Misty Mountain Monday

Misty mountain Monday – views of the Stawamus Chief, showers in the Squamish Valley, and a suggestion of snowy peaks hidden in the clouds across Howe Sound.

Sometimes you have to get out hiking whatever the weather, and on this day we had plenty of weather! Winter wasn’t done with us yet, and we ended the day walking in wet snow. Still, swirly clouds make for interesting views along the way.

The first photo is overlooking the gap between the first and second peaks of the Chief, where we can see the Squamish Valley beyond and the way up towards Whistler. I snapped it from the gondola on our descent, and I like how the view is sandwiched between the clouds.

The second photo shows a similar view, though just looking down into the valley: I like how the light was catching the two parallel roads pointing northwards up the valley, and how the view becomes obscured by the rain showers.

The third photo was taken from the patio at the upper gondola station and at first glance might not appear to be very striking. But I really like the subtlety of the snowy mountain barely visible through the clouds. I tried to make it noticeable but not too obvious in the processing and I’m not sure it entirely worked. However, I still like it because it reminds me of the day and how there wasn’t even this much of a view when we first reached the top!

Waiting for sunset

Waiting for sunset on Black Mountain, a good little hike for when you’re getting over a cold. Plus we got to hang out with creeks.and.peaks and her pup Abby – we were all a little chilly by the time we headed back down!

We didn’t get out hiking at all in February, and we paid for it towards the end of the month when we were both struck down with colds. That knocked us out of action for a couple of weeks, and today’s hike was our first attempt at some exercise in well over a month. I struggled on the ascent, stopping often to do battle with a fit of coughing, the cold air and exertion threatening to stop me in my tracks.

Thankfully we had chosen a short hike, and we eventually levelled off on the Black Mountain plateau. As we wandered up to the north summit I recognized Ngaio whom we’d met at Keith’s Hut back in September 2016. We stopped to chat and swap stories of our respective colds.

While the sun was shining, the air was cool and we discussed the possibility of hanging around for an hour to catch the sunset. Somehow we all thought it was worth doing and so we wiled away the time taking photos, chatting, and commiserating with a shivering Abby – poor thing! When the time came, the clouds cleared and the snow turned pink-ish. The colours weren’t very strong, especially to the eye, and by now we were all cold – I was also shivering and having a hard time holding the camera still having decided to leave the tripod at home – and I’m not sure anyone thought it was actually worth our time.

However, when I looked at the photos at home I was pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out. The three above are all square crops from photos taken with my phone (my preferred source for Instagram) and I really like them all. The light in the first one is just lovely, the pink light on the trees looks stunning in the second, while the last light is cast across the uppermost slopes of the mountains in the third. I must admit I’ve gone back to look at these photos multiple times even before I posted them on Instagram.

A moment in the sun

Sky Pilot attracts all the attention up at the Sea to Sky gondola, but the Copilot is a pretty fine mountain in its own right.

One of the reasons I opted to buy a new camera was that I had lost patience with the lenses and performance of our SLRs. On one of our earlier trips up to the Sea to Sky gondola, I tried to capture the beautiful light on both Sky Pilot and the Copilot (including a composition very similar to the one above) and I was dismayed to find that every single shot was out of focus. Not blurry, but straight up unfocussed, as in complete failure to focus. (Now admittedly, buying an entire new camera system may seem an overreaction when a new lens would probably do the trick, but that’s another discussion.)

So I was looking forward to trying out our new camera, and bringing home some nice, sharp, detailed photographs. Even better, the late afternoon light on the mountains was glorious. Thankfully, the camera seemed to do exactly as I had hoped (indeed, as it should!) and we have some photos of the Sky Pilot group that we really like.

When it came to posting on Instagram, I returned to this view of the Copilot, drawn by the parallel ridges lit up by the sunshine (especially the left-hand one with the line of trees). By comparison, the photos of Sky Pilot itself were a bit flat, a bit too face-on without any real paths to lead a viewer’s eye. Truth be told I was hoping for warmer light but I actually quite like the starkness of it, which I think helps isolate the snow from the sky, as well as highlight all the texture in the land. Finally, it works really well as a square crop, ideal for Instagram!

The Best View

Mountains, mountains, and yet more mountains! This might be the most amazing view I’ve seen in the Lower Mainland: Sky Pilot, Mt Habrich, Mt Garibaldi, the Tantalus Range, and so many more. Absolutely incredible! And a bit of autumn colour to finish off. Definitely one of my favourite hikes of the year, though not for beginners…! Finished the day at Backcountry Brewing for good beer and pizza.

I don’t know where to begin in trying to describe how it felt to be greeted by the stunning view of Sky Pilot and Mount Habrich when we reached the top of the ridge. It was utterly breathtaking. We had worked hard for those views and it was worth every step; we were running short on time and had we been a bit more conservative we might not have seen them at all! But we took a chance and it paid off, big time! We still made it back down to the gondola in plenty of time too, so we could have explored a bit further. That’ll have to wait until next time.

  1. Sky Pilot – the craggy multiple peaks of the Sky Pilot group, so captivating no matter what angle they’re viewed at. But up close they are simply stunning, and even better from here than on the neighbouring Skyline Ridge.
  2. Mount Habrich – a gorgeous imposing cone of a peak, with slabs of sheer granite on all sides, it’s definitely a climber’s summit. Mount Baker can be seen on the horizon to the right of Habrich; Meslilloet to the left (the nearest glacier to Vancouver).
  3. Mount Garibaldi – a regular sight on this hike, with many opportunities to stop and admire our nearest volcano. Each of those viewpoints would have made a good-enough turnaround point, but we’re so glad we pushed on higher. All the snow coating Garibaldi’s lower flanks two weeks previously (seen on our trip to Watersprite Lake) had melted. I’m sure it’ll get some new snow this week.
  4. Tantalus Range – I really like this angle on the Tantalus Range, and that tree in the middle of the granite bluff is just so photogenic.
  5. Autumn colour – there wasn’t much in the way of colourful shrubbery, but these two bushes were glowing beautifully in the late afternoon sunshine.
  6. A maple avenue – walking back to the car between the gondola and Shannon Falls, we passed through a tunnel of vine and big-leaf maples whose leaves had turned a lovely golden colour. Many leaves had fallen, creating a bright, cheery carpet for us to walk on in the deepening pre-sunset shadow.

Peaceful

A beautifully peaceful hike to Petgill Lake today, with views of the Chief, Garibaldi, and Black Tusk with a nice selection of flowers to keep us company including Columbia lily, Queen’s Cup, coralroot, and pinesap. Petgill Lake itself isn’t much to look at but it is surrounded by gorgeous old-growth forest with a rich understory of berry bushes and young trees.

  1. A cloudy view of the Chief, Howe Sound, Mt Garibaldi, and more. Black Tusk is faintly visible near the upper left. I should have taken this photo on the way up when it was still sunny, but I like the feel of this one as it suits the calm mood of the day.
  2. A massively-multi-headed Columbia lily! We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw this; many of the lilies had multiple flowers but this one was the most impressive. I suppose the one good thing about the new logging road is the disturbed ground for new growth to find a foothold. In this case, the Columbia lilies are doing quite well.
  3. A few Queen’s cup were in bloom at the edge of a clearcut. It was hard to get a good clear view of them on account of all the debris but I was fortunate to find this little group.
  4. Pink and blue: a pair of nearly-ripe blueberries. We saw a few berries on the bushes near these two and I’m looking forward to them ripening! I like the colour contrast between the two berries and the arrangement: they’re lake a pair of eyes 🙂
  5. Petgill Lake. Meh. Many reports describe it as a pretty little lake, but I beg to differ. It’s alright, but it doesn’t look appealing for a swim, and there are only a couple of spots to get down by the lakeside. Do this hike for the hike, not the lake.
  6. Coralroot – how could I resist? This hike had sooooo much coralroot, but thankfully most of it was past its peak and not worth photographing which saved me a lot of time. (Also most of it was in the shade.) However, I did find some in the sunshine that made for a nice picture.
  7. Yellow coralroot, much rarer but I seem to have seen it on a few hikes already this year. I’ve brightened this photo quite a bit as it was deep in the forest and I deliberately underexposed the shot a little to keep the exposure fast. It’s not pin-sharp but it’s come out quite well for an Instagram-worthy photo.
  8. Pinesap: we saw lots of this today too, and found one area where it was blooming in abundance with more plants flowering than we’ve ever seen on any hike before. Spectacular! Again, most of it was in the shade but one little plant was in bright sunshine long enough for me to get down on my hands and knees to take its picture.

Picture perfect

Instagram-ready view of Sky Pilot and the suspension bridge from my comfy chair and not so well earned beer.

Perspective has two meanings and, if I can, I like to express both in my photography. The first, artistic or architectural, definition highlights leading lines or vanishing points to add drama and a sense of movement or to draw the viewer into the scene. The other, more colloquial, use is simply that of a point of view. Windows especially offer the latter and I like using such a ready-made frame to isolate and highlight an element in a scene, especially if there’s not much else of interest. One of my first photos on Instagram was of Mt Garibaldi seen through the square window of the Brew hut, a photo which would have otherwise been featureless, low-contrast, and really not very interesting, especially as it was taken with my old phone.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself sitting in a comfortable chair in the lodge at the Sea to Sky Gondola, savouring a good pint, and looking out through a (square!) window at the jaw-dropping Sky Pilot group, complete with its namesake suspension bridge in the foreground. I posted a picture of Sky Pilot only last week so, at first, I wasn’t entirely sold on posting another so soon. However, in some respects I actually prefer this photo because the clouds are much more interesting, even though the strong reflections of the windows behind me and the aluminium railing undoubtedly reduce its “technical” merit. In my opinion, those imperfections add character, and make the photo more fun; a genuine capture of a moment in time rather than a staged postcard or calendar landscape shot.

Photography should be fun.

In terms of processing, I used DxO’s wonderful perspective (there’s that word again) correction tools to render the window square. (Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to put yourself in just the right place to take a perfect window shot; I was happy to get close enough and let DxO do the rest.) With so many pixels to play with, such corrections are easily made with modern software.

Yet another photo…

YASPP: yet another Sky Pilot photo. But who can resist?

What better way to finish off a long weekend than a sunny day trip up to the Sea to Sky gondola? The conditions were perfect, with warm sun welcoming us in the open and cool air keeping us moving in the shade. The views were spectacular as always, Sky Pilot looking like a fairytale mountain against a pure blue sky. After a quick stroll around the Panorama and Spirit Trails we relaxed at the lodge, and I couldn’t resist sitting back with a totally unearned beer to admire this view. Later the clouds rolled in which actually added some more interest to the scene (the blue sky looks nice, but it’s a bit bland), but I waited too long to go outside and take that picture so this will just have to do.

If anyone’s thinking of hiking the Sea to Summit trail, there’s still plenty of snow above about 600 m. Recent weather systems have left a dusting as low as 400 m. The snow was also not very supportive, especially in areas warmed by the sun, which means snowshoes would probably be a good idea, but microspikes would be fine where the snow is packed hard. Now that I’ve renewed my pass, I’ll definitely be using the hike up as a conditioner for the summer again.