First Day of Summer: Skiing on June 21

CHAPTER 1: Packing Up 

I’ve been spending a lot of time at my desk over the past months working on my coffee-table book. It’s enjoyable work, albeit exhausting. So as June was quickly coming to a close and I hadn’t gone skiing yet this month, I knew I had better get out and head up the mountain while I had a modicum of energy. 

When I got to the parking lot where I would begin my adventure for the day, hail was falling heavily from the sky. A few minutes later though it cleared up and I was able to finish packing up my gear in much nicer weather. 

The last time I had a-framed my skis on my backpack was in September of 2016 when I hiked up to the glacier about Twin Falls, here in Smithers, BC. So while I wasn’t afraid of the additional weight on my back, I was a little unsure how my knees would feel by the end of the day. But I had tensor bandages wrapped on both of them and so all I could do was start hiking and see what happened.

CHAPTER 2: Through the Treeline

As I began my hike up, the trails were bare as I had expected. However as I got closer to the alpine, some unexpected patches of snow blocked my route. Thankfully other hikers had gone before me and I didn’t have to posthole my way through. I had the thought as I was knee-deep in snow at times that I should have brought extra socks along.

CHAPTER 3: Into the Alpine 

Once I cleared the treeline, it was a long hike across the prairie to the lake. The melting snow created all manner of waterways to navigate over and around as I slowly made my way up. 

With the cloud ceiling being as low as it was, I wasn’t sure if there’d be visibility once I reached my goal. But as is often the case, the weather seemed to change every few minutes, and so there was nothing that really prevented me from continuing my journey. I decided to keep going and take my chances with the visibility. 

CHAPTER 4: At The Lake 

Arriving at the edge of the slope that leads one down to the surface of the lake, I wanted to take a moment to rest and reflect. A friend had lent me his skis for the day (as the bindings on mine are getting repaired), and I wanted to make a portrait that showed him the raw beauty and wonder of where I was hiking.
Photos like this are also good for my own encouragement as I need little reminders like this every once and a while of the places I go to have my adventures. As infrequently as 

CHAPTER 5: Edge of the Lake 

After I made my way down to the surface of lake, I looked directly across the water to the vertically contiguous line of snow that remained on the back of the crater. I remembered a day from early November 2016. I was up on the (looker’s) right edge of the crater looking back into the crater when I watched a couple skiers drop down the back and make their way down a line to the surface of the lake. 

Standing there now, 6 1/2 months later, I enjoyed the moment of reflection and to be able to witness how weather shapes and changes the landscape over time. The cycle of snow melting, then falling and accumulating, then melting and so on, is a fascinating thing to experience and photograph. 

CHAPTER 6: The Hike Up 

After the few moments of reflection at the edge of the lake, I started my climb up the left edge of the crater. The route up was mostly rock punctuated every so often by a sliver of snow. 

There was only one time on my way to the top where I felt a little fear. I had misjudged the amount of good foot- and hand-holds and was temporarily in a bit of a bind. I wasn’t really afraid for my own safety (although the thought did cross my mind), but rather I was concerned that if I fell I’d damage the skis on my backpack that I borrowed from a friend, and my camera that was attached to my backpack. Thankfully I was able to detach my camera from its attachment clip on the shoulder strap and place it in a safe spot on the rocks above. Once that was done, I was able to maneuver more freely and get a better grip with my hands and feet. A few seconds later I was standing on two feet again, ready to continue my ascent. 

CHAPTER 7: The Changeover 

Once I was done scrambling up the edge of the crater, I finally reached the field of snow I wanted to ski on. I took my pack off and unstrapped my boots and skis. I took a few moments to rest my aching knees and enjoy the surroundings. 

These moments of reflection are always special as I consider the world before me and how grateful I am to live here in Smithers. The abundant natural beauty is so vital to my way of life. 

The moment of reverie passed and I turned and looked uphill and anticipated a few fun moments of sliding uphill on my skis. But first I needed to change my boots from hiking to ski, get the skins out of my pack and get them on my skis.

CHAPTER 8: Surprisingly Slippery 

With my skins now on, I turned my attention to the task of turning my backpack into a tripod. It’s always a fun challenge when I don’t bring my actual tripod along to figure out a way to stabilize my camera for self-portraits. Rocks and backpacks are the typical methods, although if a snowdrift is high enough, I’ve been known to use them too. 

It took a few attempts to get the shot I was after as the snowpack was pretty tricky to navigate (at least for the first few strides). The pitch was steep enough that I had a little difficulty getting the edge of my skis to bite and give me the stability I was after. But once I figured things out, I was pretty happy with this result. 

CHAPTER 9: What A View 

The goal I set for myself at the beginning of the day was to recreate the scene from a year ago when I was up on the same (melting) cornice. Thankfully the weather cooperated and I was able to get the shot I was after. I didn’t make it quite as far up the snow on the crater’s edge as I did last year, but it was far enough to show the leopard-like spots of snow on the ground below. There was significantly more snow than there was a year ago. Maybe enough to allow me to hike up in July to make some turns. We’ll see.

CHAPTER 10: A Few Glorious Turns 

There you go, some of the turns I made on what’s left of the snow on the edge of the ridge above Crater Lake. They were eerily similar to the ones I made last year.

CHAPTER 11: Whiteout in June 

After finishing my turns, I stopped at the edge of the snow to take off my ski boots and prepare for the hike down. As I laced up my boots, the weather changed again (I lost track on the way up how often it did so) and it started snowing. It got so bad I could not see beyond the edge of the crater below me. 

However I knew if I just waited a few minutes things would get better. And they did. I slowly made my way down the rocks and by the time I cleared the crater the sun came out again and I had a blue skies (still with a strong wind though) for the rest of my hike down to my car.

CHAPTER 12: Hiking Down 

I was grateful to be able to walk down the mountain mostly on soft, grass-covered ground. It made it easier on my knees that’s for sure. The pain caused by the tightness in my iliotibial band (ITB) makes hiking down painful at the best of times. Wrapping my knees helps a little bit, but still, it sure takes a lot longer to make the return trip when every step is a painful one.

CHAPTER 13: Selfie for Wifey

Mostly because my wife likes to see me smile, but also to help prove I was actually out doing something, I try to do a self portrait when I go skiing. So just before I got into the treeline, I paused for a moment, smiled for the camera and looked forward to later in the day when my wife would look at it and say, “nice.”

CHAPTER 14: Alpine Marmot

I had seen a couple of these mountain denizens a couple other times on my hike down, but this one must have been more used to humans. As is usually the case in these situations, I started photographed the marmot the whole time I walked toward it. I wanted to make sure to get at least one good image, as I know they typically don’t stay in one place very long. 

Right after this image, down the hole it went and the moment was gone. Afterwards when I looked at the image on my computer, I realized how big the marmot was. I can’t recall ever seeing one quite so large.

CHAPTER 15: One Last Look Back

The adventure was almost over as I left the alpine and entered the treeline. I made one last look back at the landscape behind me and was once again filled with an unquenchable sense of satisfaction. I had a goal in mind at the beginning of the day, and now, several hours later I had achieved that goal and was glad that even though each step back to my car was painful, I knew I was better off for making the effort.

CHAPTER 16: The End

Never were my knees more happy than when I finally reached the car and took off the load I’d been carrying for the past several hours. Now all that remained was to stay awake as I drove down the mountain. I was looking forward to getting home, sitting at my computer and begin work on the photographs from my annual hike-up-the-mountain-in-June-to-ski trip.

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