Valhalla Climbing

Valhalla Climbing

After spending a fantastic week canoeing on Slocan Lake, I really wanted to explore the mountains higher up. Valhalla Provincial Park is an alpine paradise that few people ever visit. The interior of the park is hidden by big hills that block the view from the lake and road below. But, believe me, it’s worth the effort to hike up and explore this enchanting place.

Después de pasar una semana maravillosa en el Lago de Slocan, me quedé con las ganas de conocer las montañas más altas. El Parque Provincial de Valhalla es un paraíso alpino que poca gente conoce. Está rodeado de colinas y cerros que bloquean la vista de las montañas desde el lago y la carretera. Pero créanme, que vale la pena subir a conocer este lugar de ensueño.

– Valhalla: a mountain paradise
– Valhalla: como indica el nombre nórdico, es un paraíso para quien ama las montañas

The Gimli Ridge trail starts at the end of a forest service road that can be a bit rough. Watch out for the water bars. Once you reach the spacious parking lot at the trailhead, don’t forget about the pesky porcupines who have a taste for brake lines. Cover your vehicle with as much chicken wire as you can muster.

El sendero que va hacia las montañas más impresionantes es accesible por un camino forestal que puede ser irregular, por lo que es mejor conducir un vehículo cuatro por cuatro. Hay un estacionamiento bastante grande para diez automóviles. Una vez allí, no olviden que ya están en la naturaleza salvaje canadiense. Los puercoespines están dispuestos a comer todo lo que puedan, ¡incluso los tubos de freno! Por esta razón hay que cubrir el auto con alambre de gallinero o cualquier otro tipo de malla bastante resistente para evitar a los traviesos animales canadienses.

– Gimli peak looms over the parking lot
– Empezamos el incómodo proceso de cubrir nuestra camioneta con alambre de gallinero
– Filling up on water
– Agua fría y deliciosa

It took us two hours to climb the trail, gaining almost 800m. Once we got to the improvised camping area we were relieved to find a big wall of rocks stacked up to block the wind that tends to whip through without warning.

Caminamos por el sendero durante dos horas para subir casi 800 metros. Al llegar a la zona para acampar, encontramos un muro de rocas construido para bloquear los vientos fuertes que suelen llegar sin previo aviso.

– A rock wall keeps our tents from getting blown away
– Gracias al muro, el viento no destruye nuestras carpas

Good thing because as soon as we had the tents set up a storm blew in. The rain battered us while we tried to cook dinner. The temperature fell and the rain turned to snow. That’s summer in the mountains of Canada for you.

Menos mal porque nada más montar las tiendas de campaña, enseguida llegó una tormenta. La lluvia nos golpeaba mientras tratábamos de cocinar la cena. La temperatura cayó y la lluvia se convirtió en nieve. Así es el verano en las montañas de Canadá.

– Typical summer in the mountains
– Verano en Canadá

I woke up the next morning to an unexpected sight. We were surrouned by curious mountain goats! Tourists come from far and wide to see these solitary animals and we have the luck to find them right outside our tents. The baby goats couldn’t possibly be cuter 🙂

Al despertarme la mañana siguiente tuve un avistamiento inesperado. Estábamos rodeados de cabras de montaña. ¡Qué emoción! Los turistas vienen de todas partes para ver animales salvajes solitarios y teníamos la suerte de encontrarlos justo fuera de nuestras carpas. Los chivos no podían ser más cariñosos.

– What are you looking at?
– ¿Quienes son los visitantes: nosotros o las cabras?

The favourable weather forecast had encouraged us but there was still a blanket of fog in the morning. Not exactly the best conditions for climbing. But still, I really wanted to get on top of one of these beautiful peaks.

La previsión del tiempo nos había animado pero todavía había niebla. No son las condiciones perfectas para escalar. Sin embargo, tenía muchas ganas de conquistar una de esas hermosas cimas.

– Gimli Peak
– Gimli: una escalada de más de 400 metros verticales

Gimli Peak is the most prized climb with plenty of steep and arduous routes. Given the wet weather, instead we chose the west ridge of Mount Niselheim as our objective. Then, if it started to rain, or worse, we wouldn’t be trapped halfway up a big cliff face.

La Cima de Gimli es la montaña más preciada de esta zona por sus rutas empinadas y arduas. Debido al tiempo lluvioso, elegimos la cresta oriental de Monte Niselheim como nuestro objetivo. Así, si lloviera demasiado no estaríamos atrapados en la mitad de una escalada muy larga.

– Our objective: Mount Niselheim
– Niselheim: un buen reto para un día mojado

I really enjoyed the ascent. As we climbed, the views just kept getting better. I was surprised to encounter so much snow still. It looked more like June rather than July. The lakes below in the basin were still frozen solid.

Disfrutaba mucho mientras ascendía. A medida que íbamos subiendo, podía observar vistas increíbles. Estaba sorprendido al ver que quedaba mucha nieve. Algo poco común para ser julio, más bien, parecía como si aún siguiera siendo junio. Los lagos debajo, en la cuenca, todavía estaban congelados.

– Looking down at Mulvey Lake
– La vista hacia Lago de Mulvey

Just below the summit a friendly marmot popped up out of the rocks. They’re usually pretty timid animals but this one was so curious that he practically came up and let us pet him. Maybe he just wanted a taste of our lunch.

Justo debajo de la cima encontramos una marmota. Suelen ser tímidas pero esta era tan curiosa que prácticamente nos tocó. Tal vez quería probar nuestro delicioso almuerzo.

– Friendly marmot
– Una marmota para nada tímida

On the summit we celebrated a successful climb and enjoyed a little break. The fog came and went revealing fantastic views then, suddenly, hiding them again. Everyone likes sunny days but my secret is that I love the fog and the mysterious feeling it creates.

Una vez en la cima celebramos y disfrutamos de un pequeño descanso. La niebla iba y venía, revelando vistas fantásticas y, de repente, escondiéndolas. A todo el mundo le gustan los días soleados pero mi secreto es que a mí me encanta la niebla y su sentido misterioso.

– On the summit!
– En la cima
– Summit views
– Vista desde la cima de Niselheim

On the way back we dropped down into the basin and climbed back up again toward the ridge. There was just a narrow tongue of snow to regain the ridge. From afar, it looked impossible but once there it was much easier than it looks. Just don’t miss that exact spot!

De regreso, bajamos a la cuenca y subimos de nuevo a la cresta. Había sólo una fina lengua de nieve la cual sirve para subir a la cresta. Desde lejos parece imposible pero, una vez allí, es mucho más fácil de lo que parece.

– Getting back onto the ridge after a failed shortcut
– Recuperamos la cresta: hay que seguir la ruta exacta para subir a la cresta desde aquí

The next day we climbed Wolf’s Ears, a jagged peak on the east side of Gimli. The climb was more difficult, both because it’s more technical and because the weather was taking a turn for the worse. There was so much fog I didn’t take a single photo. On our way back to pack up our tents it began to rain hard. We saw that other climbers had arrived and a pair of them were on the classic route up Gimli without a realistic option of descending off the route. Good thing we chose a more manageable objective.

Al día siguiente subimos una montaña al otro lado de Gimli que se llama Las Orejas del Lobo. La escalada fue más difícil tanto por ser aún más técnica como por el mal tiempo. ¡Había tanta niebla que no tomé ni una foto! Al regreso a la zona para acampar empezó a llover fuerte. Vimos que habían llegado otros alpinistas y un par de ellos estaba en la ruta más clásica de Gimli sin la opción de descender con cuerda. ¡Qué afortunados fuimos al decidirnos por un objetivo más razonable!

There’s a lot more to discover in the mountains of Valhalla. I hope to return soon.

Hay mucho más por descubrir en las montañas de Valhalla. Quiero volver pronto.

2019 in 12 Photos

As I look back over photos from the past 12 months, my year looks a little inside-out. I spent the winter in nice warm New Zealand walking the 1200-km long Te Araroa. It was a great year for long-distance hiking. In the spring I returned to Canada to hike the Great Divide Trail – which looked a lot more like winter even though it was summer! I spent the second half of the year travelling around the world – my first ever circumnavigation of the earth. Cycling in the Netherlands, exploring the ever mysterious North Korea, celebrating China’s 70th anniversary in Beijing, learning yoga in Sri Lanka, scuba diving with sharks in the Maldives, and eating everything possible in Singapore.

January – Hiking length of New Zealand’s South Island on the Te Araroa trail
February – New Zealand’s always changing landscapes continue to amaze
March - After two and a half months of walking across New Zealand, we reach the sea and the end of the trail!
March – After two and a half months of walking across New Zealand, we reach the sea and the end of the trail!
April - It's always good to come back home and see loved ones again
April – It’s always good to come back home and see loved ones again
May - I begin walking the Great Divide Trail and it's much too early in the season
May – I begin walking the Great Divide Trail and it’s much too early in the season
June - It feels like winter on the GDT. I spend most of the month snowshoeing rather than hiking.
June – It feels like winter on the GDT. I spend most of the month snowshoeing rather than hiking.
July - Even with the arrival of summer, it still feels like winter in the Canadian Rockies.
July – Even with the arrival of summer, it still feels like winter in the Canadian Rockies.
August - I make it to the end of the GDT! As a treat, I catch a helicopter ride out with my new friend, Colin.
August – I make it to the end of the GDT! As a treat, I catch a helicopter ride out with my new friend, Colin.
September – I discover that the Netherlands is a fantastic place for a cycling trip.
October - Back to North Korea for my second visit. It's still full of mystery.
October – Back to North Korea for my second visit. It’s still full of mystery.
November - Three weeks in Sri Lanka learning yoga helps me stretch out those tight hiking muscles.
November – Three weeks in Sri Lanka learning yoga helps me stretch out those tight hiking muscles.
December - Up early to catch sunrise during a week of fantastic scuba diving in the Maldives.
December – Up early to catch sunrise during a week of fantastic scuba diving in the Maldives.

I certainly haven’t tired of travel and adventure yet. I’m looking forward to making more great memories in 2020.

Chengdu China – Home of the Giant Panda

Chengdu China – Home of the Giant Panda

I’m stopping over in Chengdu China on my way back from visiting the “Stans” of Central Asia. Chengdu is famous as the home of the endangered Giant Panda. The weather here is perfect for them – warm and wet – just what you want for growing lots of bamboo. I’m very lucky that it’s actually clear and sunny! A rare occurrence, especially in winter, and a great opportunity to capture some photos of people enjoying themselves outside.
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100 Scuba Dives

100 Scuba Dives

I’ve just completed my 100th scuba dive! I got into scuba four years ago on a trip to Cuba and I’ve been lucky enough to explore the underwater world in some fantastic places since. Learning to dive was a big challenge for me. I’ve always felt a little uneasy around water, having grown up in a landlocked city where the only lakes and rivers are freezing cold. I remember how nervous I was the first time I strapped on all that complicated scuba gear and sunk below the surface of the water. Something inside of you yells out “but I can’t breathe under water!”. It’s a real leap of faith to suppress that sense of panic. Once I started to overcome it, I began to love diving. There’s a real sense of freedom that comes with floating weightlessly. The marine world is so vibrant and distinct from what we see in our everyday lives.
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Australia’s Great Ocean Road

Australia’s Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road stretches for 250 km along Australia’s rugged southern coast. Built by soldiers returning from World War I and dedicated to their fallen comrades, it’s the world’s largest war memorial. It also has some of the best scenery in all of Australia. After having such a good time cycling in Tasmania, I was keen to tackle the tight turns and steep climbs of the Great Ocean Road but I hadn’t counted on the intense traffic (thousands of tourists came during Chinese New Year). After my first day, I decided to leave the bike behind and simply enjoy this stunning place as a road trip.
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Tasmania Cycle Tour

Tasmania Cycle Tour

I’ve just finished a month-long, 1,500-km cycle tour around Tasmania. This remote island is a pleasure to travel by bike with long winding roads that pass through incredible scenery with little traffic. Its diversity is striking. There are vast temperate rain forests, tropical white sandy beaches with turquoise water, rugged coastlines with towering sea cliffs, and peaceful sheep pastures and lavender farms. Tasmania’s history is equally rich. From its notorious convict beginnings to hardy miners who struggled to make a life in the remote corners of this island, there’s so much to learn. Whether you stay in campgrounds or treat yourself to character-rich B&Bs and historic hotels, you’re sure to discover some real gems along the way.
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