Whistler

Whistler is a ski resort in the mountains north of Vancouver. Along with Vancouver, it hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010.

During our first day in Whistler it was pretty wet and cloudy. We wanted to go up the mountain at some point, but it is a bit pointless going up if the mountain is completely enveloped in clouds, so we decided that we would do that later in the week.

Instead, we went on a couple of easy tracks. The first to a waterfall. The waterfall had carved through the basalt rocks of an old lava flow, so was much like some of the waterfalls in Iceland. The main different being the surrounding conifer forest.

Waterfall

Next we went on a trail to a train wreck. The damaged carriages were dumped in the forest when the track was cleared, and remain there to this day, albeit more graffitied than they originally were.

Train wreck

In the afternoon we walked between some of the lakes in the valley, and saw a pika. Pikas are rodents that are closely related to rabbits. They like running around on Rocky slopes. More on pikas later.

The next day we went to look at green lake. It was a well named lake, as it is definitely more green than the other lakes.

Lake

Spotting that the mountains were no longer shrouded in cloud, we took the gondola up Whistler Mountain. From the top of Whistler Mountain, we then took the peak2peak gondola to the top of Blackcombe Mountain.

Gondola

Both mountains are used for skiing in the winter, but in the summer the skiing infrastructure is used by hikers and mountain bikers.

We did a walk around the peak of Blackcombe Mountain, before crossing back over to Whistler Mountian.

There was plenty of wildlife to see. At the top of both mountains marmots were either ferociously eating, or lounging in the sun. Marmots survive the winter by fattening up, and they seemed to be doing a good job of it. Whistler Mountain is named after the whistling calls of distressed marmots. Previously it was called London Mountain, but it was renamed to avoid being associated with bad weather.

Marmot

During our walk around the peak of Blackcombe Mountain we encountered a large number of pikas. Unlike the pika we met below, the mountain pikas were very bold. I was busy looking for distant pikas when a pika ran up and sat on my shoe. It prepared itself to pounce up my leg, but was scared off at the last moment.

Pika

Also up the mountain were many chipmonks and squirrels.

Back at the Gondola station at the top of Whistler Mountain, we walked down a steep trail to a chairlift that would take us higher up the mountain.

At the very top of the mountain there is a suspension bridge over a very small glacier.

Cold Bridge

We managed to cross the bridge whilst it was still sunny, but soon clouds started to move in. As the clouds moved in below us first, it allowed us to see a weird rainbow-like thing called a glory. What they have in common with rainbows is that they always appear opposite the sun. Unlike rainbows they are centred on the observer's shadow, and thus always appear below the observer's horizon. Cases where it is sunny, but rainy bellow you are rare, so glories are most common from aircraft. From the ground, however they have the effect of surrounding your shadow in a rainbow coloured halo.

Glory

As the clouds drew in it started to snow. Some of the first snows at an altitude where summer is very short indeed.

Perhaps glories are lucky, because on the way back down the mountain in the gondola, we spotted a black bear roaming the mountainside below.

On our final day, we went on a hike to lost lake. The lake didn't look very lost, nor did we get lost.

In the afternoon, we went on a Jeep tour up Blackcombe Mountain. We didn't see any bears, but it was still pretty interesting to see all the skiing infrastructure. They are currently building a new gondola, and a large helicopter was carrying materials up the mountain. At the top of the road on the glacial scree slope, it was snowing fairly heavily. On the way back down we travelled under the peak2peak gondola, up the valley, to the hydroelectric dam that powers all the chair lifts, gondolas, and Whistler Village itself. On the way back, we passed the Olympic bobsled run, which is apparently the fastest and most used in the world.

Snow

Next I fly to Honolulu, where there is unlikely to be any snow.