HoweSound on Howe Sound and the local high country

If I cannot be out in the hills hiking or skiing (yes, I think that with some walking and bushwhacking, there is still snow to be skied) I can reflect on what I’d be seeing if I were there.

It amazes me that many people who visit this region (or even live here) have no idea what makes up most of the landscape. By driving to Whistler, and then over Cayoosh Pass on the Duffy Lake Road, you can only glimpse the rugged high country and the edges of the vast regions of ice where the last ice age has yet to lose its grip. It is all around, but from the depths of the highway in the valley it is all but invisible. Click the title for the next pane, and see what an amazing land this is. The maps are clickable thumbprints.

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The first map shows Howe Sound. The sound is a glacier deepened riverbed which is called a fjord. It is North America’s most southerly fjord. When driving north from Vancouver to Whistler, the first 1/2 of the trip winds along the steep eastern wall of the fjord to the port town of Squamish. Notice that the water flowing into the Sound shows the turquoise color associated with glacier melt water.

Glaciers feeding Howe Sound and the Salish SeaThe second map shows the extent of the rugged glaciated high country that makes up the local Coast Mountains. The satellite images are summertime, so the ice you see is permanent (this is not an editorial on global warming).

These are the hills that either have become familiar to me, or are still the subject of my dreams and plans.

While there are many small glaciers, the map shows two of the great local ice sheets. To the northwest of Whistler, and just above the centre of the map is the Pemberton Icefield. Even larger is the sprawling Lillooet Icefield in the upper left of the map.

There is only one highway through here. It runs from Vancouver to Whistler, and eventually to the town of Lillooet. From sea level at Squamish, the highway climbs to the resort village of Whistler at 2200 feet (675 m). It plunges down to the town of Pemberton in the Lillooet valley where it turns east. You can see that it passes a lake and climbs steeply up into mountains again on the east side of the map. The high point of that road is called Cayoosh Pass, at 4183 feet (1275 m).

First of Joffre Lakes - Matier Glacier and Mt MatierBTW, if you are new to this area, would like a close-up experience with a glacier, and can handle a moderate mountain hike, I recommend taking the Joffre Lakes Hike. There is a well marked parking lot just before Cayoosh Pass. The first lake (shown) is only 5-minutes walking, and there is a view of 9100 ft (2770 m) Mt Matier and the stunning Matier Icefall. The round-trip walk to the Upper Lake and the base of the Icefall is 7 mi. (11 km) an there is 1200 ft (366 m) elevation gain. Go fully prepared for a real mountain hike, and be careful below the icefall. This is an active glacier, and seracs can (and do) tumble at any time. If you want something more challenging, this area has every level rock and ice adventures. You will enjoy becoming acquainted.


2 Responses to “HoweSound on Howe Sound and the local high country”

  1. 1 Dona July 30, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Hi Robert

    You must be feeling better – Salish sea is posting!

    How can I email your write – up on the Joffre hike – I want to send it onto family members.

    Cheers, d

  2. 2 Robert July 30, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Dona. Yup, I’m feeling super now!

    For people driving the Duffy Lake Road (which includes Cayoosh Pass) the Joffre Lake hike is a wonderful walk. The easiest way to send this to your family is to email them the URL for the page. The whole URL is:

    If that is too long for your email program, this will work too:

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