I don’t love chairlifts. Cable cars are ok, though there was that one time when we were stuck in a stalled gondola hundreds of metres above dense jungle with a crazy guy with a backpack, yelling and cursing in a language we didn’t understand (true story), so maybe, cable cars are generally ok. But, open chairlifts have that special kind of spookiness you get when you’re sitting on a narrow bar, suspended above jagged rocks, hoping the maintenance guy remembered to tighten the bolts before he left for his vacation in Florida.
Anyways, Raylene, our guide on last night’s No Bear viewing tour, happened to mention that there’s a great walk down from Whistler peak. Her last words, “it might be a bit difficult for older people” were all it took to make this our number one priority for the day. So, here we are, off at the crack of dawn – well, actually closer to lunchtime, but hey, we’re on holidays. Stage one is a gondola to the main tourist stop on Whistler Mountain. Then, we plan to jump on the chairlift for the last couple of thousand feet to the peak.
We’re about halfway up when the unexpected happens. No, not a breakdown (we expect those), a flash of brown fur in a clearing ahead. “Er, I think that’s a bear.” Nanette spots it too. Yep, definitely a bear. The gondola rocks as everyone crowds against the front window. We’re a bit disappointed to see the brown patch disappear into the trees, then, there they are – a mother black bear and her cub strolling along the edge of the clearing. The camera’s at the bottom of the backpack, so it’s trusty iPhones to the rescue. The gondola is whizzing along fast and we’re pretty high, so it will need to swipe, tap, swipe again, tap again while we have the chance. “Hey, if we pull the emergency cord, they’ll stop the cable and we can ….” Ok, bad idea.
We leave the gondola feeling pretty good. Not one bear, but two! Now we just have to negotiate that goat track down to the chairlift station and we’re off to the peak. Did I mention the open chair? Did I mention the extremely jagged rocks? Did I mention it’s cold and windy? This better be worth it!
The peak is amazing. Everywhere you turn there are vistas of mountains with the last remnants of last season’s snow. We ooh and aah. We take lots of pics, and maybe even a couple of selfies. Look, there’s that track down. Nanette is a bit dubious. “It looks pretty steep, and why are all those people coming back up the track?” We go anyway. Yes, it is steep. Yes, the gravel is very slippery, and we both come close to losing our balance a few times, but the views are amazing, and we don’t have to go back down on the chairlift.