Waterfall season

Shannon Falls from the side, this view is from the parking lot at the Sea to Sky gondola – waterfall season is fast approaching!

It’s been a pretty miserable winter here in Vancouver. Lots of rainy days, and sunshine has been hard to come by. But rain and snow make for good waterfalls, so there’s something to be said for enduring all the grey and damp. Shannon Falls near Squamish is usually a good bet for a good flowing waterfall, and this day was pretty good for early spring conditions. I’ve seen the falls flowing much more strongly than this, but today there was enough to get some good misty spray drifting from the upper cascades. We’d called in to the Sea to Sky gondola to buy annual passes (aka Christmas presents!) and caught this nice view of the falls as we walked from the car, a slightly different perspective than usual.

Magnificent

Magnificent Mount Currie looks impressive from any angle.

One of the most impressive sights in Pemberton is the jagged skyline and rugged north face of Mt Currie. More of a massif than a single summit, it has the look of a Real Mountain(TM), simultaneously intimidating and appealing. Remarkably, it has a relatively straightforward ascent route, albeit one that is very steep and gains well over 2000 m of elevation, and requires little more than determination and some route-finding abilities once up in the alpine. I don’t say this very often, but I would really like to make it to its summit, and check out the view of the Pemberton Valley: it must be stunning.

This view is from the beginning of the trail up to Nairn Falls. At first, it just seems like there is some bright, sunlit cloud behind the trees and it’s only when you pass a gap in the trees that you realize you’re looking up to the top of an enormous mountain (although this isn’t even the summit itself, which is hidden behind this sub-peak). It’s rare to be in such a position around here – to me it’s how I imagine it must feel to be in the Himalayas. Even the Rockies rarely feel quite this imposing (Mt Robson the exception here). Speaking of those gaps in the trees, a clear view of the mountain is not possible from the trail, so I was happy to make do with this angle, with the mountain framed by the boughs of nearby Douglas firs.

To see a snowy frozen lake

Snow sculptures and Mt Price: throwback Thursday to 10 years ago when we snowshoed up to Garibaldi Lake and had the place to ourselves.

Re-reading my trip report from a decade ago I immediately pick up on how thrilled I was to make it to Garibaldi Lake in the winter. There’s no doubt it felt like quite the achievement, and it was our longest day of snowshoeing to date. What was most remarkable was how few people we encountered, no doubt helped by our decision to head up into Taylor Meadows rather than going straight for the lake. By the time we made it down to the lake, everyone else was on their way back down. I’ve been back once since then, on my all-time longest day of snowshoeing (11 hours) much of which was spent slogging through fresh powder. (But what a day that was – the clearest blue sky I’ve ever seen!)

I had to work quite hard to pick a good photo from this trip, though. Our camera was showing signs of its age (giving us the famous E200 lens error a few times), and there’s clearly an awful lot of muck either on the sensor or on the lens judging by all the dark patches that show up so clearly when photographing a scene that is mostly white! Alas given the weather, it was hard to capture the drama and scale of the view before us – white snow and white clouds don’t make for exciting pictures.

But I was pleased to find this one photo. I was intrigued by how bumpy the snow was, which I guessed was due to winds blowing across the lake and piling it up, and in particular by this one area where the ice of the lake was also exposed. Mt Price looked spectacular with its corniced north face and lit by soft afternoon light. It’s not a classic composition but it’s still quite a lovely scene, and – apart from the ones of us looking happy to have made it – is probably my favourite of the day.

I’ll finish by saying I can’t believe it’s 10 years since we did this. Perhaps we need to do it again this year? Hmmm…

Still winter

In the winter, it’s the mountains that take centre stage at Joffre Lakes. Slalok looks mighty impressive here, as did the enormous pile of avalanche debris that had travelled part way across the lake.

So peaceful, so still. That was how we felt when we broke through the trees onto the snow-covered Upper Joffre Lake. We found a spot to sit and enjoyed lunch with this view before wandering across the lake towards the campground. I love how the snow smooths out all the terrain features, covering all the boulders and rocks. I’ve viewed many photos of such scenes from backcountry skiers but I have to admit it was something else to see it with my own eyes, and that had me contemplating ways to get out in the winter backcountry some more. It all looked so inviting, especially the route up towards Tszil and Taylor. Deceptively benign-looking on a warm spring day, though the massive chunks of avalanche debris told a different story.

Now I must digress onto a rant. Please, please, please, PLEASE stop feeding the whisky jacks (or any other cute critter that comes looking for food). They have become a real nuisance and will take food from your hand whether you want them to or not. Within seconds of us getting out our lunch yesterday, we were dive-bombed by two birds that snatched a portion of what we were holding from our grasp. Birds carry some really unpleasant diseases (bird flu anyone?), so I really don’t want to eat anything that they’ve touched. Any food they did come into contact with, goes into my garbage so it’s a lose-lose and both of us go hungry.

Mount Harvey

A view of Mt Harvey and its sheer north face, the site of a heartbreaking tragedy this past weekend where 5 snowshoers died when a cornice collapsed beneath them. My thoughts go out to their families and friends, especially to the surviving member of that group. I’ve often wondered about tackling Mt Harvey in the winter, but I’ve always had those cornices (and my relative inexperience in winter backcountry travel) at the back of my mind, which has always led me to leave it for another day.

My heart sank when I heard that SAR teams had been called out to an incident on Mt Harvey. My immediate thoughts were that someone triggered a cornice collapse and had fallen several hundred metres. Sadly I was right, except it was worse because five people were involved. Perhaps the only reason that the sixth member of the group survived was that they had slowed down on the ascent and reached the summit later than the others. What an awful realization that must be.

A tragic reminder that the local mountains can be as deadly as they are beautiful.

Fat Dog

Throwback Thursday shot to 10(!) years ago today, and my first venture up the Fat Dog trail in Manning Park with its great views of Mt Hozameen. Took me 3 attempts to make it all the way up to the Heather Trail.

Having completed my Once Around the Sun contribution to Throwback Thursday, I had to come up with an alternative source of historical inspiration. Looking back over the years, I decided that dredging up the past from a decade ago would be a reasonable thing to do. And so my first offering for that is a photo taken from the Fat Dog Trail in Manning Park, a winter-only trail that winds its way up old logging roads to the alpine and then along a ridge to join the famously-flowery Heather Trail. Coincidentally, this view was also the subject of the first Instagram post I wrote about on this blog.

Funnily enough, this particular photo isn’t in our set on Flickr for this trip, and there are a few there that I would happily delete (which shows how my photographic tastes have changed over the years – hopefully for the better). But I really like this shot: Mt Hozameen framed by the trees, and a lovely S-shaped swoosh mark left by a skier leading the viewer into the frame. I’d like the framing to be a little tighter, but it was only a 4-megapixel camera so I don’t have much room for manoeuvre there.

And this also marks my 350th (!) photo on Instagram 🙂

Zig Zag

Zig-zag falls – at least, that’s what I call them – on the way up to Red Heather Meadows and beyond to Elfin Lakes.

I’ve tried to get photos of this creek so many times before that I almost didn’t bother on this trip, but for some reason the zigzag in the cascades really stood out and I just had to capture it.

I still remember the first time I saw these falls – except they were nothing more than a trickle on a hot, early October day. I remember them because one of the people we were hiking with decided to fill their water bottle straight from the creek and drink it. I never found out if they got sick or not, but it’s something I simply won’t risk. The only time I’ve drunk untreated water in the backcountry was from a stream on the surface of a glacier. That water went beautifully with some good single malt whisky…