Icy blue

This week’s Throwback-Thursday theme is ice. Perhaps my favourite topics in physical geography is glaciology (volcanoes and meteorology come a close second) and so it was with some delight that I realized I could get close-up views of glacier while hiking in BC and Alberta. I had visited Chamonix for a conference (wow – 20 years ago now!) and had enjoyed seeing the snowy icecap of Mt Blanc and the Mer de Glace, but they were still quite distant. What I wanted was to be able to touch that blue ice, without necessarily getting into mountaineering. I found two ways to do just that.

1. Scale. A lucky shot, these 2 photographers were packing up as we got to this viewpoint. Taken in Aug 2009.

Our third trek into the Canadian Rockies and our second time stopping at the Athabasca Glacier. In 2008 we’d taken the coach tour out onto the glacier, which gave us the chance to step out onto the ice and even sample the delicious cold meltwater. A year later we spent a few days exploring along the Icefields Parkway, stopping off at the Athabasca Glacier once again, this time just walking to the toe past all the signposts marking its position in recent years.

As we turned to leave, I noticed these two just beginning to walk away after taking a few photos. I changed to the telephoto lens and quickly captured them against the freshly-revealed ice in the background where a chunk had calved off, leaving behind a sheer blue cliff. It remains once of my favourite glacier photos because it lends scale to the immensity of the ice.

2. Wedge Glacier, getting further away each year.

By the end of our first summer of hiking in Vancouver, we had improved our strength and stamina sufficiently to tackle the steep hike to Wedgemount Lake, the site of perhaps the most accessible glacier in the area. That day, our turnaround point was the campground next to the lake, though I now wish we had continued on to the glacier on account of it being much closer than it was in the above photo (taken in 2015). I never expected to witness glacial retreat in my lifetime let alone in just a decade of hiking in BC. I was shocked when I revisited in 2013, and even more so in 2015 where the combined effect of a mild, low-snow winter and a warm dry summer had led to a huge retreat in the Wedge Glacier.

Where only 2 years previously the glacier terminated in an ice cave and a small pool, now the glacier’s snout ended in a much larger lake – indeed, a new glacial lake forming. Still impressive to be so close to this river of ice, but sobering to witness its retreat.

3. Wedgemount Lake, always a stunning place to be.

Lastly, a wider shot of Wedgemount Lake looking towards the Wedge Glacier, again taken in 2015. On our first hike here in 2005, the glacier extended to the obvious rocky outcrop visible near the end of the glacier. In the 1970s, the glacier calved into the lake itself! And that colour – always such a treat to see.

For sure the lake and its surroundings look spectacular on a sunny day such as this. But one of my favourite visits was on a misty, cloudy day in 2011, the rocks dusted in their first skiff of snow. The lake glowed a sage green being the only colour in an otherwise mostly-monochrome scene. A beautiful sight! The other highlight of that day was seeing a mountain goat. 🙂

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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.

Fat Dog

Throwback Thursday shot to 10(!) years ago today, and my first venture up the Fat Dog trail in Manning Park with its great views of Mt Hozameen. Took me 3 attempts to make it all the way up to the Heather Trail.

Having completed my Once Around the Sun contribution to Throwback Thursday, I had to come up with an alternative source of historical inspiration. Looking back over the years, I decided that dredging up the past from a decade ago would be a reasonable thing to do. And so my first offering for that is a photo taken from the Fat Dog Trail in Manning Park, a winter-only trail that winds its way up old logging roads to the alpine and then along a ridge to join the famously-flowery Heather Trail. Coincidentally, this view was also the subject of the first Instagram post I wrote about on this blog.

Funnily enough, this particular photo isn’t in our set on Flickr for this trip, and there are a few there that I would happily delete (which shows how my photographic tastes have changed over the years – hopefully for the better). But I really like this shot: Mt Hozameen framed by the trees, and a lovely S-shaped swoosh mark left by a skier leading the viewer into the frame. I’d like the framing to be a little tighter, but it was only a 4-megapixel camera so I don’t have much room for manoeuvre there.

And this also marks my 350th (!) photo on Instagram 🙂

Long exposure

Alpenglow. Flashback Friday to a Thanksgiving 2012 backpacking trip to Garibaldi Lake.

I couldn’t think what to post today, but I have had this photo in mind for a while now. It didn’t feel like a floral-Friday so I went with “flashback” instead. The summer of 2012 was a good one for us when it came to camping. I think we spent over 20 nights in our new tent as the backpacking season lasted until Thanksgiving in October. For the weekend, we called out a hike through Wanderung and headed up to Garibaldi Lake with a couple of fellow hikers.

The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed two lovely evenings by the lake watching the daylight fade. I was even inspired to take some long exposure photos of the lake to smooth out the ripples and get this nice reflection of the distant glaciers catching the last light of the day. Alas I totally missed the superb auroral display that graced the skies on the night we drove home…

Garibaldi Views

Garibaldi views: the Table and the north face of Mt Garibaldi from the summit of Mt Price, taken on Thanksgiving 2012

I posted this because it’s a rainy grey Saturday and I wanted to see something nice 🙂

The summer of 2012 was long and dry, and we got out on quite a few backpacking trips. The last one of the year was to Garibaldi Lake on a warm and sunny Thanksgiving weekend. It really did feel more like summer. Like many destinations, Mt Price had been on our list for a while and we were happy to get to its summit and enjoy the incredible views. I usually say that Panorama Ridge has the best views in Garibaldi, but Mt Price is a close second, albeit at the expense of a much tougher hike; it’s not one for inexperienced hikers, which means it’s lovely and quiet, and we had this view all to ourselves.

Mamquam Mountain Monday

Mamquam Mountain from a few weeks ago after the first dusting of snow. There’ll be way more than that now.

Mamquam is a huge massif of a mountain, and it can be tricky to photograph effectively. The version of this photo on Flickr has a little less presence than this one, and even that’s a crop from the full image. But that’s one of the things I actually like about Instagram: it forces you to change the perspective on an image, and gives the opportunity to highlight one or two features of a particular scene. And so it is with this photo – a tighter crop, a touch of warming, and a little bit of desaturating to emphasize shape and texture and before you know it, you have a completely different photo.