Archive for the 'Bowen Island' Category

Sun circles – ice crystals in the sky

At 10:27am last Tuesday I was walking to catch the 10:40 ferry sailing leaving Bowen Island. I mention the time because the sun was about 47º above the horizon. It was a sunny morning with a bit of haze in the sky. The haze must have been caused by high ice crystals because, looking up, I noticed a ring around the Sun. What made it unusual was I could distinctly see part of a second circle that seemed to have the Sun on its circumference and the zenith as its centre. I think it may be called a parhelic circle. The picture doesn’t do it justice because it is just a snapshot with a telephone-camera.

A circle around the sun, and a secondary parhelic circle, as seen from Bowen Island 2019jul09
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The new approach to the Spearhead Traverse

Backcountry skiers in British Columbia all know of the Spearhead Traverse. This is Canada’s “Haute Route” — a 35km trek crossing over 13 glaciers with about 2000m of elevation gain (and loss) that most people spread over 3 days (it can be done in a single thigh-burning day). Most of the route is between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. Access is easy: buy a one-way lift ticket for Blackcomb Mountain. At the end of the trip: ski down the runs on Whistler Mountain. That’s all that is easy about the Traverse. In between there are no escape routes. The steep glaciers make for breathtaking ski runs and long skin tracks up. If the weather is clement, the views everywhere are staggeringly beautiful. The coastal mountains are very rugged and dramatic.

Google Earth, Spearhead Traverse, Whistler, BC, Canada, showing significant gps waypoints
Significant GPS waypoints for the Spearhead Traverse
click for full-size

Until now, if you wanted to make the multi-day journey, you were required to carry all of your camping equipment. The fitness required, and the level of commitment has made the trip too daunting for many of us. Mountains make their own weather, and while it might be benign in Vancouver, in the remote high wilderness behind Mount Macbeth, the skier might be blinded by a whiteout and driving snow. An error in wayfinding would be tragic.

Now, the Alpine Club of Canada has envisioned 3 backcountry huts strategically and dramatically located along the Spearhead Traverse. More about this plan: 

The first of the huts is almost complete. On June 14, 15, and 16, I was part of the team helicoptered into the Kees And Claire Hut to assemble Barbara’s kitchen. More about the kitchen here. http://www.spearheadhuts.org/barbaras-kitchen/

Over the years, I’ve explored the fringes of this region. Some years ago a group of us camped at 2200m on the flank of Mount Trorey after crossing several glaciers from the lifts at the top of Blackcomb. In the summer we’ve hiked from Whistler up to Russet Lake, the location of the Kees And Claire Hut. This weekend I found there was something special about being able to linger in one place for a few days, and experience the vistas at different times of the day and  in different weather. 

Vistas! Yes, the views in all directions are amazing.

A panorama including the Kees And Clair Hut
Kees And Claire Hut
Please open full-size. It is the only way the mountain-images will achieve their grandeur

This hut is scheduled to open in the fall for the ski season. The easiest approach will be from the lifts on Whistler Mountain, then ski down the Musical Bumps to Singing Pass, and finally over Cowboy Ridge to Russet Lake. Edit: See the first comment to this post to find out how to make a booking for the Kees And Claire Hut.

Update — my Lisfranc foot injury

A short update on the consequences of my Lisfranc foot injury.

  • I injured the foot in March, 2018. The first operation was later that month. See my previous post about that.
  • In August, 2018 there was a second operation to remove the plate and screws and replace one screw with a ‘tightrope’ to hold the bones together.
  • After a month or so, X-rays showed some continuing collapse of the foot’s arch and I was tentatively scheduled for a third operation to fuze the bones to arrest the collapse.
  • Fortunately, over the following months there was no further collapse, and eventually the surgeon prescribed an orthotic insoles/inserts for my shoes, and insisted I buy a stiffer boot. If this works, I’ll not need the third operation.
  • In March 2019, the surgeon examined my X-rays and said that there has been no movement of my foot bones (no further deterioration) so no operation (for now). But if there is pain, I should call her. “May I walk and hike?” “Yes.” “May I run?” “No! No high impact activities for that foot.” “What about skiing?” “You can ski.” “What about telemark skiing (which is what I know)?” “No telemarking!” So, at 76 I will be learning how to use AT equipment and not raising my heel. I’m told that “AT” stands for “After Telemark.”

The worst part of those operations was maintaining my foot elevated ‘above the heart’ for several weeks. My inactivity has resulted in a huge loss of fitness, and an inexcusable amount of weight gain. So, I’m on new hiking boots, with expensive orthotics, and trying to exercise a few times each week.

Lisfranc foot injury — Hiking, chasing the mastodon

On Saturday, March 10, a small group of us were on a local mountain to visit the spectacular land sculpture of a life-sized mastodon.

Life-size mastodon at a wilderness location in Southern BC, Canada

Life-size mastodon at a wilderness location in Southern BC, Canada

Click here for more information on this amazing sculpture. Please follow that link because it is a wonderful story — but this article is about what happened to me that day. And no, I’m not going to reveal its location.

It was a lovely day, and after some time with the mastodon, we felt like doing a bit more off-piste exploring. And I made a serious error. In this blog you’ve read about my trading hiking boots for trail runners — that’s what I was wearing. Was it because I was on a familiar mountain, and not deep in the backcountry that made me careless? Whatever the reason, I found myself moving far too quickly through the thick underbrush. I must have put my foot in a hole, or slipped off a branch, but something hurt. By the time we regained the trail, I knew the foot was in trouble. Leaning on a ski pole, I limped off the hill. The next morning I took the foot to St Paul’s Hospital Emergency. First there were x-rays, then a CT scan, and the verdict was that this was a Lisfranc foot injury. Essentially the bones between the ankle and the toes which are normally held in position by tendons and ligaments, were pulled apart and out of alignment. I was provided with a mighty boot to support the foot, and a pair of crutches — and told not to put any weight on the foot. I was given the name of a specialist.

For my friends, and for the curious, I am prepared to show you what they did to me. If don’t like seeing the consequences of an operation, you may not want to continue with this article.

Continue reading ‘Lisfranc foot injury — Hiking, chasing the mastodon’

Frosty Mountains of Cypress Provincial Park

This was the view of the sunset on wintery Mount Strachan (1454m, centre) and the Black Mountain plateau (1217m, on the right) just moments ago. St Marks Summit is the bump on the left — a worthy destination and viewpoint when hiking the Howe Sound Crest Trail from Cypress Bowl in Cypress Provincial Park.

The Mountains of Cypress Bowl from Snug Cove, Bowen Island

The Mountains of Cypress Bowl from Snug Cove, Bowen Island

Burns Bog Plume

plume of smoke from fire in Burns Bog

Plume of smoke from the fire in Burns Bog
from the top of Mt. Gardner, Bowen Island

For exercise, on Sunday June 3, 2016, I walked up to the north summit viewpoint on Mount Gardner. There was a huge plume of smoke rising from the direction of the municipality of Delta. I learned later this was Burns Bog burning and there were about 100 firefighters trying to contain it.

Bushwhack on Trail Runners

Bushwhacking up Mount Gardner on Bowen IslandYesterday two of us spent several hours bushwhacking in the upper part of the Mt. Gardner woods below the north summit and above Bluewater. It was a good test of my new trail runners as a replacement for hiking boots.

In my last post, I described the new Saucony Xodus shoes and my reasoning for acquiring them. This area of second-growth forest is fairly open, sometimes steep, and there is lots of underbrush. I figured it would be a fairly good test of backcountry travel on the runners. Since we were here, on Bowen Island, I was not committing to a trip far from home.

My first comment is that using the runners instead of boots is somewhat different. On the trail, especially during the uphill grinds, the going is much easier with the runners. Oddly, on those sections of trail that are steep and rocky because rains have washed away most of the soil, I found the hiking much easier with the runners.

The runners seem to require me to pay more attention to foot-placement. During this kind of bushwhack — fairly low level forest — I often cannot see my feet: they are down there obscured by the salal (gaultheria shallon). With boots I would confidently plant my feet on whatever support they could find, and then lift them up without too much worry about bumping into a rock or branch. My feet had lots of protection. With the thin mesh on the top of the runners, there is no protection.

Even though the runners have a Vibram sole, it is more flexible than on boots. In steep downhill situations, with the stiff boots I might be able to dig the heel or side of the boot into the soil for some purchase, but I couldn’t do that with the runners. I had to keep the tread flat on the ground.  So, in some circumstances, even with the Vibram sole, the footing was slithery. I was often reaching for vegetable belays.

Also, during the downhill, I felt my toes were against the front of the shoes, and I was wondering if that would cause a problem. That was only a 6-hour hike, but afterward there was no discomfort.

In the Section Hiker reviews of trail-runners-for-hiking, Philip has often said he does not use Gore-Tex because it retains sweat. For socks, all I was wearing was a pair of heavy liner socks. As soon as we returned to the car I wanted to take off the shoes to examine my feet. I was wearing the gaiters (described in the previous post), and I have to remove the shoes to take them off. After a day of strenuous hiking, my feet were only slightly damp… so the Gore-Tex was venting satisfactorily. In cold weather, I’m hoping the Gore-Tex will contribute to keeping my feet warm.

The gaiters are waterproof, and I was surprised to find the inside of both were very wet with sweat. They are shorties, and there was no related discomfort. Their robustness was very useful protecting my ankles and feet as I slogged through the underbrush. The gaiters use a shoelace that goes under the runner. Two comments. First, the catelogue shows the gaiter lace tied on the outside of the foot,  and the bungee for the part around the leg to be on the outside as well. I am simply not flexible enough to tie the laces on the outside of my feet. So,  I put the gaiters on the wrong foot so the lace-ties and bungees are between my legs. Much easier! Yes, I expect the laces will wear out fast, but they should be cheap to replace. The real problem was that the laces untied themselves several times during the day. The gaiter seem to stay in place without them, so it was not really a serious situation. I would like a better solution.

It was an enjoyable day rambling around the mossy bluffs and researching a better route from Bluewater to the North Summit. So far,  I am satisfied that my day was much easier on runners than if I’d used my old hiking boots. I do have to pay more attention to how and where I am stepping, and I am probably learning how to do this efficiently.

Edit to add: On April 16, 2016, I was able to test the system in wet spring snow. Report here: https://howesound.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/testing-trail-runners-to-replace-hiking-boots/


Robert's professional sites:
Ballantyne and Associates
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