Back in Colorado
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Monday September 29, 2008 at 9:19 am)


View from my house: Lake Dillon and the Ten Mile Range

Tristan and I returned from Squamish, British Columbia, to gorgeous blue skies, sunny days, and saw the aspen turning bright gold. Snow sprinkled the tops of nearby 14rs, showing a palette of gold, blue and white out our window. We live on Ptarmigan Mountain above Silverthorne, a mountain subdivision at about 9,000 – 9, 500 feet. I’ve seen marmots behind the garage and peregrine falcons swoop down the hillside below us, searching for chipmunks and mice.

I regretted leaving Squamish with its world-class climbing and vibrant climbing scene, but we returned home to clean air, sunshine, and beautiful views. The trailhead for Ptarmigan Mountain starts below our house, and this weekend tourists packed the trailhead parking lot as well as both sides of the dirt road.  Driving back up to our house after getting water from the artesian well near Arapahoe Basin, I was glad to live in a place that most people come to visit on their vacations for a week or less out of the year.

On our way to the well to get our drinking water from the well (one price for mountain living), we stopped to view Keystone’s almost complete new River Run Gondola (more on that later).

Soon the snow will fall and even sooner, the snow guns will blow. Soon, we’ll start training with Keystone ski school for our jobs as ski instructors this winter. But now, it’s still warm (days in the 60s) and dry and we’ll hike up a nearby 14er or climb at Eldorado Canyon. On days like today, I’m happy to come home from a climbing vacation.

Squamish - Epic Kiteboarding
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Saturday September 27, 2008 at 8:30 am)


Kiteboarding on the Howe Sound with the Chief in the back

“That looks like fun,” Tristan exclaimed, looking at myriad kiteboarders leaping and soaring on the Howe Sound. As we climbed up the Chief, we watched kiteboarders jump high above the water, floating as though free of gravity’s pull. Dozens of bright kites pulled them through the air like so many colorful butterflies kissing the waters of Howe sound.

After several days of climbing above the Sound, we drove down to the Squamish Spit to observe the flying boarders more closely. From beside the water, kiteboarding still looked like a lot of fun, but cold. We were cold out of the water, wrapped in down fluffy jackets against the fierce wind.

Boarders flew across the water, moving faster than I imagined after seeing them from above. While in the air, and over the water, it seemed great. However, most of them crashed into the water at some point, to emerge beside their board, soaked and spluttering. I think if I try kiteboarding, I’ll head south.

More info:

Squamish, north of Vancouver, British Columbia is one of the world‘s best locations for kiteboarding.
Check out the video!

Few spots combine the right conditions of wind, water and land for wind surfing and kite boarding. The Squamish Spit at the mouth of the Squamish River provides many high performance days. Recent renovations to the parking and launch area make it more accessible.


Kiteboarding on the Howe Sound and Shannon Falls


Clouds surround and obscure  Garibaldi

Squamish - Sunblessed
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Wednesday September 24, 2008 at 10:03 am)


My favorite climb at Squamish this summer was “Sunblessed”. The one-hour hike initially tempered my enthusiasm for this route. When clear blue skies without a threat of showers arrived, we set out.

We lost our way. Again.  To reach Sunblessed, one hikes the trail to the summit of the Chief. Partway up, the left fork heads for the South Summit and the right fork heads for Sunblessed and the North Summit. We reached another junction where a sign said “Squaw” and pointed right. We took the left fork and looked for signs for “North Chief”.
“Maybe we missed the turnoff?” I suggested to Tristan, an hour later.
“Let’s keep going,” he replied.
Eventually we saw a sign. The right fork went to the North Summit, the left fork to the Centre summit (this is Canada).
“I think we’re near the summit,” I postulated.
“Let’s go up. We’ll have a nice view,” Tristan replied.
We were this close; might as well go to the top, eat lunch, and search more on the way down.
We had a pleasant, but chilly, lunch on top, with a stiff breeze taking any warmth out of the fall air.
On the way down, we searched carefully for forks until Tristan found a faint trail left.
When we reached the Solarium, the cliff where Sunblessed resides, it was worth it. On the Chief’s west side, we were in the sun and out of the wind. Tristan led a scary first pitch, up a steep dike with the first bolt at 30 feet. I followed to a wonderful belay in full sun, no wind, and blazing heat, and removed my windbreaker.
“Your lead,” he said, pointing to a gorgeous, clean crack splitting a clean white wall without moss and lichen.

After hiking with a pack full of gear and water, I was a little tired. But I headed up to a perfect crack on grainy rock with good friction and finger locks alternating with the occasional hand jam. The crack continued to a small foothold and then left onto a good ledge. I hadn’t seen granite this clean since California’s Sierra Nevada.

Squamish Chief, the Grand Wall
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Monday September 22, 2008 at 12:07 pm)


Grand Wall, with the Split Pillar (corner) just catching the sun

The Grand Wall follows the striking line up the center of Squamish Chief. Squamish, a world-class climbing area, attracts visitors form all over. On recent trips we met some of the world’s best rock climbers from the US, Europe, and Asia. One reason climbers come to Squamish is to climb the Grand Wall, and that was Tristan’s main goal this year.

Last year Tristan and I visited Squamish for the first time and both fell in love with the rock quality and pleasant climbing scene. It reminds me so much of Yosemite in the 70s, when climbers still lived a free life in Camp 4 and congregated after a day’s climbing to trade stories. Tristan, then 16, aspired to climb the Grand Wall but I suffered from a shoulder injury and couldn’t do the climb. This year, he climbed it with our Austrian friend, the professional climbing photographer Gerhard Schaar.
Afterwards, a few days later, he mentioned that it hadn’t been that great a route and that he still much preferred The Great Game, a route we’d climbed the year before (no photos; it was way too hard for me to carry a camera!)

Still, the Grand Wall remains one of not only Squamish’s, but Canada’s and the world’s classic routes. First climbed in 1961 by Jim Baldwin and Ed Cooper, it required 40 days of siege effort to reach the top. Many climbers (mostly men with large hands) describe the Split Pillar as their favorite crack at Squamish. For those of us with smaller hands, it’s not a hand or fist jam, but offwidth. Tristan said he’d stuffed his arms into the crack almost to his elbows. He led the Sword, the famous exposed pitch following the Split Pillar, and described it as “basically just more liebacking”.

I think he’s getting jaded, since by age 16 he’d lived a summer in Yosemite, two summers in Tuolomne, a summer in Estes Park, and four summers in Italy, France, Switzerland and Spain. Plus, so many climbers raved about the route so that he expected something truly spectacular. Often reality does not match up to our expectations.


Split Pillar: Gerhard belaying, Tristan nearing the ledge

Photo by Andy Cairns (from a nearby climb)

The Papoose, Hairpin
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Sunday September 21, 2008 at 8:39 am)


Pitch 4  on the Papoose with the Chief in back.

Photos courtesy Gerhard Schaar

Climbers name new routes after songs, movies, salient features of the route, food, sex and romance, or whatever they like. I think that “Hairpin” was named after pitches one or four, on which the climb traverses far left, heads straight up to the crack, and then traverses back to the right along the crack. The resemblance to hairpin curves may be what gave the route its name.

I learned from the Squamish guidebook that the Canadian Tim Auger and Dan Tate put up this climb in 1965. I climbed with Tim Auger in Yosemite in the 70s, when I was living in the Valley’s fabled (or was it infamous?) Camp 4. Unfortunately, I’ve lost touch with Tim, but if I find him, I’ll ask about the route name.


Hairpin follows three separate pitches, described in my previous post and then joins a different climb, Papoose One, at the end of the third pitch. After the traversing fourth pitch, we belayed on a pleasant ledge with a good view of Howe Sound. Tristan then led the fifth pitch, which was totally unlike the other four pitches. Instead of following cracks, he face climbed up the grainy granite, using spread-out pockets that appeared to result from water wearing away the top layer. I’ve never seen any rock like this in over 30 years of climbing all over Europe, Northern America, and Central Asia. Gerhard, whose business card reads “Climb Around the World”, too was astounded at the (very small) pockets thus formed on the rock.

That’s why I love climbing trips: you go to new places and see gorgeous scenery, climb on different types of rock, and meet climbers from all over the world.

Please comment if you have stories about route names or types of rock. Click the red numeral to the right of the title to comment.

Squamish - the Papoose
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Friday September 19, 2008 at 12:51 pm)

Pitch one on the Papoose.

Note the pebbly rock.
Photos courtesy of Gerhard Schaar
“We climbed a great route on the Papoose,” Ian, our neighbor in the Squamish campground, told us. “It’s five pitches, a really short approach, and you rappel the route.”

Since we’d been drenched regularly in afternoon storms, the short approach and easy descent sounded enticing. We didn’t want to go up on the Squaw, with its half hour approach and long, tricky descent. Maybe time to try a new cliff – the Papoose?

Gerhard, our Austrian friend sharing the campsite, was excited by the possibility of photographing a multi-pitch climb on a new formation with good views of the Chief.

A quick hike took us to the base of a grey wall with grainy, almost pebbly rock unlike any other stone we’d seen yet. The first pitch follows a crack traverses dramatically left, with face holds in the grainy rock above. Gerhard led the first pitch, pulled the rope, and I led it after him, using his gear. The only drawback to this was that Gerhard is a young 30s hotshot who uses way less gear than me. I’d brought a minimal rack to supplement his gear, and invariably found that I didn’t have the size of cam that I wanted.

Tristan led the second pitch, behind Gerhard, and had no problems with the array of gear placements. Maybe it’s because they’re both about six feet tall? (Or maybe they climb much harder than me.) The traversing large crack here turned into a straight up much smaller crack, which ended entirely part way up. Bridging from one crack over to another provided a crux on which only I struggled.
Soon it would be my turn to lead the steep looking third pitch – but only the start was steep, and then it followed a thin crack on another traverse to the left, with a large ledge, in the sun, providing an enjoyable belay spot.

Please comment if you’ve  experienced similar rock on other climbs. Click the red numeral to the right of the title to comment.
Tristan leading pitch 2 on the Papoose

Black Tusk and Meadows
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Wednesday September 17, 2008 at 9:29 am)

Black Tusk from the southeast

Claire’s question as to whether the black, blocky prominence in my photo was indeed the Tusk prompted me to look for more information on this remarkable mountain. I took a photo on the hiking trail to the Tusk, which is west, or left, on the photo above. Pictures from Whistler would show the north or northwest side of this peak.

I found a similar photo to mine on the Vancouver Trails website,
which describes the Black Tusk hike as a “difficult” hike taking 11 hours. They suggest that “the distance and elevation gain make for a very long day” and that some people hike to Taylor Meadows, camp, and then hike to Black Tusk the next day.

Good thing we never read any trail descriptions, since we left the parking lot at 12:45 p.m. on our hike to the Tusk! We crossed several streams with riparian flowers along the creeks, so I delayed our hike even further by stopping to take photos. After a while, Tristan took away the camera suggesting that,
“If you don’t have to carry the camera you can run faster.”
(This was on our jog back downhill). After hiking for about 13 miles, we ran the next 5 miles down to the parking lot. I’ve decided that having a son precludes any need for a gym membership – he’s all the training I can take!

Some info on the Tusk:
The Black Tusk, a stratovolcano, comprises part of the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt, which is a segment of the Cascade Volcanic Arc

The volcanoes in the southern part of the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt include Mount Garibaldi, Mount Price, and the Black Tusk. The Black Tusk, the oldest, formed in two stages of, the first 1.1 to 1.3 million years ago and the second between 0.17 and 0.21 million years ago.

Elevation 2,319 meters (7,608 feet).
Spire: 569 m


Black tusk from viewpoint

Garibaldi Lake to Black Tusk viewpoint
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Tuesday September 16, 2008 at 12:59 pm)

Above Garibaldi Lake

At trailhead, a sign said:
Garibaldi Lake, 9 km
800m-elevation gain (2,624 feet)
Black Tusk Viewpoint, 14 km (8.7 miles)
850 m elevation gain
Once we reached the lake in about two hours, Tristan decided to head for the Black Tusk viewpoint. Never mind that it was now close to 3 p.m., that we had not only another 5 km of trail to hike up but also 14 to get back, which left us with about 4 hours to do the next 19 km (almost 12 miles) and it gets dark before 8 p.m.

After the Tusk turnoff, the trail got really steep. We hiked above tree line along a streambed with gorgeous riparian wildflowers to sweeten the pain of almost running uphill. At least we weren’t at high altitude!

Once we reached the Tusk viewpoint, Tristan predictably said,
“I want to climb that!”
Since it was now 5 p.m. and we still had our 14 km-hike back out, or almost 9 miles in the next two hours, I declined his invitation to continue. Luckily he agreed, and we started downhill.
After a while, we concluded that hiking might not get us down before dark. It gets really dark under the dense tree canopy along the lower trail, where visibility and light were limited even during mid-day hours.
“It’s after 5,” I reminded him. “ It gets dark around 7:30, in less than two hours.”
“Yeah, you should start running,” he admonished me.
Well, there weren’t a lot of other options, so I began running back down the hill. Jogging all the less rocky and root-infested parts, and walking carefully on the others, we got back to the car at 7:10 p.m., just in time to drive back to Squamish, take down our tent and cook in the dark, and head back home early the next morning.

Lake Garibaldi to Black Tusk Meadows
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Monday September 15, 2008 at 5:07 pm)


Hiking from Garibaldi Lake and toward Black Tusk Meadows, we saw a loon diving under the turquoise lake. I was surprised at how long it remained submerged under the water – I’m not sure I could hold my breath and swim that long!
At the trail junction at Black Tusk Meadows, I held up my camera to shoot a photo. Immediately, a gray bird flew down to land on my hand (holding the camera) and peck at my fingers.

I asked Tristan to take a photo, fast, since the birds pinch when they bite!

I learned that it’s a Canada Jay, also called a Grey Jay or camp robber, which we see in the states. We  saw a Ptarmigan hen with three chicks that looked larger than the ones I’ve seen in Colorado. It’s wasn’t the White-Tailed Ptarmigan, or the Willow Ptarmigan, so I’ll guess it was a Rock Ptarmigan.

Loon on Garibaldi Lake

Hiking to Lake Garibaldi
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Tuesday September 9, 2008 at 8:04 am)


Lake Garibaldi from the Lake Garibaldi campground

Our favorite hike this summer was in Garibaldi Park up to Garibaldi Lake and then to the Black Tusk viewpoint. We awoke to clear blue skies and from camp, we could see Mt. Garibaldi for the first time in days. It was our last day in Canada, so I asked Tristan if he would like to hike near Garibaldi.
Tristan acquiesced and after packing, we headed north. A “hike” with Tristan, who at 17 recently competed in both track and cross-country, involves him hiking up at full speed and me occasionally jogging to keep up. When we looked at the signs, it said “Black Tusk, 14 KM”.
“Go faster,” he admonished me. “It’s 14 km to the Tusk viewpoint and probably another 10 to the top. That’s a 48-km round trip) almost 30 miles). It’ll take too long if you’re that slow!”
After looking at the map, he decided to climb the Tusk, despite leaving the parking lot at 12:45. I’d planned on a more leisurely hike to Garibaldi Lake, only 9 km (5.4 miles) with an 800-meter elevation gain (2,624 feet).
After 25 minutes, we reached a sign saying we’d gone 2.5 km.
“That’s 50 minutes for a 5 k!” he said. “That’s way too slow for 5 k!”
Never mind that we were supposedly hiking, not running uphill, nor that it was steep, and we’d already passed over 50 hikers, Tristan felt we should go faster.
We finally reached the lake in about two hours, we would leave us time to continue on to the Black Tusk. We took the small detour to hike down toward the campground at the lake and enjoy the view across to the peaks. As we left the lake, we briefly saw a loon between its dives under the water.
Then we headed up toward the Black Tusk Viewpoint.


The picnic table at the Garibaldi camping area

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