Spitting Image

7 09 2015

Today Mrs E and I went for a trip up the road to Squamish. It’s a town that defines itself by the number of outdoor activities enjoyed there by the great unwashed of Vancouver. (I’ve smelt some of them… it’s not always a metaphor). We went for a bit of an amble right to the end of “Spit Road” which is basically just an unmade road going due South along the various low-lying islands and marshy bits between The Squamish River and the inlet into Squamish itself. Because of the wind being channelled up the Sound this is a hugely popular place for kite-surfers and wind-surfers. I’ve seen them many times from the top of The Chief, but it was interesting to reverse the view and see them up close, as well as The Chief in toto, instead as a vignette sweeping by from the car on the close-by Highway 99.


It’s OK – you can be jealous

14 02 2015

I’ve been in need of a new waterproof for a while, and today’s sojourn to the States took me to REI in Washington State.

Arc’teryx is a Vancouver brand, but this coat is $520 here in BC… and was for sale for $250 in the US. Even with the weak Canadian dollar right now, this was not a deal I could pass up! I never expected to own an item of Arc’teryx gear unless I won the lottery, but this little lovely came home with me today. Even better, REI give you some percentage of your annual purchases back each year as a gift card, if you’re a member.

The border was busy and the Canadian guard didn’t seem to mind when I honestly ‘fessed up to a total of $400 of US purchases. Having been over the line for less than 24 hours one isn’t technically allowed any tax-free purchases, but they only really seem to care about alcohol and tobacco – neither of which I ever buy down there (indeed, I never buy the latter anywhere!).

It’s light as a feather compared with my first Gore-tex purchase 25 years ago: a vintage Berghaus… almost the same colour, by coincidence. It also packs down into next to nothing – a bonus for backpacking. All I need is some dampness to test it out. Being in BC, I don’t expect to wait too long. Perhaps a swift trip to The Chief tomorrow might provide the right circumstance. First born is back from Waterloo for Reading Week, so she can help me test (and pay for the tea afterwards :o) ).

Beta LT Jacket / Men’s / Arc’teryx / Arc’teryx / Arc’teryx.

Arc'teryx: Beta LT Jacket "Sodalite"

Arc’teryx: Beta LT Jacket “Sodalite”

Take three… action!

22 07 2012

I get dangerous when I get bored. So sometimes it is simply in everyone’s best interest if I just get out and DO something.

Today, I went to the Stawamus Chief again. It’s less than 2 hours away (which used to be an over-night trip when I was a kid in the UK, but is now just around the corner, in Canada). Frequent visitors will recall I’ve been up it a couple of times before. This time I took a stab at “Third Peak”. Third of three.  You begin by following the regular path up. It seems to get less steep every time which is a good thing. Simply due to erosion I’m sure!  😉

The staging and staircase that had been demolished by a rockslide a few weeks ago are back in good repair, and apart from a few fresh, very large, rock fragments by the river, there’s not much evidence that anything had ever happened.

Anyway, today there was a family of Eastern Europeans out for a saunter. Except dad. He was shooting up the hill with his 8 year old son. Unfortunately, his 6 year old son got left behind with the women folk and was screeching and wailing in loud tones something which I’m sure translated approximately to “come back dad, you miserable twat – stop being so selfish”. Either that or “save me from the hormones…”.  It certainly cut a swathe through the otherwise still, damp air, whatever the translation.

So, in due course you come to the junction in the route, and leave the main trail for the “Third Peak” trail. It’s pretty well marked and apart from a couple of places where the path is lost in the loose rocks, it’s easy enough to follow. Not as well “improved” as the Grouse Grind or Second Peak, but I preferred it for that. A more natural hike with less steps – either wood or stone. Lots of slippy roots today though.

Lovely wave-like patterns in the layered bark on this stump.

Not for the less secure-footed, that’s for sure.

Up the creek-bed

The Third Peak trail starts out reasonably flat and very well laid. It follows a bit of a stream bed, then heads more determinedly UP. There’s a bit of a dried up creek bed for a while, then some serious scrambling up loose rock.

This was way harder coming down though. Once over the scramble, it turns back into more of a forest trail, and the rain started to set in just to add its own challenge. This was a side effect of being kissed by the very bottom edge of a cloud. Quite a freaky experience. As we ascended the last slab of rock for the peak, we met a party just descending. I joked about the view (about 10m in front of you, in the cloud and rain), and one lady said it had been wonderful from the peak just moments before. She seemed happy to accept the blame I then levelled at her, and we went our separate ways. [Don’t worry, she was (at least originally) English – the accent proven by her Karrimor rucksack to match my own daypack. These minor insults are actually friendly greetings in a quite sophisticated way.]

So, we scrambled our way up the last slab of granite to the very peak. As on my previous trips up the Chief, I was amazed at how resilient life is up on the top. With just the merest hint of organic matter to begin its life within, a tree establishes itself, then its own decaying leaves add to the small amount of organic matter in which it finds succour. So, the hiker is met with this amazing panorama of bonzai trees, each no more than four or five feet tall, but presumably many decades old.

A tree apparently growing in solid granite

By now, the wind and rain inside the cloud was biting through the lightweight gear we’d brought, and it was time to make the descent. It’d taken us around 90 minutes to get up, and took us an hour to get back. On the way, I saw yet another amazing example of a tree that had begun life in a mere crack of the rock, and whose roots had spread and grown many metres in search of nutrients to continue its growth. Things like that really make me wonder what we have to complain about in our comfortable, convenient little lives.

Who says it can’t be done?

So – down we came, and I was amazed at some of the sights! Pretty much every female was wearing skimpy Lululemon sports bra and shorts (remember the rain I mentioned?) There were a few less hardy souls in longer yoga pants, but pretty much all were carrying the “look at me, look at me” placard. Most were wearing reasonably standard running shoes, but a few had canvas Keds/Converse which seemed totally unsuitable for the ordeal ahead. Mustn’t complain though – it all added to the day’s viewing delights.

And on finally hitting the gravel track at the bottom, I noticed the increased heart rate had pumped quite a bit of blood to my extremities. My hands were like balloons! They’re pretty much back to normal now, and I take it as a sign I just need to get out there a bit more often… it’s safer for everyone!!

Pudgy hand after trip up and down Third Peak.

Chief trail closed due to rockslide | Sea to Sky | Pique Newsmagazine | Whistler, CANADA

23 06 2012


Chief trail closed due to rockslide | Sea to Sky | Pique Newsmagazine | Whistler, CANADA.

So I went up the Stawamus Chief again today (well – most of it), making it back down just in time to miss the lightning that came sweeping across Squamish minutes later. On the way up I was amazed to see the aftermath of an extensive rockslide. Reading up on the wonderful web, it seems the event occurred on Thursday evening around 6pm, and narrowly missed a group of hikers making the descent. 20 tonnes of rock had all but demolished one of the wooden stair sections.

The above-linked article also tells me that “In addition to the rockfall, BC Parks advises that the overhang corners above the Flats on the Grand Wall are closed to climbers because falcons have been spotted nesting on the Grand Wall route.” Typical birds! Don’t they realize the season’s underway?