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Monday, August 27, 2007

Photoblog #2: Vancouver's Playground

Telling stories of my adventures to a friend the other day I suddenly really missed my crew in Vancouver and just how much and how well we took advantage of Vancouver’s incredible recreation potential. So I thought I’d do a quick photo blog of some of my favourite memories and what fun looks like back home.

But rather than the best shots, I thought I’d pull up some of my best and humorous memories of these trips.

Normal is a highly subjective term and adventures are what you make them. Vancouver’s rugged and varied playgrounds, while close-by, aren’t necessarily convenient to get to. Long hikes in through deep forest, steep slopes. Conditions challenging enough for one of my friends to have inventing a bushwhacking scale (B1=trail to B5=you have to use roots and bush to physically pull yourself upwards). And the weather sucks half the time (and the other half it’s raining). But some of my happiest times have been spent with these people, whether at ocean-side campfire or alpine cook stove, under the stars or a tarp, following trail or temporarily unsure of our exact whereabouts (aka absolutely lost). Whatever the situation, we’re having fun, or if not exactly then, well, we laugh about it later. :-)

1) Cold, what cold?
The boys unjustifiably happy in their lovely matching size XXL down jackets. Where Tim finds these things is beyond me. This is us winter camping and ski touring. Yes, those parkas are necessary. Yes, those are shots of whiskey they are drinking. Yes, it is breakfast time. Things you do when it is 40 below zero. All for the chance of some great turns and fresh, light powder (a rarity on the wet West Coast).

This weekend was one adventure after another. We came in at night after a week of cold, light snow. No one had been in for a while and making fresh tracks with our skins skiing into camp was magical and moving was fine despite the cold, the night air crisp and stars vivid. No having a destination in mind, we had skied a hour further along the trail above this field before turning back and camping here. It was a chilly night in the sleeping bags and all our warm clothes on, but restful...until our friend Wilson inexplicably tramps into our campsite at 3 am. Where the Hell did he come from?

So earlier that evening Wilson had forgotten his poles and had returned, angry, to Vancouver to get them with plans to follow us in and meet up with us in the morning. But unbeknown to us, upon retrieving his poles he had turned right around and followed our tracks up, alone except for his 2 dogs, at 1am. Skiing by headlight, he didn’t see our camp and followed our tracks all the way up the trail…to where they suddenly stopped dead in the middle of nowhere. You see, when we had turned around, we had simply turned our skis 180 degrees where we stood and glided back down. But to Wilson, tired and in the middle of the night, it appeared they just ended. With much swearing that can be imagined, he dug himself a snow cave and crawled in to get a nap. It was well below -40. After an hour he figured what we had done and came back down to find us. More swearing and yelling and some shifting around in the tents and another par for the course.

2) Trips '05 - Olympic Park - 02When the trail isn’t hardcore enough, just add weight.
Hiking in to Olympic Park, Washington early in the season over the Canadian May long weekend. No, you don’t have to hike with such huge packs. We were only going in for 3 days, but as this was not a strenuous trek, we were determined to replace that by living it up. You see we were hiking into a site with natural hotsprings. Mmmnn, hot springs! Campsite comforts carried included a giant 25 ft square tarp to build our own little world out of the rain (you can see me carrying it), 2 boxes of wine to pass the evening in the hotsprings, gourmet food for dinners and plenty of warm and cozy clothes. We did go for a hike one day, but otherwise spent lost of time either dry in camp or wet in the sulphur-smelling steam.

3) They call this skiing? The Great White North...Trips '05 - Mt Baker - 05Sally and Ros carrying their skis up to the snowline at Mt Baker. Yes, you can ski in June in Washington State. But as you can see, the snow doesn’t start exactly at the base...But the work is worth it and hey, it certainly keeps down the crowds.

But if it all seems utter folly, here is all the nice snow looking the other way:
Trips '05 - Mt Baker - 04No we didn’t ski the icefield in the foreground. But we did play in it on a previous trip to practice our crevasse rescue skills – like a big 3-D puzzle. We didn’t make the summit of Baker this day, but I had been up there before. Skis are definitely the way to go though, way easier going up and way faster coming down.

4) Trips '05 - Sechelt Inlet - 04 - Paul's UmbrellaCan laziness and a sense of humour be said to be the mother of invention?
Why open an umbrella when in the spray a foot off the ocean? Why not? He’s trying to use it as a sail. He brought it all the way from Vancouver just to try this. And even funnier, no one else commented when we packed it in the boat. Actually, it worked quite well, at least in one direction. The good thing about sea kayaking is the weight and form factor are not as much issues as with backpacking. So if you want a jug of juice or cans of peaches, or an umbrella, got ahead and stuff them in.

5) Trips '04 - Tetrahedron - 34Sloped roof + snow = ski run. Duh, obviously!
Skiing and snowshoeing in Tetrahedron Park, we stayed in the great cabins maintained by the Tetrahedron ski club. There are 4 in the park, this being the furthest. It hadn’t been used in a while and we had to dig out the bottom storey (it is the second storey balcony you see in the shot) before embarking on some play trying to ski jump off the roof.

Nothing beats staying in an alpine cabin with a group of friends, playing cards, drinking lots of tea and shooting the shit by candlelight.

This little adventure was livened with Tim lit the counter on fire and Sally, being a “safety first” kind of guy, emptied the fire extinguisher over half the cabin. Let me tell you, fire retardant, while working well, makes one hell of a mess. Took us a couple hours to get the place clean and involved wrangling anything that wasn’t bolted down outside into the snow. We mailed the club a nice donation when we got home...

Other adventures included Binty (the dog) falling through the ice in the lake, Binty falling into a deep hole in the snow, Caleb getting caught in his harness and sliding down half the hill on his back, very creative and ambitious (but successful, more or less) route-making.

6) Trips '06 - Tofino in June - 02 - Wilson taking a breakHardcore surfing in Tofino.
Wilson showing us how it is done. In all seriousness though, this is really the life. We’ve got these surfing weekends down to a fine art. We spend our days on the beach, one surf in the morning, a nap and lunch, then another surf or 2 as the day and waves progress. Then dinner of fresh seafood over the fire and Coleman stoves. The campsite has hot showers to take off and put on your wetsuit and fire pits to keep you warm. Eat plenty of good food and drink cheap canned beer. Invite your friends. Repeat as necessary.

We’ll surf summer or winter. Winter is better waves, sometimes snow, always rain, no crowds and really, once you’ve got the wetsuit on, you’re fine.

7) No, I’m not scared of heightsTrips '06 - Climbing the CamelThis was a great day climbing. What more can I say?

8) And you thought being voted off the island was bad!Trips '04 - Mt Wedge - 15The behind-the-scenes they don’t show you in the hardcore magsTrips '04 - Mt Wedge - 21Route? What route? Sally trying to make out where we came through this maze on the way up. He doesn’t exactly inspire confidence up front there does he... ;-)

Climbing Mt Wedge north of Vancouver in a late season October day, the lower glacier was bare and a maze of route-finding. You’d have to go 40 feet sideways and back in order to move 10 feet forward. It was great fun. And you can’t beat the beauty of the area. Wedgemount Lake below is a popular hiking and camping spot, reachable in a long daytrip on a solid trail.

9) Trips '06 - Currie-Wedge Traverse - 19 - Tim and dogs towards Lesser WedgeDogs don’t go in straight lines.
The pups are a regular feature of many of our trips. This trip we had three, nearly one per person. Missy (short for Mischief), the little runt Siberian Husky in the foreground is the most trouble. She’s fine as long as she’s pointed the way you want to go, but if she gets behind you and going back, it can take an hour to catch her. Taz, a wolf-sheppard cross, is her older brother up ahead. He’s great, loyal and strong. But he is absolutely chicken with water deeper than his knees and is nearly as stubborn as his owner, Willy. Caleb (out of frame) on the other hand will plough through anything – snow, water, sand – and will happily even jump cliffs if Tim calls him to. He’s only balked at descending a slope once and to be honest, I wasn’t so keen on it either.

I make fun of them, but I love the pups. They can come on any trips that don’t involve crevasses or vertical terrain. They usually carry their own food and water. Now if only we could get them to bring us liquor like the St.Bernards...

10) Trips '04 - Mt Rainier - 64Truthfully, we only climb mountains so we can glissade down...
Tim boot-skiing down Mt. Rainer. Yes, we climbed Mt. Rainier and I am showing you a blurry pic of boot skiing…these are the fun moments I remember!

Climbing Rainer is a funny venture: you basically climb at night and sleep in the afternoon. We’d get up ungodly early, have a quick breakfast and then climb until noon, have lunch then nap. We’d get up, have dinner, arrange gear and go back to bed. We’d then get up at midnight or 1am and do this again. Friday AM to low camp, Sat AM to high camp. Sun AM to the summit and back to high camp. I remember it being really hard to sleep during the day with the sun on the tent, the wind rattling the door and you’re at altitude (we live at sea level remember) suddenly.

Another funny story from Rainier. So the group next to us gets up an hour earlier and leaves and we find it strange they’ve taken their tent, but figure maybe they wanted the safety. When we arrive back at camp later that morning, we see them all huddled over a large crevasse. We watch them for a while as we unpack our gear. Suddenly one guy appears out of the crevasse towing their tent! It had been extremely windy that night and between when they left and we got up the whole tent, gear and all, had been pulled off its stakes and blown down the slope, thankfully into a reachable crevasse. Funnier still is this was not the first tent rescue we saw that weekend.

Glissading by the way is the technical mountaineering jargon for sliding down the hill on your butt. It is nearly as fun as boot skiing (and easier) except your bum usually gets wet unless you’ve got really good waterproof pants.

OK, so these are the fun, the humorous and the slightly crazed. If you were hoping for the sweeping shots, I’ve put together some sets from my Flickr photos you can browse (, but since my mom at least doesn’t have the bandwidth to browse Flickr, here is a sample of a few of my favourite shots and memories of the adventure part of our trips:Trips '04 - Mt Rainier - Camp 2High camp, Mt.Rainier. One of the most stunning locations I’ve made camp.

Trips '04 - Mt Rainier - 27Mt. Rainer. You don’t have to go to Alaska or the Himalayas to find big glaciers

Trips '05 - Garibaldi - 21 - Todd & our playgroundTodd surveying the route ahead, deep in Garibaldi Park. One of my favourite shots. Garibaldi is a wilderness playground of glaciers within an hour or two of Vancouver.

Trips '05 - Garibaldi - 31 - climbing ParapetSummitting Parapet in Garibaldi Park. It is not as long as it looks, we came down off Isosceles to the right. Actually, the day was longer than it looks, but amazing.

Trips '06 - Tantalus - 18 - snow ridge on Tantalus N ridgeSnow ridge on Tantalus

Trips '04 - Joffre Group - 27The sun setting the ice-crystal clouds glowing above Joffre and Matier

Trips '04 - Joffre Group - 36Coming back down onto the aqua coloured Joffre Lakes.

1 comment:

Erica said...

What a sweet valentine to your lovely Vancouver. I'm jealous and feeling compelled to buy more fleece...