Monthly Archives: May 2013

Black Tusk

Standing at the top of either Whistler or Blackcomb it is impossible not to notice the Black Tusk.  It is probably one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Garibaldi National park.  What I didn’t realize when I first came to Whistler is that you can climb it.  It took me four and a half years to make the trek.

View of the Black Tusk from the top of the Peak Chair, Whistler Mountain.

View of the Black Tusk from the top of the Peak Chair, Whistler Mountain.

It can be done in one day, one epic day.  It can also be done an overnight trip, which is what we did.  The most popular route is the Black Tusk/Garibaldi Lake trek which starts about a 20-25 minute drive south of Whistler.  We chose a different, slightly less traveled route.  The Cheakamus Lake trail head is where we began; about 20 minutes in we turned right, crossed the river and then begin our climb up to the Helm Creek campsite.  It took us around four hours to hike in.

Campsite at dawn

Campsite at dawn

The Bivy sack that I slept in.

The Bivy sack that I slept in.

The campsite at Helm Creek is great.  Very basic;  a few wooden tent sites, a running stream and a bear cache.  And an incredible view of the Black Tusk.

Black Tusk at dawn from Helm Creek campsite

Black Tusk at dawn from Helm Creek campsite

The hike to the ‘Tusk’ from camp is fairly simple.  A well beaten path that is easy to follow.  The day was just starting as we began and some of the views along the way were incredible.  I could easily spend a couple of days and nights up there, ascending some of the other peaks around that area.

Trek to the Tusk

Trek to the Tusk

Still trekking to the Tusk

Still trekking to the Tusk

Stunning

Stunning

Mellow river crossing

Mellow river crossing

Garibaldi Lake

Garibaldi Lake

As we climbed higher, some awe-inspiring vistas appeared.  We had incredible views of Garibaldi lake, the backside of Whistler mountain and the ‘Tusk’ began to loom larger as we headed for the final ascent.

Whistler from a very different angle

Whistler from a very different angle

Inukshuk on the top of the Black Tusk

Inukshuk on the top of the Black Tusk

Once at the base of the ‘Tusk’ all that is left is the chimney up to the peak.  This bit can be quite hair-raising if heights aren’t your thing.  It is fairly simple, however the rocks feel loose so that gets the heart pumping.

Chimney up to or down from the peak

Chimney up to or down from the peak

It is well worth the adrenaline because once we were at the top the 360 degree panoramic views were absolutely phenomenal.  We were fortunate to pick a beautiful day and we could see for miles.

Black Tusk peak

Black Tusk peak

No matter where we stood, there was a great view to capture

No matter where we stood, there was a great view to capture

Looking back at what has been conquered
Looking back at what has been conquered

The hike out was straightforward.  We cut back to camp, packed up and headed out.  It was a fairly big day, I think about 9 hours of hiking, but we weren’t rushing at all.

Tredding carefully

Treading carefully

Tredding carefully

Treading carefully

This hike is definitely one of the more well trodden paths around the Whistler area and there is a large chance you will pass many people along the way.  It is all well worth it once you reach the top.

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Night Photography Beginnings

Last night I was stumbling around the internet and I came across a Northern Lights alert that said the aurora activity was at storm level.  I thought I would duck down to the lake to have a look at what I could see and perhaps shoot something.  In Whistler we can only see the Northern Lights if they are extremely active, unfortunately for me it was a very cloudy sky.

I did take a few shots though, to get some practice shooting at night and testing out a few different exposure settings.  Photography in general is all fairly new to me, and night sky shooting is a complete puzzle so it was definitely good to try it out.  What amazed me a lot was how much light my lens was taking in.  It was a very bright moon, which was behind some clouds but apparently that didn’t matter.

Shot at roughly 140am.

Shot at roughly 1:40am in complete darkness.

When I got home I played around with the images in Photoshop and came up with a couple of rough edits.  It’s truly amazing what you can do it that program and I cannot wait until I get a clear night and an active sky.  Hopefully I don’t have to wait too long.

Night shot 3 night shot Night Sky

No Bike park…Oh well xc it is then

A little over a week ago I posted how stoked I was to get into the bike park.  Unfortunately, a part I ordered is taking longer than expected in the mail.  It is an important part.  My front brake.  The park has almost been open for a week and with all the lower mountain trails open it has been a wet, yet great beginning to the season.  So people tell me.

It’s not the end of the world however my xc bike is good to go and I have definitely had the chance to get out on it a few times.  The video link below is filmed on two trails called Golden Boner and Instant Gratification.  Steep and grinding service road to get up there but once you’re up, its all down from there.  Perfect.  My GoPro was on my handlebars so its a little shaky but one can certainly get the idea.

**Update**

Day 1 in the bike park today. Stoked!!

Wedge

I think I have mentioned before and I am sure many people are aware that Whistler and the surrounding area has an incredible amount of awesome hikes and treks.  I did one a couple of summers ago with some friends that was arduous but extremely rewarding.  Wedge Lake.  A beautiful glacier lake nestled in the mountains between Wedge Mountain and the Armchair Glacier.  In my post ‘Reminiscing’ I have a couple of photos of both these peaks from afar.

Armchair Glacier

Armchair Glacier

The trek starts of at the Wedgemont trail-head car park about a 10 minute drive north of Whistler.  You can leave your car there overnight, get dropped off or take a taxi (about $30 one way) to the start.  It begins with a fairly mellow trail into the forest past some nice views and a small but fast flowing river/waterfalls.  The gradient then begins to change quite rapidly and pretty soon we were climbing fast.  It almost felt as though it was vertical.  We weren’t rushing, so we took our time, had a bit of lunch and if I remember correctly it took us about 4 hours to get to the hut at Wedge Lake.

Getting close to the campsite

Getting close to the campsite

Steep ascent

Working hard

The hut is very basic, there was 7 of us and we fit in the hut snugly.  There are a few tent sites around the place if you’re worried there won’t be room in the hut or you have an obsession with tents.

It was an incredible afternoon and we had made good time so there was plenty of time to relax and soak in the surroundings.  The views were nothing less than stunning.

It was a hot day, so dipping in the glacier lake was refreshing.  Definitely didn't need long in there though.

It was a hot day, so dipping in the glacier lake was refreshing. Definitely didn’t need long in there though.

Pretty amazing spot to relax for the afternoon

Pretty amazing spot to relax for the afternoon

Armchair and Wedgmont peak.

Armchair and Wedgmont peak

We managed to see a pretty amazing cloud show as the mist crept up the valley towards us.  I only had my old point and shoot so the pictures aren’t the greatest, however you can get the idea.  It was almost as though we were watching a cloud river into a crazy waterfall.  It was an eerie feeling watching the mist creep up towards us until it came by in wisps.  It was a beautiful clear night, and the glacier lake looked amazing with its misty green colour.

Creeping mist

Creeping mist

Cloud waterfall?

Cloud waterfall?

Early the next day we arose early as we had brought some glacier travel gear and wanted to get out on the glacier and climb the peak to watch the sunrise over the ‘Weart Glacier’.  We had some experience in the group, we also had some inexperience, so it was interesting traveling at first.  We had a fairly steep pitch to conquer early and with one half of our group ascending first, the second half had a moment of breathlessness when a head torch from the frontrunners slipped off and slid 15o metres straight down the slope.  We realised pretty quickly there was no one attached to it and relieved we carried on.

Dawn

Dawn

We didn’t end up making the summit as the route we had chosen turned out to be pretty hectic and beyond the groups level of skill, so we decided to let that one go.  We did, however, get to watch and absolutely magnificent sunrise.  Looking across the glacier that seemed to go on indefinitely the sun sent out amazing colours across the snow and ice.  Definitely something I will do again, hopefully soon.

Getting steep

Getting steep

The trickier path to the peak.  Beyond some of our capabilities.  For now.

The trickier path to the peak. Beyond some of our capabilities. For now.

Once the sun had risen, it was a gorgeous day.

Once the sun had risen, it was a gorgeous day.

On the way back to the hut, we passed a couple of crevices which was cool to see, it did also remind us where we were and not to get to complacent.

Melting Glacier.  Flowing quickly underneath

Melting Glacier. Flowing quickly underneath

Once back at the lake, we were able to have a look at an ice formation where the glacier meets the lake.  It formed a sort of ice cave and the colour of the ice was sensational.  A beautiful deep blue that was captivating.

Glacier meeting the lake

Glacier meeting the lake

Glacier meeting the lake

Glacier meeting the lake

Upon exiting the glacier and starting down on the hiking trail back to the hut, we were treated to some more creeping mist.  This time over the green of the lake.

Descending

Descending

Back to the lake

Back to the lake

Creeping slowly

Creeping slowly

Wedge mist

The trek down was suitably difficult.  It always seems like a massive chore coming down.  Fatigue, stiffness, hunger, thirst and heading towards home always gets me thinking of a shower and a beer or two.  It was challenging coming down the steep path but it is incredible being amongst that forest.

It is possible to hike to the lake and back in a day, just make sure you leave early and take lots of water. A trip that wasn’t a walk in the park, but certainly well worth it.  The sun and the rain we have had recently should enable us to get up hiking into the alpine very very soon.

The Countdown is on!

Freight Train

Freight Train

Many people around Whistler are currently thinking “…less than a week to go…less than a week to go!”  On Friday (17th May) Whistler Mountain Bike Park will open for the 2013 summer season.  A lot of Whistler residents can’t wait for the winter season to be over, the snow to melt and for the biking season to commence.  For me nothing can beat an epic powder day however, I definitely can’t wait to get up into the bike park.  Having spent way to many $$$ fixing and upgrading my bikes, they are just about ready.  The XC bike is good to go and has been getting use, the DH is just a small wheel true away.

Rocky

When the bike park opens it brings a lot of people into town.  Summer weekends feel just as busy as any winter weekend.  There seems to be a great vibe around the town.  Relaxed.  Chilled.  Festive.  There’s not many things better than a full, sunny, dusty day followed by one, maybe more beers on a hot patio.

Freight Train

Freight Train

Last season was my first season in the bike park and it was incredible.  I learnt to ride trails I thought would be impossible and although I didn’t escape unscathed (separated shoulder) I managed to keep the adrenalin levels extremely high for the majority of the summer.

Learning the trails...slowly

Learning the trails…slowly

Spending the 2012 summer in the bike park also gave me a chance to try and snap some action shots.  I didn’t take my camera up many days, however when I did the scenery and backdrops were incredible.

Top of the World rock roll with Black Tusk in the background

Top of the World rock roll with Black Tusk in the background

5 days! Stoked!

Bluebird day after day…..

In my recent posts I have commented on the glorious weather we are currently being blessed with in Whistler.  Well, it’s still here and still amazing.  When I woke up yesterday, the first thing I saw out my window got me pretty pumped to get out there and ride some trails.

Bluebird

Bluebird

Unfortunately my attempts to get out on my bike were thwarted by a broken bottom bracket.  I figured once I had that replaced, I may as well put on all the new drivetrain components that had just come in the post.  As it turns out, I am not a bike mechanic and after hours of fiddling, tweaking and cursing I only had my shifter to hook up.  It was broken.  Perfect.  At my wits end, I told my buddy to head on without me, as I had exhausted all my knowledge and patience.  He promptly came over and set about trying to help.  It took him about an hour and half to sort it, but he finally cracked it.  We had long since given up on our ride and had cracked our first beers.  At least I would be good to go the next day.

Before that day came around, I managed to get myself to Araxi Restaurant for dinner.  Its a great time of year in Whistler because during the slow season a lot of restaurants put on amazing specials.  This allows a lot of locals, seasonaires and tourists who couldn’t usually afford some of the higher end places to get out and test their menus.  Araxi puts on a fantastic five course meal for $31, and it is phenomenal.  Definitely worth checking out.  24 hours later I would be dining in another popular venue, the Rimrock Cafe.  The Rimrock are putting on a great four course menu for the same price, and it also exceeds expectations.

It was tough to wake up this morning, still deep in my food coma, but 0700 rolled around and out on the trails I went.  Peddled out to Alpine Meadows, for a sneaky little climb up to Cat Scratch Fever and Mandatory Suicide.  These two trails are steep, technical and always get my blood pumping.  Once Mandatory Suicide is over, the trail mellows out a lot into Mel’s Dilemma and Emerald Forest which are both fairly easy undulating terrain.

Climbing

Climbing

I won’t go on to much about disc golf as I have covered it before,  however it was an absolute scorcher out there today and some of the views were incredible.

Negotiating trees on the third

Negotiating trees on the third

View from behind the trees above the 18th hole.  Not a cloud in sight.

View from behind the trees above the 18th hole. Not a cloud in sight.

At the end of the game, I had one thing on my mind.  Iced coffee.  It was hot.  I was thirsty and tired.  I couldn’t bike there quick enough.  With coffee in hand, it was to the couch for a little rest before heading down to the Rimrock Cafe for dinner.

We just caught the dying moments of the sunset down by Alta Lake.  It would have been great to have been there earlier however we still scored some pretty incredible views.

Big fan of Instagram. Helping out mediocre photographers everywhere.

Big fan of Instagram. Helping out mediocre photographers everywhere.

Testing out a new lens.  The shots will get better.  I hope.

Testing out a new lens. The shots will get better. I hope.

Ahhhhh what a sensational couple of days.

Summer is here early!

We have had some incredible days in Whistler recently. Very warm temperatures and cloudless skies has caught many off guard and there is a lot of red and sore people wandering around the village. I don’t know what the mercury rose to today, but it is 18:50 right now and it is still 24 degrees Celsius out there.

I worked late last night, however I managed to get up at a reasonable hour and headed out into the heat. First stop was the Frisbee golf course at Spruce Grove. 27 holes set in the forest between Lost Lake and Green Lake, it is an awesome way to pass time. It is a busy course and you often bump into a lot of people. There are some cool views of the valley, Green Lake and Rainbow and Sproatt Mountains.

One style of throwing the disc

Only armed with my Iphone and Instagram, I managed to capture a couple of ‘shots’

IMG_0975

After a hot yet fun 2 hours wandering around the forest throwing terrible shots at baskets and poles I had time for possibly Whistler’s premier summer activity, mountain biking. I figured I could hit up the XC trails around lost lake and then have time for some of the trails around the Alpine Meadows area. The Lost Lake trails are roughly a 9.5km loop from my house around and shouldn’t take much longer than 30 minutes. Nice mellow blue level climbs and descents with a couple of tricky features for the more daring.

IMG_0989 IMG_0990

Today wasn’t my day. I got a flat tire about 15 minutes in and realized I hadn’t mended my spare tube the last time I had this happen so instead of a quick transition it turned into a lengthy rest. Not the worst place to be while mending a tire. Deep in a beautiful coastal temperate rainforest. Fortunately in the shade. After getting the wheel back on the bike, the rest of the ride was fairly smooth, well apart from one over the handlebars (OTB) incident. All in a days ride really.

Once the ride is completed a couple of options are available to get back to the village. One can either head back into the forest and ride some green level single tracks which link up with some more blue climbs and descents or head back along the valley trail next to the Fitzsimmons Creek for an easy cruise.

Due to my incidents we weren’t able to hit up the Alpine Meadows trails, however it was still an awesome way to spend a day before heading to a full night of work, hopefully preparing to do it all again tomorrow.