The fall can be a difficult time for outdoor recreation in our wet and rainy climate, especially the months of October and November. Every year, after the first rainy weekend, I’d be asking myself why I’m not adventuring something warm and sunny. With the start of winter only a week away, I thought I should share some of my mini-adventures.
September was spectacular. It was one of the best ones I could remember, sunny nearly every day – only 5mm of precipitation was recorded. It started off with a three-day trip on the Isolation Traverse, a rugged off-trail hiking and mountaineering trip in the North Cascades. Together with Alex, Maddy, Chris and Krystil, we weaved our way across late-season glaciers, up and down heather slopes that never ended and consulted my maps a few too many times to remember. This was my first trip to this part of the Cascades, and I’d like to return there for some of the rugged beauty it offers. I was amazed that in the three days spent here, we did not see another person.
North Twin Sister
Feeling tired, yet still yearning for some good times in the mountains, Tim Chris and I headed south across the border yet again. We had great time scrambling up the west ridge of the North Twin Sister. The rock is dunite, with large rough crystals destined for climbing on. The approach involves some logging road and mountain bike is recommended. Or you could run up and down the road if you’re a fitness maniac like my friends did.
Two of the best days in the mountains I can recall were spent rambling along the scenic granite ridges above the Sims Valley. On yet another beautiful September weekend, Pete and I made the horseshoe traverse around Outrigger Creek, going from Outrigger Peak to Mount John Clarke. Perhaps pushing our luck in September, we went light and left the tents behind – it turned out to be a perfect night to sleep under the stars. I can understand now why those who have travelled here rank it amongst their favourite spots accesible in a weekend from Vancouver. We drove up the Squamish and then the Elaho Valley, and bushwacked for two hours from the end of a cutblock into the alpine. After that, it was two full days of jaw-dropping views – I was grinning from end to end the entire time.
Sailing in Howe Sound
Back in the spring, I purchased a quarter share of a Catalina 27 sailboat. I figured it would be a good distraction during the times when I needed a rest from human-powered activities. Most of the time spent on the boat this summer were on evening cruises out in English Bay – enjoying a barbeque and a few beverages while watching the sunset. On a cloudy weekend in September, we sailed off to Keat’s Island, a small island in Howe Sound, tucked behind Bowen Island. Sailing might have been an exaggeration on the first day – we were drifting along with the tide when our sails were raised in the calm conditions. We had betterwinds on the return voyage, enjoying sunshine and Palmosa’s (equal parts Palm Bay’s and orange juice) on deck.
Welch and Foley Peak
With yet another beautiful September weekend, I headed off into the eastern end of the Cheam Range to scramble up Welch and Foley Peak. This area is located in the Chilliwack Valley and well-described in Matt Gunn’s scrambles book. This was my first trip into this area, it’s perfect for any peak-bagger, with numerous summits, all within day tripping range. We scrambled up the south ridge of Welch Peak, which is described by Matt as “a fantastic scramble with over 425m of alpine scrambling and a long, airy summit ridge.” The following day, we climbed up Foley Peak, getting a good view of rest of the Cheam range, Mount Baker, Slesse, Rexford, Robie Reid, Judge Howay and many more.
Robyn’s family has an amazing spot on the east side of Cortes Island, with a waterfront view of Desolation Sound. A few of us were lucky enough to enjoy some rare November sunshine, which lead to other unseasonable activities like swimming in the ocean and kayaking on a calm ocean surface. November is usually a time when I test my patience, and tolerance for warm wet weather that doesn’t quite lead to favourable ski conditions. Luckily, time goes by quickly when you’re surrounded by good friends and food.
Early Season Skiing
I find it tough to motivate myself for the first few days of skiing. The uncertain snow conditions and terrain hazards coupled with a lack of fitness and boot discomforts usually keeps me at home for the first few storms that roll through the Coast. Paul, Kristen and I made our first turns of the year around the Marriott Basin, off the Duffey Lake road. The light warm rain and the closed coffee shop in Pemberton (it was still under fall hours) made us second-guess our decision to drive three hours in search of snow. Luckily, we were not disappointed. The next weekend, I visited two popular ski destinations if only for their proximity to Vancouver. We spent a valuable day on Seymour in above freezing temperatures, practicing beacon searches and confirming that skiing in the rain is unpleasant and best enjoyed in small doses. This was followed by a day on Red Heather with Mark and Jen, where we wallowed through the 150cm’s of snow from the past week. On the gentle slopes, skiing downhill was a challenge. And most recently, Greg and I visited the Cayoosh basin, where we found plenty of powder, sunshine, clouds and pillow drops.
And that summarizes the last couple months of living in the big city. I’m looking forward to a great season of skiing!