Monday, September 23, 2013


We cheated, yes we did and we loved it!  Finally I'm back on the chairlift after a few years off. Let me explain a bit for those of you that don't know. I used to be a very different kind of rider, a bit of a bike park addict. My definition of epic back then was big jumps, drops and speed. Visiting the ER at least once a year was the norm. My last visit to the ER changed a lot of things. I had a one and a half year old at home and another a few weeks away. Lying on the ground wondering what the hell had just happened (I'll spare you with the details; maybe another time) gave me time to think things through. In the end I was lucky: three days in the hospital, 10 pounds lighter, 24 screws and 2 plates holding my leg in place. Man that was a close call! Needless to say, putting my bike on the Whistler chairlift gave me some flash backs.

This ride has been on my to do list for a long time. Always a good excuse/reason not to do it and it almost happened again this year due to a bad back. But on that day, all the stars lined up perfectly and after a short ride up, thanks to the Whistler chairlifts, we were on our way up to ride the classic epic descent.

Once on the top of Garbonzo you have to ride down in the park for a bit to access Highway 86, which leads you to the trail head that's about an hour climb away from there. The climb at times is fairly steep but we can't complain, in the old days you had to ride up from the village far bellow; now that's a climb!

This is a long downhill, it consists of three different trails: Khyber, Babylon by Bike and Tunnel Vision. The start of Khyber is a steep eroded mess, but fortunately it's over fairly quickly. This is when we realize that a new reroute trail has been built. Damn! Next time. The alpine portion is not all that long. You're soon in the trees on decent single track. Most of Khyber is pretty good but my favorite part was yet to come.

Khyber spits you out on a gravel road. Once out, head left to a cell tower, where it's only a two minute climb. I've heard that Babylon by Bike was overgrown and not really worth it. Let me tell you, IT IS! Some guys must have done some recent work on it because it was in prime condition. Loam, pine needles, steep section and some stunts - everything to keep you smiling from ear to ear.

Last part is Tunnel Vision. Very different from the other two, with it being not very long, but fast. A few jumps and some nice features along the way make it a fun ending to what was a nice long descent with minimal effort to get there. The only problem is that it's so fast, you really never stop to take pictures. I'll take a bit more time when I ride it again; maybe even shoot a short video.

The entire ride is fairly quick. Not having timed it, my best guess is 30 minutes on the chair, 1 hour climb to the trail head and around 1 1/2 hours to get back down. Once done, we meet the family at lost lake and jump in the lake. Another killer weekend!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Joffre Lakes

Story by Nick
Photos by Mathieu (most of them)

"Daddy, I don't know what to wear. This is too orangy and the pink doesn't match" was the first thing Ella said as we prepared for her first real wilderness camping trip. The destination - Joffre Lakes, which is about 1/2 hr north from Pemberton. We would be heading in the morning with my good friend, Mathieu and his daughter, Lily, which happens to be my daughter's friend. The perfect team for our weekend expedition.

We first had to get prepared - what to bring and what not to bring. I won't get into the gear list here as that can get a bit boring and I'm sure the internet is full of them. Google it if you need some help. We basically kept our gear to a minimum by trying to be as light as possible and not duplicate too many things. As it turned out, we had exactly what we needed. Not bad for the first time out with the kids. As far as food goes, that was easy. Lots of snacks for the kids, the usual breakfast/lunch/dinner stuff and the most important part, "reward" foods. If you want to keep the young ones motivated there's nothing like a sugary snack!

When we got to the parking lot, Mathieu and I were surprised to see the lot full of cars. It was kind of a bummer. For one, we didn't expect it and two, we wanted a true wilderness experience for the kids. Fortunately after a few minutes (maybe an hour) the crowds were left behind.

The hike is not that bad; about 2 1/2 hours for the average adult at just over 5 km long . We did it in 3 1/2; damn impressive for two 6 year old kids! The start is an easy machine-made trail, but it turns into a proper steep hiking trail fairly soon as you approach middle Joffre lake. Where, I'm guessing, most day hikers stop their journey.

Once you reach the second lake most of the climbing is over. Here you can choose to take the old trail or the new one that hugs the water fall and the river that drain upper Joffre lake into middle Joffre lake. We choose the old trail and leave the new one for our return trip the next day.

Finally we are here! The kids get a second wind, that I'm still not sure where it came from, but they are pumped! As we set up camp under the glacier and surrounded by the awe inspiring view, we let the kids roam free. Looking at them play on their own with no toys, electronics, distractions of any kind is something rare in our modern world. The lesson I get from this (well one of them anyway) is give your kids a chance to see. Let them play on their own and just let them be. Wonderful!

After a few hours of exploring we head back to our campsite for supper. This is always a fun part when camping with kids, as everyone is involved and has something to do. Not having much water (there is no "potable water" in this park) we take our chances and drink from one of the creeks that feed the lake. Happy to report: no gut rot.

Stars! Living in Vancouver, sometimes you forget how many stars are over your head. Not here, the sky is dark and you can see so many it can get overwhelming. Laying down in the dirt, rock as a pillow, all four of us just stare skywards, sometimes not saying a word, just silence. I'm not sure how long we did this for but it was something special.

Overnight we got a bit cold, it's September after all, and we are in the alpine. A bit of wind, light rain early morning but over all, a wonderful sleep with the glacier's waterfall chanting in the background. Sleeping next to my older daughter, just the two of us, feels funny. Watching her sleep so peacefully with not a care in the world...I'm not to sure how to explain the feeling, but I guess it's something you have to experience yourself.

I hear birds, some light rain and see the faint morning glow. We slowly crawl out of the tent and I remember that yes, in fact, it was not a dream, everything is still here: the glacier, the mountains, the lake. We know we have to leave fairly early (back to school the next day) but still decide to take our time. It's hard to leave new places. That's what makes it so special.

We take the new trail to get back down, which ends at middle Joffre lake. This is where you start seeing the crowds again. OK, maybe not crowds, but a few more people anyway. It takes some time to get the girls walking steadily, as they keep stopping to pick huckleberries. Ella's face is black. I sure hope these are good - I don't have any spare underwear!!!

The return trip feels fast, too fast. Funny, I just realized as I'm writing this, that all my life, with all the "adventures" I've had, big or small, the ending is always a blur. As I'm recalling my memories, for some reason, the last part fades away. Maybe I'm never ready to leave...