Favourite Camp Spots of this Summer!

This past summer, I had the chance to camp all over the place, mostly on a trip to the Sierras in California, and near my home in Squamish, BC. Some of the camp trips were car camping, others were spots that we hiked into with little packs. Here are some of my favourites!


Backcountry fun

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Lone Pine Lake, Mount Whitney, California

The minute we realized we would be in California during summertime, we jumped at the chance to camp in the Mount Whitney area. Lucky for us, we had an entire week of flexibility, so we were able to enter several dates for the permit lottery. And success! We were awarded an overnight permit to camp at Lone Pine Lake, which is about two miles up the trail from Whitney Portal entrance.

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Arriving at Lone Pine Lake, near where we camped.

Of course we would blow right by the lake, hiking onwards and much farther than necessary. (Two miles really flies by!) Backtracking to the lake, we were blown away by its peaceful, crystal blue waters, the beautiful little pine trees around, and the huge slabs of granite on peaks all around us. This camp spot is by far the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen, you can make coffee in a little perch overlooking the Whitney Portal, and watch the sun dance up the granite.

What’s hard about it:

  • Getting a permit. (The lottery wasn’t too bad, but once you get your permit awarded and you think it’s all good, you have to phone the office to confirm the permit closer to your trip date, we nearly missed this as we were traveling, turned into a mad dash to find wiki to Skype-call.)
  • Having to carry a huge food storage device for bears, required by the Parks Office, which is larger than anything else in your bag. Since we hadn’t researched enough, we had to use the massive containers they had on hand. (Likely could get a much smaller one with some advance planning.)

What’s great about it:

  • Given how famous the trail is, I was surprised that it wasn’t super busy. (However, this was June.)
  • So easy to hike up to Lone Pine Lake with overnight gear.
  • Most beautiful sunrise and starry nights.
  • It seems that it’s quite often that the Whitney area weather is amazing for camping! Warm, and unlimited clear skies for gazing at peaks, stars, and staying dry.
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Watching the sun rise up the Whitney Portal, from our perch at Lone Pine Lake, summer 2017

Lake Lovely Water, near Squamish BC

My friends surprised me and took me on this amazing camping trip at the end of September to an area I’ve wanted to visit since, forever.

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Waltzing around at Lake Lovely Water, summer 2017. Photo by Tara Berry.

Lake Lovely Water sits high above the Squamish River, on the opposite side from town. This makes it really tough to get to, as you have to cross a fierce river with some sort of watercraft to get there. I think that’s part of the appeal, it’s fun to figure out the logistics, and exciting to cross it. Plus, getting to the other side sort of feels like stepping into Narnia, a world of deep greens and waterfalls everywhere.

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Lake Lovely Water is an amazing place to take in the Tantalus mountain range.

What’s hard about it:

  • Crossing the river (need some gear, or planning to organize a jet boat)
  • Hiking about 900m vert to get up to the lake (not everyone’s idea of a great time)

What’s great about it:

  • Crossing the river (so fun!)
  • Hiking about 900m vert to get up to the lake (fun!!)
  • You can borrow canoes and rowboats at the lake if you get permission from people staying at the ACC’s hut at the lake!

Car camping fun

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William Kent Campground, West Lake Tahoe, California

This campsite was a little gem right across from the shores of Lake Tahoe. Huge trees provide a cozy haven, and you just feel so at home and protected among them. Doesn’t hurt that this spot is a block from gelato, draft beer and local wine at West Shore Market!

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Serene coziness at William Kent Campground…

What’s hard about it:

  • Most expensive camp spot of our California travels. But hey, still way less than hotel-type lodgings…
  • The camp site happened to be low-key when we were there, (June) but everything in the surrounding area is super busy.

What’s great about it:

  • Across the street is Lake Tahoe and a public beach!
  • Also, across the street is an artisan wine. cheese, ice cream, sandwich shop, so you can be lazy and eat delicious foods made by someone else, if you want.
  • Super close to Tahoe City, Squaw Valley and Truckee, Tahoe Rim Trail…

Convict Lake, near Mammoth Lakes, California

Someone from a gear shop in Bishop, CA, told us about 5-10 various different amazing places to visit in Mammoth Lakes, and while many were lost in translation, we were lucky that this one stuck to our memory.

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Convict Lake is just a few kilometers outside of town in the Mammoth Lakes area, and being so close to the town and not far from the highway, it almost feels wrong that you can drive up to such a massive, beautiful lake, crested by granite peaks. It’s a treat to be able to camp so close to this amazing lake and its trail system!

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What’s hard about it:

  • Not much shelter from the sun, so we tended to hang out there only in early mornings and evenings.
  • Not for a remote camp experience, as it has a resort nearby and lots of tourists coming to fish and boat on the lake.
  • Unlike backcountry lake spots Lake Lovely Water and Lone Pine Lake described above, the campsites are not directly on the lake, but it’s a short walk away.

What’s great about it:

  • The lake is stunning at any time of day, and you only need to walk about 200 meters from any campsite to go see it, again and again and again.
  • Situated right beside a beautiful singletrack trail around the lake, and taking a quick turn off to another trail takes you up to a glacier in just a few kilometers!
  • Showers, laundry, general store, breakfast burrito food truck!
  • Super convenient, close to Mammoth Lakes town. (We even went to a movie one night!)

Those campsites are definitely little slices of heaven… at least in our experience. So many more to explore in BC, Washington and Oregon!

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Baker Lake trail, Washington

 

 

 

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Adventures in Mountain Town Lifestyle

Last winter, I was craving a small mountain town lifestyle, which brought me to nearly moving with Julien to Fernie, a small town of about 5,000 in BC’s Rockies, right near Crowsnest Pass. It was so close to fruition, we had made a secret trip there to check out some places to live, and even made an offer on an apartment… right on the ski hill!

Fernie Wednesday Night Socials

Wednesday Night Social at the Fernie Arts Station, summer 2016.

Momentum toward the plan built very quickly… our offer was accepted and we were hiring a lawyer and mortgage broker, just going through the routine contractual stuff. After we were just about final, a kink in the plan was about to set us onto a new course entirely. It turned out that the place we loved was a unique type of vacation property zoning, which meant that banks wouldn’t lend to a place on the ski hill– and we worried about the re-sale, if it was that hard to finance. The apartment was our only real solid plan, and without that, it just didn’t feel meant to be.

We decided to wait a while, move back from False Creek to Vancouver’s North Shore, and continue working until the timing was right. Julien started looking for apartments to rent on the North Shore and unbeknownst to me, he expanded his search to include Squamish. I’ve always loved Squamish. Of course, an amazing apartment surfaced, which is really rare in the town of low rental vacancies. It was also nicer than everything we found in North Vancouver at the time!

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Al Habrich’s trail– one of my favourite spots. Looking just above the Squamish valley.

Of course, our drive up to the apartment viewing was intense– very dark, and the most rainy Vancouver weather I’ve ever seen. I really wanted to move there, so I was already decided, pretty much from before the apartment viewing. And, while Fernie was isolated from any big city, this seemed like a huge positive– you could work in a huge metropolis (Vancouver) and at the same time, live here. Best of both worlds!

We figured that Squamish would be a great place to try living in a smaller city: it’s an amazing place, and we could keep our jobs, and all our friends!

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Running with Nicola and Shauna just outside Squamish, near Deeks Lake at the end of the Howe Sound Crest Trail.

With that, in December, I simultaneously moved to Squamish, and started a new job in Vancouver. It was the best of both worlds for me. I could live in a beautiful mountain town, and also work at an awesome tech company. It was like cooking a new dish, with all new ingredients, and all new processes. But it was exciting!

The early days of my Vancouver / Squamish life were interesting, and full of variety. I got to experience city stuff by day, and then retreat to my beautiful little town in the evenings. It was amazing to not have to choose between lifestyles– I could have both!

Over time, the romantic beginnings of the dual lifestyle wore off, and I began to see things more objectively. I noticed that the only part of Squamish I saw, was my bedroom and kitchen, (mostly unwrapping takeout) and a view of the mountains at night. I wasn’t spending time with new friends in Squamish, and I wasn’t seeing my friends from Vancouver as much. When a friend tried to invite me to a morning run, it wouldn’t really work. Or evening plans. Weekdays were simply out of the cards, for anything leisure. After a while, I also became willing to notice the amount of the time I was spending in transit– almost three hours a day in some form– (shuttle / carpool / drive to carpool / bike to carpool etc.) and once I was willing to notice the numbers, I saw the true cost to the lifestyle.

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Taking Mallory for a quick farewell hike up the Chief when she really should have been down below, at the bus station… ūüėČ

I was indeed living both lifestyles, but living neither one well. I was going to have to choose: my new town, or my new job? The cost of having both was simply not sustainable.

I lasted only nine months of the dual lifestyle… last Thursday was my final day of adventuring to Vancouver for work! It’s always very tough to walk away from something, especially when it involves a group of very kind, smart people, but my heart was planted in my new town, and I’m excited to live here, fully! I’ll actually be around to run at 5pm, show up at potlucks that involve contributing something, and be a better friend!

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Tara enjoying Man Boobs, (it’s a trail), plus splashing in mud! ūüôā

 

 

Learning Patience from the Trails

Since I was little, I’ve been an impatient sort of person. In many ways, I benefited from it. I never wasted a moment, and I got to do lots of things at a young age, guided by this crazy internal clock.

As I started working, I was often rewarded for my impatience, as it transformed into a get shit done quickly attitude. I expect progress to happen, right away. In the short term, I feel like our society really rewards an impatient attitude.

However, it’s also a big pitfall. Being impatient all the time rewards short-term thinking over long-term thinking. But when we set long-term goals, we need to be prepared to wait months, or sometimes even years to see our results come to life. Any long term endeavour requires patience– by definition, it’s something that happens with sustained effort over a long period of time, and an impatient attitude can’t change that. So as I get rewarded in the short-term for my impatient attitude, I know that those big long-term goals require a balance.

Long distance trail running has really been an interesting mental exercise for me, because it’s all about patience. Often, the people who are the strongest in long trail runs are the ones who were patient– in their training, and in their race. In the many long ultra running races I’ve seen, or been a part of, it’s often the smart, patient runners who have the best day. And that’s not to mention the cases of injuries and other setbacks, which further test our patience, and our ability to wait for a better day toward our goal.

One of my favourite places to trail run, Island Lake Lodge in Fernie, BC

When I started trail / ultra running, I was incredibly patient. Coming from a road running background, I didn’t hike or climb at all, so I couldn’t really run uphill, or downhill. I decided it didn’t matter: I really enjoyed running long distances on trails, so I was willing to wait. I gave myself an arbitrary long time– ten years– by when I expected myself to overcome these weaknesses, and I was surprised to really improve in about two years.

Adventures with friends is the best way to spend a day on Earth! Kerry and Tara on the route to Hanes Valley.

As I became less of a disaster and liability, my patience began to slip away. I started to do better and better, and as I did, I expected more from myself, more quickly.

In the past two years, I’ve had to really remember the patience I had when I started. I’ve had an incredible two years of running, getting faster and stronger than ever, and getting opportunities to race internationally. But when it came to the races I entered eagerly, everything usually fell apart, because of my inability to figure out the nutrition side. I found it incredibly frustrating to feel fit, but unable to have a good day at a race. Over and over, I got severely nauseous during races, and performed way worse than I had in similar training runs. It got so frustrating, I thought about maybe trying a new sport… something that did not require eating during the event. Yoga, sprinting, and others became attractive.

But then I remembered that I could simply choose to be patient. If I really like the beautiful places I get to see, the people I get to meet, and the fun I have doing this, why not just chill out a little bit, and give myself time to work through these issues, just like when I started?

Photo by Tara at this year’s epic Broken Arrow Skyrace, which I barely survived. Had a terrible day in terms of results / hoped-for run, but I’ll be using those lessons for the next decade!¬†

With that mindset, I’ve gained back my original patience, bit by bit. I’m more focused on my long-term quest than before. And funny enough, as my short-term expectations lower, my performance rebounds… finally had a race where I didn’t DNF, try to bushwhack off the course at halfway, eat only a single granola bar, eat only goldfish crackers, etc. last week at the Elk Valley Ultra!

Galloping around just outside town in Fernie, BC before a super fun day at the Elk Valley Ultra

 

 

Cirque Lake: Venturing into a Mosquito War, Via Paddle Board

Articles online rave about Cirque Lake, a lake that’s tucked away in the Callaghan Valley of Whistler. It’s supposed to be amazing, so Nikki and I were intrigued. We thought it could be fun to scope it out, and think about bringing a larger group there on a Girls Gone Wilderness adventure.

Of course, others were less interested in all the effort required. To get there in summer months, you must canoe / paddle board / kayak across Callaghan Lake, then take a short trail from there. Fun!! As soon as the mention of multiple sports were mentioned, Nikki and I were stoked.

So we loaded up the Suby with 2 paddle boards, snowshoes, (we figured there would still be a lot of snow this year in July) and a beer. Onwards to Callaghan Country!

Driving up the Callaghan Lake Forest Service Road felt strange. I spent many a winter day hauling ass up here on skate skis, so it was weird and a bit too easy to be driven up.

Getting to Callaghan lake, it was beautiful. With all the focus on Cirque Lake, it’s easy to be surprised by Callaghan. A few people were camping there, and there was generally a really nice vibe.

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Paddling across Callaghan Lake. Photo by Nikki Johnston Beaudoin.

FML, Unexpected Adventure

As we paddled across Callaghan toward the Cirque trailhead, we remembered the advice from online: “paddle to the waterfall, then see a clearing in the trees to the right, that’s where the trailhead is.” Should be no problem. After a 25 minute SUP journey, we transitioned to looking around for the trailhead, getting off the SUP and walking around all places “right” of the waterfall, and there was nothing. After a futile 20-30 minutes of paddle – search, look at low-res map, paddle – search, we decided to ask for advice from the pair of kayakers who were floating¬†nearby. Sure enough, they had been there, although it had taken them four hours, when the guides online said it would be two. The kayakers did a lot of bushwhacking, and it sounded like they didn’t find any sign of a trail until they found the scree field. Their advice was to bushwhack to the right of the waterfall. When I asked if we should bring the snowshoes we had strapped to our SUPs, they said there was snow most of the way, but no. I disregarded their advice. Having paddled the snowshoes all the way, I was bringing them if there was any snow!

I knew following people who had clearly gotten lost and taken 2-3 times longer than I wanted to wasn’t ideal, but we had no other information. We couldn’t see any sign of a trail, and the map we had was way too low-res. A GPS track would have been ideal, we just didn’t think it would come to this. So, we decided to follow the other misguided people’s advice. FML.

Bushwacking in Callaghan Valley

Nikki fending off the mosquito/fly attack while crawling around the forest. Photo by Alicia.

Entering the bushwhack phase, a special kind of hell transpired. A combination of flies and aggressive mosquitos swarmed our faces, especially our eyes and ears. (Side note: I don’t use bug spray.) We were bushwhacking through a marshy area, up and down gullys, while being eaten alive. I have never before encountered a situation where I was tested to my limit in such a short amount of time. It got so miserable that at one point, I asked Nikki if we should just call it a day and turn back. Who cares, it’s just a lake anyway?! We decided it was time for a snack before anything else.

A Little Snack Does Wonders

Glucose does wonders to the brain and general morale. As soon as the snack went down, we decided to continue another 10 minutes to find the scree field, as it should be really close, and the kayakers had said that the scree field navigating got way better. This is such a tiny hike (300 meters gain, total) that we should be really close to the lake by then.

And of course, as soon as we got into this headspace, we found a tiny trail — the trail!!

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This is what the trail looks like! Note the obvious orange flagging.

While the mosquito / fly massacre continued, we weren’t bushwacking hopelessly at the same time, so it became tolerable. Following the trail, we found the scree field, enjoyed views of Callaghan Lake below as promised, and we made it to the lake from the scree field in about 20/30 minutes. (At this point, I remembered that I’ve already been to Cirque Lake, on touring skis in winter.) I was glad to have my snowshoes, as there was some traversing on snow which became much more fun and less cautious with any sort of traction. The icy, snow-lined lake was indeed pretty, but I was actually more enamoured with the huge and sparkling Callaghan Lake.

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Looking back at my favourite, Callaghan Lake from the top of the climb to Cirque Lake. Journeyman Lodge would be to the right of Callaghan Lake. Photo by Alicia.

Snowshoeing

I was happy to bring my snowshoes, it made this little traverse from the top of the climb over to Cirque Lake way more fun. Especially downhill! Photo by Nikki.

 

Cirque Lake in July

Cirque Lake in early July after a huge snow year. Photo by Nikki.

On the way back, we paid special attention to follow the trail all the way back. After the scree field, the path got thinner and thinner. At first there was tiny orange flagging every so often, then it became animal trail-like, snow-covered, and devoid of any markers. Blending in with the ground around it, it was extremely hard to notice, and we understood why it was impossible on the way in. Emerging at the paddle boards after about 30 minutes down, we were stoked to avoid the bushwhack entirely on the way down, and finally discover where the “trailhead” lies.

Getting back to the paddleboards, I removed the beer from its natural cooler in the cold lake, and off we paddled back across Callaghan, searching for a bug-free area in this paradise to down it. All in all, this trip was hilarious and super fun. It tested us in new ways, and turned into an adventure we weren’t expecting. Definitely not bringing a big group here!

Things I would do differently!

  • Note follow the “route-finding” of misguided people who were clearly lost. Instead, have a GPS track of the route. It will save 1 hour of bushwacking!
  • Bug repellant!!!!
  • The best decision I made was bringing fleece pants. Pants were crucial for bug protection, having fun sliding in the snow, and for warmth when we got up higher.
  • Bring orange flagging tape to re-mark the route and trailhead as I go to help the next people!
  • Have 2 beers instead of 1.

For anyone who wants to do this and avoid the bushwhack / mosquito hell, the “trailhead” is in between two streams of the waterfall: it’s to the right of the main waterfall stream, and to the left of a smaller outflow. (Mind you, this is in early summer after a big snow year.) Of course, you will not see a trail sign or any indication of a trail there, but it is the path of least resistance, with minimal alder.

Brave Girls: inspiring female adventurers

I just watched an inspiring¬†TED talk by Caroline Paul:¬†To Raise Brave Girls, Encourage Adventure. For starters, Caroline¬†is an amazing role model: eloquent and intelligent, she’s also a paraglide captain, a firefighter, and she once attempted the world record for crawling. (She crawled for 12 hours!)

Caroline tells us how there is¬†a gender bias in promoting bravery at a young age: while young boys are encouraged to engage in “risky play”, young girls are often told to avoid risks, to be careful. I’m not going to lie, when I asked to play hockey at age 9, I was registered for¬†figure skating. (Although, I ended up finding a way to make that risky, attempting triple salchow over and over and over.)

This is part of the reason why Jo, Nancy and I made¬†Girls Gone Wilderness, to do a small part in shaping opportunities for young women to be tempted by¬†adventures that promote excitement, fun, and a bit of courage. It’s not always natural when we’ve been raised to see mostly guys doing adventure sports,¬†especially in biking, skiing, and the extreme adventures. (Ps! Our next event is almost sold out!)

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After watching Caroline’s TED talk, I wanted to go back in time and meet some of the most courageous women¬†throughout history. I went down a (wonderful) rabbit hole learning more about Katherine Switzer, (she broke the rules to become the first woman to run Boston¬†Marathon) and Lynn Hill, (she was the first person, male or female, to free-climb The Nose in Yosemite)¬†and Ann Trason (she broke, like, 20 world records in ultra-marathons). It was overwhelming, in a great way, and so I had to focus closer to home. ¬†Today’s blog¬†is about an¬†inspiring BC mountaineer, whose first ascent was Grouse Mountain!

Introducing Phyllis Munday

Local BC lady Phyllis Munday, born in 1894, had a lifelong mission in the mountains. The first woman to reach the summit of Mount Robson, she was unique not only for her first ascents, but for her style of achieving them: she and her husband Don achieved many first ascents together, even after having a family.

Phyllis and Don¬†pioneered routes in¬†some of BC’s most sacred¬†places, like Mount Waddington, where they spent over a decade of failed attempts. There is now a Mount Munday in the Waddington range (which, of course they summited, in 1930).

All this during a time when women weren’t really meant to even wear athletic attire:

Her male team members barely blinked when she’d stash her respectable city skirts somewhere on the trails and carry on in her bloomers. This was somehow less risqué than wearing trousers or knickerbockers.
Account from Experience Mountain Parks

To put this in perspective, when Phyllis was in her 4th or 5th attempts at Mount Waddington, US women had just gotten the right to vote, and women in Toronto still weren’t showing leg in public.

Time to do more, worry less. Like this time I had to crab-walk down a descent in the Rockies that scared me:

Terrified

Photo by Julien.

“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible, and when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others” – Amelia Earhart

Featured image, by Tory Scholtz.

Keep it Humble and Fun: One first place, one last place

The weekend of February 24th & 25th was marked off on my calendar for a while, but I wasn’t sure if I would have the courage to go through with it. The idea¬†was to attempt the Sigge’s P’ayakentsut (P’ayak) 50km cross country ski race in Whistler on the 24th, and then the Grouse Mountain Snowshoe Grind race on the 25th. I had never done a cross country ski race before, or a snowshoe race. (Sure, I do snowshoe quite a bit, but my cross country skiing is a disaster.) I wasn’t too worried about the snowshoe race, but how would I be able to do it¬†if I was semi-destroyed¬†from the ski race? When the idea came to me, I was hoping Joanna & Arielle would bring their Canmore Nordic Center abilities and their enjoyment for weird weekends like this. (Three suddenly feels like this is a popular idea.) I messaged them, but Alberta¬†is far, so they weren’t going to join. I tried recruiting others by saying if they also did the “P’ayak / Grouse Double“, I’d buy them a beer. (There were no takers.) Even though it was clear I would be doing this alone, the uncertainties intrigued me. It all seemed foolish, but¬†fun. I decided I would sign up at the last minute.

When race week arrived, I realized¬†the nordic ski race was a really bad idea. I hadn’t “skate skied”¬†since 6 weeks prior, and even then, my nordic ski training was nothing like the route in the event. But then, something came over me with one hour before the P’ayak race registration deadline… I was suddenly feeling amazing, and I was excited. I signed up! And for whatever reason, I also signed up for the 50k, which was 20k longer than I had ever skied in my life. (There’s something really exciting when you sign up for something that scares you!)

On the day before the epic snow race weekend, my blisters finally healed up from the previous weekend of ski touring in the wrong boots. I was ready!

Day 1: The P’ayak

Because I haven’t skied a lot, the cutoff time looked really scary to me. (My first 25k had to be done in 2.5 hours.) Heck, I can spend over one hour just eating a meal and putting my shoes on.

In order to finish, my plan was:

  1. Wax my skis for the first time ever, which should yield about 1k an hour.
  2. Stop at all the aid stations and devour lots of Clif bars.
  3. Start at the very back of the group, and¬†don’t go anywhere near the real skiers.
  4. If timing gets close, just take off skis and run!

With this plan in mind, I took to the start line for the 50k with about 50 other skiers. The start confused me because there were all these classic tracks, and I thought we were doing a skate ski race? Confused and having never been in tracks before, another skier confirmed that I was in the right race, and that we were all meant to start within these tracks. I went inside a track doubtfully and waited for the start.

Within the first kilometer I was about 5 minutes back from the entire race, and I wondered what the hell I was doing! I navigated the turn-offs doubtfully and started to feel great anxiety for what lay ahead. It didn’t help that I had never felt the sensation of waxed skis before! Adding to my anxiety, after a while the 30km race began and hundreds of skiers came flying by on the narrow trail downhill. Meanwhile, I prayed¬†I would not get trampled.

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Questionable technique.

My prayers were answered not only in avoiding the trampling, but being given a ski buddy! On one of many awkward moments in the race, I stopped for a minute wondering where to go. Just then, Raj skied up behind me and showed me the right direction, and it turned out we were exactly the same pace. From that point, which was about 5k into the race, we skied the entire 45k of the race together! It was amazing to have a buddy to laugh with, and to celebrate. Because Raj was wearing a GPS watch, at some point we both realized that we were well within the cutoff times, and we were skiing the route much faster than we had expected. So, for the whole second half of the race, it was pure smiles and laughs.

We finished! And although I came dead last in the women’s category, it didn’t matter at all. I felt so proud to have finished, one hour ahead of what I expected, and I even beat my best 50km run time, which I wasn’t expecting. It’s interesting to know¬†that you can come in last, but still feel proud!

I felt great after the P’ayak, admittedly, my “just try to finish” cross country ski race style is much, much easier than my “try to kill yourself” running style. After lots of food, I was in great spirits, feeling surprisingly springy, and ready for day 2!

Raj skied 45k with me!

Raj skied 45k with me! Note that, as a joke, the t-shirt I was wearing was from the Golden Ultra and had a giant bulls-eye on the back that said “Leader”. Thankfully no one saw that, or they would have been really confused!

Day 2: The Snowshoe Grind Race

Let’s be clear, I run the Snowshoe Grind every single week, twice a week, as part of my fun job guiding at Grouse Mountain. So, I know the course pretty well… I knew this course would be really fun as a race, because it was only¬†about ~20 minutes of work going uphill, then a fun downhill reward, to the finish.

Even though I snowshoe run a ton, I thought it might be weird to try and go really fast in the snowshoes. Maybe they would fall off? Technical difficulties seemed likely. I decided I would avoid full on sprinting, because I had never tried that before. My strategy for day two was:

  1. Use the downhill!
  2. Warmup… it’s such a short race that I felt a warmup would actually be useful.
  3. Wear a party dress…

And mostly, to have fun! The weather was looking perfect, and it was just turning to a bluebird day as the race was getting started. Plus there were so many friendly faces around with Ian, Herman, Ray and Daniel racing in the men’s, and Allison, Nancy, and fellow Grouse guides Lesley and Kristina racing in the women’s, plus a fun surprise– Terry Bremner came to watch!

Day 2 fun begins!

Day 2 fun begins!

We “ran” (mostly power-hiked) to the top of Dam Mountain, then 32 minutes and one second later, the race was already over! If intensity of breathing is any indication, that one felt much harder than the 50k P’ayak. (Somehow Allison Tai didn’t overtake me, which I was expecting, and I was able to snowshoe my way to¬†a¬†6th overall / 1st woman on day two.) It’s quite clear where my strengths lie…

Party dress finish at the Grouse Snowshoe Grind. Great racing by Herman & amazing cheering by Terry!

Party dress finish at the Grouse Snowshoe Grind. Great racing by Herman & amazing cheering by Terry Bremner!

Time for a beer!

Overall, the random snow sports weekend was such a blast. I know a lot of people have an attitude where ski touring is at the top, and then resort skiing, and then everything else is below it. But for me, it’s so much fun just to be outside doing all types of activities. It’s fun to try new things, becoming¬†humbled from¬†some and gaining confidence from others. And once in a while, getting a surprise with doing much better than I had expected!

Who’s in for next year?!

Full Results: 2017 Grouse Snowshoe Grind Mountain Race

Full Results: 2017 Sigge’s¬†P’ayakentsut

With winner Paulo, great job Paulo!

With Snowshoe Grind winner Paulo, great job Paulo!

 

Armchair adventuring: best books and films for the sick, longing adventurer

Sometimes I¬†keep telling myself,¬†I need to take a rest day… and then I¬†put that thought away, because Grouse Mountain, or the mountains in Squamish want to play.

The nice thing is that I¬†can’t out-trick my¬†body, so eventually it just tells me what I need to do, and overrides all plans and ambitions¬†with a sick day. (Or four.) Sick days are annoying, until you just give in and become an armchair adventurer. Just let other people take you on adventures… while you stay in and drink delicious tea! Sure, it’s not the same as real life. But I love how a great adventure book can bring me¬†along with the characters and introduce amazing places, and¬†it’s like I develop¬†this special bond with the places we travel in the book, even though I didn’t physically attend. I love how,¬†when I do go to these places in the physical world, I feel like I already had an experience there, a special connection¬†to the place.

Here are some great adventure books and movies I’ve enjoyed on sick days in the past couple of years:

Books

I’ve just started this book and it makes me so excited to get back outside. While it does drift into some long-ish tangents about particular runs, there’s some great inspiration between the stories. For example, Kilian addresses what winning is all about, and the mental state he uses to push his mind and body to achieve a dream. Reading it all makes me reflect on my own experiences, and wonder if I’ve ever really pushed myself to my limit?

Major learning: the mind is the gatekeeper of our dreams, and the difference between performing within expectations, and into a whole new realm of possibility. Also, Energy Cake sounds delicious.

This is a book about the massive 2003 avalanche in the Selkirk range of BC, which¬†resulted in 7 fatalities. The author Ken was the Assistant Guide on the trip, and this book is his story about the decisions that led to the avalanche, and his life afterward. I really, really enjoyed the chapters about the avalanche, as the story was fascinating, and I learned quite a bit about decision-making and snow safety from his story. I found myself less attached¬†about three-quarters¬†through the book when the narrative switches to tell¬†the¬†struggles he faced in his¬†personal life following the avalanche, and I almost found this part to be more painful to read than the avalanche portion of the book. I would definitely recommend the book for its¬†first half if you’re interested in skiing and avalanche safety.

Major learning: social dynamics can be deadlier than any avalanche.

I picked this one up from a shop in Zion National Park a couple¬†years ago, and I really enjoyed it. In the book you get to join¬†Brendan as he moves into his station wagon after a breakup, and meanders across the most scenic wild places in ‘Merica– as he ponders life’s big questions. This book was a fun read because¬†I’ve been, or plan to go to most of the places Brendan describes, and his stories really bring those places to life. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with a good dirtbag dream story.

Major learning: if you move into your car and dirtgbag around the US, you may not solve all your problems, but you should definitely write about it.

Though this is not an adventure book per se, it really is from an entrepreneur standpoint. In this book, Phil Knight, Founder of Nike, describes the crazy journey he took¬†to start and build Nike to where it is today. If you love your running shoes¬†and you’re interested in entrepreneurship like me, this book will have you all-consumed for the next little while. Throw in interesting stories with idols like Steve Prefontaine & Michael Jordan, and you can’t go wrong.

Major learning: entrepreneurship involves more endurance than the most extreme endurance sport.

 

Films

This is¬†my favourite adventure film. The film is about a group of three climbers who dream to climb The Shark’s Fin route of Meru in Northern India,¬†a peak that’s eluded climbers as one of the toughest in the world.

“The layout of the 21,000-foot mountain‚Äôs perversely stacked obstacles makes it both a nightmare and an irresistible calling for some of the world‚Äôs toughest climbers. Hauling over 200 pounds of gear up 4,000-feet of technical, snowy, mixed ice and rock climbing is actually the simple part of this endeavor. After crossing that gauntlet you reach the Shark‚Äôs Fin itself: 1,500 feet of smooth, nearly featureless granite. There are few pre-existing fissures, cracks or footwalls. It is simply a straight sheet of overhanging rock.” (Source: Meru Film)

Expect the amazing scenery and intensity of a typical mountaineering film, plus incredible characters and a great storyline.

Major learning:¬†Jimmy, Conrad and Renan are my idols…

This movie is such a spin from a typical hard-core adventure film. It’s adorable. Set in New Zealand, it’s a tale about a trouble-causing adoption kid, and an unlikely adventure with his new foster uncle in the NZ backcountry. The film is heart-warming and humorous, and loaded with beautiful imagery of the NZ countryside. Watch it if you’re in the mood for something out of the ordinary.

Major learning: #1 Fat kids are funny. #2 NZ is beautiful. #3 Trails create great friendships.

I devoured this book in 2012 and still hadn’t watched the movie until last year. What a classic. I was really impressed with how closely the movie followed my vision from the book. Plus it’s got an amazing soundtrack, and beautiful imagery of all those places you’ve been and loved, or plan to go: Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, California Redwood forests, a shady downtown LA scene, Fairbanks… I loved having read the book first for this one, because it made the story seem less sad, having already gone through the emotions during the book.

Major learning: don’t go into the wild alone unless you know the place really well. Don’t ever feel too cocky to bring a map. And, perhaps, bring extra rice?

I rented this movie two weeks ago and watched it in segments during study breaks. Based on Into Thin Air, I thought for sure the movie would be amazing. (Although, I haven’t read the book.) I spent the entire movie on an emotional spectrum wavering between immense excitement to see what would happen next, and huge frustration at the climbers and their decisions. By the end of the movie, I was frustrated at the climbers and their whole reason for being. And, for that matter, Everest climbers in general…

Major learning: #1 don’t climb Everest. #2 respect turn around times. #3 beware of summit fever. #4 if you MUST choose to die on a mountain, at least do it while talking to your significant other on sat phone.

I loved the book, and quite disliked the movie. I found the book to be a fun roller coaster to read, with some short dramatic and depressing parts, but overall a lighthearted and funny book. On the other hand, the movie seemed to focus more on the dark/depressing/serious elements and so the movie had a much darker, more serious tone. Still some great imagery of the iconic PCT, so I find the movie worthwhile just for that. If you’re choosing, I would¬†choose the book over the movie.

Major learning: turn to the PCT if ever undergoing life crisis / breakup / encounter with hard drugs. Or perhaps there is something more broad here… a grand adventure can soothe the soul?

Those are just a few that have given me entertainment and inspiration during healing. What about you? What are your favourite adventure movies?

Alicia reading.