We left Vancouver early, just at sunrise. The city was still asleep as we started on the Sea to Sky Highway, so named because it winds its way from the Pacific Ocean to the snowbound peaks of Whistler. The views were spectacular, especially as the sun rose and filled the landscape with light. Traffic was sparse, and the road unraveled ahead of us like a long, grey ribbon.
At Whistler, we chose to purchase the Peak 2 Peak Gondola Ride, which carries passengers 4.4 kilometres across a cavernous space between Whistler and Blackcomb. An engineering feat, the ride opens up more hiking trails on Blackcomb for summer visitors, and gives skiers access to both peaks during the season.
At the top, we consult the Whistler Mountain map. There are a number of trails to choose from and they are rated the same way ski runs are – green circles, blue square or black diamonds. We decide to start easy, and catch the Peak Express to head off on the Summit Interpretative Walk, which winds its way around the summit of the mountain.
In the distance, the mountain ranges are a scalloped edge, laced with snow. It’s clear and beautiful up here, and even in the summer, the wind is biting! The short 1.6km walk is the perfect warm up to our next choice: the marked line of the High Note Trail, a double black diamond 9.5km trail that is supposed to take 3-4 hours through alpine meadows and afford stunning views of glacial lakes.
We set off, filled with high hopes. There is still ice on the ground in some parts and we pick our way through. There is no one else on the trail. As promised, there are stunning views of ice-blue glacial lakes strung up far away in the distant mountains. We come across a hoary marmot – he is just starting to molt back into his summer colours from his winter white. We stop to say hello and take photographs.
And then, two hours into it, we consult the map again and realise that our dallying has been far more serious than we’d though – we have barely made it 20% of the way through! The signs on the High Note Trail advise us that we are about to enter backcountry, where the trails are not patrolled regularly, and to bring our own food and water… There is not much time left in the day, so instead of continuing on, we decide to turn back, and attempt a different trail, one we can finish before sunset!
Back at the trailhead, we take the Peak Express back, and embark on the Harmony Lake Loop instead. The track takes us through beautiful alpine forest and finally to a still lake, reflecting the pine trees and mountain sky. Only a 5km loop, we finish this easily in the recommended 60-90 minutes, and wonder about our ineptitude at pacing ourselves for the High Note Trail.
Jeff and I are not inexperienced day hikers, and we’d honestly thought we would have time to complete the track – however, I’m glad that we turned back when we did, as overestimating one’s ability and experience, particularly in back country, and without adequate provisions, is a definite no-no!
Besides hiking, there are a lot of other things to do during the summer in Whistler – bear tours being one of the more interesting of these, but there is also mountain biking, ATV tours and golf.
We end our daytrip to Whistler with a ride across to Blackcomb mountain, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the views. The ski lifts at Blackcomb give our feet a bit of a break, and we spot grazing deer and in the distance, the village, toylike and perfect.