Stormy

Stormy seas for wave-Wednesday, taken on Monday’s choppy crossing to Mayne Island.

The colour of the sea convinced me to leave the warm and dry passenger cabin for the open car deck on our crossing from Vancouver Island to Mayne Island, especially when the sky brightened and warmed from the dull stormy grey clouds that we set sail under.

I sized up and took a few photos. However, this one caught me by surprise. I actually pointed the camera along the side of the ferry to take it, and the shot was about 5-degrees off level since I was holding it at arm’s length and had no clue where the horizon was. But I instantly saw the wave leaving the ship defining a path, with another wave crossing it at the left of the image to add an even greater sense of movement. The bright sky above Prevost Island reflected beautifully in the water, but not so much as to reduce the depth of its colour.

A square crop suited it perfectly, getting rid of the ferry superstructure and – remarkably – placing the horizon on the upper third line. It’s not perfect – the light level was quite low, so the motion of the wave is blurred – but in this case I feel it only adds more dynamism. A partly accidental shot for sure, but one I’m really happy with.

The crossing itself was really not that bad as the ferry route is quite sheltered: the strongest winds blew up the open waters of the Strait of Georgia. Certainly nothing like as bad as some of the cross-channel sailings I’ve experienced between the UK and Europe…

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Black in white

Black Tusk decked out in white, as seen from Brandywine Meadows on this day in 2013. Probably looks very similar today after yesterday’s snow. 🌨

Black Tusk is an obvious landmark up and down the Sea to Sky corridor, and we’ve taken many a photo of it. I always like seeing a familiar peak from different angles, and this is one of my favourite aspects on Black Tusk, especially late on a sunny afternoon in early winter where the low angle of the Sun highlights the texture in the landscape. This view is almost exactly opposite the view I posted a few weeks ago, though is much further away so I had to resort to the 55-200 mm lens to get in close. Ah those were the days when that lens would still focus on things at infinity…

And so, right on cue, winter begins again – yesterday we even had some snow in Vancouver, though it didn’t settle.

The long way round

There are two main approaches to the Lions. The most popular route starts in Lions Bay and climbs up 1300 vertical metres to reach the base of the West Lion. Alternatively, follow the Howe Sound Crest Trail from Cypress Bowl, over St Mark’s Summit and the well-named Unnecessary Mountain. It’s more scenic, but nearly half as long again. On this occasion back in June 2015, we decided to combine the two: hike in from Cypress Bowl, and then descend to Lions Bay where we’d left one of our cars earlier in the day.

The hike can be broken into three: Cypress Bowl to St Mark’s, St Mark’s to the Lions, then the Lions down to Lions Bay. The first section is a hike we’ve done many times, and obviously the third leg is just the descent of the route from Lions Bay. The middle part is what we were most looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint, treating us to some of most enjoyable hiking near Vancouver.

1. Howe Sound views from St Mark’s Summit.

Howe Sound views from St Mark's Summit #hsct #hiking #explorebc #howesound #stmarks

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This is the classic view of the rocky outcrop by St Mark’s, one of the most common hiking photos of the Lower Mainland on Instagram. For many years, the trail to St Mark’s was a truly awful mess of roots and rocks. Upgrades began a few years ago, but they weren’t done yet so we had to endure a little bit of old-time misery. Eventually we made it to the viewpoint and admired the sheer drop down towards Howe Sound, while trying to ignore the scampering chipmunks and swooping whisky jacks on the hunt for unattended food.

2. Vancouver from the Lions.

#Vancouver from the Lions #hsct #thelions #hiking #cypressprovincialpark

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The Lions are a distinctive landmark and visible from many parts of Vancouver. So it makes a nice change to be able to admire the reverse view, looking down the Capilano River valley towards the city and to the Fraser delta beyond.

3. The Lions from Unnecessary Mountain. Classic.

The Lions from Unnecessary Mountain. Classic. #hsct #thelions #hiking #explorebc

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OK I’ve saved the best for last. As I mentioned above, the section of the trail over Unnecessary Mountain to the base of the Lions is some of the best hiking in the area. Gorgeous open subalpine rambling through a green-and-grey landscape. This was our favourite part of the trip and had the best views, such as this one. The route ahead is clearly visible along the ridge top.

We could have sat at the top of Unnecessary Mountain and stared at this view all day.

Would we do this hike again? Not sure – it ended up being one of our longest days on the trail at nearly 11 hours. Somehow we just need to get to that magic middle section…

Lunar pilots

The first-quarter moon hangs between Sky Pilot and Copilot at the end of a balmy autumn day.

Well who can resist such a sight? The moon floating in the sky between two of the most photogenic mountain peaks in the area. The biggest challenge was holding the camera steady, since I was down at 1/30 sec thanks to the polarizer (which helped enhance the colours). But the railing on the patio up at the Sea to Sky gondola makes a pretty good makeshift tripod.

Alas we were too late to have a post-hike celebratory beer, so we had to be content with taking the gondola back down and finding beer elsewhere.

Fancy a brew?

Backcountry huts attract a lot of attention, so much so that we rarely intend to stay in them. However, on this particular weekend in July 2015, we found ourselves the only people at the Brew Hut, run by the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club and opted to spend the night there. Just us and the mice.

Or so we thought. Not long before sunset, a couple of guys staggered into the hut proclaiming thanks at eventually finding it. Our quiet bubble well and truly burst, we ended up having a really pleasant evening chatting with them and helping them demolish the 13 cans of beer they’d brought along. Remarkably, they went to bed at the same time as us, and only stirred when we started moving in the morning. Their reason for visiting? They just liked the name and its association with beer…

1. Instagram-ready view of Garibaldi from Brew Hut.

Instagram-ready view of #Garibaldi from Brew Hut #brewhut #hiking #backpacking #explorebc

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I really liked this shot, especially at the time it was taken when Instagram was home to square photos. Indeed, one of the reasons I joined Instagram was to explore the possibilities with square crops. Now that it supports other crops (though no more than 5×4 in portrait orientation) I feel some of that creativity has been lost as I no longer feel I have to think in terms of that constraint.

Brew Hut with Garibaldi, a very nice place to spend a weekend #explorebc #brewhut #hiking #backpacking

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2. Brew Hut with Garibaldi, a very nice place to spend a weekend.

Brew Hut in all its glory – the location is stunning with great views in every direction. The tricky part is the access road which requires at least modest clearance and potentially 4-wheel drive for the final section (though there is a lower trailhead for vehicles that can’t make it up the last hill). I was happy to make it to the upper parking lot on a stifling hot day.

I remember the drive home after that trip, coming back through Squamish and being unable to see the Chief from the highway due to the thick smoke from forest fires in the neighbouring Elaho valley. We could see the red glow from those fires – very eery.

Behind you!

Behind you! This awesome view of the Wedge group is waiting behind your back as you admire Iceberg Lake.

Hikes to lakes rarely offer 360-degree views, but sometimes you get a good 180. Iceberg Lake is definitely one of those lakes. As you’re admiring the sheer headwall and the glacial lake at its base, all it takes to get the view above is to turn around. The meadows were a beautiful burnished gold and the distant peaks dusted with the season’s first fall of snow. I read a recent blog article from someone who climbed up Mt Cook on this same day: he’s in one of the pixels somewhere 🙂

There’s something off about this photo though: Wedge Mountain (right) is actually higher than Mt Weart (left) which appears as the highest point. I guess I didn’t hold the camera as level as I should have, always tricky when there’s no obvious horizon. Except – wait – there are actually two; there’s the treeline and the snowline. Going by the trees next to the meadow, I thought that this was about right but I can clearly see from the either that I’m still a little bit off, and that a further correction would probably restore the natural order to the world. Mind you, those trees are starting to look like they’re leaning to my eyes – the final result will be some sort of compromise between the two, a blend of reality and perspective.

Iceberg Lake

Gorgeous Iceberg Lake at last, surprisingly difficult to photograph with a standard wide-angle lens. But the view in the opposite direction makes up for that. A big thank-you to ACC-Whistler for a wonderful trail.

As mentioned in my previous post, we hiked up to Iceberg Lake near Whistler last weekend. In its own way the lake is like a miniature version of Wedgemount Lake (or at least the meltwater tarn at the toe of the Wedge glacier), the peaks surrounding which can be seen in the opposite direction. There’s a small permanent snowfield or even remnant glacier that calves into a lake coloured teal-green by rock flour.

The trail is superb, passing through old-growth forest for much of the ascent, and hugging Nineteen Mile Creek (see link above) with its picturesque waterfalls for the upper section before exiting the trees into beautiful subalpine meadows for an awe-inspiring view of the headwall of Rainbow Mountain. The view of the Rainbow glacier is fore-shortened as you get closer to Iceberg Lake (as at upper Joffre Lake), so the best view is from the meadows.

Photographic notes. This place needs an ultra-wide angle lens, at least for views looking towards Rainbow Mountain; the standard 28-mm equivalent simply does not go wide enough to capture the scale. Here, I was glad to be able to make use of a couple of hikers for scale, otherwise there’s simply no way to make it look impressive. Also, since the headwall faces more-or-less due east, morning light is essential. This is less of an issue in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky, though the shadows might be even darker than today (I had to play with the processing to bring up the deep shadows in the original version of this image).

Still, despite photographic challenges, it is definitely a beautiful spot to visit, and deservedly popular. Plus there are two more hikes in this area for next year’s list…