Monday, September 5, 2016

Labour Day Weekend in Vancouver and Whistler

For Labor Day (or Labour Day, as it is called in Canada), we took a second annual trip north to Vancouver, British Columbia to check out the famous ski area, Whistler, and the alpine summer hiking that can be accessed from the resort chair lifts. Taking the gondola from the base ski area, it saved our legs the ~4000 feet ascent, putting us at treeline for the start of the hike. We thought it would be a flat-lined and easy hike from here, but we were in for a humbling surprise. The remaining 16 miles were a near constant roller coaster of elevation and emotions as we trudged up and over mountain flanks to see a tiny scribble of the trail proceeding up and over the next distant peak. Each time, I thought to myself that the connecting trail we could see must be a mountaineering path that splintered off to reach the mountain summit. I was sadly mistaken as an hour later I found myself looking back to the former location from the once distance neighboring mountain flank.

The trails, dubbed maliciously as a combination of "The Musical Bumps" and "High Note," were rated as some of the most scenic in the Western British Columbia region. However, 2016 was the year summer forgot the Pacific Northwest, leaving us shrouded in a low cloud layer and inconsistent mizzle and mist. Fortunately, a fast-moving, low-lying cloud layer is a photographer's delight as they somehow manage to give mountains an even mightier pose and enhanced mysteriousness.

Ride up in the Whistler Express gondola

Craig trudging up Pika's Traverse trail at the start of the trip

Blanketed in a cloud

Although we couldn't see the eye-popping peaks around us, the clouds made for pretty dramatic photos

Mini rock man on the trail.

More clouds as we make our way down the first of 3 Musical "Bumps" (Piccolo, Flute, and Oboe).

Loving life at treeline

Marching our way of peak 3 of the "bumps." I believe this was Oboe. 

We've finally almost arrived at our camp site for the night at the base of Mt. Fissle.

When we planned the trip, we had a dream of staying in an established wood hut that holds up to 12 campers. I imagined with the bad weather might have to share the space with, at most, 3 people. Again, the story I told myself and the reality of the trip diverged when we rounded the last corner to see a slew of humans buzzing around the hut like a beehive and about 10 other tents already established in prime spots nearby. I'm very thankful that we brought our tent as a backup plan. 

The evening got cold FAST and after setting up the tent, we spent nearly the entire night inside drinking whiskey and reading National Geographic.

Looking out of the tent at the adorable mountain hut. 

Due to the cold, we spent the evening in the tent until the setting sun and low clouds put on an irresistible show.

Sunset on the camps.

 Sunset on Mt. Fissle with out tent in the front left.
Did I mention it was cold? I went into full caterpillar mode.

The following morning, the clouds parted for several minutes to reveal the peaks around us. The brief vista was quickly obscured as we watched the next round of thick, low layers gracefully spill over the ridge face.

 How cute is this hut?! It belongs in the Swiss Alps!

We were also briefly treated to a glimpse of this MASSIVE GLACIER! This is Cheakamus Glacier and she's a beaut!

Photos don't do Cheakamus Glacier any justice in telling the story of just how wide it is!

So many beautiful shades of green and blue.

On the home stretch to return to the gondola for a relaxing sub-alpine ride down the mountain. I love the contrast between the red and gray of the peak in the background. 

The second to last climb before the gondola is the wall in front of us.  

While I felt the description and other reviews of the trail were misleading regarding just how continuously steep this trail is and I was bummed that we didn't get the full effect of wowing peaks (seriously guys, Google the magnificent views this place boasts when it's cloud-free), I really enjoyed the experience we had. The low, swirling clouds, although effective in reducing our visibility to 50 feet in some instances, also gave us the equally beautiful nebulous and mystical perspective and reminded me that it's the dynamic aspect of mountain environments that draws me to these places. 

We made it! On the gondola and back on to Vancouver.

The remainder of the weekend was filled with city relaxing in our fancy-pants hotel (which is especially appreciated after a few days in the mountains), ramen, and the musical 'The Book of Mormon.' Labour Day success!

Outside of Japan, Vancouver is the place to be for ramen! 

So good!

The Book of Mormon

View from our hotel room