The path ahead

Still some snow along the ridge towards Mount Harvey. Saturday was a beautiful day to be up high, and the snow was a welcome cooler! Full trip report on LiveTrails.

The last (and only other) time I reached the summit of Mt Harvey, the only view we had was straight up through the clouds to blue sky above. All around us was heavy cloud that refused to lift or burn off. I therefore wanted to wait for a clear day to repeat the long, steep climb, and Saturday was perfect. (Well, nearly: it was probably a bit too hot for hiking, though we were in shade for most of the ascent and there was a nice breeze at the top.) And it was worth the wait: the view is incredible, and I think I prefer it to that from Mt Harvey’s taller neighbour, Brunswick Mountain.

Of course, it was never far from our minds that this was the place where five snowshoers died back in April, and we met a Korean hiking group at the summit who were there to remember their friends. This part of the ridge shows the remnants of some of the cornices that form during the winter, and even though they are a shadow of their former selves, we were careful to ensure we kept well back from their edges.

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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.

Lions in a frame

The Lions, framed at the north summit of Black Mountain.

Last Wednesday was a gorgeous blue-sky day and I couldn’t resist getting back out in the snow with my camera. The wind that greeted us at the north summit felt almost as cold as that in the Coquihalla at New Year and we quickly retreated to a nearby bump that retained a view of the Lions at least. And that’s when I saw the picture: the famous twin peaks were framed neatly between two snow-laden trees, and I had a nice foreground of smooth sunlit snow. Even the existing snowshoe tracks serve to frame the Lions.

Tree family

Snowy tree family – another photo from our Christmas day snowshoe up Hollyburn.

Sometimes you see something and can instantly recognize that it’s a square photo. As I framed this shot I could see that the group of trees could be isolated and placed them with just enough sky above and snow below to complete the picture. I like the way the trees appear to be interacting with one another. I saw a photo on Instragram recently where the photographer thought the same, a small group of trees all leaning in and appearing to be deep in conversation. It’s the weight of the snow that does it, bending over the tops of the trees (and sometimes much more). I’ve been caught in the spring many times by trees shedding their snow and springing back up to surprise me 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a fun festive season!

A sunny Christmas morning, and the only chance to get out in the snow all week. How could we refuse? We made an early start (at least by our standards) and enjoyed a peaceful wander up to the summit before heading back home to catch up with family on Skype (showing them some of the photos from the morning’s expedition) and then enjoy a lovely Christmas dinner with friends. A good day, for sure.

Mud, glorious mud!

It’s what hiking boots were made for, right? Plus trekking poles are great for checking mud depth before committing 🙂 Good things to have for classic North Shore trail conditions.

I’m always trying to think about contributing a post for Leave No Trace Tuesday on Instagram, and this struck me as a good one to talk about given how the popularity of the trail to St Mark’s Summit has increased with the rise of social media. So many hikers do not wear footwear that can deal with these conditions, instead often decked out in light runners (trainers, as we’d call them). In turn this means people will try and skirt around the mud, often forging a new trail which will eventually get just as muddy. For years I’ve tried to set an example by walking through muddy sections – usually picking my way over rocks and/or bits of wood – but it doesn’t seem to be catching on.

Alas there were no views from St Mark’s today – the good weather in the forecast was a few hours late!

Mist in the trees

Sometimes you just have to take whatever views you get

This is my contribution to Instagram’s plethora of misty tree shots 🙂

The forecast looked promising: a cloudy start clearing to sunshine by noon. Alas it was wrong, and we got nothing but a great view of the clouds at St Mark’s Summit! Of course, by the time we were driving back over the Lions Gate Bridge we were in glorious sunshine.