Sunday was another beautiful day and after sleeping in a bit, Justine and I packed up the car and took a drive up to Whistler for the day. We had heard the the wildflowers were in full bloom in the alpine, so we planned a day hike to check it out.
The drive up was a bit of a gong show - too many tourists on the road, and we were both frustrated by the time we got to Whistler. It was about lunch time, so we hopped on the gondola and headed straight for the top. We had lunch on the patio overlooking the valley and enjoyed the beautiful day.
The hike we had chosen is called the High Note Trail, and drops down from the top of Whistler Mountain into the alpine, then loops back through the ski resort to the lodge at Roundhouse where we were starting. The first part of the hike required us to go down from Roundhouse to the chair lift that takes you up to the top of the Peak.
Once at the top of the Peak Chair we were afforded an amazing 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We spent a bit of time looking around the peak area, checking out the views before getting down to the hike we had planned.
The High Note Trail is about 10km long, and starts at the end of a short interpretive trail that leads from the top of the Peak Chair. The hike initially started heading downhill, through some steep sections (there were chains installed into the rock face to help), and the wildflowers were quite sparse. We did have some great views of Black Tusk, even though it was a bit hazy.
Before long, the hike had dropped into the alpine, and the meadows burst into colour! The wildflowers were amazing, and there were a lot of them. Each meadow seemed to have it's own mixture, but the same 10-12 flowers were common in most of the meadows.
In many places there was still quite a bit of snow along n even on the trail. We had to cross snow fields in a number of spots, and I'll bet some of the snow will last all the way until winter comes again. It's pretty crazy.
About half way through the hike, as you make your way along the back of Whistler mountain (at least i think that's where you are...) you come across amazing views of Cheakamus Lake. The lake is that vivid blue/green from glacier runoff, and even in the haze we had that day, the lake looked amazing.
Not long after heading away from the lake, we encountered the sketchiest part of the hike. you had to make your way down this short, steep section, then climb across a steel mesh panel that was wedged among the boulders. It was perfectly safe, and looked worse that it was.
At this point the trail starts to make its way into some familiar territory along the back edge of the Harmony sky area. The wildflowers got even more beautiful. There were stretches where the whole side of the mountain was covered in blooms. I tried to take some pictures, but it just doesn't do it justice.
Not long after that, we got to the furthest extent of our trek. We were at the far end of the Symphony ski area, between Symphony and Flute Bowls. At this point you can hike into the real backcountry, but for us this was as far as we were going. After stopping for a beer and banana bread, the trail led us back through the Symphony Bowl, down into a small valley. Sadly, that meant we had to hike back up the ridge on the other side. The view back down into the bowl made it all worth while.
The rest of the hike back wasn't as nice as the hike in. There was a lot of climbing involved, which I think took some of the fun out of it - tired legs at this point. We had to climb back down into Harmony Bowl. This was pretty cool as it's the portion of Whistler that we ski the most. It was fun to look at these ski runs we do all winter, and see them without most fo the snow. I never knew that there was a lake at the bottom - we hiked past harmony Lake before making the final ascent back up to Roundhouse.
Before making the ascent back up to Roundhouse Lodge and the gondola back down, we discovered a small family of marmots on the rocks near the trail. They were quite used to people, and didn't run when we stopped to watch them for a while. Cute little guys.
After trudging back up to the chalet, we hopped onto the gondola and headed back into the Village. We had some food and a well-deserved beer at the GLC, then drove back to the city. Thankfully the drive home was uneventful.
I think that the High Note Trail (assuming you do it this time of the year) might be the most spectacular 4-5 hour hike available in the Lower Mainland. Highly recommended.