The Whistler Book
April 24, 2008 · Print This Article
The Whistler Book is written with the outdoor adventurer in mind. And while every chapter details the activities best suited to each locale within the Sea to Sky corridor, the focus is squarely on those outings most likely to bring family and friends together regardless of individual ability. After all, it’s not just how good you are, it’s how much fun you’re having that’s important.
To that end, my wish is that this book should lead readers to places of tranquility and reflection that offer a thousandfold reward for the effort spent in reaching them. Just one note of caution: No matter how sunny the forecast, mountains create their own weather. So hopefully you haven’t worn cotton, which, when wet, leaches heat much faster than it can be replaced, and you’ve packed an extra layer or two of warm, waterproof clothing. Always let someone know where you plan to explore and when you expect to return, and travel equipped for any eventuality. Enjoy.
The Callaghan Valley, site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Nordic ski events, lies 5 km (3 mi.) southeast of Whistler, well within sight of Whistler Mountain’s west side. Although parts of the valley have been logged, much of the old-growth forest at higher elevations remains intact. And rising above the valley on its west side are the snowy summits of Brandywine, Cayley and Powder mountains. Callaghan Creek flows down to join the Cheakamus River close to Highway 99 from its headwaters–a turquoise jewel of a lake at the foot of Mount Callaghan.
The Callaghan Lake Road
The Callaghan Lake Road provides an excellent vista of the mountains on the west side of Whistler Valley for drivers and passengers alike, but perhaps the most compelling reason for travelling even partway up is the view on the return trip. To the east is Black Tusk, which stands alone before you as you descend back into the valley. Comparable to similar views from the summits of Whistler and Blackcomb, this is one of the most panoramic vantage points from which to admire this snaggletooth.
The roads climbs along the north side of a spacious valley past a series of clear-cut blocks, some close to the road, others hidden away, for 15 km (9.3 mi) until it arrives at the shores of Callaghan Lake. Along the way, just before the road crosses a small bridge over Madeley Creek at the 7-km (4.3-mi) point, there is a turnoff to the left that leads to a small recreation site beside Alexander Falls with a captivating viewpoint of the falls and valley. On the west side of the Callaghan Lake Road, just across the bridge above Alexander Falls, is where the Whistler Olympic Park sits. One of the best times to stop here is near sundown, when the evening light plays over the snow domes of the Pacific Range peaks to the west: Brandywine Mountain at the southern end (the highest at 2,227 m/7,300 ft), Mount Cayley in the middle and Powder Mountain to the north. This range separates the Squamish Valley from the wide Callaghan Valley spread out below you.
Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures (604-938-0616; callaghancountry.com) operates a backcountry lodge and private cross-country trails to the west of Callaghan Lake Road. A 12.5-km (7.8-mi) trail leads from the Alexander Falls area to the lodge which sits tucked away in the shadow of Powder Mountain, the Solitude Glacier and Mount Callaghan itself. At an elevation of 1,370 m (4495 ft), walled in by snowfields and glaciers, the upper Callaghan Valley enjoys a reputation as an icebox in winter – a sure-fire guarantee of dry, fluffy powder snow, ideal for both cross-country skiing and alpine touring. A more typical Coast Mountain scene is hard to conjure up, just as the lodge itself – so tucked away in the woods that on approach it always seems to spring unannounced from the landscape–epitomizes the unique architectural style that has evolved locally since the 1940s, epitomized by Alta Lake Hostel in Whistler and Diamond Head Lodge in Squamish.
c. Jack Christie