Monday, October 20, 2014

Summer Turned Upside Down


Another summer has come to a close and, since our family trip to Mountain Lake, much has transpired. Shortly after our return, we shipped Elise off to the Kootenays to visit her grandparents, a trip she’d been eagerly anticipating all summer. The timing was appropriate since Pam’s surgery was scheduled for the Monday after Elise’s departure. With a couple of free days, Pam and I took advantage of the time together and did a final hike in the alpine, a nice traverse below Copilot Mountain in the Squamish gondola zone. It was a lovely day and we enjoyed swimming in an alpine tarn, but the pre-surgery tension was palpable.

Monday came all too quickly. The surgery went well, but the days after the operation were rough. Pam’s pain medication made her nauseous and she didn’t eat for a few days. This was worrisome so we dialed back the dosage and she immediately perked up. We were both glad Elise wasn’t around since it only would have complicated a bad situation further.

After Elise returned from her trip, she and I kept each other company on a number of jaunts into the mountains while Pam rested at home. The outings included a very warm night on the Chief with friends, a backpacking trip to the hut at Brew Peak and an exhausting ascent of Crown Mountain above North Vancouver. The night we spent at Brew was my favourite, however. It was a stunning area and we had it all to ourselves. In the evening, Elise stayed behind in the hut while I hiked around taking pictures. When I returned, she had prepared her bed and organized the loft without any direction from me. I thought this showed great initiative and she was quite proud of herself. Afterward, we enjoyed a sunset fire with “smores” and the peaceful beauty of the area. The next morning we climbed Malt Peak together, an adventurous bushwhack which she really took in stride.

The next week the teachers' strike ended and the kids got back to school. We had a “welcome back” barbecue last week and toured Elise’s new classroom. She seems very happy at school this year and her teacher had great things to say about her improved reading skills.  Elise is currently taking hip-hop dance class and art lessons, two activities she chose herself. She also attends “ninja training” some weekends. This is a drop-in program at the martial arts school were the kids learn various tricks and maneuvers.

And me? I’ve just arrived in Kalymnos Greece for a much-needed vacation with friends from Vancouver. My climbing season this year was lacklustre and I hope this trip will rekindle my excitement. Leading up to my departure, Elise kept chastising me for going away and missing Halloween. She is very excited this year. She was counting the days over a month before the holiday!

Our year should end on a high note since we have a trip to Hawaii booked at Christmas to visit Pam’s parents. Elise has big plans to repeat some of the beach hikes we did on our last visit and we’re hoping Pam will be able to fully participate in these activities.  In the meantime, we’re watching the first snowfalls of the season settle on the high peaks. Whistler’s opening date is only one month away! Pictures...

Evening on the Chief. It was a warm night, perfect for lounging on the summit.


On one of our summer estuary walks, we discovered this tiny bird literally stuck to a large thistle. We gently pried him free and placed him in the foliage, but I worry he didn't survive.


Our eight-year-old getting ready for her flight to the Kootenays. She was very excited and had a wonderful trip.


Elise and I saw her favourite pop start, Katy Perry, perform at Roger's Arena in Vancouver late in the summer. It was a crazy experience. We were up past midnight and my ears rang for hours after the show. There was a lot of squealing and dancing.


The fall has provided good mushroom hunting conditions. Here Elise holds a large lobster mushroom found on one of our recent forays.


I spent much of my hiking energy this summer exploring the area above the new Squamish gondola. It's really opened up the hiking around Squamish, provided you have a lift pass. The lodge up top is gorgeous.



This is an early season photo taken from the summit of Copilot, one of the first peaks I climbed this season. You can clearly seen drainage tracks in the snowpack from the spring rains.


Looking back at Mt. Habrich from the scree basin below Sky Pilot.


Pam ascending slabs below Copilot on our adults only traverse the day before the surgery. 



Copilot as seen from Sky Pilot in the Sea to Sky Gondola zone.


Looking back at Brew Lake during our overnight trip to the hut. Pam didn't come on this adventure since it was post-surgery. This was a perfect trip for Elise. The distance of the hike was quite reasonable and we had the hut all to ourselves.


Snow on the approach. This is a good ski touring zone in the winter, the main reason the hut was built.


Brew Hut, built by the Varsity Outdoor Club at UBC.


Guess who! She had an incredible view from that window. We could even see the lights of Squamish far down the valley. 



Evening fire by the cabin.


Early morning light from the Brew plateau. Tantalus Range in the background.


Returning from our bushwhacking adventure on Malt Peak.


I'm thinking bear...


As the fall wound down, I snuck in a couple more explorations on the ridges above the gondola. This picture shows Mt. Habrich from the eastern plateau close to Sky Pilot. The ridgelines are wonderful for hiking, but steep scrambling on some of these rock faces keeps the masses from venturing too far.


At work on her masterpiece. She spent days on this one, which she modelled after a local artist she admires. 


No, we didn't see this on the trail, thankfully! This large grizzly bear lives in a habitat on Grouse Mountain. We watched it intently before our hike up Crown Mountain. I've never seen a grizzly up close and couldn't believe how big this male was! I guess they can grow to 1,000 lbs...


Father-daughter selfie on the summit of Crown Mountain. It was a good hike, but more tiring than I was expecting. We were both knackered afterward.


First day of grade 3! School got off to a slow start this year, but Elise is in full swing now and enjoying her new class.


A final fall hike to Conflict Lake in Callaghan Country. Mt. Callaghan is the large peak in the background. Pam didn't accompany us on this hike either, but a couple of weeks later we all walked into Cheakamus Lake, which was a nice way to end the season.



Mt. Habrich as seen from Goat Ridge, an alpine plateau high above Squamish. I'd gazed at this ridge for years and it was nice to finally traverse it. The granite slabs were covered with scenic pools and small lakes. This was a memorable hike for me due to the beauty of the terrain and distance I had to travel. I'll repeat this one, for sure.




As I packed for my trip to Greece, the fall rains settled in for good. We had day after day of soaking downpours, some of which left a dusting of snow up high.  Although the summer was disjointed and we had to adjust to changing circumstances, I think we all felt we did the best we could and enjoyed some very memorable time together.

I hope this finds you all well...
Marc

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mountain Lake

With Pam's surgical date just around the corner, we jumped at the opportunity to do a final overnight trip into the local mountains. We chose to explore the Mountain Lake area, an alpine playground just south of Squamish that sees minimal traffic due to the difficulty of the approach. Our trusty 4x4 got us to the upper end of the Furry Creek valley and then three hours of steep hiking in sweltering summer heat got us into the alpine. We eagerly plunged into Wind Lake, the first of many gorgeous alpine pools we'd encounter over the next couple of days.

 

A large tarn above Wind Lake was the location of our first night's camp. We pitched our tent on the granite slab and left off the fly so we could lay in bed and watch the sun set over Ben Moore, the peak in the rear of this photo. It was a gorgeous location and we saw shooting stars after dark, much to Elise's delight.





The next morning we chose to climb Ben Lomond, a prominent bell-shaped peak to the south of our camp. We rose early, had a quick breakfast and then set off on a long ridge traverse toward our objective. We got this nice view of Wind Lake as we crossed the slope above.



There was good scrambling on the lower reaches of the peak and I employed a small rope to keep Elise secure. Once on the rubble-covered summit, we lounged in the sun, had snacks and watched the mist swirl around the Sky Pilot peaks in the distance.






The destination for our second night was Mountain Lake, the location of a popular BCMC mountain hut. Once again, a swim in the lake was a refreshing treat upon our arrival. The water was beautiful and Elise had a blast jumping off "cliffs", small outcrops of rock along the shore. She declared it the "best swimming ever" and we chose to repeat the activity the following day. It's nice to see her getting comfortable swimming in deep lake water. I stay close by and she hitches a ride if she gets tired.




The BCMC hut is perched on a ridge-crest below the east side of Mt. Sheer and it was a welcome site as we dropped below the Mountain Lake basin. For some reason Elise loves these mountain huts and always wants to sleep inside in the musty, hot lofts. I might have complied if the hut had been empty, but two other hikers had already claimed the front half of the loft. We chose our tent instead.




On the morning of day two, I rose early and scrambled up Mt. Sheer by myself. I got some nice early morning light, a great view of the surrounding peaks and a chance to see the alpine flower stonecrop in full bloom.



The Sky Pilot group as seen from the south. The new Sea to Sky gondola is on the far (north) side of this cluster of peaks.




A nice view of Ben Lomond from the summit of Mt. Sheer. The valley fog was rising fast, but it never reached Mountain Lake that day, which was a relief.


A final reflection of Sky Pilot from a tarn near the hut. I got back to the hut in time for breakfast with Pam and Elise. We spent the next hour drying our dew-soaked tent before packing up and starting the 8-kilometre hike back to the truck.



The only real downside to this trip was the mosquitoes. They were thick, more so than we could have imagined. Luckily, midday saw them mellow so we could swim with minimal discomfort. Overall, we really enjoyed the beauty of this unique and pristine area, and were satisfied to get one more family outing under our belt before August 18th arrives.