June 18, 2010
Here’s the latest report with our Flip camera
September 29, 2009
Access: The well-marked Garibaldi Lake–Black Tusk trailhead lies 100 kilometres north of Vancouver, just east of Highway 99. For a detailed description of the Garibaldi Lake-Black Tusk area, pick up a copy of my Whistler Book.
Current conditions in Garibaldi Provincial Park are posted at www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/garibaldi.
A good perspective on the current state of B.C. Parks is posted at www.friendsofstrathcona.wordpress.com/park-funding.
Care to take a hike in the footsteps of pioneers? Follow the trail to Garibaldi Lake and the Black Tusk north of Squamish and you’ll be doing just that.
A decade or more before the creation of Garibaldi Provincial Park in the 1920s, climbers from Vancouver’s fledgling B.C. Mountaineering Club were already clearing a route to the glacier-fed, turquoise-hued lake and sombre volcanic pillar, one of the most iconic natural features in the Sea to Sky corridor.
With the exception of Stawamus Chief Mountain, no other rock formation in the surrounding fortress of coastal peaks is as noticeable or so readily identifiable in a region that’s a living lesson in geological history.
If that isn’t inducement enough, consider that in autumn the colour of Garibaldi Lake is at the apex of its intensity.
Garibaldi Lake is often compared to Lake Louise for its splendour. Vicki Haberl, planner for B.C. Parks’ Lower Mainland regional office in Squamish, agrees with the comparison.
However, Haberl feels that Garibaldi appears even better than its Alberta counterpart because visitors have to earn the view by first undertaking a nine-kilometre (5 mile), three-hour hike to reach its subalpine shore rather than simply walk a short distance from a parking lot, as is the case with Banff National Park’s centrepiece.
During the ascent to the lake, one of the most arresting sights is the Barrier, an enormous lava-flow dam that blocked the valley to originally form the lake.
In the mid-1800s, a large portion of its red rock face calved off.
Remnants of the avalanche are easily spotted along the banks of aptly named Rubble Creek, which vents from the base of the Barrier, and in the debris fan on both sides of the Cheakamus River.
For the best perspective, pause at the six-kilometre viewpoint. Rocks dislodged from the sheer wall continually tumble down into Rubble’s percolating white water below.
Garibaldi Lake Trail is surprisingly smooth and welcoming, unlike other rocks-and-roots paths, such as the Helm Creek Trail, an alternate approach to the lake from the Whistler side.
Thanks to crews of hydrologists dispatched to the lake in the 1930s to investigate the energy-generating potential of the region, accompanied by wagonloads of summer hikers, today’s trail covers much the same gently switchbacked path.
Just as then, hikers are advised to carry emergency supplies to cope with ever-changing conditions in the backcountry. B.C. Parks still provides outhouses at Garibaldi Lake, but the Environment Ministry’s latest budget afforded no funds for toilet paper, so hikers must bring their own.
In 2002, Victoria instituted pay parking in provincial parks. Given the current deficit, pay toilets may be next.
In many ways, the summer of 2009 has been particularly taxing for B.C. Parks’ staff.
Among the new duties assigned the remaining three rangers who supervise Garibaldi Park’s massive 1,946-square-kilometre range is backpacking in maintenance equipment.
Due to cutbacks, annual helicopter supply flights were cancelled.
Staff visits to the park have been so fleeting that B.C. Parks didn’t bother opening the lake’s ranger cabin, part of a nest of shelters that housed youth work crews several decades ago.
Whistler-based photographer Paul Morrison, whose wife, Gail, cooked for the 25-member crews in the late 1970s and early 1980s, recalls that trail-building and maintenance once went on full-time in the summer.
The Morrisons, who annually camp at the lake, find that in recent years their pet peeve is that no day-to-day maintenance is done on the entire Garibaldi Lake Trail, just patchwork repairs where needed.
This is a surprising situation, given that every day hundreds of visitors hike the trail.
Indeed, Garibaldi Lake’s three campgrounds overflow on weekends between May and October with outdoor buffs drawn from the Lower Mainland, Europe, and Australasia.
At times, foot traffic to and from the lake is so busy it rivals vehicle congestion on nearby Highway 99.
Both the Morrisons and Haberl agree that Garibaldi Lake draws a crowd because of its predictable access coupled with majestic scenery.
Whether you sport a light backpack for a day’s visit, come more heavily laden to camp, or spiral around the Black Tusk in a paraglider, as some intrepid people do, the view of the lake from Panorama Ridge is a wonder to behold.
In the same breath, Paul Morrison can hardly find words to say how disgusted he is to see a natural treasure being run into the ground.
Although Haberl asserts that Garibaldi is one park where the rules are more stringent, such as no dogs or campfires, she does admit that enforcement is problematic with so few staff.
From former ranger Dominique Monnier’s perspective, the best time to visit Garibaldi Lake is before snowflakes begin to fly at higher elevations.
A self-described “dirt-bag climber”, Monnier‘s summer work finances her mountaineering exploits the remainder of the year.
As she leans on a shovel in the silence, the voice of a creek below Sphinx Glacier on the wide lake’s far shore can be heard.
Her recommendation: set aside three days to ski or snowshoe the route between the Elfin Lakes hut in the park’s Diamond Head region and the Garibaldi Lake campground in late winter or early spring.
Like charity, that’s when snow can be counted on to cover up a multitude of sins.
Just don’t forget your toilet paper.
Text CR Jack Christie
Photo CR Louise Christie
July 27, 2009
Here’s an update on Via Rail’s labour dispute with its locomotive engineers.
Via Rail says its passenger rail service should be back to normal on Monday after a two-day Canada-wide strike, offering discounts of 60 per cent on tickets to all destinations to woo back customers.
To take advantage of the discount, travellers must buy their tickets by midnight Pacific time on Wednesday, and must take their trips by Dec. 14.
As a result, train service between Winnipeg and Churchill is set to resume and not a moment to soon for the residents of Churchill for whom the railway is their only land link to southern Canada. In the spirit of public service, here’s what would-be travellers are missing.
Last August, we journeyed from Winnipeg in southern Manitoba to the town of Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay aboard VIA Rail’s Hudson Bay.
Louise took the opportunity to test the video capability of her Leica C-Lux 2 camera. The results have been edited to dreamy effect, an accurate reflection of a journey originally scheduled at 36 hours.
Owing to a heat wave which softened the permafrost landscape and created “sun kinks” in the rails, the trip lasted 50 hours, the final 100 miles of which were covered at a speed of 10 mph. Check out scenes from the observation dome car where you can actually see the cars rising and falling over the curved rails.
Featured in the video are fellow members of the Society of American Travel Writer’s Canadian chapter. Near the conclusion of the 8-minute video we’ve included tantalizing clips of what awaited us – beluga whales and polar bears – which figured prominently in Jack’s dreams as he snoozed through the aptly-named Barrens.
For an extensive display of related still photographs, check out the Churchill file posted are posted here.
May 5, 2009
Ever done something you’ve always wanted to but didn’t know it? That’s how I felt while building an igloo in Mount Seymour Provincial Park on Vancouver’s North Shore. As I stood like Atlas holding up the world – in this case a suitcase-size slab of compacted snow – I realized I was exactly where I was meant to be at that moment, creating a memory that would be added to my accomplishments in life’s rich pageant.
Thanks to the coaching from Mike Harding, expedition leader with Westcoast Adventures, we fashioned our “dome away from home” in about three hours. Then Louise got to work digging out a snow kitchen where we gathered with Mike, his staff, two snowshoe instructors from Mount Seymour Resort, friends Janice (pictured above and below) and Scott Greenwood-Fraser , and fellow journalists Ann Campbell of Vancouver and Alf Alderson from the U.K.
Once again, Louise had a chance to test the video feature on her Leica C-Lux 2. While the little camera has many fine features, a decent view finder would be a helpful addition. As it is, Louise shoots blind and hopes for the best. Part of the learning process on this production is familiarizing ourself with the iMovie editing system on Louise’s Mac. Bearing that in mind, here is a rough cut of our weekend experience which we’ll update with a cleaner edit in the days ahead.
The Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia publishes a helpful guide on building snow shelters: FMCBC Training manual VII. Call 604-736-3053 to request a copy.
January 27, 2009
After hearing nothing but English accents over Christmas, this time the village was humming with Americans drawn north for the Martin Luther King Jr long weekend. Many of the US visitors I spoke to while riding the lifts planned to extend their stay a further day in honour of the presidential inauguration of Barrack Obama. And a good thing that is too since our American cousins have a reputation for working harder and taking fewer holidays – only half of what most Canadians enjoy – than anywhere else in the developed world.
Owing to a temperature inversion, the weather in the alpine was truly bizarre. The higher you went, the warmer the breezes blew. At +12C at the top of Blackcomb, it was April in January. Thankfully, I’d been warned to pack sunscreen.
Despite the inversion, snow conditions remain surprisingly good. Those in search of mile-long runs will find plenty of groomed terrain to cruise from top to bottom.
Following an email tip I recently received, on my way home I stopped by Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler’s Creekside neighbourhood to sample the fries at Jordan’s Crossing Lounge. Savouring “pommes frites” is a long-established family road trip tradition. A large take out box cost $6 and came with mayo aioli sauce. A rich aroma of garlic and olive oil filled the car and made the drive much easier to take, as did the warmth of the sun. The perfect way to sugarcoat the tedium of a commute.