Whistler My Love

The leaves are turning their colors and the mornings have become crispy cold. Fall is definitely upon us after a last week of hot weather and sunshine. A good moment to look back on the amazing summer week I spent hiking in the Whistler area.

After ferrying over from Vancouver Island I headed north towards Whistler looking for some great trails to hike. I stopped in Squamish for a night and hiked up the three peaks of Stawamus Chief, world's second largest granite monolith. I made friends with a chipmunk (with the aid of a nutty cereal bar I must admit) and enjoyed the views on top of the peaks.
on top of first peak with Mt. Garibaldi in the background

my chipmunk friend

I conquered the Chief
The next destination was Whistler just a short drive north of Squamish. I was lucky to get there just in time for the hottest September week they've had there in over 70 years! Add 32 degrees and beautiful sunshine to a half empty whistler (because it was midweek and people are working) and you get the perfect hiking experience.

After doing some day hikes over the last few weeks I got my courage together and put together a three day hike in the Garibaldi Provincial Park. I have to confess I was a bit nervous before heading out. After all, I'm a bit of a newbie in regards to camping in bear country... (everything turned out fine as you've probably already noticed since I am writing this post now!)

There are three major day hikes in the Garibaldi Provincial Park which I decided to pack into 2 1/2 days of intensive hiking:

  1. Black Tusk: a 28k hike up to the 2300m high peak of Black Tusk which in fact is black and does indeed look like a large tooth
  2. Panorama Ridge: a 30k hike up to a 2100m high view point from which you have an excellent view of Black Tusk and Lake Garibaldi
  3. Lake Garibaldi: a 9k trail to Lake Garibaldi where you can go for a swim in the cold water
However, I did not start all the hikes from the trailhead but set up my camp at Taylor Meadows about 8k into the park (which made the day hikes a bit shorter). A smallish campground with tent sites, a pit toilet, a cooking shelter and a food cache. For those of you who are unfamiliar with bear safety in campgrounds: a food cache is a safe place to store all food and scented items while camping. It's about 100m away from the tents and either provides lockers or a 4m high line to hang your food bags. Bears who are attracted to the smells will not be able to get to the food this way. It is absolutely crucial not to store any food or scented items in your tent! However, even all safety measures are not a guarantee for quiet bear-free nights though, as I had to learn... 
my camp

The first day was spent hiking in, setting up camp and then heading up the Black Tusk (with a much lighter pack since all camping gear was left at camp). It's a fairly challenging hike through the meadows and up the mountain until you get close to the tusk - then it turns into a real tough one. A path going up through gravel leads you to the base of the tusk. One step forward, two steps back - at least that's what it felt like going up there. 

view of Black Tusk from camp
at the base of Black Tusk

Once you're at the base of the tusk there's a small path going around it to the western side of it. There you'll find a chimney to climb and scramble up. It's steep and at first quite intimidating but with patience and some arm muscles you'll be able to pull yourself on top of the tusk. And the views from there are absolutely incredible! What an exhilarating feeling to stand atop that black rock! Wow!

view from the tusk
at the top :)
Tired but happy I returned to camp that evening and after a simple meal retired to my tent. I soon fell asleep and dreamed happy dreams when some strange sounds made me wake up. First a few rustles, then a few dump thuds close to the tent. Oh no! I felt the vibrations on the ground and suddenly I felt something tug into the tent at the side where I was sleeping! I believe my heart stopped for a second I didn't dare to breath. My only thoughts: "A bear! Oh no! A bear! Oh no! A bear!..." In an attempt to let the bear know that there was someone inside the tent and to cause it to move on I started moving a bit, making rustling noises with my sleeping bag. Thank God, thud thud thud, it slowly moved forward, sniffed my backpack (at least that's what it sounded like) and left the tent area. Needless to say, it took my quite a while to fall asleep again that night!

The next day was a bit more relaxed with a hike up to Panorama Ridge and then down to the Lake for a swim. I saw marmots which was cool but I was also very happy not to run into a bear. One was enough for a long time!

at Lake Garibaldi
Lake Garibaldi 
view from Panorama Ridge
view from Panorama Ridge
view of Black Tusk from Panorama Ridge
I returned to the Whistler Hostel on the third day and ended my Whistler hiking experience with a short hike up the Joffre Lakes near Pemberton. All in all, my week in Whistler couldn't have been any better! Incredible!

Last but not least, another three lessons learned:

  1. in Canada nobody sticks to the speed limits. Once you leave Vancouver make sure you add 20km/h to the speed limit unless you want to cause a traffic jam!
  2. one of the major downsides of solo hiking: you have to carry ALL your gear yourself. I got a bit jealous of girls hiking in with boyfriends carrying most of the equipment and food... ;)
  3. social media are not so social after all! It's become an annoying trend in hostels for people to sit around with their noses in their computers or smartphones instead of talking or hanging out. Booh!


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