Larch Heaven

Larch Trees turn a brilliant orange color in fall and can reach over 120 feet in height. They are generally found in higher elevations and colder climates. The needles are short, flat and are clustered in groups of 30 or 40. The best time to view the larches is late September to mid-October.

Mount Frosty, the highest peak in Manning Park is possibly the best place close to Vancouver to view them. The hike is about 8 – 10 hours return, which takes you through a thick rich forest of alpine trees. The trail is not difficult until you reach the base of Frosty Peak where there is a lot of scree. The trail is accessed from the Lightning Lakes day use area in Manning Park and is on the other side of Lightning Lake.

I had the opportunity to take a group of people up there twice in the last month, first as an overnight and second as a day trip. If you are doing it as an overnight, stay at the Frosty Creek campground where there is an outhouse, bear cache, fire pit, small log cabin and five or six spots to pitch your tent. About 20 minutes, from the campsite, is the Larch field where we were treated to 2000-year-old Larches reaching over 100 feet in height. One can spend hours photographing these beautiful trees without even going to the summit of Frosty, which is about another hour hike from the Larch field. I highly recommend going to the summit on a clear fall day or when the clouds or high in the sky or in summer. The views of the surrounding mountains are worth it.

It was my first time seeing the Larches this year on Mount Frosty and they did not disappoint. The drive to Manning Park is about 2 1/2 hours from Vancouver and 2 hours and 11 minutes from Burnaby. It is a stunning drive along the # 3 highway, but be sure to have winter tires on your car from October 1st onward.

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It Was Worth The Wait

I had heard that Wedgemount Lake was a difficult hike from various hikers that had gone before me, and they weren’t kidding. It is a slog where you are continuing up and up from the get go with very little rest in between, except for a small flat section that lasts about five – ten minutes.

 

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I led a small group of up people up there a few weeks ago for an overnight trip. If you can do two nights, even better. With my full – time class schedule, one night is all I could get.

The trail is rated difficult and takes approximately six to seven hours return, with an elevation gain of 1160 metres. The best time to go is between July and September as it is apparently difficult to get there during the winter due to the amount of snow. If anyone has ever hiked the BCMC trail on Grouse Mountain, it is equivalent to hiking that about five times over, and made even heavier with big backpacks. There are a couple of boulder fields to cross with some muddy sections, so you need to be careful where you step and take your time.

 

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The last push to the top is a boulder section where you are practically on your hands and knees with a short scramble to the top that takes you out to the wide open area that is surrounded by glaciers and mountains. In the midst of all of this amazing scenery, is the beautiful turquoise Wedgemount Lake. There are actually two lakes with one hidden behind some mountains on the opposite side of the lake.

This is a hike that is best done on a clear, partially cloudy or a day where the clouds are high enough in the sky so that you can see all of its glory and splendor. There are ample places to set up your tent, but you must register online with BC Parks as it is part of Garibaldi Provincial Park. The cost is $10.00 per night per person and you must print off your camping permit and attach the bottom portion of the form to your tent and keep the other on you at all times, otherwise you could be fined or evicted.

 

 

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When we arrived, we set up our tents, had a bite to eat and decided to head over to the glacier. We went on a small stable section of the glacier but did not go far as we did not have the proper gear for our feet. Microspikes or Crampons are recommended in particular crampons and some rope as you don’t want to fall into the crevasses.

 

 

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The hike down took just over three hours, is hard on the feet and relentless. It is a great hike and one that I probably don’t see myself doing more than twice per year as it is quite hard on my hip. If you have a camera, in particular a Mirrorless or DSLR take them with you, you will not regret it.

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The Forgotten Mountain

Hidden among Vancouver’s amazing trail system is a great little mountain that tends to get overlooked when it comes to hiking. Fromme Mountain, a small rounded treed peak to the east of Grouse Mountain is well-known among mountain bike enthusiasts but tends to be overlooked when it comes to hiking.

I have hiked this mountain a few times over the years and I must say that is becoming one of my favorite hikes. The terrain varies from flatter to steep sections and one section of the trail is cushy and easy to walk on. Yesterday, I took twelve other people with me on a hike up this mountain and were treated to snow three-quarters of the way up. The weather was warm and beautiful. Many of us wore microspikes as the snow was wet and crusty. It made for some really interesting sliding while coming down the mountain.

The hike normally takes 4 – 5 hours return but because of the snow and some other mishaps, it ended up being a 7-hour return hike. We were treated to some amazing views of the mountains to the north and had plenty of room to walk around and find places to sit up top.  We started at the top of St. Georges, a residential neighborhood in North Vancouver and passed a couple of gravel roads along the way. We do need to share some of the lower section with mountain bikers but generally, we don’t see too many of them.

About half way up the mountain one can often hear Grouse calling in a wide open field section just beyond the trees. I believe one of the reasons why people may not hike Fromme so much is because you get a very small view of the city and fear of mountain bikers. These issues are small and I highly recommend this hike to anyone who is looking to get out into the hills for half a day away from the crowds.

We did see a few other hikers on the trail but, the nice thing about Fromme is that it is less busy than its east and west counterparts of Cypress Mountain ski resorts, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and less peak. It is a great intermediate hike that has an 880-metre elevation gain that is not too difficult. The steepest section is near the top where you have to climb up and over a rock face so wear proper footwear. The hike is best done between July and October but you can hike it two months earlier when the snow starts to melt. Just be careful not to go after a huge rain or snowstorm. In our case, the snow had settled significantly so there was no risk of avalanche.

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Dam Mountain, a Winter Wonderland

What a beautiful day it was! At the beginning of the year, I decided to snowshoe up to the top of Dam Mountain located in Vancouver’s the North Shore Mountains. I had just purchased a new wide angle lens and was anxious to try it out.

I started my hike from the top of Grouse Mountain which took me through Whistler Waterway, a beautiful stretch of the trail that unfortunately is a major avalanche zone. The trail winds to the left up switchbacks through the trees towards the peak of Dam Mountain. The first flat section I reached was Dam Mountain Plateau an area that offers decent views of the city. From there, it was about a ten-minute hike up to the peak.

On the way up, I came across a nice open clearing just below the peak that offered great views of Howe Sound and the mountains to the right of Dam. Here, I set up my tripod and was treated to a cloud inversion below.  I snapped some of my strongest images yet in landscape photography. I would have loved to taken some sunset photos that day but unfortunately, I needed to get back for an appointment.

From the top of Dam I decided to head towards Thunderbird Ridge and found a dead tree framed nicely among two Evergreens. I have been playing with different compositional angles and shot the tree while squatting in the snow. Dam Mountain is a fantastic snowshoe and only takes an hour and a half return depending on your fitness level.

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Dog Mountain, Winter Wonderland on Mount Seymour

Mount Seymour has so many amazing hikes on it… 14 in total. Most people head up to 1st, second and third peaks; however, if you are looking for an easy but still heart pumping workout, Dog Mountain is a great choice. I have been up there in the past two weeks, once with a group of fourteen and with a friend. It is a beautiful trail and easier to do in the winter time because all of the roots are covered up. The trail has worn down a lot because of use so doing it in the summertime can be tricky.

The hike is approximately 2 hours return depending on your speed. It reroutes around first lake during the winter time which I assume is for safety reasons. When there is fresh snow on the trees it is absolutely beautiful. The trail has a fair amount of ups and downs and some flatter sections. When you reach the top, it is fairly wide open and you is a great place to watch the sunset and overlook the cities below. You also get a great view of the Seymour Conservation area. It is one of my favorite local hikes and a great place to take your children

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A Winter Wonderland

Oh my! It has been way too long since I wrote my last post. Of course I think I say that every time. Life has been busy with ups and downs but in between I have managed to sneak in some great hikes.

The Lower Mainland in British Columbia has been receiving lots of snow in the city lately which is really unusual as it is normally too warm. Because of the cooler temperatures we have been receiving a lot of snow in our beloved North Shore Mountains. I personally am not a fan of snow in city as it becomes difficult to walk  and gets dirty but in the mountains it is another story.

Recently I had the chance to hike to the first peak of Mount Seymour for the first time on Vancouver’s North Shore. It is a very popular hiking destination with several trails. The most popular being the hikes to 1st, 2nd and 3rd peaks. The weather was perfect, sunny with very little wind and it was cold and avalanche conditions were moderate. Seymour has intermediate to complex avalanche terrain, so it is a good idea to check the avy conditions and find out the problem areas before you go. We hiked to the first peak via the 1st Lake trail which is not the normal route but I chose it because it is prettier being in among the snow covered trees and we pass a small alpine lake. It is also a great warm up for the legs and a little bit less busy.

Mount Seymour offers a variety of terrain and rolling hills where there are flatter sections and lots of small hills. It is an intermediate hike with 450 metres of elevation gain and a height of 1 449 metres. Allow at least 5 hours return to do the hike. It offers stunning views of the cities below and many photographers like to hike up to watch the sunrise or sun setting. What many people do not know is that there are 14 trails on the mountain. Sadly, many people stick to doing the four most popular, hiking to the three peaks, Dog Mountain and Elsay Lake. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/mt_seymour/hiking.html

While these are all great hikes, it is fun to check out some of the other trails which include lower elevation hikes.

The day of our hike the drive up was stellar with snowy trees and we had amazing views.

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Stawamus Chief

For those living in the Lower Mainland of BC one of the most popular hikes around is the Stawamus Chief which hovers over the town of Squamish at just over 700 metres. It is part of the Pacific Mountain Range and is large piece of Granite Rock famous among Rock Climbers for its climbing routes. Often times you can see climbers on the Chief from the highway.

The Chief is located inside Stawamus Chief Provincial Park  which is also home to the amazing Shannon Falls. Access to the chief is simple as it is right off if the Sea to Sky highway. I have hiked this trail a few times over the years since moving to British Columbia and strongly advise that it is best to do it while it is dry as it can be a technical hike. There are three peaks.. 2 of which require the use of ropes in order to get to the top. 2nd Peak will have you climbing up a ladder located near between two very narrow rock faces. 3rd peak is the easiest one to hike as you will be going over roots and such. Access to third peak is also easily done from 2nd Peak. Once you are at the top of the peaks you are treated to relatively flat surfaces and there is a lot of room to move around.. just be careful you don’t go to close to the edge or you could fall off.

The Chief can be extremely busy during the summer months so it is best to go early in order to avoid the crowds. The hike is an intermediate level hike but I would still recommend having fairly decent cardio as the 300 or so steps at the start of the trail will kick your butt. After hiking up the trail for about 40 + minutes you will come to a junction that will take you to other hiking

trails  or you can continue going up towards the three peaks. From first peak you get stellar views of Howe Sound and the town of Squamish whereas 2nd Peak offers great views of 1st Peak as well as the town below. From third peak you can see more of Squamish. On a clear day you are also treated to some pretty amazing views of Mount Garibaldi in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Camping is allowed in the park but you need to check with BC Parks for reservations it does have winter camping for those hardcore outdoor enthusiasts. The Chief is an excellent hike if you are looking for something closer to home or you are passing through Squamish and you are looking for a day hike that does not take all day. After hiking the Chief I highly recommend checking out the town of Squamish especially Howe Sound Brewery located on Cleveland St. for some excellent food and beer.