Though it was 75 degrees in Whistler today, on top of the mountain I found myself surrounded by snow.
The town of Whistler sits in a valley between two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb. Both are ideal ski destinations in the winter; in the summer, they afford great opporutnities for sightseeing, hiking and gorgeous views of the British Columbia wilderness.
This afternoon I rode a chairlift up to the summit of Blackcomb Mountain, and then took the Peak 2 Peak gondola over to Whistler Mountain. There are plenty of scenic views to be seen during either ride, and visitors often spot black bears and other wildlife during their ascents. Hiking on the backside of the mountain, however, I found pristine environments, crystal glacial lakes and snowpacks that towered above my head.
A number of ski runs and access roads on Whistler Mountain are converted to hiking paths in the summer. From the gondola station, I took a lift to the very top of the mountain, then went for an hour-long hike back down along a path known as Pika’s Traverse, which wraps around the backside of the mountain not visibible from the village below. The trail is wide and relatively easy to walk, gently descending in elevation back to the main mountain station. On this isolated side of the mountain, the air is quiet and the views are expansive — all I could hear was the trickle of water running off of the melting snowcaps, accompanied by an occasional windy howl.
At the top of the mountain, sevral large glaciers are still covered with snow in August, and looking across the mountain range, I saw that some of the other peaks are completely snow-capped as well. As I walked along Pika’s Traverse, I would pass by large pockets of snow in the mountainside, and occassionally walk through passages in large snowbanks that were carved by snow-clearing equipment during the winter.
So although it’s the middle of summer, there is still lot of snow at the top of Whistler Mountain… and yet hiking through it in short sleeves and jeans, I didn’t feel cold at all. It’s an amazing phenomenon, and it made for some amazing views on the backside of the mountain.