Name: Joffre Lakes, British Columbia, Canada
Distance: 11k round trip
Joffre Lakes are three turquoise glacial lakes that lie just above the agricultural town of Pemberton just north of Whistler. The lakes are fed by a large majestic glacier that sits high on Mount Matier. Continue Reading →
As the Tour de France – the pinnacle of cycling – is starting from the UK this year, we have put together a list of the best cycle routes in this green and pleasant island, with the help of some cycling enthusiasts. Let us know if you agree! Continue Reading →
As we drive down the picturesque Sea to Sky Highway that links Vancouver to the ski resort of Whistler, a towering granite dome comes into view. Known as the Stawamus Chief, this is the second largest granite monolith in the world.
The Chief, as it’s locally known, dominates the landscape and is central to the town that lies at its foot. Thanks to this ancient rock and the mountains that surround the town of Squamish, it has become the outdoor recreation capital of Canada.
“Squamish is an outdoor enthusiasts’ playground,” explains Jess Freese, owner of Sunwolf, a rafting and cabin company based in the town.
“There’s so much to choose from. On the land you have stunning hikes, mountain biking and rock climbing, and in the water there’s rafting, kayaking and kite boarding – just to name a few of the available activities. It’s a growing community with locally owned eateries, a great brewery, and vibrant arts scene.”
The climbing is at the level of Yosemite – but without the crowds and camping restrictions. There are highly technical climbs on the sheer granite face of the Chief and plenty of bouldering spots. Check out Squamisclimbing.com for the best routes and up-to-date guide on where to go and where to get equipment.
The hike up the Chief is not for the faint-hearted. After passing Shannon Falls – a spectacular waterfall with its hordes of photo-taking Chinese tourists – you will pass a sign stating how difficult the hike is. Take heed: Your climb is aided by ladders and chains – and for those who relish a challenging hike, it’s like an adults playground. There are three peaks, each with their own unique view of the Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains.
The first peak – heavily populated by ever-hungry chipmunks – gives you, on a clear day, a spectacular view of the blue waters of the Sound and the jagged mountain peaks capped with glaciers. Make it to the second peak and the view to the North opens up, where you can see ancient volcanos. Once you’ve reached the second peak, the third peak is a doddle. On your way there you can stand at the top of the sheer granite cliff and, if you are so inclined, look down. Not many people make it to the third peak – so its much quieter and you will see miles upon miles of rainforest.
For the descent you can either go back the way you came, or take Upper Shannon Falls Trail – a path through a rocky canyon, with trees stretching up hundreds of meters above your head. You could not be blamed for thinking you’d walked on the set for Jurassic Park. Its beauty, however, hides a tough decent. Your knees will most likely hurt by the end.
Squamish, unlike Whistler, is a blue-collar town. The logging industry is the reason for its existence, and once the logging disappeared, the climbers and mountain bikers came, giving the town a new lease of life. While many people drive through Squamish or stop only to grab a coffee on their way to Whistler, the hardcore mountain bikers and climbers make Squamish their destination.
Another creature that makes their way to Squamish in their thousands is bald eagles. They come in the winter ready for the salmon run and the Squamish River watershed provides safe roosting spots. Sunwolf – a company that have cabins on the bank of the confluence of the Cheakamus and Cheekeye River – offer eagle floats from December to mid-February. Their cabins, located in a clearing in the woods, are beautifully decorated and secluded.
“Brackendale, Squamish, holds the world record for the most bald eagles counted in one day, at over 3,700,” says Freese.
“With our rafting tour we have the opportunity to show guests these magnificent birds from the unique view point of the river. It’s almost magical to float down the gentle water with the eagles soaring above you or perched in the trees, scanning for salmon.”
From June to September Sunwolf specialize in white-water rafting trips on Class IV rivers, and so you don’t get hungry, they throw in a gourmet salmon dinner on a private island. It sounds blissful, until you remember you have to paddle through near-continuous white-water to get to it. For the less adventurous, or for families (you have to weigh over 90lb to go white-water rafting on Class IV at Sunwolf), you can take on the calmer rapids of the Cheakamus River and take in the beauty of British Columbia.
Best Pub: Howe Sound Brewery
Best Beer: Devils Elbow IPA
Best Chicken Wings: The Shady Tree
For more information on mountain biking go to: www.sorca.ca
You can hire bouldering mats at the Hive Bouldering Centre in Vancouver.
In September 2013 Sanjay Samantary, an Indian surfer, messaged me asking if we would like to take part in the third Indian Surf Festival (ISF) in Odisha (formerly Orissa), East India. I had travelled in India years ago, but not to the east side. After a few calls and email exchanges, we agreed a programme of work to help Sanjay’s group – the Surfing Yogis – to develop SUP in Odisha and eventually across India. Together with a team of five (three male and two female), we made our way to raw and undeveloped Odisha Continue Reading →
From epic multi-day hikes to gentle strolls around the ruins of lost civilisation, here are ten hiking holidays from around the globe that should tickle your wanderlust. Continue Reading →
I inch my way towards the summit, head down, one foot shuffling in front of the other. The peak lies less than 50 metres away, but it feels like more than a mile. Breathing steadily to control my nausea, I curl my freezing fingers into tight fists inside my gloves and try to ignore my streaming nose. Continue Reading →
By Larissa Clark
On the 16th of November 2014 a crew of 14 women will set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in search of answers relating the health of our environment to the health of our bodies. Continue Reading →
I am flying through the air over a vast valley; I don’t dare look down. I’m scared of heights, and there is 600 feet between me and the ground. I don’t know this at the time; I told them not to tell me. Continue Reading →
The powder highway is the ultimate ski and snowboarding roadtrip.
In the south east corner of Canada’s British Columbia where heli and cat skiing was born, is the ultimate ski and snowboarding road trip. It comprises of one very long road, nine heli-ski operators, 11 Nordic ski resorts, 15 snowcat ski outfitters and 22 back country ski touring operators, as well as pretty towns and legendary champagne powder. What more could you want?
You can either fly in to Vancouver or Calgary – if you fly into the later you may as well take in Banff and Lake Louise. It would be rude not to.
Once you’ve driven or flow into the Shangri-la of snow, skiing and snowboarding you will have so many resorts to choose from your head will spin. You can take them all in or pick out your favorites.
In 1858 Dr. James Hector, a geologist, trying to find a way through the Rockies for the Canadian Pacific Railway, was kicked in the chest by his horse. This seeming non-descript event lead to the name of the mountain pass and then to the ski resort in the area where he was kicked.
Kicking Horse Mountain is not for beginners – 60 per cent of the terrain is for experts only. This is for the serious experience skier/boarder and for the back country lovers.
One of the youngest resorts in BC, Revelstoke is famous for its Heli-Sking and has the most vertical run in in North America. This is another resort that is for the experts with 47.5 per cent on the terrain given over to black and diamonds runs. Its longest run is 15.2km – now that’s some burn!
In the Kootney area of British Columbia Whitewater has some of the driest snow you can get. The resort regularly gets 12 meters (40ft) of deep light dry powder. This mountain is popular for its lift access to back county terrain.
With Whitewater you can mix powder days with a bit of culture, the resort is only a 15 minute drive from Nelson, a town famous for art, food and culture.
One of the sunniest resorts in B.C., Kimberly is a laid back family friendly resort, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some gnarly runs. 80 per cent of the trails are for intermediate or advanced. It’s has a great rail park for those that like to show off their jib skills.
Another resort that is famous for its off-piste terrain. It’s beginner friendly with a large area just for newbies. 75 per cent of the runs are for beginners and intermediate. Not a bad place to chill out after some hard boarding/skiing and long drives.
A small quite resort this is a big favorite amongst those that make hitting the slopes their life. Though it is only thought that if it get plenty of snow. Red Mountain expanded its terrain my 1,000 acres this year. There are something for everyone from double diamonds to greens and plenty in between.
The pretty town of Rossland, two miles from the resort, is full of character – an old gold rush town it’s now famous for food and culture.
This resort gets 37 feet of dry champagne powder annually and there are five alpine bowls and 140 named runs. There are rarely queues and you never have to worry too much about colliding in to someone. As with many of the powder highway resorts, if you go on a weekday it will be quiet.
Relax those tired muscles in the natural hot springs. More of a family resort, this is a gentle slope for beginners and intermediates. This is where you should end your trip and congratulate yourself on making it round the Powder Highway.
Of course it’s up to you if you ride in all the resorts or just a select few. You will usually find a mix of high end and budget accommodation: but be warned this is not a cheap part of the world. What is considered cheap in British Columbia would not be considered so by European standards. You can always try Air B&B and Couch surfing if you’re on a really tight budget.
This is a bucket list road trip, one the team of Sea to Sky would love to do – we better start saving.