Canada Expedition: Days 5, 6 and 7 – Bears & Falling off a Mountain

For a change, it was quite nice to wake up on solid ground rather than meters of snow to start our fifth day out in the wilderness of British Columbia. Even better, the view practically from the “doorstep” of my tent:

After about an hour of further hiking, we reached the end of our trail – that is, at least we reached the end of our hiking trail. From here on, we would continue by mountainbike. I had never before riden a bike down the side of a mountain before, so despite it gradually starting to rain more and more, it was quite a wonderful experience and I didn’t minding getting “a little” covered in mud.

However, the downhill part of our section lasted only about 15 minutes, after which we had a good 20km to go to reach our next campsite. By now it was pouring, and some of the bike paths we had planned to take didn’t exist in real life, so the morale of our group – and myself for that matter – quickly dropped.

We did eventually reach our new campsite. We had previously been made aware by a friendly man that he had seen bears in the area while driving his truck, and the signs posted all around our tent left little question that we were in the heart of “bear country” at this point. Hence, barbecuing may not have been the wisest of decisions that evening, but hey – no risk, no fun.

The next day – day six – was the day we fully re-entered civilization. After a brief bike ride into Whistler (which I had done already the evening before in order to buy Marshmallows), we returned our bikes and checked into a hotel, where we wouldn’t stay for long: another adventure was awaiting us, which would take us back up to the snow-covered peaks of British Columbia. Literally.

Whistler may be most well-known for its winter sports and arguably also its mountain biking, however Whistler mountain also has a via ferrata – an “iron road”, or climbing trail, going up its side. It is this route that we chose to take to reach the 2,181 meter high peak of the mountain.

Let me tell you only so much: it was an incredible experience, absolutely worth it, which I would recommend anyone not afraid of heights should do in Whistler. But true to the motto of “a picture says more than a thousand words”, I think I will let some photos speak for themselves:

The top of the mountain was an entirely different world from down in the valley. Even in mid-June, it was covered in snow, and not just a bit, but rather a layer six meter deep. Never before have I seen so much snow in one place (even though I am from Austria), and it really is quite something to walk through a deep snow canyon, with walls of ice on either side.

Climbing Whistler mountain was only half of the story though, for somehow we had to get back down. Of course, we took the most straightforward option – sliding down a glacier on our behind. No, seriously.

Now, as a cautious word of warning: it is very difficult to maintain control while you’re tumbling down a mountain, and I learnt that it isn’t the best idea to be carrying camera gear that isn’t sealed watertight & shockproofed in your bag. If it weren’t for an attentive person going down the glacier after me, I would be short a lens cap today. Also I swamped my camera a bit, which resulted in it doing strange things for the next few days, though thankfully it eventually fully recovered. Don’t let that stop you from falling down a mountain though – truly a once in a lifetime experience!

One last thing to do for sure while you’re in Whistler is test out their Olympic bobsledding track, which is open year-round and I got to have a go on on my last day before returning to Vancouver. Going through a concrete tube at about 90km/h on a sled and experiencing the forces that come with it really make for a wild ride (sorry).

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