With the weather forecast in doubt and a cloudy morning settling over the city, we set out early from Vancouver in two cars. A few last-minute additions made sure that this daytrip to Panorama Ridge would see a well-sized group of 9 hikers enjoying an early-July Saturday in Garibaldi. Following the traditional stop off in Squamish for coffees and second breakfasts, we took off northward on the Sea-to-Sky to the trailhead.
Looking around in the parking lot, we realized the trail would be busier than expected. After gearing up, we set out upwards through the humid switchbacks below Barrier Lake. A light rain started and could be felt in the breaks of the canopy, but for most of us, this was welcome and refreshing. Heading left at the first fork, we ascended into the alpine valley.
After eating lunch in the cabin, we covered distance quickly through the easy-going Taylor Meadows. Visibility remained poor though, and the stubborn overcast skies refused to open up. Before clearing the tree-line, we stopped at the fork leading to Cheakamus Lake. A lazy marmot posted up on a boulder examined us for a bit, only to decide that we weren’t worth the worry. Just about everyone let out a chuckle or an “aww” after peering at him through a set of binoculars that were passed down the line.
We continued onto the snowpack and up towards Panorama Ridge. Dark clouds and rain columns remained visible to the north, but luckily for us, the precipitation held off – just a light intermittent drizzle. The grade steepened and the route alternated between wet snow and scree. A few of us, seemingly ambitious to reach the foggy and viewless summit, raced upwards to the final peaks. The biting wind was persistent. After reaching the top, we stayed only for a warm drink. Mint tea. And a quick snack. Then we turned back.
After clearing the majority of the scree on the ridge, we set foot back onto the snow pack. Soon, at the crest of one downward slope, some of us stopped to survey the best route down. Initiated only by a few simultaneous glances amongst the hikers, a handful of us began excitedly boot-skiing down the section. We picked up speed quickly, and admittedly, there were a few hilarious bails. Shaking off the snow, we walked down the rest of slope into the meadow where we took some time to appreciate Black Tusk Lake. The area was sheltered from the wind, and the calm lake sharply reflected the landscape behind it. Minutes later, we’d pass by our old friend – the marmot. Sure enough, it was still sprawled out on its favourite rock. But now the family had joined. In total there were two adults and two youngsters, who were bouncing around merrily. Not a bad spot for play time.
The rain on the rest of the return hike was at most a drizzle. For a few minutes as we passed a vista of Garibaldi Lake, a few beams of sunlight hinted at its vibrant alpine colour. We continued down for a quick break at the cabin, and descended back through the switchbacks. A dense fog enveloped the slope-side rainforest, and it created a tranquil eeriness. Upon arrival at the trailhead, we checked our watches. Hiking time for the 30km was just under 9 hours.
It was late, but our stomachs demanded a reward. As a result, we were pretty happy to find out that “Essence of India” in Squamish was open. The Indian restaurant had an awesome menu that catered to everyone. Over a late, delicious dinner, we shared conversation and closed out a great hiking day. If only it hadn’t been so foggy…