This past weekend I went on the most intense hiking/camping trip…ever! Aviv, an old friend from Shad Valley that I haven’t seen in 7 years, invited me to join him and a bunch of his friends on an overnight hike-in camping trip to Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Saturday morning we left at the crack of dawn and drove up the Sea-To-Sky highway to Garibaldi Park. I love that you can leave Vancouver and in about 90 minutes arrive at the base of some of the most majestic mountains in the world. It took us a bit longer because we pit-stopped at Tim Horton’s in Squamish for some high caloric nourishment and a last chance to use civilized washrooms. And then we drove by the entrance to the park twice because we were distracted by Aviv and Eric’s rendition of Tom Lehrer’s Masochism Tango.
We strapped on our backpacks, loaded with the gear and food to keep us alive for two days, and started our hike in. The hiking was tiring, but not too strenuous, and the scenery was stunning. It took us 2 1/2 hours to hike 7.5 km, gaining 915 m of elevation, to the Taylor Meadows campground. The trail was pretty smooth and steadily uphill. But you still needed to watch were you were stepping. Whenever I paused to look around I was awestruck by the beauty around me.
For lunch, we hiked down to Garibaldi lake and ate our food while sitting on one of the Battleship Islands, looking out on Garibaldi Lake, its light blue water framed by huge mountains and glaciers. We were harassed by chipmunks and birds that were so used to hikers feeding them that they would crawl over your legs or land on your lands to get food.
I was really impressed with how light my pack was. I didn’t waste any needless weight on food or clothing. For food, I restricted myself to calorie dense, high protein foods: 1 kg of trailmix, banana chips, and an assortment of 12 different energy bars. For clothing, I wore my convertable pant/shorts, a long sleeve shirt and t-shirt. I only packed socks, underwear, and one extra t-shirt. I would come to regret my packing choices. The abundance of energy bars and trail mix was sickening and I froze my butt of Saturday night. I keep forgetting that up on the side of a mountain it gets really cold at night.
Luckily by 9:00 everyone was cold and ready to crawl into sleeping bags. Eric, Aviv and I talked until 10, crawled out of our tents to watch the meteor shower, and crawled back after 10 minutes of disappointingly unimpressive meteors. It was cold overnight, but my amazing MEC Winterhawk sleeping bag kept me very toasty.
Sunday morning we woke up with dawn, had some gruel, and decided to hike up to The Black Tusk – an impressive old volcanic structure that is visible from much of the park. Again, it was another 2 hour hike of steady uphills to the base of Black Tusk, where the trail technically ended and further progress was not recommended. Most hikers though keep going, hiking up the steep slopes of the Black Tusk for a better view. The higher we got the better the views became and can’t be described with words, so I took lots of pictures.
At one point, as we were rapidly ascending, I made it to the top of a ridge and looked over the edge, only to be greeted by a 500 foot sheer drop off. Terrified, I crawled back from the ledge and sat firmly on the ground, as my heart hammered in my chest. My fear of heights almost stopped me in my tracks, but after some time, I managed to continue along the trail, which went dangerously close to the edge of the cliff.
After following the ridge, we made it to the base of steep part of The Black Tusk.
The only way to continue was to climb up a 50 meter rock chimney – a steep narrow channel that provided some spots for hand and foot holds. The rock was really loose though and often came tumbling down around you, so we had to go up one at a time. Aviv told everyone to bring a helmet, but I was the only one who did. I may have looked dorky, but after a rock bounced off my bike helmet, I was glad I had it. I was the last to climb the chimney, and almost chickened out. I was terrified of the heights, and more worried about what followed the chimney and getting back down. But after everyone else went, I followed along, not wanting to be left behind.
The chimney turned out to be the most terrifying part, but the fear of the unknown kept me from joining the rest of the group for a long time, as I sat staring out at the endless rows of towering mountains from the lower plateau. Eventually I did climb all the way to the top of The Black Tusk and was greeted by 360 degree views of all the surrounding mountains, including Blackcomb and the back of Whistler Mountain. It was crazy. We sat up there for a while, drank port, ate snacks and Toblerone, and marveled at the intensity of the hike up.
Coming back down wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and after the terrifying heights at the top of The Black Tusk, the steep drops lower down didn’t seem nearly as scary. Hiking back down to the camp site and then back to the parking lot took a long time and pounded the feet and legs. I’m still sore today. My lower body feels like one giant bruise every time I move. But I love that feeling – the feeling of accomplishment and hard work.