Back in the mountains again

Good to be back in the mountains again! The Tantalus Range and a fine mountain hemlock looking good against that sky of unusual colour.

We set off from Vancouver in thick fog. Driving over the Lions Gate bridge, the tops of the uprights were hidden, the green arrows marking our lanes barely visible until we were underneath the gantry, blindly trusting our forward motion into the wall of grey ahead of us. The fog greeted us again on our return in the evening, our drive around a deserted Stanley Park proving quite eery with our headlights shining straight back into our eyes. But in between we had nothing but bright sunshine and a sky of a colour we barely recognized after the last two weeks of rain.

By coincidence, two-and-a-half months after our last hike (our jaunt up to Mt Parke on Mayne didn’t really qualify as such), we found ourselves at the same trailhead as that very same hike, this time with snow. We pulled on our snowshoes and made our way up through the snow to the same bluff with this incredible view. I was delighted to find this tree surrounded by untouched snow and I tried to take a leaf out of a landscape photographer’s book by actually finding something resembling a composition. Mountains on one side, big tree on the third-line, and lines in rain-washed snow against an azure backdrop. Unoriginal perhaps, but fine with me.

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Happy day

Happy International Mountain Day! Mountains make me happy, and I suppose these mountains are international if you don’t live in Canada, so yeah – enjoy the day! I know that I certainly enjoyed this view of the Tantalus Range from Al’s Habrich Ridge trail 🏔🗻🌋

It always takes seeing other people’s photos on Instagram to remind me of International Mountain Day. It’s kinda hard to remember as there are so many international or nationals “days” dedicated to one thing or another. But I’ll happily celebrate this one as I’ve come to love the mountains for their aesthetics and wildness, and their ability to bring me perspective and peace.

This view of the Tantalus Range (from the south-east rather than the more common and visually stunning north-east angle) caught me by surprise as we walked back out of the trees onto the large granite bluffs along Al’s Habrich Ridge trail, the tree branch and the water-carved granite framing the peaks nicely against the perfect blue autumn sky. It was nice to have that as I find many photos of mountains tend to lose some of the grandeur without any surrounding context. To the eye, the mountains look stunning; yet once captured through a lens, that larger picture and sense of place is often lost.

I’ve learned this the hard way over many years of hiking and photographing the local mountains. I still take many a context-free mountain photo, but some peaks are too photogenic not to keep trying!

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.

Another Skyline

Superb in-your-face views of the Copilot and Sky Pilot along the Skyline Ridge trail, some of the nicest subalpine rambling I’ve done in ages, especially now with the berry bushes changing colour.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Skyline Ridge was a wonderful hike. The highlight was definitely getting great views of Sky Pilot and Copilot. The lighting wasn’t the best for photography, having flattened as some high cloud moved in, but it was good enough to lend some warmth to this view of the mountains. I took many versions of this view as the hike progressed, and it was hard to pick a favourite, but I went with this one as I think it works better on Instagram where it might be viewed on a small screen. Such photos need simple lines or colour to stand out as you scroll – anything that’s too busy or too complex just won’t catch anyone’s eye. Oops – looks like I admitted that I’m just in it for the likes 🙂

Framed

Habrich framed. A pair of mountain hemlocks stand tall on Skyline Ridge, while Mt Habrich dominates the view across the Shannon Creek valley.

I love hiking through subalpine terrain, especially at this time of year as the leaves on the berry bushes start to change colour, turning from green to various shades of red. One feature of the subalpine I particularly like is the large mountain hemlocks that grow there, undoubtedly hundreds of years old given the difficult growing conditions at these altitudes. They have such incredible stature, and often take on fascinating shapes. They may not grow as big as their lower-elevation cousins, or the red cedars or Douglas firs, but they are the giants of their domain.

So it should come as no surprise, then, that the moment I saw this view, with two big trees standing either side of the granite pyramid of Mt Habrich, I couldn’t resist taking the photo.

Pinesap

It’s pinesap season! I love how these flowers emerge from the ground, uncurling and unfurling as they grow. Saw a few along the Sea to Summit trail at the weekend, and on Mt Gardner the previous weekend, and more on our hike to Mt Harvey a couple of weeks ago. Alice Lake is a great place to see them at this time of year.

Much like coralroot, I was intrigued by these colourful flowers that grew in the shade of the forest. I don’t remember exactly when I first saw one of these flowers, but I could immediately see it was unlike any other flower I’d ever seen. Varying from creamy-yellow to salmon-pink in colour, this tiny flower unfurls directly on the forest floor, starting out as a tiny coloured bump before growing up and straightening out to a full height of about 30 cm. Like coralroot, there’s not a hint of green anywhere. They sometimes grow alone, but more often in small groups, two or three, maybe half-a-dozen. Since then I’ve found a place where it grows in profusion, and the trail becomes one of the slowest half-miles I’ll ever walk 🙂

So keep your eyes open – they’re picky about where they grow, but when they find a place they like, they can spread out and colonize the area.

Suspension

Busy on the suspension bridge at the Sea to Sky gondola. Hiked the Sea to Summit trail yesterday in search of beer. We found some but there must be easier ways… 😁🍺

There are a couple of superb viewpoints along this trail but the best is undoubtedly from the patio at the gondola station. The clear view up the valley towards the Sky Pilot group is stunningly dramatic, and the suspension bridge in the foreground adds a bit of interest too, rather than just a valley full of green trees.

Best of all, you can sit and enjoy this view with a well-earned cold beer in hand!