Black Mountain, 31 Mar 2010

Contrary to the weather forecast, the skies were clearing fast and, with Maria heading out for a dance practice, I decided to head out to catch sunset from one of the local summits. A quick check of the Cypress website told me that the Black Mountain winter route was open again and I opted for that, given that it is the shortest hike. I figured that I could reach the summit in 45 minutes or so if I worked hard.

I left home a bit later than I intended and I didn’t leave the car until 7.15 pm, only 25 minutes before sunset. Hmmm. I walked as fast as I could, past the skiers who were done for the day. I began to wonder about our car being the only one left in the car park, and hoped that no one would call search and rescue. I should have left a note on the dashboard.

Black Mountain snowshoe, 31 Mar 2010 Black Mountain snowshoe, 31 Mar 2010

I put on my snowshoes at the beginning of the trail and set off at as fast a pace as I thought I could sustain. Well, that would have been fine had I been in shape but the lack of exercise over the winter meant that I was soon totally out of breath. I had to push really hard to get myself up the slope, not helped by the fact that the trail heads more or less straight up the mountain. Yes, it’s a shorter route to the summit now, but shorter almost always means steeper.

As I gained some elevation I looked at the warm evening light on Mt Strachan behind me. Soon the West Lion came into view, the clouds teasing me and leaving me wondering if I’d even see the Lions at the top. I decided to keep going, pushing myself up through the switchbacks alongside the empty ski run. Despite my lazy winter, I was making quite good time but I don’t remember the last time I felt my heart pounding quite so hard…

Soon I left the ski run behind and I knew I was getting close. I followed the trail through the trees. There were no marker poles, but the orange summer trail markers were visible on the trees, and I was not the first person to head up this way today (thankfully!). A bit further and the trail levelled off as I reached the Black Mountain summit plateau.

Black Mountain snowshoe, 31 Mar 2010 Black Mountain snowshoe, 31 Mar 2010

The horizon was still orange as I approached Cabin Lake. A line of snowshoe prints headed off over the lake and it was so tempting to follow. Another line went off to my left up to the south summit. I turned right and headed up the last hundred metres to the north summit, pausing to take another couple of shots along the way. It was a little over 40 minutes since I’d left the car.

Once at the summit I dropped my pack and stood admiring the scene. Everywhere was blue: the sky, the snow and the water. And I realized I was standing in utter silence, not even a breeze. I closed my eyes and soaked in the peace and quiet (now that my heart rate was back down to normal). Living in the city you get used to a level of background noise, and I reminded myself that one of the things I love most about hiking is reaching somewhere where that noise cannot be heard. Finding it so close to the city felt like I’d stumbled upon a precious gem, something to treasure. It further occurred to me that my lack of hiking and snowshoeing over the winter meant I was running a significant deficit of quiet and I savoured every moment.

In between savourings I set up the tripod and took a number of photos, especially of the Lions, which were a lovely shade of pale blue. My earlier worries about clouds were thankfully unfounded, though some drifted over St Mark’s and Unnecessary Mountain. The view from Black Mountain is under-appreciated and has much to offer, including Howe Sound, the Sea-to-Sky highway, the distance Tantalus Range and, of course, the Lions. To the east, the lights on Mt Strachan traced a line of bright dots along an empty ski run.

Black Mountain snowshoe, 31 Mar 2010 Black Mountain snowshoe, 31 Mar 2010

I had planned to sip my hot chocolate and eat my blackberry pie in the peace and quiet, but the time was passing and I didn’t want to risk an emergency call due to a lone car in the downhill ski lot. I shouldered my pack and set off again, bounding through the soft snow.

Heading down was easy and fast. Somehow at the bottom of the switchbacks I lost the trail and ended up on the ski slope, though that didn’t matter as there were no skiers around. Within 20 minutes of leaving the summit I was back at the lodge, and ready to leave by 8.40 pm. Well worth it even though I missed sunset.

Distance: 5 km
Elevation gain: 300 m
Photos on Flickr

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