A different type of mountain view

Two weeks ago I got the chance to go down south to Arizona for a little sun. This of course necessitated a break from snowshoeing in the frosty mountains of Vancouver and Whistler, but did not prevent from hiking in general! While staying in Scottsdale AZ, I had the chance to go for a sunrise hike up camelback mountain.

I was excited for the trip to Arizona in general, but could not have anticipated how much I would enjoy the scenery. Hiking up camelback mountain (1200 foot elevation change via Cholla Trail) was completely different from hiking in British Columbia. In BC, when heading up to a mountain peak it is usually just your group and the trees – you have to wait until the end to see anything because the forest is so thick. This was not the case on camelback mountain, where the greenery consists of sparse saguaro cactuses (apparently people can’t decide if it is cacti or cactuses) and short shrubs.


This is a view half-way down the mountain, no trees blocking the view!

Starting prior to sunrise was beneficial in avoiding the hot desert sun during a mountain ascent, and also made for fantastic views of far-off mountains and some unique views of the mountains within metro Phoenix while their shadows were long and stretched across the city.

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View of the Phoenix Mountain Preserves from Camelback Mountain. The shadow to the left is the massive shadow created by camelback mountain during sunrise.

The Phoenix area has some impressive looking mountains nearby. Camelback mountain was just a quick morning hike, but there would be plenty more hiking to be done had I stayed in the area any longer. Just as the sun was rising was a great time to look out towards the famous four-peak mountains.


The four-peaks mountain is centre-right of this photo, off in the distance.




Winter Sights

This past weekend included a return to Cypress park for more snowshoeing, but this time there was (some) sun in the forecast so the target was the summit of Hollyburn Mountain with hopes of getting some views of Vancouver, the north shore mountains, and the Howe Sound.

The Hollyburn trail gets steep pretty fast, with many people electing to remove some layers near the beginning after the first couple of hills. The bulk of the trail is a series of steep climbs, each of which provides a nice view of what you have accomplished thus far.


View from the top of an early section, just getting started on the >400m elevation change

There were some clouds scattered throughout the sky on Saturday. Those that were around the mountain would come and go to periodically reveal previously hidden views; this glimpse at Crown Mountain (below) was a pleasant surprise revealed when the clouds to the right of the picture moved out of the way.


From the Hollyburn summit the clouds unfortunately blocked the views of downtown Vancouver, but did create awe inspiring scenes by mixing in with the mountains further to the North.


On the return trip the low clouds has dissipated. They left behind a view of an oddly yellow horizon, reflected in the water surface.


Overall, a beautiful day out in the snow.



Sea to Sky to Ski

The winter season in the lower mainland of British Columbia is absolutely incomplete without a trip to the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort. On Family Day (Canadian provincial holiday in February) this year I took a trip up the Sea-to-Sky highway on what turned out to be a gorgeous day for skiing. Every ski trip to Whistler starts with an early morning McDonald’s breakfast in Squamish, because how could I pass up a McDonald’s with this view from the parking lot:


The rock face to the right is the Stawamus Chief Mountain, a popular hike during the summer months.

For those unfamiliar, Whistler Blackcomb is a world class ski resort with skiing available on two adjacent mountains, named Whistler Mountain (same name as the town that houses the ski resort) and Blackcomb Mountain. On this day I got started on Blackcomb, taking the gondola from Whistler village up one third of the mountain, then immediately taking a chairlift up roughly another third, a short ski horizontally across the mountain, and then up one more chairlift to get to the top. At which point I am above the tree line with a clear view of Whistler mountain ahead, and the dark comb-like peaks of Blackcomb beside me.


Whistler Mountain as viewed from Blackcomb Mountain


A view of Blackcomb Mountain after a short ski down from the highest chairlift on the mountain.

After a few runs down the upper slopes on Blackcomb, I took the peak-to-peak gondola between the mountains to spend the remainder of the day on Whistler Mountain. Once again, the few of the opposing mountain was magnificent.


Blackcomb Mountain as viewed from Whistler Mountain

With the end of the day drawing near, there happened to be a power outage that shut down the entire ski resort, while myself and many others were on a chairlift. While the 30min wait hanging in the chairlift was not exactly great, it did mean that the slopes were particularly empty for the trip down once the chairs did get moving again. Here is a photo from just that point in time showing only one other person on this run during a pretty busy day at the resort.


And finally, Whistler Mountain has the benefit a south-facing viewpoint that was unbeatable on this clear day.


The soft rolling snow on the mountaintops coupled with the texture of the mountain peaks and the famous Black Tusk peak was fantastic. Truly a great day outdoors.



Hollyburn Snowshoeing

My second trip to the mountain trails this year lead to Cypress Mountain park. The snowshoe trails in this park are separate from the alpine skiing trails, the nordic area is on Hollyburn Mountain while the alpine activities are on both Black Mountain and Mount Strachan. Since it was a cloudy and snowy day outside I did not venture to the peak of Hollyburn Mountain (this trail is maintained by BC Parks), but rather stuck around in the network of smaller and lower intensity trails that are maintained by Cypress Mountain’s nordic activities group.

The snowfall in the Vancouver (BC, Canada) area has been relentless lately, meaning there was plenty of fresh snow that made for a joyful day of snowshoeing and produced beautiful scenery of untouched fresh snow on the ground and weighing down tree branches.


It was a relatively quiet day on the trails, which really just fit the mood of the quiet and chilled environment. I found this only added to the ambience of being out next to nature and taking in the fresh air.




1st 2017 Adventure: Mt Seymour Snowshoeing

It is my third winter of living in Vancouver, and up until now the winter months from about November to March have kept me mostly inside and certainly stuck inside the city (which is not all bad!). Finally, this past weekend my girlfriend and I went out to try snowshoeing. In summary, we loved it and now we can continue hiking and exploring all year round!

We started on what is one of the easiest snowshoe trails in the area: Dog Mountain, which is a trail on Mount Seymour starting from the Mount Seymour ski resort. Unlike our usual hiking adventure days, we started in the afternoon. This meant that the trails and nearby snow was well-trotted upon, but made for a fantastic skyline at the finish. The two photos below show the snow-covered forest scene that was the majority of the trail – including a photo of the First Lake bridge that shows just how much snow is piled everywhere (tough to scale based on just the picture, but that is about 2m of snow that has now become the new bridge).



The visibility on Saturday was maybe the best that I have ever had for any hike. When we reached the viewpoint, not really a steep enough hike to Dog Mountain to be worthy of being called a summit, there were fantastic views of Grouse and Crown Mountain to the west, …


Mount Bake and associated mountain range to the east, …


and to the south was an amazing view of Vancouver and Vancouver Island.


We will be planning some bigger and better snowshoeing trips in the coming months : )




Weekly Photo Challenge: Graceful

The weekly photo challenge prompt from the WordPress daily post this week was Graceful. As can be seen from the contributions of other bloggers, I am not alone in attributing grace to the wildlife of the world. For this week I chose pictures of a humpback whale from a whale-watching trip south of Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Despite not being able to see most of the whale, and despite my shotty quickly-done photo editing, I am still able to recall how smooth and soft the whale movement seemed on that day. It is a shame that the pictures do not relay the time scale of the whale dive or the size of the animals, because it is the combination of size and grace that makes the whales so impressive.




WPC: Ambience – Stump Lake

This week’s photo challenge from the WordPress Daily Post is Ambience. Looking through my hiking photos I knew that somewhere I must have something that had captured the “character and atmosphere” of that place.

I landed on some photos from Alice Lake park near Squamish in British Columbia. The trails in this park encircle a number of small lakes, the photos below are from Stump Lake. The day that I went hiking there was a quiet, overcast, cool, and calm afternoon in October. When we reached Stump Lake, its surface looked just the same; quiet and calm. That’s why I feel these photos of the tree reflections in the water capture the ambience of the moment.

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What I find interesting for these photos is actually applying some unrealistic filters. For some of the angles it does a better job of defining the contours and individuals trees in the reflection, where in the original photo the reflection was too dark.


Similarly, applying some black and white filters makes my eyes look at the photos a little differently.




Frosty Welcome Back

A chilly welcome back to Vancouver after the holidays has inspired me to show off some of my favourite wintery photos from last month. December 2016 brought the most snow to Vancouver since I have lived here, and the city was still frozen when I returned from the holidays – apparently enough for ice skating in the streets!

Thankfully, with the cold comes an emphasis of nature’s beauty that we don’t get in the summer. For instance, something about the snow this year did an outstanding job of lining the contours of tree branches and providing a photogenic contrast of the dark tree bark with bright white snow.


A little earlier in the morning on a snowy day last month, the streetlight adds another layer of colour into one of my favourite photos from the wintery December.


Of course, with the snow and chill often comes beautifully clear days to stare at the Vancouver skyline lined with layers of snow-capped mountains.


Happy New Year,


Weekly Photo Challenge: Resilient

Cherry-picking my favourite of the weekly photo challenges that have been posted since my month off from blogging, I settled on resilient. Picking a photo to represent resilience lead me to nowhere else but the rocky beaches on the west side of Vancouver Island. While being beautiful to sit and stare at during the sunset, the rocky shapes and forms peaking out of the water express a degree of fortitude.


The west side of Vancouver island is popular for surfing (there are much friendlier sandy beaches nearby), meaning the scene is not always so calm here! Regardless, the shape of the earth changes slowly. The land is resilient.


Holidays away from Vancouver (and the mountains)

After a hiatus from blogging due to focusing on my PhD comprehensive exam and then travelling home for the holidays (always somehow a very busy, yet relaxing time of year), I hope to truly get started into a full year of sharing some of my favourite photos.

And to start the New Year I have to show a couple photos from the holidays with no mountains in sight. Winter hit hard this December across much of Canada, which was actually surprising since it usually waits until January or February. The snow and wintery setting made for some of the more unique views of my rural, quiet, and still hometown. First, a view of the still river running through a local park. I usually enjoy tree reflections in water, but this shot was unique in that the reflections were slightly different colour (tree on the right in particular) than the trees themselves.


Second is a photo from nearby the park on the very edge of town looking out at the farmland. It is a nice reminder of the contrast with the Vancouver mountains.