You know a movie is really good if you can watch it more than once and still discover new twists in the plot. Whistler Mountain is a bit like that. I’m not talking about the village here – that’s just a spot on a map where lots of people gather from time to time. I’m talking about the mountain itself.
Whistler is more or less the last stop in our travel adventure with Wayne and Cathy before we head into Vancouver for some family time. We don’t plan to ski, partly because there’s no real snow in mid-summer, but mainly because we, like most Aussies, never learned the art and it’s way too late to start now. What we do plan to do is enjoy a couple of relaxing strolls around the village, eat our fill at places with traditional alpine names like “The Old Spaghetti Factory”, and then do the combined gondola, hike, gondola, chairlift mountain experience. Oh, and Wayne wants to see more bears. I try to remind him that we saw four bears two days ago, which is four more than most Canadians see in their lifetimes, but he still lives in hope.
As planned, we’re up at the crack of dawn (which is 9am when you’re on mountain time), and off to buy our gondola passes. A short time later, we’re loaded aboard and creaking our way up the mountain. Oooh – there’s the village below. Aaah – there’s the line of snow-capped peaks. Woah – there’s a bear! We can’t tell what kind, but he’s really big, and brown, and shambling around past the front door of one of the houses across the way. As fate would have it, the gondola comes to a sudden mid-air stop – one minute after we have reached the point where we can no longer see the bear. We look back towards the next gondola, which should be in prime viewing position. It’s empty. Ah well, that’s how it goes.
The delay is pretty short, and we’re soon deposited at the “top”. There’s a great view from here, but we want to grab a ride on the Peak to Peak gondola across to Blackcomb Mountain while the early crowd is distracted. The trip across the valley is not only spectacular, but we hear a guy telling his “potential girlfriend” that this is the longest cable car span in the world. Time now for a short hike up one of the trails, a coffee at the café, then we can head back across to the Whistler side for the main attraction – the Whistler peak. Oh, and we see another bear on the way back, but who’s counting.
Nanette and I visited the peak when we were here last year and really loved the walk back down to the top gondola station. It’s long, and steep, and slippery – but it offers some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve ever seen. There’s a short(ish) hike across to the base of the open chairlift that will take us up to the peak, but we reckon it’s just a warm-up. … Up we go. Oh look, there’s someone’s hat down there, and a coat, and some sunglasses, and – wow – are we going to crash into that sheer rock face?
To our surprise, the peak is even more spectacular than last time. The air is clear, the sun is shining, and there’s plenty of snow on the peaks after the recent long cold winter. Out with cameras and phones. Do like everyone else and pose for a shot under the modern version of the Inuksuk that symbolises mankind across the Arctic. Now, time to start our descent.
Over the next half hour or so we stop to take pictures about a zillion times, just stand and look each time we round another bend, and slip and slide as we descend the steep gravelly road. After that, we do all of the above, plus make comments about sore feet and calves, interspersed by chuckling at the snippets of conversations we overhear from the groups we meet going up the other way – “I think we’re nearly there” (No you’re not) … “Daddy, can you carry me” (Good luck with that) …. “I told you we should take the chairlift, but oh no, you had to …” (We feel your pain brother).
Now, all we have left to complete a great day is a very late lunch up here where we can see the view, another ride across on the Peak to Peak so we can go back to the village via a different route, a ride down on an open chairlift, and, just to prove that you never get the same experience twice, two more bear sightings.
As a bonus, here’s a link to a 360 degree pic I posted to Street View from this track last year