Eye see you…

Ever had that feeling you’re being watched…?

Hiking up to the third peak of the Chief last Saturday, we had cloudless blue skies with endless views all around. Except for Mt Garibaldi, which had two little nebulous eyes keeping watch on all us hikers below. While the light wasn’t great for the photo, I liked its whimsical nature and wasn’t surprised when, a few minutes later, I saw that the clouds had dissipated. That is, until I looked again after another short time had passed only to see two new eyes over the mountain… Spooky? Or just atmospheric physics at work? πŸ™‚

Mountains at sea

A view of Golden Ears from the entrance to Active Pass on our ferry ride home.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I love being out on deck as the ferry goes through Active Pass. I’ve seen killer whales here several times, seals most times, eagles, and the occasional sea lion. On our outward journey on Friday, I saw a couple of deer feeding in one of the meadows on Mayne Island.

As usual, I was up at the bow, primed to get take a picture of the other ferry coming towards us, only to be reminded of the glorious view of Golden Ears framed between headlands on Galiano (left) and Mayne Islands. Since it caught me by surprise, I was a little late in taking the photo, and as a result, it’s not as well framed as I feel it could have been; I would like the headlands to be a little closer together. I’ll have to make sure I get it right next time! Maybe the light will be more favourable too?

Mt Robson

The classic view of Mt Robson from the visitor centre.

This in indeed the classic tourist photo of Mt Robson, but it’s far from the best angle. (That honour goes to the view from Highway 16 heading south-east.) From here at the visitor centre, the mountain is diminished by the presence of the foreground trees and the surrounding mountains that are not as high, but much closer. However, when the light is right, it’s still a spectacular sight, and we were lucky enough to have another of rare day when the summit was clearly visible.

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.

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.

Reflecting mountains

Mt Chephren reflected in Lower Waterfowl Lake. After I posted my third photo last week, I thought I was done with this view. Not so! I found yet another photo, this one taken the morning after the previous sunset shots. But I think this​ is definitely the last πŸ™‚

No sooner had I posted my photo last week, and declared it my last of Mt Chephren, I found myself poring over the photos from that same 2009 trip to the Rockies only to come face-to-face with yet another picture of this mountain and the lake. It’s pretty obvious why I took it – a mirror-calm lake and morning sunshine on the mountains. Postcard material really.

One thing that doesn’t come across in any of the photos of Mt Chephren is its scale. With the camera at its widest viewing angle (equivalent to 28 mm), the top of the mountain and the tip of its reflection don’t quite fit into the frame. And of course there’s nothing else in the photo to lend a sense of scale. That’s the frustration with mountain photography. All too often you get a lovely photograph of some scenery, but without a sense of really being there, or an idea of how imposing the mountains are.

I think of photos of Garibaldi Lake in particular. When you’re at the lake, the mountains and glaciers on the far side look impressive, despite their distance. But not a single photo of them really captures that feeling. Thinking about what that has in common with the photo above is the fact that they’re mountains on the opposite side of a lake, and those photos are inevitably taken at lake level, reducing the mountains to a two-dimensional backdrop as the third dimension into the scene is compressed.

So what can you do as a photographer? It’s hard to get a human out in the middle of the lake, at least not without ruining the reflection πŸ˜‰ Getting some height over the lake often helps as it expands the depth of the scene. Or just accept them as they are, and treat them as being the view from a comfortable chair by the side of a lake.