I am in the process (emphasis on PROcess because I am Canadian now) of familiarizing myself with that them mountains here in beautiful British Columbia. These mountains are nothing and I mean NOTHING like the Colorado Rockies. I threw myself under the bus a few times before realizing that I am going to do amazing things here, amazing things yes indeed, amazing things that are going to require a shiny new set of skills. Acquiring said skills will demand patience which just so happens to be my least favorite virtue. But scientific research is slow, experiments are focused, and patience is the only way I am going to survive graduate school. Maybe I moved to Canada to learn zee patience? It has taken a few weeks but I am in full acceptance mode. I am in a new place, the living is harder, the science is harder, and the mountains are harder. By the time Canada spits me out, I will be hardened.
I bought a few guide books at the MEC. Let me give a brief review of each. Let’s start with, “105 Hikes In and Around Southwestern British Columbia,” by Stephen Hui. Stephen picks some good hikes and scrambles. He points me in a direction, unfortunately it is normally the wrong direction. I am not sure that Stephen knows left from right or east from west. He spends most of the description giving the wrong directions to the trailhead and then some of the description giving no direction up the mountain. The next guide book is, “The Glorious Mountains of Vancouver’s North Shore,” by David Crerar, Harry Crerar, and Bill Maurer. This book should be renamed, “How You are Going to Die on the North Shore.” This is the most dramatic guide book I have ever owned. While I appreciate the sentiment about safety and the emphasis on the real danger the north shore mountains present, every single route description t-bones with, “and don’t climb this mountain if it is raining, wet, cloudy, sunny, a bear has pooped in the woods at exactly 2 p.m., it is fall, it is winter, it is spring, it is summer, the moon is one quarter of the way full, and you have eaten oatmeal for breakfast or YOU WILL DIE.” The last guide book is, “Scrambles,” by Matt Gunn. This is the guide book I most identify with, although Matt is also confused by left and right, does not discuss the scramble in spicy tacos, and gives ascent time instead of round trip mileage. Since I moved here, I have climbed 17 mountains in British Columbia and gotten lost every single time. That is until Mount Mac, but I also did not listen to Matt when he told me to go right.
Anyway, Mount MacFarlane is in the Canadian Cascades, it is a stones throw from the US border (Washington Cascades) and is rated an easy scramble with a butt-load of vert. I knew it would be cold and icy up high (yes high is now 7,000 feet). I knew this would be a perfect peak to push my comfort level but not to the extreme. As I mentioned, patience, climbing mountains here is going to be a level-up situation. It is fairly simple, these mountains are much more difficult then Colorado’s mountains.
Mount MacFarlane – 2090 meters (6,867 feet)
Mount Pierce – 1945 meters (6,381 feet)
22.2 km with 2055 meters of gain (14 miles with 6,740 feet of gain)
Sara reached out to me before I vanquished myself from social media. Just like me, Sara is a displaced Coloradian in Vancouver. Better yet, Sara is a displaced Coloradian in Vancouver who I already know. I have run with Sara a few times. She is strong, intelligent, and fun, so I already knew it was going to be a great day. We met under the cover of darkness in a Walmart parking lot somewhere in the middle world between North Vancouver and Kits. We joked about the promise of car break-ins and gunshots as we rocketed toward Chilliwack. The hike began as most do, up a logging road, armed with poor directions. The hike continued as most do, straight up through the rainforest with absolutely no views. BUT THIS TIME THERE WAS SUN!!!! GLORIOUS SUN!!!! Although, truth be told, one has no idea what time of day, month, year, decade, or generation it is from inside the rain-forest canopy. There was only one direction….up and we melted away the gainz with meaningful conversation. We arrived at lower Pierce Lake and I pulled my phone out from my cleavage and took this super low quality photo.
Please please hold your applause. I also took this winner of Sara snacking. The theme here is, don’t photograph the beautiful blue Canadian lake to the right. Or is it left Matt? The photos get better, I promise.
It was nice to see daylight but back into the forest we went until we came to the first icy death trap. We negotiated up icy ledges and then to the right of a semi-frozen waterfall avoiding some questionable fixed ropes tied to vegetation. The ropes looked okay but not okay enough to dangle my life from. There are many challenges on Canadian peaks before you even get to ridge line. We made our way to the second level of waterfall and admired our sexy objective.
We identified the northeast ridge and headed to the summit of Mount MacFarlane. This is where we negotiated the second icy death trap. The use of the veg-belay is a real thing here. I do not have any photos of the dicey section, obviously, as I was dangling from vegetation and ice.
Unfortunately the sun is a double edged sword. While it was fantastic to not be scrambling in a cold wet snowy ice storm (Lady Peak cough cough), it washed most of my photos out. So, you are going to have to trust me that we had a pretty killer view of some aggressively scary looking mountains.
Next I did what I do best and surprised my partner with another mountain. There is always another mountain to climb. Sara consented and we headed off on a route finding adventure up the hellaciously steep Mount Pierce. Piercey-boy did not have a trail or any flagging but it did have a gigantic pile of bear poop, some secret lakes, a heinous heavy veg-schwack, and even better views then Mount Mac.
The only thing left to do was go down and then back up and then back down, and then down some more, and more and more and more….seriously it was one longggggg descent.
Sara guest wrote a haiku about the descent:
Down, down forever
Are we descending to hell?
Will it end? No. No.
When the gunshots began we knew we were almost home.
No vehicles were broken into.
This whole Canada thing is really quite beautiful. I am excited to have started my new list – climb every single mountain in Canada.
“Over the mountains & through the woods, down the river & up the valley, over the boulders & through the stream to nobody’s house I go.”