Musical hiking

The Musical Bumps is a hike near Whistler that doesn’t make it into many guide books, mostly because it starts in the ski area and requires payment of a (pretty substantial) fee to access it. However, while it is definitely best hiked from Whistler summit, it can be approached from a different angle for much less money. That route involves heading to Singing Pass and picking up the trail from there. But it makes for a long tough day, and so a popular option is to camp at Russet Lake for a night to split the journey into two parts.

We hiked up the long (but quite pleasant) trail with a group of friends, enjoyed a peaceful night of camping, and then followed the Musical Bumps trail (passing this pair of marmots along the way) to the Roundhouse on Whistler mountain, taking the gondola back down into the village. Why is it called the Musical Bumps? There’s a musical theme to the whole area with the trail crossing the gentle summits of Flute, Oboe, and Piccolo mountains, and passing through the Harmony Bowl. When started at Whistler summit, the path follows the High Note Trail, with an option to shorten the route with the Half-Note Trail.

For some reason, I posted the photos on Instagram in reverse order, in other words, most recent first. Here I’m listing them in the correct time order.

1. Approaching Russet Lake

Approaching Russet Lake #russetlake #garibaldiprovincialpark #singingpass #backpacking #hiking #myhomewaters

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

After a long, long slog of 16 km and about 1500 metres of elevation gain, this is the most welcome sight in the world. Russet Lake sited in a shallow bowl beneath Fissile Peak with a superb view across the Fitzsimmons Creek valley to the mountains of the Spearhead Range. Alas, the sun went in more or less as soon as I decided to take this shot.

2. Evening light

Evening light #garibaldiprovincialpark #fissilepeak #whirlwindpeak #parksday #canadaparksday

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

Russet Lake is an alpine lake which makes it a great place to camp when the weather’s good. With superb views available nearby, it’s a superb place to take in the sunset (or sunrise). At the end of the day, the warm light from the setting sun makes the rusty colours of Fissile Peak look even redder. This was the only time I used an Instagram filter on one of my photos as the effect is really quite horrible. I reverted to using the manual editing features after that. Mind you, I’m torn as to whether it made the original photo any worse…

3. Black Tusk through a split boulder

Black Tusk through a split boulder #blacktusk #whistler #musicalbumps #garibaldiprovincialpark

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

As I’ve mentioned before, Black Tusk is one of the most distinctive and photogenic mountains around. The view from close to Whistler summit is perhaps the most dramatic with the peak viewed end-on, but it’s still pretty nice further along the Musical Bumps trail, especially when framed by a boulder that looks like it just fell apart. This shot is actually best captured with a phone or other compact camera; cameras with larger sensors (like dSLRs) will have a hard time keeping both the rock and Black Tusk in focus at the same time. Score one for phone cameras, even terrible ones!

Advertisements

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

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

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

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

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

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

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…

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

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

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

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

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.

From the beginning

Today is a Throwback-Thursday and, seeing as I didn’t start blogging my Instagram posts until I’d posted nearly 100, I thought it’d a fun way to fill in the gaps with some Throwbacks and Flashbacks. I might not post one every week, and looking back I will group together photos from a single trip or with a theme (as long as they were posted close together) so I don’t have to write another 90+ individual blog posts!

Be warned: all of my early posts originated on my phone. Indeed that was the whole point of getting an Instagram account in the first place, to give me a place to put casual phone pics, often processed in ways that I wouldn’t dream of with photos from our real cameras. Some (like the two below) work quite well as black-and-white, while others made use of either Instagram filters or the processing options in Google Photos that were available at the time as attempts to mask or at least draw attention away from the poor image quality. Was I successful? Sometimes…

I took these on one of the extreme low tides we get in the summer where we were able to walk out on Spanish Banks almost to the steep drop-off into the deeper waters of Burrard Inlet. Bright sunny days, with their high mid-day contrast, can often work well for black and white photos. And that’s exactly what I did for these two.

1. Low tide in Vancouver.

Low tide in Vancouver #lowtide #beach #spanishbanks #vancouver

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

The first is unusual for me in that it’s almost street photography – I don’t normally put people in my photos, especially strangers. But I liked the fact the three people in the group were all looking the same direction – out to sea – as well as the curve of the breaking waves leading towards the high-rises of downtown Vancouver. As far as street-style photos go, it’s one of my favourites. If I want to get picky, I should be held the camera higher to avoid merging the heads and the background ship, but then, try seeing that detail on a phone screen on a sunny day…

2. Go no further.

Go no further #lowtide #blackandwhite #beach #spanishbanks #vancouver

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

The second was simply a record of where we were, looking over to the North Shore, with the sentry-like structure guarding the transition to deep water as if to say that we should indeed go no further. I like the simplicity and the fluffy clouds over the mountains. That’s it really.

Looks tropical

Throwback Thursday to this time last year when we were enjoying sun, sea, and sand at Nissen Bight on the second of six days at Cape Scott. I finally got round to finish writing about the trip too – link below.

It has taken me ages to finish writing about the Cape Scott trip! Part of that was due to the fact that our note-taking tapered off after the first few days so I had less information to jog my memory when it came to the little things. Also if I didn’t insist on trying to essentially reconstruct each day then I could have written a much shorter series of blog posts and presumably finished a lot sooner. I think it would be a good exercise to try and condense it into something a bit more readable (say for The Outbound) but that would take time away from writing up all the other trips we’ve done that are merely drafts!

If you would like to read the whole thing (all six days’ worth), then start with my overview post, and read the entry for each day linked from there. (Each day also provides a link to the next one so either way it’s possible to read the entire diary. I’ve included photos linked to Flickr within each day, but we took way to many to include them all so there are also links to the complete album of over 300 photos (as well as a Top 140) on Flickr.

Anyway, about the photo itself. The sun came out, the polarizer went on, and the sea turned a tropical colour. We could almost have believed it ourselves had we not first-hand experience of the temperature of the water. Decidedly not tropical!

Today’s sunset

Today’s sunset from a decade ago.

Trawling through the archives in search of more throwback Thursday shots, I found this nice sunset from April 27th, 2007: exactly 10 years ago today 🙂 I took a big panorama of the same sunset, which I combined with Autostitch, and was mostly happy with it. Fast forward ten years, and I had another go at processing the images (in DxO this time), and then combined them with Hugin. Now, that didn’t work quite so well – Hugin is definitely a more discerning program when it comes to combining photographs to create a panorama. Since this panorama was taken with our old compact camera (Canon A80), I had little control over things like the focus, and I think Hugin interprets such data at face value, so it’s not surprising that it didn’t work quite as well. I’ve since learned to focus the camera once and then turn off autofocus for any panoramas.

However, you have to look pretty closely to see the errors. Sure, if I were printing this larger, then I’d want to ensure the photos were matched up as closely as possible, but for showing on the Internet, a few pixels here and there aren’t going to show. Despite that, I think it’s still a nice picture.

Vancouver sunset, 27 Apr 2007

To see a snowy frozen lake

Snow sculptures and Mt Price: throwback Thursday to 10 years ago when we snowshoed up to Garibaldi Lake and had the place to ourselves.

Re-reading my trip report from a decade ago I immediately pick up on how thrilled I was to make it to Garibaldi Lake in the winter. There’s no doubt it felt like quite the achievement, and it was our longest day of snowshoeing to date. What was most remarkable was how few people we encountered, no doubt helped by our decision to head up into Taylor Meadows rather than going straight for the lake. By the time we made it down to the lake, everyone else was on their way back down. I’ve been back once since then, on my all-time longest day of snowshoeing (11 hours) much of which was spent slogging through fresh powder. (But what a day that was – the clearest blue sky I’ve ever seen!)

I had to work quite hard to pick a good photo from this trip, though. Our camera was showing signs of its age (giving us the famous E200 lens error a few times), and there’s clearly an awful lot of muck either on the sensor or on the lens judging by all the dark patches that show up so clearly when photographing a scene that is mostly white! Alas given the weather, it was hard to capture the drama and scale of the view before us – white snow and white clouds don’t make for exciting pictures.

But I was pleased to find this one photo. I was intrigued by how bumpy the snow was, which I guessed was due to winds blowing across the lake and piling it up, and in particular by this one area where the ice of the lake was also exposed. Mt Price looked spectacular with its corniced north face and lit by soft afternoon light. It’s not a classic composition but it’s still quite a lovely scene, and – apart from the ones of us looking happy to have made it – is probably my favourite of the day.

I’ll finish by saying I can’t believe it’s 10 years since we did this. Perhaps we need to do it again this year? Hmmm…