Sunday, March 21, 2010


A while ago I made a list of things I wanted to do. A couple of things on that list were: make marmalade, ice-skate on a frozen canal, and climb Mt Baker on skis. Mt Baker has a special place in my mind as I spent many hours looking at it through the "Mt Baker" meeting room window at my old job. Yesterday I didn't make any marmalade... but we did climb Mt Baker.

Paul suggested it could be a good day for it, and seeing as he was the only one of Lina, Kala, Paul, and myself who had done it before... who's to argue? We were all a little apprehensive as we were expecting a 11-12 hour day, and we only have around 12 hours of daylight to do it in... so not much margin for error. Thanks to Kala we overcame another alarm-clock setting failure and picked up Paul at 5am. Urrgh. We crossed the border into the US and the border guard told us that it was very early in the morning. He had a point.

By 7.30am we were on the move... up through the forest and toward our volcano, which confusingly didn't look all that big or far away.

As we came out of the forest, the terrain revealed its true scale and it became clear why this was going to take a while... but we were moving fast and the sun was shining, so no complaints there.

The wind was blowing tiny tornadoes of snow around us and once in a while a huge swirl would appear in the distance and spin out until the wall of air and blowing snow hit us.... but this was just the beginning of our meteorological fun for the day. As we made the saddle below the Roman Wall, the wind was howling. We tucked into a gulley with some other folks who were out to try for the summit and dumped our skis. Paul was keen to ski from the summit, and strapped his to his pack for the hike up. As we stepped out onto the windward side of the ridge we got pounded by blowing ice and snow and the wind tore at us. It was only around -2 degrees, but the wind was bitter.

After a few minutes we huddled together to put on goggles, face-masks, and anything else we could get our hands on. Any thoughts of skiing back down this slope (or carrying skis up it) ended here. The hike up took us the best part of 2 hours and I was feeling pretty exhausted as we reached the summit plateau. Luckily Paul and Kala got their wave of mountain enthusiasm going and we staggered off towards the knoll that forms the true summit, buffeted by wind. It also stinks of sulphur up there... despite the howling gale. This is a strange kind of fun... but we made it at around 2pm, and have a photo to prove it.

There was no hanging around to be done and we started back down the wall. The wind had picked up so much that I felt I might be lifted right off the ridge and flutter down to one of the San Juan Islands we could see in the distance. I did get blown over once, but that was it. Back at our skis we all agreed to get out of there and out of the wind as quickly as possible, despite our complaining legs.

I love skiing down a mountain. It seemed like only moments after battling up to the summit, being pounded by the wind... we were looking back at the peak from the warm and calm of the glacier. We even got a couple of good ski runs in on the way back... a bonus. The weather in the valley had been warm and sunny all day and we saw a couple of hikers hanging around in shorts and T-shirts. It's amazing how 2000m of elevation can take you from summer to being in fear of your nose freezing off. We were back at the car in around 9 hours or so... and in the pub not long after that. It must be time to add something new to my list...

Paul has a few more photos here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The North Shore delivers

Most people that choose to run, ride a bike, or walk their dog on the North Shore find it delivers a special something. Special mud, special slippery roots, special opportunities to damage yourself, or perhaps just a special moment of peace among the wise old trees.

Lina and I entered the Dirty Duo run/bike relay race on Saturday. I could almost hear those wise old tress whispering "...fools". None-the-less we were anxious to do our best,  and thought we could do well given that this "tough" course should suit our preference for adversity.

It was cold and raining, it was 7.30am... but we were there, and the smiling face and apparently endless enthusiasm of Mr Kim Steed (who was to convincingly win the men's relay with runner Chris later in the day) got us excited for the race. I also got to shelter under Kim's tent... which was a great thing. After a few hours spent chatting and loafing around, the runners started to appear. Ned and I kept ourselves amused by guessing who was who as they came into view through the mist and spectating the chaos of the whole thing. At around 2 hours 40 minutes, Lina's "circus outfit" appeared from the rain (with Lina inside it) and it was time to get on my bike (inside my circus outfit).

Photo from Don... via the Dirty Duo website

Lina's run put us in a very close 3rd place for the mixed relay category... though luckily I didn't realize that at the time. The course was fantastic. Really steep, slippery, twisty, and rooty... with snow, and huge puddles of icy water. The trees were whispering: "Fair enough, if you like that kind of thing". I had a great ride, despite getting a remarkable cramp in both my legs when I tried to run through the snow with my bike. Everything got better back on the bike again. The last descent through the forest was fantastic (and muddy), despite being completely out of energy on the gravel road seconds earlier I found something left to bounce over the roots and skiffle (?) around the corners. Then it was all over.

Photo from Don... via the Dirty Duo website


After getting myself dried out, and slightly cleaner we ate some great food and waited for the awards. Kim and Chris won the men's relay, Jacek won the 50km run, and Megan won the girl's mountain bike. How did we do? Well, somehow, somewhere I made up a place (I have no idea where... or how for that matter) and got 2nd! I'm very happy to take half the credit for that.

What did we do next? Well, we drove up to Whistler to go skiing. My legs are quite tired now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Warmslush Sunshine Festival

We had a weekend in Nelson. It was the Coldsmoke Powder Festival... without the cold, smoke, or powder. There was a lot of fun to be had though. In a break from convention, I took a little video. If you like bagpipes, or people running on skis... this will be right up your street:

For the traditionalists, photos are here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A comedy of errors.

This weekend was a lot of fun, despite most of it going quite wrong. We had planned to make a visit to Egmont to organize some wedding things, but it turned out not to be a good time for that. We chose to keep the first part of the plan (going to Gibsons to meet our marriage commissioner), and combine that with some mountain biking. The weather looked suspect, but we rode onto the ferry and rode off the other side to meet Greig in Truffles cafe. That all went very well and we are one step closer to getting all this wedding stuff together. We also had some very nice soup.  Full of soup, we rode the "classic" Sunshine Coast loop of the road to Robert's Creek and then the Highway 102 and 103 trails into the long descent down Sidewinder to the ferry. A great 4 hour ride in the damp forest, and we didn't even get rained on much.

On Sunday we had planned to meet some friends at Mt Baker... but luck (or perhaps a lack of competent organization) wasn't in our favor. Alarm clock failure, navigational sense failure, bringing the address of where we were supposed to meet failure... and possibly some other failures did not make a slick start to the day. However, we got our act together and made a little tour up to Herman's Saddle... which was beautiful.

Lina and the view

That view, in case you missed it

That's me, that is.

Not the day to be skiing on steep things apparently

The final failure of the day was "cheap half-day lift ticket failure", as these things apparently don't exist. Oh well. We called it a half-day and made our way back to Vancouver with a bit of gear shopping along the way. We were buying new backpacks as Canada won Olympic Gold in the men's hockey. As we crossed the border there was a whole lot of flag-waving and horn-tooting going on. I think you could fairly say Canadians were quite pleased with the day's result. All in all... so was I.