Whistler Skywalk (or not)

November 2014 with the Golden Agers Hiking Club. I’m not a member (though technically I qualify) though there is a fair bit of membership overlap with Nature Vancouver. All their trips occur on Tuesdays and Thursdays so those of us who still work weekdays are usually unavailable, but with a holiday on Tuesday there was no better way to spend the day than to tag along. Hikers: Ron and Betty E (leaders), Diane F, Carol E, Margot W, Paul V, Judith, Carla, Roland, Dave A and another Dave, Gian, Sheila, Hildegard, and others whose names I don’t remember.

The Whistler Skywalk is nothing to do with any overpriced Rocky Mountain tourist attractions but is rather a real hike on a trail. It’s a recently developed trail on the northeast slopes of Rainbow Mountain, running off the Flank trail past Screaming Cat Lake and into what reports show to be spectacular alpine country.

We didn’t get there.

But we did enjoy some terrific views on the Flank trail, and I think I know where we went wrong (I wasn’t leading, and none of the trips I lead ever make wrong turns. And if you believe that, I can give you a great deal on the Lions Gate Bridge).

We started from the (highly inaccurately named) Alpine Meadows subdivision, at the end of Alpine Way. Carefully noting the No Parking signs at the gate and the turnaround, we managed to park out of the way of traffic and set out on the old logging road which picks up where Alpine Way ends. Noted that a black diamond mountain bike trail named “Mandatory Suicide” begins from the same location. Apparently that’s also the name of a song, and no I don’t want to hear it.

We headed up the old road, past a viewpoint trail named Rick’s Roost, where we eventually met up with the Flank trail. This is a mostly mid-elevation trail that runs along the, uh, flanks of Mount Sproatt and Rainbow Mountain. It begins at some indistinct location in the lower Callaghan Valley, runs past Function Junction, intersects the Rainbow Lake trail, and runs north around Rainbow Mountain to some indistinct destination. It is rumoured that the new Skywalk trail runs off the Flank somewhere in its northern reaches, but it’s a new trail and not quite ready for prime time, so maps and signage are close to non-existent.

Here at this junction we turned left/south on the Flank trail, and I believe we should have gone right/north. But we followed the Flank trail south through second growth forest and a couple of excellent viewpoints where the fresh snow on Wedge Mountain, Blackcomb and others reminded us that we were well into November. A sign here advised us that we’d come 4 km from Alpine Meadows and that continuing the way we were going we were 11.4 km from Rainbow Lake.

Apparently this viewpoint is well used by hang-gliders, as attested by the windsock in a tall tree. It occurred to me that someone would have had to climb that tree to install it and the long pole it’s mounted on. I expect that anyone who would want to go hang-gliding would likely be the sort of person who would also do that.

We were at this viewpoint right at 11:00 a.m., so it was not only our elevenses but, this being November 11th, a time for a moment of silence. Not observed by all, unfortunately.

We continued on the trail which soon narrowed from a disused road into a real trail. We passed a junction which appeared to be Binty’s trail and then got to another trail which appeared to be called Jaws, marked by a sign with a drawing of a shark’s mouth and a little plastic shark hanging in a tree.

From there we headed up a steep trail and eventually into some rocky bits with frost, ice and snow. It didn’t take long to establish that, for a newly developed trail, this trail looked fairly well established if not well maintained. We continued until 1:00 which was our agreed-upon lunch and turnaround time, at an elevation of 1450 metres and with GPS showing us rather further south than we should have been.

This was probably a climbers access trail; if we’d continued we would likely have broken into alpine on the eastern slopes of Rainbow Mountain, and in midsummer we could have continued. But in November with it getting dark at 5 pm that was not an option.

But we did have some good views, and with some more research there will likely be a Nature Vancouver trip here maybe in 2015.

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