An ice waterfall

This was going to be a waterfall-Wednesday post but I didn’t get round to it so it’s a frozen-Friday photo instead 🙂 This is the uppermost part of the falls on Joffre Creek between the middle and upper lakes, where not much water is flowing but some lovely ice formations have been created. Earlier in the day I watched a dipper hop its way up the terraces of waterfall, eventually disappearing over the top to the creek above.

On my way up to the top lake, I paused to admire the waterfall although it was lit too strongly by the sun to make an interesting photograph. A blur of movement caught my eye and I spotted a dipper as it landed on one of the lower terraces of the waterfall. I watched it for minute or two as it hopped from terrace to terrace before disappearing out of sight at the top of the falls.

As I neared the waterfall on my return, I looked upstream as the trail switched back down the slope and noticed some striking blue ice formations that I hadn’t noticed earlier. I picked my way through the snow (I had to be careful as I was on a steep slope) to get this angle on the falls and framed up my photo. While I composed with the native 3:2 aspect ratio of the camera, I could see that the majority of the scene was contained within a region that would probably work for a square crop on Instagram. Thankfully I was right.

I just love the colour and shape of the ice and I’m very happy that I was able to capture and reproduce that colour and texture. Definitely another of my favourite photos from the day.

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Still winter

The view up to Mount Matier and its namesake glacier from lower Joffre Lake – still very much frozen, very much snowy. It’s late in the day for Trip-Plan Tuesday but after reading a few posts and seeing the number of unprepared hikers at Joffre Lakes I feel compelled to add my two cents.

The view up to Mount Matier and its namesake glacier from lower Joffre Lake – still very much frozen, very much snowy. It's late in the day for #TripPlanTuesday but after reading a few posts and seeing the number of unprepared hikers at Joffre Lakes I feel compelled to add my two cents. With a warm weekend in the city it's perhaps not surprising that people want to get out and enjoy the outdoors. But don't you think that driving past 5-foot snowbanks at the side of the road would be a bit of a clue as to how snowy the hiking trails might be? Don't you think that heading into the mountains wearing your casual street clothes might not be the best idea? Did you bring a hat? Gloves? Has your phone battery just died due to the cold? My concern is that those who made it up to upper Joffre Lake and back without incident will have learned nothing from their trip. They slipped and slid their way up, and avoided sliding off the trail into the trees or creek below on the way down. They made it back to the car with freezing cold hands, a little hungry and thirsty. It was all good fun (as it should be!) and maybe they managed to squeeze a photo or two out of their phone before the battery gave up. Maybe that photo made it onto Instagram and shows what a great time they had. But I would like to think that something registered in their mind that maybe next time they should wear more suitable footwear, maybe buy some microspikes, and make sure their phone is fully charged when they leave the car. Maybe find out more about the trail conditions beforehand, and bring some warmer clothes. So as a relatively experienced hiker I feel I have to spread the word and encourage anyone and everyone heading out into the backcountry to do some trip research and planning before you go, especially now as we head into shoulder season. Check the AdventureSmart website, and check local hiking websites, forums, and Facebook groups. We hikers are an amiable bunch and we love telling others about our hikes! #joffrelakes #joffrelakesprovincialpark #hiking #snowshoeing #bcparks #mybcparks #standupforparks #explorebc #beautifulbc #tenessentials #beautifulbritishcolumbia #adventuresmart #ifttt

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With a warm weekend in the city it’s perhaps not surprising that people want to get out and enjoy the outdoors. But don’t you think that driving past 5-foot snowbanks at the side of the road would be a bit of a clue as to how snowy the hiking trails might be? Don’t you think that heading into the mountains wearing your casual street clothes might not be the best idea? Did you bring a hat? Gloves? Has your phone battery just died due to the cold?

My concern is that those who made it up to upper Joffre Lake and back without incident will have learned nothing from their trip. They slipped and slid their way up, and avoided sliding off the trail into the trees or creek below on the way down. They made it back to the car with freezing cold hands, a little hungry and thirsty. It was all good fun (as it should be!) and maybe they managed to squeeze a photo or two out of their phone before the battery gave up. Maybe that photo made it onto Instagram and shows what a great time they had.

But I would like to think that something registered in their mind that maybe next time they should wear more suitable footwear, maybe buy some microspikes, and make sure their phone is fully charged when they leave the car. Maybe find out more about the trail conditions beforehand, and bring some warmer clothes.

So as a relatively experienced hiker I feel I should spread the word and encourage anyone and everyone heading out into the backcountry to do some trip research and planning before you go, especially now as we head into shoulder season. Check the AdventureSmart website, and check local hiking websites, forums, and Facebook groups. We hikers are an amiable bunch and we love telling others about our hikes!

Postscript: I’ve been wanting to make some of these points for a while now but had not taken the time to write them out in a coherent manner. I still need to let my ideas gel a bit more before writing a more thoughtful and better-reasoned article, but the essence of what I want to get across is the fact that getting away with being unprepared likely means that nothing is learned from the situation. As a result, the same mistakes are repeated until something goes wrong.

And I believe that’s my first Instagram “blog” post 🙂

Centre stage

The imposing bulk of Slalok Mountain and the Stonecrop glacier take centre stage in the winter.

I had a free afternoon on a sunny Saturday and I was already in Whistler – where else do I go but Joffre Lakes? With a low-moderate avalanche risk I decided that I’d be happy to head up the trail and take in the views. I wasn’t disappointed: it was absolutely stunning up there, and I was delighted to find a few angles with untouched snow in the foreground to lend that extra air of untouched wilderness. Never mind that a few feet to the left of these animal tracks was a two-boot-wide path in the snow stomped flat by a succession of skiers and snowshoers.

While most of my photos tend to fall in the category of “snapshot”, I did actually take my time with this composition, seeking just the right angle to keep the tracks while including or excluding various trees and shadows at the edge of the field of view. And I must admit it’s probably my favourite photo from the afternoon. I don’t often feel that my photos are good enough to show, but I cautiously think that this is one of them. I love the whole feel of it, and it’s immensely satisfying to see a scene, visualize it as a photograph, take that photograph, process it and have it come out exactly as you’d hoped. A keeper.

The full-height photo can be seen on Flickr, and to my mind is much more effective with a greater sense of being led into the frame by the animal tracks:
Joffre Lakes, 10 Mar 2018

From on high

For this week’s Throwback Thursday post, I bring you a semi-random trio of photos with almost no link between them. Almost.

1. Looking back at the ridge from the summit of Needle Peak.

Needle Peak eluded me the first time I attempted it as I was unable to find the non-scary way up. After a fair bit of exploring, and a couple of false starts, I noticed some worn paint markings on the rock and decided to squeeze through the gap to see where they led. I found myself on a small ledge where a couple of (admittedly very careful) steps would take me to a protected gully to get onto the main ridge. I was delighted to find that route and so get past the first crux of the climb.

For most people this doesn’t even count as a crux as they squeeze under an overhang (with a sheer drop – no thanks!) or scramble up a dirty eroded gully and then use a couple of trees to get onto the rocks (which I wasn’t comfortable descending and wild horses won’t make me go up something I’m not 100% convinced I’ll be able to descend).

The second crux – which I’d read turned back more people – was easy for me as the hand- and footholds are plenty and very grippy. Within a couple of minutes I was standing in the clouds at the summit. Yay!

2. Extreme green at Lower Joffre Lake.

Joffre Lakes has exploded in popularity in recent years, and with good reason: on a sunny day, the lakes just glow. My one and only backpacking trip there was back in 2008, and it was a bit of a gong show then. I don’t want to think about camping there now. But many people don’t make it to the upper lakes, only venturing as far as the first lake, a mere 5 minutes from the parking lot. Assuming you can find a space in the parking lot, that is. In summer, cars end up being parked for hundreds of metres along the road, which means someone only going to the lower lake walks further along the road than among the trees to the lake shore.

On my most recent visit there I noticed one big downside to the lakes’ popularity, namely many people are walking off trail and across the meadows to get a different angle on the view across this lake. As such there are now well-beaten trails across the meadows as visitors have ignored the signs advising them of the fragility of the ground. But without reinforcement, who’s going to inform these users? The park needs a full-time ranger in the summer who can patrol these areas and educate people about why they should stick to the trails. At some point, BC Parks may be forced to create a second viewing area to protect the remaining less-trampled meadows. We’ll see.

3. Whoa, that’s a bit of a drop!

Whoa, that's a bit of a drop! #cheddargorge #cliff #sheerdrop #sweatypalms

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Cheddar Gorge was a place I’d wanted to visit my whole life. While my siblings got to visit on school trips, I ended up seeing places like Snowdonia instead so I can’t really complain. Family visits back to the UK used to involve lots of sitting around but we have been using our visits to get out and see parts of the country we didn’t get to see when we lived there.

We took my parents on a (long) day-trip to Cheddar, and walked the trail along the eastern edge of the gorge. What can I say other than it was spectacular! Not a long or tough hike by BC standards, but the cliffs are sheer, and the road looks pretty small from up there. Definitely not a place to lose your balance! Away from the edge, we found spring wildflowers and wild goats, complete with kids doing what kids do best. I couldn’t help but record a short video clip of them having fun:

Needless to say, having only spent a single cloudy day there I’d love to return and explore further. Too many places to revisit…

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.

Serac city

Serac city.

Apart from the lakes themselves, the Matier Glacier is one of the more spectacular features of the Joffre Lakes hike. Some people will scramble up the rocks to the snout of the glacier, which is something I won’t do when the daily temperature changes straddle freezing. On one of our trips here we found chunks of glacial ice mixed in the snow very close to the lake, and there’s only one place that ice could have come from. So, I’ll just be content with this view for now, thank you.

I’ve rather fallen out with our SLRs lately as their focus just hasn’t been as sharp as our little RX100II (and sometimes misses altogether, which just shouldn’t happen). But I needed the long reach of the telephoto lens for this shot and I managed to get a few sharp-enough photos to really emphasize the drama of the features in the glacier. This photo was taken as the sun came out and lit up parts of the glacier for just a short time, adding lots of contrast to what had been a fairly flat view until then, and showcasing the texture and structure in the ice. N’ice, as I like to say 🙂

Leaf no trace

It’s leaf no trace Tuesday! 🙂 The rhododendron bushes added a great splash of colour to the forest at Joffre Lakes, and made the lakes look even more spectacular. I was puzzled by a few things along the trail that were packed in but not packed out: a broken Thermos flask just left on a rock, gas canister for a camping stove, the inevitable plastic water bottle (half full), and most bizarrely, a trio of hardback books propped up on a rock as if on sale. Seeing the books (which were not there on the hike in) reminded me of the time when we found a copy of Gideon’s bible perched on a rock. That rock was on the trail to – you guessed it – Joffre Lakes. I don’t get it. Is there something about this trail that compels people to leave stuff behind?

It's leaf no trace Tuesday! 🙂 The rhododendron bushes added a great splash of colour to the forest at Joffre Lakes, and made the lakes look even more spectacular. I was puzzled by a few things along the trail that were packed in but not packed out: a broken Thermos flask just left on a rock, gas canister for a camping stove, the inevitable plastic water bottle (half full), and most bizarrely, a trio of hardback books propped up on a rock as if on sale. Seeing the books (which were not there on the hike in) reminded me of the time when we found a copy of Gideon's bible perched on a rock. That rock was on the trail to – you guessed it – Joffre Lakes. I don't get it. Is there something about this trail that compels people to leave stuff behind? #leavenotracetuesday #lnt #LeaveNoTrace #joffrelakes #joffrelakesprovincialpark #hiking #explorebc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #fall #autumn #bcparks

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A lovely cool overcast day to hike up to Joffre Lakes. Our friend Jen hadn’t seen them before and we figured that now was a good time to visit as the summer insanity had subsided. That’s not to say it was deserted – we encountered many people along the trail (a sizeable fraction of whom were committing the cardinal backcountry sin of wearing jeans) – but it was still a mostly peaceful day.

I’ve only visited the lakes in summer too, so it made a nice change to visit them in the autumn as the berry bushes changed colour. Lots of yellows, golds, and reds today which made for a wonderful contrast against the colours of the lakes. It was a good reminder of precisely why this hike is so popular.