Archive for the 'Backcountry' Category

A new walking stick – tested on Mt. Strachan

The new walking stick on the sub-summit ridge of Mt. Strachan

The new walking stick on the sub-summit ridge of Mt. Strachan

In the winter when I’m backcountry skiing, of course I use ski poles. While many people use poles for summer walking, I haven’t.

Ecological Reserve Warden, Alan Whitehead, interpreting the fen

Ecological Reserve Warden, Alan Whitehead, interpreting the fen
Note: click all of these pictures to see them full-size

My curiosity was aroused last week when, last week, the Warden of the Bowen Island Ecological Reserve escorted a group of us into that untracked little wilderness. High in the hills is a small and magical fen. While it was a bit damp underfoot, and very springy, I was surprised that we could walk on the surface of the bog.

 

The walking stick never found the bottom of the fen

The walking stick never found the bottom of the fen

At one point while interpreting the bog, the Warden took his walking stick and plunged it straight down into the peat. It was all plant-matter, and offered a minimum of resistance. He never reached the bottom of the fen.

 

I found myself asking about the sturdy walking stick that the Warden found useful all day. “Oh, it is made of Ocean Spray, and that is a common plant on Bowen Island.” Denis Lynn said that he was clearing out some by his house, and if he found a suitable piece, I could have it. Denis presented me with my new walking stick later in the week!

 

Mount Strachan from Bowen Island

Mount Strachan from Bowen Island

Yesterday, Sunday, was a stunning late-summer (ok, early fall) cool sunny day. A couple of us wanted to walk in the hills, and the closest big mountain to Bowen Island is Mount Strachan. Access is an easy drive from West Vancouver up the paved highway to the ski resort. There is a trail, but since the resort is closed, we decided to enjoy the views and open sky by rambling up the ski slopes.

 

Bowen Island and fog on Georgia Strait from Mt. Strachan

Bowen Island and fog on Georgia Strait from Mt. Strachan

From the From the broad ridge of the sub-peak, there is a fine view of my Bowen Island. We were amazed to see that all of the vast Georgia Strait was cloaked in shining veil of fog. Somehow, Bowen Island and Howe Sound were clear.

 

Descent to the Mt. Strachan col

Descent to the Mt. Strachan col

Not everyone who heads up this hill bothers to scramble over to the real peak. It is worth the extra time because the views are outstanding. In the winter, the ski resort considers it to be out of bounds,  and that might explain people’s reluctance. Also, it is not easy walking. The descent from the sub-peak to the col is steep and slippery.

 

Approaching the summit of Mt. Strachan

Approaching the summit of Mt. Strachan

The climb up to the summit is a little bit easier.

The summit is a secure dome with outstanding views in every direction.

Vancouver and Mt .Baker from Mt. Strachan

Vancouver and Mt. Baker from Mt. Strachan summit

Summits to the north of Mt. Strachan

Summits to the north of Mt. Strachan

Heading down from Mt. Strachan summit

Heading down from Mt. Strachan summit

 

For the record: That walking stick is made of Holodiscus discolor, also called, ocean spray, creambush, and ironwood.

Trails on Mount Gardner

During the past year I’ve been working with Bowen Rotary on a project to map the trails on Mt. Gardner, Bowen Island, and ensure that those trails receive Section 56 recognition under the Forest and Range Practices Act of the Province of British Columbia. If you walk these trails, I’d like to talk to you about this project and discuss how you may help or participate. We have identified over 20 kilometres of excellent trails and created an accurate map. Please contact me (go to the About page at this site).

Hiking Trails on Mt Gardner

A view of the hiking Trails on Mt Gardner, Bowen Island, BC

Red Heather Snow

It has been a poor winter for local backcountry skiing. Recently there was some cold rain at sea level, and we hoped it would be snow above 3 thousand feet. The Diamond Head Parking Lot in Garibaldi Provincial Park is at the top of a 16 km rough mountain road that begins in the port town of Squamish. The trailhead is at 3200 feet (975 m). On Sunday, March 30, there was a couple of inches of new snow at the parking lot; and while we assembled our gear the precipitation alternated between snow and sleet. As soon as we climbed only a short distance, there was no more rain, just snowfall.

The trail was once a jeep track, so it proceeds upward at a mellow angle through high altitude old-growth forest for 4.5 km to the Red Heather Hut (1400 m). Amazingly, the depth of the new snow around the hut was over 40 cm.

Above the hut there are vast meadows and glades. And some bumps suitable for skiing. When it was time to go, we pointed our skis down the trail and skied continuously for 5 km. Well, I stopped a few times for thigh-breaks.

There isn’t much snow on the local hills

It is January 18 and we are trying to ski down Hollyburn Ridge. With so little snow, the going is tricky.

It is January 18 and we are trying to ski down Hollyburn Ridge. With so little snow, the going is tricky.

Yesterday, the Lower Mainland and Georgia Strait was blanketed in low cloud or fog. Just up the hill, on Hollyburn Ridge, it was a beautiful warm sunny day. After all the recent precipitation, we were surprised to find so little snow for skiing.

Amanita Muscaria spotted on Sunday

Amanita Muscaria family at 2310 ft elevation on Mt. Gardner, Bowen Island

Amanita Muscaria family at 2310 ft elevation on Mt. Gardner, Bowen Island

North Shore Rescue exercises in Cypress Bowl on Sunday

We thought that Sunday would be a quiet day of spring skiing on the abandoned slopes of the ski area in Cypress Bowl.

North Shore Search and Rescue Helicopters above moguls run

SAR helicopters above moguls run

Instead, as we skinned up Mt. Strachan, over on Black Mountain, North Shore Rescue was holding its third annual avalanche rescue exercises.

It was a major event. The scenario was that 12 snowshoers had been caught in a class 2 avalanche (big) and at least 6 were buried and did not have the benefit of location beacons (radio transceivers to facilitate finding someone under the snow).

About 50 search and rescue experts and volunteers participated. The miltary were there with their Cormorant helicopter, and North Shore Rescue were using their two Talon Helicopters. These machines were almost constantly in the air, often circling over our heads with stretchers and rescuers dangling from long lines.

The display of expertise and equipment was impressive. And as someone who loves to head into the backcountry, it is comforting to know that these people are well trained, dedicated, and excellently equipped to manage a rescue. (If someone who is new to our local wilderness mountains is reading this, let me add that I see a rescue as a backup to my mountain travel and avalanche training — I hope never to call on their services.)

The Canadian Military Cormorant helicopter with the cypress bowl moguls run behind

The Canadian Military Cormorant helicopter
with the moguls run — where the avalanche exercises took place — behind

Dog trained for avalanche rescue

Dog trained for avalanche rescue

One of several North Shore Rescue vehicles

One of several North Shore Rescue vehicles

For more information, here is the blog for North Shore Rescue.

Global TV coverage of Snowman Rescue Drill

Mount Callaghan – my first legacy blog on this site

Callaghan Peak and Robert Ballantyne 96Sep22

Mount Callaghan

In October 2000, after stumbling around Mt. Callaghan for four years, two of us scrambled to the top. As mountaineering goes, this was not a very impressive accomplishment; but for this old guy who’d moved from the prairies a few years previously, it was high adventure.

If I’d been writing a blog in 2000, this would have been one of my yarns. It would be another six years before I discovered blogging. I’ve learned that I can write blog entries, and post them on almost any date I want. So now that old story comes to this blog, and — as if it were written at the time — you can read about it here.


Robert's professional sites:
Ballantyne and Associates
Governing

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