachable, unlike many of the more jagged mountain ranges and deep valleys of the Coast Mountains. Our five days here was some of the most enjoyable backcountry time we’ve had in a while, probably since Cape Scott in 2016.

And that was despite the mosquitoes (which were horrendous in one valley, merely annoying elsewhere), getting caught in a hailstorm with thunder and lightning, and getting rained out on our last couple of days which had us cut our trip short by a day. The hiking was excellent, the trails were easy going (for the most part), and the flowers were endless. So many flowers!! The meadows were just filled with every type of flower imaginable, including a few new ones for us that we’ve yet to identify. I can’t wait to go back!

I was surprised by the complete lack of facilities at any of the suggested camping areas: I think I expected we would encounter campgrounds, or at least established camping spots. In reality we had to make it up ourselves, and use our backcountry knowledge and experience to decide on good places to camp. We ensured we ate about 100 m from our tent, and hung our food (our Ursacks were invaluable) a similar distance away.

One of the highlights was seeing a grizzly bear wandering through a meadow as we ate breakfast. At only 200 m away, it felt awfully close, especially as our bear spray was 100 m closer to the bear than we were! But we soon learned that the bears want nothing to do with people as the sound of a mountain biker’s voice startled the bear into running for tree cover.

The hike up to Harris Ridge (seen in the photo) was definitely the best day of exploration, following the high ridge to its end with views that covered all the valleys we’d hiked through to get to where we were at that moment. Plus we could see nothing but mountain range upon mountain range in every direction. So much to explore, so little time…