What do you mean there might be bears!

By Linda Gill - Community Stories

When our son, John who is a keen trekker, first suggested that he would like to take my husband, Chris, who is also a keen trekker, on a hike/climb in Garibaldi Provincial Park when we came to Vancouver from England for a holiday, I decided it was bound to be too hard for me. But after much discussion, via Skype, about the route we decided that with a bit of training I should be able to do the hike but would not attempt the 2 big climbs, Castle Towers and Black Tusk. It was decided that I would wait at the bottom while they did the ascents. That was fine with me until John mentioned that there might be bears but not to worry – they would leave me with the bear spray just in case!! Well I can say that I was a little bit perturbed by the mention of bears but tried to push it to the back of my mind.

With the decision made that I would do the hike, I now needed to do some training. This involved 6 weeks of several hikes a week carrying a rucksack full of bags of flour, liter bottles of water and other things to get the weight we thought I would have to carry of 15kg.

On the fourth week, Chris and I went to the Yorkshire Dales, UK to do a 3-day practice hike. On the first day we climbed Whernside (736M), on the second day we climbed Pen-y-gent (694M) and Ingleborough (723M) and finally on the third day we climbed Ingleborough again, each time carrying rucksacks full of flour and water. It was exhausting but I felt I was now ready.

We arrived in Vancouver on the Wednesday night and had a couple of days to get over the jet lag. We did some food shopping to get the food for the 3 days and this included bags of Trail mix, porridge and several wrap sandwiches each. Then we set off early on the Saturday morning for the Cheakamus Lake parking area to begin the hike.

I thought I had done enough training but I soon realized that it was going to be much harder than I expected. First we walked 8 km up hill through the forest following the Helm Creek Trail.

That was fine and we had a pleasant lunch by a stream. Then we walked through an open meadow, across the cinder flats and finally came to Helm Peak.

John decided not to go up the main ridge but to skirt round and go up the right hand side. This proved to be a very steep grassy slope which I found extremely hard to get up. Thankfully John came to my aid and after getting to the top and dropping off his rucksack he came back and took mine up for me which made it much easier and I finally made it to the top.

By now it was 4:30 in the afternoon and I was very tired. The clouds had started to descend and with it the rain. We knew from the weather forecast the night before that there was snow on Castle Towers and because of the low cloud we couldn’t see it to assess the conditions with any certainty and the brief glimpses we got showed more snow that we had anticipated. As a result it was decided they weren’t going to be able climb it and that we should start back down along the ridge to find a spot where we could make camp. Everyone was disappointed that the climb was off but safety comes first. The only good thing about it was that I wasn’t going to be left on my own for 6 hours with the bears!

We descended down the ridge and dropped below the cloud level and out into a dry, sunny evening and found a place to put up our tents. Then we had to heat water one at a time for our pasta-in-a-bag meal. Unfortunately, by this time I was so tired that I had lost my appetite and struggled to finish my meal, much to Johns delight as he got what was left.

What followed was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen and it made the efforts of the day all worthwhile. As the darkness descended John announced that we would have to put all our food and anything with a smell in bags to be put up a tree in case bears came in the night. This was when it really hit home that there could be bears and I must say I was a bit worried. We all went to bed at 20:30 as we were all tired and there was no way I was getting out of the tent again until the morning. Just in case of bears!The next day we started bright and early and after decamping, leaving everything as we had found it, we descended the ridge to find a stream so we could make our breakfast – porridge with a hand full of Trail mix. It was very tasty.

We then set off across the meadow, past a lovely pond with the mountains reflecting in it, across the Cinder Flats, which was like walking across a moonscape, heading for the Black Tusk.

The plan was for the others to climb the Tusk while I waited at the bottom with the bear spray! Unfortunately, like the day before, by the time we got to the bottom of the Tusk the rain had started again and it was decided that it was too risky to climb it, so we turned the other way to make an attempt at Panorama Ridge.

As we started our assent I realized that yesterday had taken more out of me then I had expected and I was finding the going tough.

I pushed on though and as we neared the top it started to get very steep and as I have a fear of heights I was really struggling. John and Chris stepped in and managed to talk me round enough to get me up the last bit. I can’t say I enjoyed it on the top. I had to stay in the middle of the plateau, sitting on a rock, as going too near the edge made me very panicky. As the clouds parted and the sun came through I did manage to calm down enough to look at the marvelous views of the turquoise waters of Garibaldi Lake and the magnificent mountains all around and to have some photos taken to prove I made it to the top. Then I had to get back down!

Our original plan had been to camp another night but as the weather had not been good and didn’t look like it was going to improve the decision was made that we had just enough daylight left to head back down off Panorama Ridge, back the way we had come and then head back via our original route to the car.

I must say that the last 8km back down through the forest to the car was the longest I have ever walked. The path seemed to go on and on. Finally at 7pm, after walking and climbing for 12 hours, we arrived back at the car. Exhausted, happy I had managed to do the hardest hike I have ever done and really happy there had been no bears!

I would just like to thank Chris for all his help in getting me prepared for the hike. Also John and his partner Claire for all their encouragement and help while on the hike and for those out there who think you can’t do it. With the right preparation and people to support you, you can achieve much more then you think.

Click here to see the full trip report from our Garibaldi Park adventure

By Linda Gill

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