Day 7 – First Day in Whistler & I’m Shattered

Graham came over right on 9am, while I was out in the van putting the last touches on organising myself for riding. I was happy to discover I was kitting up very similar to him, so I’d dressed appropriately! We rode off from Sheilagh’s house on the street like bandits and used some of the many off-road bike paths around Whistler to get to our first trail. I couldn’t tell you the names of most of the trails we did. Graham told me what each one was, but with a memory like a sieve, all I know is that they were all very pretty. The circuit we did was very flowy with ups and downs the whole way. A huge and very welcome contrast to the Vancouver ride from yesterday. The trails we did initially were easy, all following the Cheakamus River, which even when it’s “trickling”, is a force to behold. The water, when it’s not clear, is the most beautiful colour of aqua.

We rode over a suspension bridge and on a few small circuite on the opposite side, getting into more technical stuff. I think Graham had been sussing me out and once he discovered I wasn’t useless, expanded the horizons a bit. I was just happy to be getting a local’s point of view. None of the trails we rode were signposted and some of them hardly noticeable! The best bit was a trail called Trash. Tucked away not far from a road, it meandered around some boulders and into forest, resulting in technical but beautiful up and down sections of trail. Halfway through this trail, we came upon a sort of waterfall that was literally right at our feet. Breathtaking to see such a volume of water flowing past and getting dumped in the pool below. Onwards and we finished our ride with a trail that follows the railroad back to Creek Side. We were out for just under two hours and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. The sun had come out and it was turning into a beautiful day.

I was going to be ambitious and do the Sky Trail, but Graham talked me into instead doing one of the alpine trails on Blackcomb mountain (the peak four kilometres across from Whistler peak). With Sheilagh’s season pass, I opted for that choice since I was realistically pretty tired after my activities the last two days. The two trails at the top worth doing were the Decker Loop on Blackcomb and the High Side Trail on Whistler peak. I was convinced I’d be able to do both, but Graham didn’t like the chances of my timing for that plan. He ummed and arred about coming with me since he hadn’t been on the mountain at all this year, but he ended up passing because of some things he had to get done at home. I made a couple of wraps and threw some snacks in my backpack and donned my trail shoes (might work better than Teva’s). At the van, I packed a few more things and filled my Camelbak. Almost ready to go and I managed to spill water out of my ten liter container all over the floor of the van and specifically on top of my camera and my phone. The electronics survived just fine and some towelling fixed the rest. Whoops. I was off just before twelve I think, with one wrap already being eaten and more for later.

Out of the five parking lots at Whistler, two are free and predictably these are the furthest two from the village. Still, it’s a good system and the walk isn’t too much. I found a park right in the back corner of lot 5 and meandered towards the village. It is a very pretty set up, all because of the Olympics I think. It’s like most skiing villages with lots of shopping and squares. I wandered all the way through to the other end of the village where the lifts were.

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As soon as I got within sight of the MTB lift, the Whistler Express, I was in awe of the bling around me. Everyone was wearing armour and pads, I didn’t see any forks with less than three crowns and I’m sure everyone’s bike is a lot nicer than mine. Badass is the word that came to mind. I watched at the base of the mountain to see riding tearing down the last section of the course and also saw how the lifts worked. Similar to Mammoth with bikes on one chair, people on the next.

The sky was already clouding over a little so I head over to the tourists gondola, hoping that I wouldn’t get caught using Sheilagh’s pass. I definitely wasn’t going to pay the $57 for the privilege and on top of that, there was a huge queue for buying tickets. And this is on a cloudy/rainy looking Friday afternoon. I observed for a few minutes at the gondola entry and assessed that security was lax enough for me to get through. Sure enough, no worries. I lined up with the tourists next to the mountain bikers and was on a gondola within minutes. The ride up was half an hour, with beautiful views of the village and surrounding lakes below. Towards the top, Whistler peak came into view, a separate chair lift ride to the top. I was feeling a little nervous in my shorts, thinking I might have underdressed it, but as I stepped out, it wasn’t too bad. I made straight for the Peak-to-Peak Gondola. This is the longest gondola in the world I think and connects Whistler Peak to Blackcomb Mountain (Blackcomb being slightly taller than Whistler). This really is an engineering feat. You could see down into the valley and over into the mountain ranges where glaciers crept from top to bottom. Absolutely stunning views.

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At Blackcomb mountain, I started out on the Decker loop per Graham’s suggestion. It was easy going to begin with, then when I veered off at the Lake Loop, it was a little more rocky. It was impressive to see views of the two glaciers tucked away in the mountains along the hike. There were still a few wildflowers out as well. At the lake, I wasn’t the most impressed, honestly because Lake Ediza and the six other lakes I saw in the Ansel Adams wilderness. Onwards I hit the actual Decker trail, which was graded black. It was very similar to the Chief walk. Maybe a little less steep, but a lot of rocky steps to get up. I got to the outlook feeling my tired body from the activities of the last few days. It was a beautiful view, but didn’t really have a climax, it was the same view you could see all along the hike, but now it was closer. As I started my descent, the rocks turned into trail again and the raindrops started to fall, only very lightly, but the clouds started to cover the mountains. I’m glad I made it in time to see the views before they were covered. Most of the trail back was on the same route I’d taken out, so I pretty much had my head down out of the rain and walked on. It was way longer than I thought it had been coming out. When I had a look at the map later, I discovered I’d walked about 12 km! I’d started at 1:30 and was back on the peak-to-peak gondola heading back to Whistler peak at about 3:45.

A few of the carriages on the gondola have a glass bottom, which has a separate line at the loading station if you’re willing to wait for the experience. I never could be bothered, but as I rocked up to the gondola line, a glass-floor carriage turned up. There was a group of about 40 Indians in the glass-floor line that all eagerly moved towards the carriage. The poor operator was trying to control the crowd, explaining the only eighteen people were allowed per carriage. They all ignored him completely and were pushing and shoving each other to get on! He shouted and had to interject his arms as someone from inside the carriage tried to pull his wife in. He eventually got five people out to make it eighteen and off they went. This is all amongst shouting in Indian and lots of arm waving by the fat men and women. The operator got mad at them all and rightly so. The next carriage came so the few of us waiting got on. It was a small group of French people, me and some of the Indians that decided not to wait for the next glass-floor. Immediately after the doors closed, they started shouting and arguing. Then the French interjected, saying there was no need to shout and that they needed silence to enjoy the journey. I was on the side of the French. One of the Indian women (who was overweight) sat down right next to me, wedging me into a corner, even though there was plenty of space on the bench. I don’t think she stopped fiddling with the sash over her shoulder the whole trip, constantly hitting me with her arm. And she smelt! So glad I didn’t pay for this privilege!

Back at Whistler Peak, the last chair lift to the top was at 4pm, so I was just too late, but the weather had turned pretty foul so I don’t think I would have taken the opportunity anyway. The wind had picked up and I was now definitely underdressed in my shorts. I went into the lodge at the top of the gondola. I needed a serious sit down and some more food. I’d had a snickers bar on the trail, but that wasn’t enough to tide me over until dinner. I sat at a window and ate all of my remaining food, still not feeling sustenance. After my rest, I went back to the gondola and travelling down with a Chinese family of three.

When I stepped out at the bottom I was thoroughly cold. I had plans to meet Dan, a mate from Brissie, for dinner at 7pm and it wasn’t quite 5pm so I made for the car and a change of clothes. It was raining, but not hard, so I didn’t get too wet in my rain jacket on the way back. In the car, I donned my thermal pants and boots and actually got under the covers in bed for a while to plan the next section of my journey back to SF.

I head to the El Furniture Warehouse in the village to meet Dan. He had suggested it because all meals are $5. Sweet deal! We met up right on 7 and got straight into catching up. It was great to hear about all of his travels. I didn’t realise he’d been living in Whistler since May. I’m sure he’s pro level by now. I can imagine it would be nice to live in a place like this long term, I can see how he’s done it so long.

We were both pretty wrecked so called it at 9pm, planning to hit the bike park tomorrow when the lift opens at 10am. So stoked to ride with him! I was out like a light, exhausted from another massive day.

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