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Sea to Sky backcountry adventure

I am a student enrolled in the Wilderness Leadership Program at Capilano College.

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Whistler Naturalists

This is the first part of my story of the five-day hike I took with my class north of Pemberton, up the Hope Creek Road and ending at Chipmunk Mountain.

Day 1, Wednesday, Sept. 15

The adventure began in the college parking lot; five hearty outdoor rookies hopped out of a tiny red Civic with the grace of circus clowns. Still encased like salty sardines were our 30-pound packs and gear. We finally got everything, including ourselves, into a white van and drove to Pemberton, and then out to Lizzie Lake road – only to discover it had been washed out. After a brief visit to the local hunting and fishing store we acquired new maps and planned a different route.

Back in the van, the aggressive driving of our guide had us on the edge of our seats with our stomachs churning. After an hour and a half on a bumpy logging road, sinking in and out of miniature ditches, we parked the van. I was chosen to lead first. Having never led a backpacking trip, I was nervous. I was saved by a pre-marked route used by Outward Bound: small pink flags high in the trees directed me towards our destination. Needless to say, we made it to our campsite on time and in one piece and enjoyed some spicy Thai green curry for dinner.

Day 2, Thursday, Sept. 16

The only sign of sun we saw for the first few days, was a pair of sunshine yellow skis we discovered near the glacier lake where we stopped for lunch. I contemplated strapping them to my backpack but after careful consideration decided they were too heavy and awkward.

I was thankful of this decision half an hour later when I looked ahead to see talus slopes iced with fresh white flakes followed by a steep glacier. We took it slow up the boulders and as soon as we hit the other side our faces were whipped with a bitter wind and steel snowflakes.

Climbing took great concentration, with each step a puzzle piece. We were surrounded by large black boulders – sharp and threatening – that together formed a potential death maze. After an eternity of mind-cramping manoeuvres on the threatening basalt slope we reached a peak. The valley ahead of us was a thick white quilt. The air around us was like steam dancing and billowing in plump bundles. We all just stared, our eyes swollen with exhaustion and limbs numb from dense wet cold.

Being leaders in training, we ignored our desire to club our guides over the head, steal the radio and call for a helicopter to lift us to comfort.

We switch-backed down the slippery hill and into the valley where we would camp for the night. The thought of the bean burritos, planned for dinner helped us set up our tent in no time.

Continued next week .

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