I woke up yesterday morning with this memory from my solo cycling trip in the summer of 2016. Going from Calgary to Vancouver. I was outside of a gas station on the outskirts of Kamloops BC. It was hot. That muggy kind of hot you can’t shake even in the shade of a tree. I was frustrated because I had to get off the main highway and re route onto the 5A and I had not bothered to take down the information to do this efficiently. Also it seemed pretty sketchy where I was and there were some less desirable folks hanging out next to the gas station that seemed eager to assist in taking my bike off my hands for me.
The memory was so vivid. As though I was there again. I remember the shitty grin one of the guys gave me as I debated going into the gas station to get directions. I did not.
I felt distracted that day. But nothing bad happened in the end. So why this memory. Why this seemingly insignificant portion of that trip. I thought through how the rest of that day went. I got to my destination, albeit with some questionable re routing by Google maps and a sizable hill climb. But I remember that day being one of the harder one’s.
I had spent the previous day with my Aunt and Uncle on Shuswap Lake at their cabin (which I’m pretty sure they went up to just so I had a place to stay). They had picked me up in the early afternoon from the highway and brought me to to their place. We spent the afternoon on the boat, and had a bbq for dinner. We watched an evening storm roll in over beer and wine. I had a fantastic time with them that night and had shared with them the news that my wife and I were expecting our first child. It was a celebration of a evening and the next day none of us wanted me to go.
But I did go. They drive me back to the highway where they had picked me up. I loaded my panniers onto my bike and slowly started pedalling down the highway towards Kamloops and eventually home.
I believe what made that day hard, what seemed to distract me, was the complete shifting of gears. Going from sharing special time with family, back to the solitude of my trip. Such a shift of emotion. That afternoon riding up the hill out of Kamloops (and the grasps of those gas station pirates) my mood could not be further from the feeling I had, had 24 hours earlier. I rolled into my campground and set up my tent. Then I just kind of wandered the campsite for a bit. Feeling low.
Strange. Nothing bad had happened to me and yet here I was feeling as though I had been hit by a ton of bricks. Void of energy and drive. A testament to the struggle I had with traveling solo.
I knew when I set out on that trip that I would struggle with time spent alone, and I did, and I endured and came out the other end. And I know that this is not everyone’s experience with solo travel. Some thrive on it I’m sure.
But looking back on my trip as a whole I had a few experiences like this. Highs and lows. It was an emotional roller coaster of a trip. I am so glad i did it, but would i do a trip of that length again by myself? I often have said to people “No.” A trip of that length is a trip to be shared. The experience to be shared. At least that’s been my feeling on it.
I suppose this memory came up as I am slowly putting together the details of the next adventure.. A group project this time. 4 days mountaineering through the Garibaldi Neve Traverse.
It’s rainy here in the city, but for us winter hikers, skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers, we know that means fresh white stuff in the mountains!
I had a chance to get out and hike a good section of the Lions last weekend and we were hitting areas that were already waist deep. The Season has Started!
I love this time of year. It’s awesome to get out and see all those summer time trails that I enjoy so much, and now they have something new to offer.
Again and again I am reminded how lucky we are to live here!
So here I am. Same paint on the wall. Same kitchen. Different album, and different time in my life.
I was looking back this morning at one of my posts from about a year ago. “Processing Time”. It got me thinking about how much of a whirlwind the last 12 months have been. Having a child, new job, and the life evolution that comes with it. An adjustment to say the least. A year ago I was winding down from a season of races, hiking trips, and other adventures. Now a days I’m rocking a much more domestic lifestyle (at least for the time being).
I have managed to get some mountain schooling in (Mountaineering course) and have tackled a few trips. Later this month I have a trail race coming up and i’m pumped to get back out there. But I must admit it. Things are different now. Not bad different, but different.
When I read back at “Processing Time” I remember where my head was at. Things in my workplace were chaotic, and my wife was maybe 6, 7 months pregnant. I was standing at the doorway of very big life changes and I think the blog piece was a way to remind myself to get things out of fifth gear and slow things down if even for a moment.
Perhaps that is what this blog piece is about as well. A check in.
I am half way through my parental leave and it won’t be long before I head back to work and thus begins the next juggling act: Family, Work, Outdoor Lifestyle. The unison of it can all be done. That I am sure of, as long as the priorities lie in the right sequence.
And with that Asher is stirring, and I must go. Oh ya and the album is Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now”.
Living out here on the west coast we are spoiled to have the coastal mountains in our backyard. Want to go for a day hike? Your about an hour away from world class mountains. Want a quick bag night? Take your pick of the many destination mountains available. Which is what we did…
Mount Cook. Just North of Whistler BC. Accessed via Wedgemount Lake. The hike up to the lake and camping area is fairly steep but a well managed trail.
There is camping along the lake edge as well as up in the hills. We went up on a Saturday morning. The trail was overtaken by day trippers. We took our time. Our objective for the day was to make it to the lake and scout out the route for the summit the next day. We eased our way to the lake and snagged a campsite. After a quick bite to eat and the tent set up, we continued over a bluff where we could get a good vantage point of Mount Cook itself.
Satisfied with what laid ahead for the next day we wandered around a bit and enjoyed the views before calling it a day.
Through the night the temperature dropped down to just above freezing. Its clear that our warm summer has long gone, leaving the cool autumn in its place.
We get up early to fill our water from the creek about 20 minutes from our camp. After that cold sleep it was good to get the body moving. We got back to our campsite, had a bite to eat and then packed our gear for the summit.
We set out. It was slightly overcast skies with hints of blue teasing that the weather would improve. The steep grade that we had going up to the lake continued up the mountainside. The bonus, our view kept rapidly getting better and so to the weather. The clouds started breaking and we even got a bit of sun.
We continued upward, hitting a bit of snow and then finally to the top.
(View of Wedgemount Peak from most of the way up Mount Cook)
We took in the view for a little bit and then made our way back down the steep slope. We got back to camp, had a bite to eat and packed up.
A short weekend in the mountains. But we can do that here. We are blessed, and should remember that.
Well with the weather quickly changing from hot summer to a much cooler fall, and with Whistler already getting a dusting the other day, I figured its high time for at least on more quick bag night before we move into snow camping season. This weekend a small group of us are going to head up to the peak of Mount Cook, above Wedgemount Lake. I just picked up a new Gopro, so we should have some fun messing around with that. Should make for a fun weekend in the mountains!
Keep posted for the trip report.
It’s the first day back to school for many. The first day back to work for my wife and all the other teachers. All the impromptu summer camping trips have come to an end. All the parks and trails become a little more quiet as most peoples mindsets get “back to reality”. But this is not the case for everyone.
I have a truly unique opportunity in front of me. Four months away from work. Four months to explore the world around me. Hiking trails. Cycling day trips. And all this with my youngster Asher. I am on Parental Leave. Dadternity. I have often thought every September as though a new chapter of my life has started. This has likely come from the ingrained “back to school” days from when I was young, paired with marrying a teacher.
September for my wife and I, means a shift from our leisurely summer activities, to a busier time as Fall rolls in. She gets busy organising her new class for the year, and for many previous years, it was when I started up working on my second job again. Landscaping. (Seasonal.)
This Fall, things are a little different. I had given up my second job last Christmas, as a new position opened up at the company I mainly work for, and then we had our son. This Fall we chose for my wife to go back to work at the beginning of the school year, and split the time off with our child between us.
So here I am. Day 1. Excited? Yes. Time to get Asher started outdoor training camp!
Me and a couple friends tackled Rugged Maniac Vancouver this year. Check out my write up for Explore magazine…
You know when you have one of those big projects staring you in the face, waiting for you to make your move? I do. Mine was Mount Baker. Very prominent in the skyline from Vancouver. I have seen it there my whole life, sitting just far enough away that I couldn’t make out all its details. Just kind of hazy. Dream like. In fact, I see it every day on my way to work. It’s as though it has been waiting for me to even suggest climbing it. Well that day finally came.
Many months ago some friends and I started hatching the idea and put things in motion that brought us up to this summer. Our plan of attack was the Coleman Deming route, and this past July long weekend we made our move…
Friday morning our bags were packed and ready to go. Only I still had to get through a full work day first. Grrr. Fast forward 8 hours later. I picked up one of my climbing partners, Jason, and we hit the road. We would meet the rest of the group over the border in Washington.
Border line up. Zero. Thanks America. A short drive and we were at my sister in laws’ family trailer in Maple falls. We met up with the rest of our climbing group, my cousin Ryan, his wife Julia, and his brother in law Andre. The objective for the evening was a quick dinner, review of the game plan for the weekend, check out the latest weather conditions anticipated for the weekend, and see what gear could be 86’d from our packs to lighten the load. We called it a night pretty early as the next 48 hours were going to take a lot out of us.
Saturday morning we were up early. The weather was goo and we headed out. We stopped in at the Wake and Bakery for breakfast. Epic breakfast burritos! A staple really for anyone hiking or climbing in the Mt Baker Hwy corridor.
We continued on down the highway a short distance and pulled in at the Ranger station to drop off our volunteer check in form and find out if there was any new developments on the mountain since the last update Ryan had printed off before we left. No changes. Blue sky weather for the weekend. We left the Ranger station and a short distance later we turned on Glacier creek road and up to the trail head.
It was a short hike through the canopy and my pack was surprisingly not as heavy as I expected or as heavy as previous trips. We were now leaving the comfort of the shade and emerging up to Heliotrope Ridge. The views opened up immediately and we were now getting a good vantage of what laid ahead.
We finally hit the snow line and the makings of Lower camp. There were tents everywhere tucked down along the creekside. Folks were busily separating their camp gear from their climbing gear and getting themselves organized for the next days push. It was getting hot. We filled our water bottles in the creek and continued to high camp. About half way up from low camp to high camp we made the decision to rope up as we were now seeing signs of crevasses.
We finally arrived at high camp mid afternoon and found a few open spots that were semi flat. We got busy leveling out room for our tents and melting snow for water and dinner. The plan was to have an early meal and an early bed. We won’t be in the tents for long. Dinner done, we relaxed a little while and settled in to our tents for “rest”. I say this because there was no real way to get much of anything that resembled sleep as it was way to bright and hot. So we rested.
Sunday. 12:30am. You could start to hear people getting themselves together to get ready for summit day. The dull roar of camp stoves. Headlamps whipping past the roof of our tent like distant rescue parties in search of a lost mate. We tried to wait a little longer, maybe eek out a few extra minutes of sleep, but the inevitability was that it was time to get moving. It was now 230am and we had to leave our tents for the darkness. An Alpine Start.
By a little after 4am it was starting to get light out. We made our way along the main trail up and joined the rest of the caterpillar of people that were slowly making their way up the mountain side. Now sitting somewhere around 8500- 9000 ft we took a break. It was amazing. The distance that you could see was unbelievable.
We had one final push…
We made it! At about 7:15am, we reached the summit of Mt Baker. A truly amazing weekend we had. A new personal goal reached. My first ever 10000+ ft climb. We were rewarded with one of the best views I have ever had the pleasure to see. One more mountain checked off my list!
Here is a short video I put together of our trip:
So over the past year, a few friends and I have been “uping” our hiking game from basic hiking trails to more and more technical approaches. Our eyes are set on tackling Mt Baker in about a month, so we felt it was time to get schooled on some of the fundamentals of Mountaineering.
We connected with the folks at Altus Mountain Guides for a weekend of safety skills and adventure.
We met our guides for the “Intro Mountaineering” at the Squamish Adventure Center, signed our waivers, and joined the rest of the group to get briefed on what the next 72 hours would entail. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what we were getting ourselves into, nor did I know how we would stack up against the rest of the group, but we would soon find out.
The group consisted of 7 of us and 2 guides. We were split into 2 smaller groups with a guide each. This was perfect for us as it ended up allowing myself, my brother and my cousin (a couple of my regular hiking partners) to be in a group of 3.
We split off and headed for a small bluff just off of the overflow parking area adjacent to the Adventure Center. Here we spent a number of hours in “Rope/Rock School” learning and practicing all the necessary knots and hitches required for both climbing and crevasse crossing/rescue. Afterwards, we connected with the other group and got in a bit of climbing. It was a very full day. At the end we had a quick chat with the guides to make sure everyone had the gear they needed for the next 2 days on the mountain. We picked up a couple of new articles of gear for our harnesses and made our way to the campground at the foot of “The Chief” and our home for the night.
We dropped our gear at our site, grabbed a seat on the ground and cracked a cold beer. We had made it through day 1. Now the campground itself is an interesting enough place. Filled with climbers, dirt bags, nomads, and others looking to stay somewhere on the cheap. We finished our evening cooking out of the back of my truck as the sun went down. In the distance, slack liners were practicing their craft, cars continued to roll in and out with their modified shelters on wheels, while others seemed to just flat out sleep on their drivers seats in a sleeping bag. A culture all to its own that I was slowly morphing towards myself. Through the night there was a constant flow of headlights whipping about as folks were getting back from climbs, heading out for some night bouldering, or even setting off on their own climbs before the next day’s sun fried them against the granite of “The Chief”.
We woke early(ish). We didn’t have to meet the group until 9:30am at the Sea to Sky Gondola, where we would be departing from. We packed up camp and made our way to the truck for some breakfast. The parking lot was in full tilt evacuation mode. People leaving, people coming, and with the unprecedented good weather about 5 million folks were making their way into the day use area to hike or climb for the day.
We finished up and jumped in the truck and made our way down the road to find a spot to ditch it and double back to the Gondola parking lot. We made good time.
The group had taken over the patio section and was busily packing and repacking gear for the trip ahead.
The Gondola opened and we made our way on. We set out on the trails up behind the Gondola and soon had a pretty sweet view of our upcoming playground. Up and up and finally on a saddle and a little rocky outcropping we set up base camp.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon practicing roping up as a team, self arresting, and making snow anchors. A hot day on the mountain, but everyone was in such high spirits. I don’t know if was the good weather or just simply the opportunity to spend the weekend on the mountain, but the group was pretty much ear to ear grinning the entire time. That evening we ate dinner back at base camp and went to bed just after the sun tucked in behind the mountains, this would be a short sleep as the alarm was set for 3am for the summit attempt.
Sunday Morning (Real mutha F Early!)
3:00am. The alarm goes off, the headlamps go on. We slowly but efficiently get ourselves together for a quick bite to eat and get prepared to head out for the summit push. The light from the sun was slowly illuminating the world around us, and before long the headlamps could be shut off.
We departed base camp at 4:00am, and slowly made our way up the mountainside toward the summit. It was cool out but nowhere near cold. We hit a few steep sections and the guides quickly set the ropes up. We continued onward. Then one final chimney section and the last push up to the summit. We made it! 730am and we were standing on top of Sky Pilot.
We spent about 15 minutes up there taking it all in. Then we made our way back down to one of the lower cliffs for some crevasse rescue practice. The temperature had rocketed up again and before long everyone was feeling the heat. We finished up and made our way back to break camp and make our way back down the mountain. All in all an amazing weekend out. It was a super fun and informative time. Big thanks to Klemen and Alex from Altus Mountain Guides!
As for us, we are in full on training mode for Mt Baker and are feeling much more prepared to tackle it.
Well. I must confess. Between having a newborn and starting a new job, some parts of my life have taken a hit. It has been a learning curve that has come fast and hard, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Though I have had to slow down my frequency of trips and activities, it is probably the first time in years that I have brought myself to a pace of reflection and the headspace to look forward beyond the next race or adventure.
I suppose timing couldn’t be better as I am resting an injury in my foot.
Through all this, plans are still moving forward. I am excited to be tackling a mountaineering course at the end of the month through Altus Mountain Guides in Squamish and am slowly collecting all the necessary gear for our Mount Baker trip this summer. Mentally and physically, I am getting myself in training mode. Between hiking and cycling (both of which are affecting my injury) I am feeling better than I was about a month ago, and maybe a bit more reflective.
Unrelated, There are a few things that have come to mind recently that i felt needed posting:
- Major props to all the Outdoor Adventure Enthusiasts out there, both professional and amateur that are trying to juggle their love for outdoor adventure and a home life. It is no easy task, and at the best of times there are huge sacrifices that need to be made by all family members involved. This is maybe something that i had not opened my eyes to a few years (or even months) ago.
- RIP Ueli Steck and Mike Hall. I have never met either of these folks, but they were both, in some small way, a connection of inspiration to me. I have been going to Vancouver’s international mountain film festival for years now, and Ueli Steck has come up time and time again, in documentaries. He was always pushing the limit, finding new endeavours of self realization. And Mike Hall, my only exposure to him was through a documentary I saw on Netflix called “Inspired to Ride”. I was so impressed by his drive and determination to push himself, well beyond anything I could even dream of. Both of these amazing athletes have passed in recent weeks, and I felt it was necessary to acknowledge both of them as I feel a connection to their dedication to their prospective crafts.
So for now I will maintain in training mode and juggle the world of Adventure & Home life. Keep posted for updates from my Mountaineering weekend in Squamish!