Snowshoeing Hollyburn Mountain

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In January, Jan and I took advantage of a perfect holiday Monday and snowshoed up Hollyburn Mountain. The views were bluebird! Here’s a recap of our day and the hike up:

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The trail is free, and starts from the alpine area of Cypress Mountain. It’s a left from the main road as you head towards the ski parking. At the base, you can rent snowshoes or get passes to go into the groomed Cypress trails. The Hollyburn trail is marked by red poles, like the one in the photo above.

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The first part of the trail is one of the steepest, and I always find myself de-layering here :). Eventually, you move away from the power lines alongside this trail and into a more forested section.

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After 2.8 km of meandering up (sometimes climbing, sometimes more level ground), the trail turns up to the left towards Hollyburn peak. Several times when I haven’t had time for a long snowshoe, I’ve called it a day here.

This time, though, we had the whole day and it was so beautiful, I knew we had to get to the peak.

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At about 3.6 km, the trail starts to wrap around the mountain. Here, it’s easy to go exploring “off piste” if you have good visibility and the right conditions. Make sure you take the usual safety precautions that you would in the backcountry!

We explored a bit – my favourite is the trees that are covered in snow!

The snow is deep – I would definitely recommend snowshoes (you need more than just boots or spikes, at least in January/February).

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Eventually we stopped goofing around and made it the final few hundred meters to the peak. The views were unreal!

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2017-01-02-snowshoe-hike-hullyburn-mountain-038We took in the sights, ate a snack, and headed back down. Our total ascent time (with lots of playing around/stopping for photos) was just under 2 hours. We took our time going back down as well, with lots of photo stops.

Quick stats: 8 km roundtrip | Dec-Mar | 3 hours roundtrip | Parking and snowshoe rentals ($15) at Cypress Alpine Parking lot | 590 m elevation

Photos all thanks to Jan

Cypress Snowshoeing

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A few weeks ago Jan and I decided to go for a quick afternoon snowshoe. We’ve gone up Hollyburn a few times, so we decided to check out the paid snowshoe trails in the Cypress resort. An adult trail ticket is $10, and you can get a season’s pass for $99. The one bummer is that the pass only gives you access to the snowshoe trails – you need a separate one for the cross country skiing. I can definitely snowshoe more than 10 times in a season, but I’m not sure I want to go to the same place 10 times.

So anyway, we headed into the trails to see what they were like.

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Pros: The trails were easy at the beginning. Flat, short, pretty. I would definitely be able to bring my parents, or other visitors who I’m not sure I want to drag up a mountain. As we kept going, things did get harder, but the trails were really well marked (similar to ski trails – green/blue/black etc.) and we knew what we were getting into.

We had snowshoes with us, but another “pro” might be that you can rent snowshoes in the Nordic Area parking lot, which would be convenient. The snowshoes are $24 for the day and include your trail ticket.

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Cons: Honestly, just that there is a cost. There aren’t many great viewpoints in the resort, but the trails do lead to the BC parks trail that sends you up Hollyburn. Considering you can do that (and a lot of other local trails) for free, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to pay. I think the resort trails would be nice for someone who wants to explore a few trails without a lot of elevation gain, or who just prefers marked/groomed trails (though Hollyburn is also marked, and seems groomed because of all the foot traffic).

What do you think? Worth it for the extra $$?

Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail Snowshoe

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On Saturday, Jan and I joined our friends Greg, Martina and Christine for a day in the snow. We’d all done a bunch of snowshoeing on the North Shore Mountains (Grouse, Cypress and Seymour) this year, so we thought we’d venture further north and look for some new-to-us terrain.

We decided to head to Squamish and check out the trails that start at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola. The gondola entrance is just off the Sea-to-Sky Highway, about a kilometre before downtown Squamish. At the bottom, there are amazing views of the Chief, another awesome hike (which I’ve done in the summer, but not the winter!)

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Anyway, you can either hike up to the top, or take the gondola. We really thought about hiking, since the fee to go up+down is $37.95 per person, but a ticket to go down only is $9.99 per person. The guys at the bottom told us to expect a 5-6 hour trip if we hiked up, so we chose to ride. Vancouver trails says the hike takes about 3.5 hours in the summer, so I guess that would mean about 5 hours of hiking/snowshoeing in the winter. We also didn’t have trax or microspikes, which probably would help a lot. The views going up the gondola were spectacular, even if the price was a bit much. I plan to come back to do the full hike up at some point!

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At the top of the gondola, there is a viewing platform and cafe. Just behind the cafe/gondola exit, there is a snowshoe rental area and a nice, warm firepit. When we got there, around 10 am, it was really quiet. We took a few photos and then headed down a snowy road/wide walking path until we reached the trailhead. Along the way, we saw some people ice climbing on the rock faces! I’d love to try it this winter.

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The trail we chose is called Al’s Habrich Ridge trail. It wraps up around the northwest part of Habrich Ridge, part of Mount Habrich. The trail map we picked up at the bottom of the gondola says it’s an advanced/backcountry trail.

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We reached the trail head and pretty much immediately started going up. The trail has 340m of gain in 3km. The steepest section is at the beginning, but this was definitely a workout. We ended up getting to the top in just under 90 minutes, and the return trip was much faster (partly due to sliding down ;). I felt like we were hustling for most of the way up.

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The trail map says that the markers go from 1-44, but at the “top”, we only saw #33. The trail pretty clearly ended, and there was a spectacular viewpoint, which looks out to Garibaldi, Atwell, Tantalus peaks as well as Howe Sound. A connector trail called Robin’s Connector apparently leads to another viewpoint with views of Habrich itself, Sky Pilot, Copilot and Ledge peaks, but it wasn’t broken in and we weren’t really prepared to be trailfinding.

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Overall, I’d say that snowshoes were the way to go. We did see some people in with microspikes, but there were definitely some deep-snow sections. At the gondola, they recommended renting poles, which we decided not to do. It was totally fine without them, but you could see how they’d be helpful given the steep terrain. I don’t think it would have been worth the extra 10$/person.

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Trail comments in general: I thought this trail was really well marked for a backcountry trail. We never really wondered if we were in the right place, which is impressive given the amount of snowfall we’ve had.

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I will say that it’s not an easy go, and I’d make sure that you have ample time, snacks and of course the 10 essentials. We saw a few older kids (12+) on the trail on our way down, but I think the average child would have a hard time with this one. The views were totally, absolutely, 100% worth the tougher hike!

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When we got back, I was surprised at how busy the gondola area was! The cafe was bustling with people who rode the gondola up for lunch with a view. If you’re looking for an interesting lunch spot (maybe to take visitors) this could be great! Otherwise, it seemed a little bit expensive/typical ski-lodge food, so we decided to head down to Squamish for a late lunch.

We ended up at the Howe Sound brewery, which was really great. I had so much trouble deciding what to get, but ended up going with soup+salad with salmon on top (very typical lunch for me!). Jan had a burger (I think Christine did too) and a beer, which he said were both great. I got the soup of the day (tomato-lentil), and the cup size with a small salad was more than enough food.

photo creds, as usual, to the wonderful Jan Heuninck

Happy New Year! Looking Back at 2016 and Welcoming 2017

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Happy New Year! I have to admit that I don’t usually go nuts for New Year’s Eve, but I love the new year. It’s the perfect reminder to reset once a year, and I always take the opportunity to look back at the year that just ended and set some goals for the new one. I’ll post soon about those “resolutions” (goals? ideas? plans?) but for now, here’s a quick review of my 2016!

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Last year, I did a lot of things! We travelled to Thailand, Montreal, Toronto, New York City, Sacramento, and San Francisco. I met my goal to read 15 books. I backcountry camped, ran my first trail race, and moved in with Jan.

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I spent a lot of time with my favourite people, including family and both new friends and old (Dana + Mark, my parents, Alyson, and Jenny came to visit!).

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I passed the final step of the LMCC and accepted a position as the new Sports Medicine Fellow at UBC.

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Fitness-wise, I ran a lot and PB’ed in the 5k, 10k, half and full marathon (I qualified for Boston!). I hiked a lot. I canoed and snowshoed and cycled and skied. Here’s a recap of my year on Strava!

Since I was on call on NYE, the night was pretty low key. To make the day awesome, though, Jan and I decided we would start the year by watching the sun rise on 2017 from Seymour Mountain. We convinced Sarah and Alyson to join us (the Joffre lakes crew!) and left downtown at 6.15 on New Year’s Day.

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We were at the alpine parking lot by 7.10, and started to snowshoe up. It was absolutely beautiful, very quiet and snowy.

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We arrived at Brockton Point just as the sun was coming up and the city was all pink and lovely. It’s pretty amazing to be the only ones on a mountain at sunrise and is my favourite way I’ve ever started a new year.

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At Brockton point, it was pretty windy (Jan: “It’s a SNOWSTORM!”), so we decided not to go any further. Instead, we headed back down the mountain and we were in Van for brunch at Burdock and Co. (yummy but a little pricey) by 10.30. It’s a pretty easy out and back trip, with small steeper ascents and lots of flatter terrain in between.

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I feel so lucky to be surrounded by awesome people and so much nature. Bring on 2017!

 

Winter Fun

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Ever since the marathon, it’s been kind of nice to do a bit less running and a bit more playing outside. I had a great time this weekend snowshoeing on Cypress, running on the snowy seawall, and then playing in Stanley Park with Jan.

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Speaking of snow – there was a lot of it today. According to this chart, in 1948 Vancouver airport recorded 14.8 cm of snow. There were more than 5cm on the ground at our place today, and I’m sure other parts of the city got more.

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When we went out for a run from the store, we immediately came across a car getting hopelessly stuck trying to use the on-ramp to the Cambie bridge. Luckily, the guys were happy to help bail him out!

Saturday was an amazingly clear day up on Cypress – we went snowshoeing to celebrate Danielle’s birthday! It was cold, but so sunny and there was tons of snow up there!

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We climbed almost to the peak of Hollyburn mountain, which is pretty easy to access from the Nordic area of Cypress. Since we all already had snowshoes, it was really easy to just park the cars and head out onto the mountain.
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The views were fantastic! Alyson, Pargol, me, and Danielle all posted a bunch of photos on Instagram – honestly one of the best winter fun days I’ve had since I’ve been in Vancouver! img_8263

So, now that I’m not spending so much time running (the plan is to hover around 50km/week for a few weeks and then see how it goes), what should I do? I started keeping a list of fun winter activities I want to do this year:

  • Snowshoe grind – the Grouse Grind is closed at this time of year. I actually did hike up with Danielle about a week ago, but it was only when we came back down that I realized they close it because of avalanche risk! It was a beautiful night (we hiked up on BCMC with head lamps), but apparently there is an actual “snowshoe grind” that you can get to on Grouse – fun and actually safe.
  • Tobogganing – Jan has never been tobogganing! Everyone needs to do this! In Vancouver you can toboggan or snow tube on Seymour or the top of Grouse, but I think we’ll get out my family’s old, tried and true wooden toboggan over Christmas.

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  • Alpine snowshoeing – I’d definitely go back to Cypress, but I’d like to check out Seymour too.
  • Cross country skiing – you can do this on the North Shore mountains. I think there are lessons available too, which I’d need because I’ve not done very much.
  • Downhill skiing – I went to Whistler once last year, and while it was a really fun day, I have a few comments. As a day trip from Vancouver, it is a bit of a trek. Then, it’s crazy expensive (a day is $100). Finally, I’m not such a big skier that I need mountains as big as Whistler/Blackcomb. I found that I was working pretty hard to get down in once piece! So, I’m thinking this year will be about evening skiing on the local mountains – maybe more my speed.
  • Winter hiking/camping – Would be awesome to get to Elfin Lakes or Keith’s Hut.
  • And, just for fun, I’ll add Ice Climbing – apparently you can try it out in Squamish! Cool!

Anything to add to the list? I feel so lucky that I live in a place like this!