Well that went by quickly. No, seriously – where did 2015 go? Despite a dry and relatively snow-free winter that led to a long hiking season, somehow we didn’t feel that we made as much of it as we might have done. I certainly did a lot of hiking while I was looking for a new job, but on the whole we didn’t really touch as many new areas as we would have liked. Don’t get me wrong, we had a good season, getting to a few long-anticipated destinations, and having fun revisiting hikes we’ve enjoyed. But it wasn’t the hiking season we imagined. This is where I have to laugh at myself for being so picky – I mean, we have some of the most wonderful hiking right on our doorstep and I’m complaining that after a decade it’s not exciting any more? Pah!
Getting over that self-pitying nonsense, and looking back, there were clearly more than a few outstanding trips and some incredible moments. Reaching two summits that we’d previously attempted? Check. Visiting somewhere new? Check. Camping in stunning country? Check. Having fun? Check! OK that’s more like it. With that in mind, here is our top five trips from 2015:
- Lizzie-Stein Divide: our marquee trip of the year, and a destination that has been on our list for many years. This was a 5-day exploratory backpack to the alpine region of the Lizzie-Stein Divide and the headwaters of the Stein River. We’d done a 7-day traverse of the Stein Valley back in 2008 that took in a different alpine area, but the full Stein traverse begins here, and we wanted to case it out. Access is more difficult than it used to be as the road washed out in 2003. A decade of alder growth made it more challenging to get in, with almost a full day spent dealing with the overgrown logging road. Tedious and unexciting but much easier than I expected. And, to us, totally worth it – once in the alpine all those cares melted away and we simply enjoyed the vast wilderness terrain. Alas 5 days was really not long enough, so this area is well and truly still on our list!
- Mt Rohr: a satisfying way to finish off the above trip, we took a leisurely couple of days to camp at Rohr Lake and make our way to the summit of the same name. We’d attempted this peak once before back in 2009, but were turned back by time and snow. Making it back was something of a triumph, and wow what a reward – another amazing summit with fantastic views all around. This trip was a joy.
- Twin Lakes: another destination that we’ve been keen to visit for a few years now. Our trip wasn’t what we’d planned due to injury and weather, but we now have at least three reasons to return: to camp at the lakes, to scramble the neighbouring peaks, and to witness the stunning flower display. A bonus point for this trip was chatting with the two hunters who were staying at the ATV cabin, and exchanging wine for venison landjaeger. Good times.
- Needle Peak: finally! We’d attempted Needle Peak twice before, only to be thwarted by uncertainty and inexperience on our first visit, and weather on the second. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, and for a time I seriously thought I wouldn’t be able to find a way up that I wasn’t 100% confident of being able to descend. It looked like it was just going to be Maria’s peak (like Golden Ears back in 2008), until I followed some paint marks to a much easier approach onto the ridge. It still look a little nerve to squeeze over some rocks and make a short traverse with plenty of scope for pain if I got it wrong, but once past that the rest was just plain fun. I would revisit this peak in a heartbeat.
- Ptarmigan Ridge: a chance to get up close and personal with Mt Baker? Sign us up! This was a trip that a friend of ours rated as one of his top hikes ever, and it had been on our list for a couple of years. Our trip to Lake Ann last year had reminded us how beautiful the Mt Baker area is and we looked forward to a couple of days of awesome views. OK so we got one day of awesome views, and one day of absolutely zero views, thankfully in the right order so we had the place to ourselves hiking in. The mist and drizzle cleared overnight and we awoke to the most incredible sight; Mt Shuksan to the east, Mt Baker immediately to our south, and glaciers all around. Hiking to the end of the trail at the Portals is about as close as you can get to Mt Baker without resorting to mountaineering. Stunning.
We also have give a special mention to our trip to the Carmanah Lighthouse, where we glimpsed some of the beauty of the West Coast Trail in a flying visit courtesy of some friends of a friend. Blue sky, sandy beaches, fossils, whales, and great company. A pity it was only a weekend.
Some stats for the year:
- Number of hikes: 33
- Number of days hiking: 42 (more or less)
- Total distance: 501.3 km
- Total elevation gain: 26945 m
- Average per trip: 15.2 km, 816 m
- Average per equivalent day hike: 11.9, 642 m
Pretty similar to last year really, albeit with slightly fewer days spent hiking.
So that was 2015. What’s on the agenda for 2016? I have to say we’re really not sure at this point. Definitely a coastal hike – either the West or North Coast Trails – but beyond that we shall see. Too many options, most of which require a week or more, and not enough vacation time… But there will be hiking, there will be backpacking, there will be photographs. And as much time as we can muster being, outdoors.