September 15, 2019

Golden Ears Provincial Park: Camping above the clouds

Canada, British Columbia

Video by: Luke Gibson

Nothing worth having comes easy, as they say, and this is also true for having the best views and moments of your life. With almost 24km of distance and 1500 meters of elevation gain, the Golden Ears hike is one of the most strenuous in the metro Vancouver area, and if the numbers alone didn't impress you too much, you can add 30 pounds of camping gear, camera gear, food and water to the math. Luckily for me, my friend Luke and his dog Nina the challenge is always something to be accepted and completed.

We left downtown Vancouver around 6 am and made a quick stop at McDonalds for breakfast. The hike started around 7:30 am and it was the beginning of an amazing day. The trail start at the West Canyon trailhead, which is relatively flat and easy to hike, one hour later you will get to the sign for Alder Flats.

The goodest girl Nina and her human Luke

Luke is an amazing videographer from the Okanagan valley, you should check his Youtube channel where he shows his adventure in Canada and tell stories about hiking, abandoned places and mountain biking, some all together and surely all with Nina. So watching his process was inspiring and I learned a lot about videos, which I also intend to get into in the near future.

Luke and Nina enjoying the Golden Creek viewpoint on the West Canyon trail.

Once you leave the west canyon trail, you will start to hike on a dry creek bed all the way to an area known as Alder Flats, a relatively small flat area with a good view to the top of Golden Ears, some people hike only until this spot and return, some camp here too.

After passing Alder Flats, you'll continue to go up until reach the stairs and the switchbacks, here you will be gaining a lot of elevation in a short distance. It was a grind for sure.

Always checking for sensor dust. Photo by: Luke Gibson

After completing the switchbacks, you will start to hike down to cross a saddle and up again to reach Panorama Ridge (which is not the same as the one in Garibaldi Provincial Park).

Hiking up is a big challenge for me, at this point I was already feeling a little sick, maybe I was dehydrated, maybe I ate some not-so-good blueberry on the way up but as giving up is never an option, so I kept going until we reach the campground.

Approaching Panorama Ridge. Photo by: Luke Gibson

Lucky us again, we arrived at campground after 7 hours of hiking just to get one of the last wooden decks to set up our tent. The groups coming after us had to pitch the tent on the ground, near the emergency shelter, as there were no more spots available. At this point I just wanted to lay down and rest as I felt more and more sick. Luke and Nina took care of me and after a visit to the toilet and some litres of fresh glacial water I was able to function again, just in time for sunset.

Unfortunately, we didn't make it to the summit, which we were planning to. I'm sure next time we will. I'll be in even better shape and take Luke back to accomplish his goal.

Luke, Nina and our neighbours with the tents ready for the night

Nina is a Kelpie-Collie mix so she was meant to be outside, running and guiding. All dogs are amazing but I confess Nina stole my heart, she is such an energetic, loving and smart dog. She navigated even the most difficult sections of the trail by herself, she would even come back to check if I was doing ok when I got a little behind, she's well behaved and she only barked when she wanted to play with sticks. Nina hikes since she was born and you can see that the mountains is where she belongs to and where her true nature is. I'm sure she makes Luke a very proud dad.

Nina if you're reading this I hope to see you soon :)

I was blown away by the view and I confess I rubbed my eyes a few times to make sure that what I was seeing was real. From Golden Ears you can see most part of the Pitt Lake and the back of the mountains of Squamish and Whistler, and all that snow melt forms the Pitt River which has an incredible glacier blue colour. This is an area I want to explore more next summer even though it's very remote, usually only visited by loggers or wealth people with boats and helicopters on private tours.

As I was feeling better it was time to take some photos, which is kinda my thing.

The light started to get better and better as we were approaching sunset time and all photographers know this is your time to shine, so I was going from place to place to get some cool shots of the sunset.

Some low clouds start to roll in below us and and maybe it's just me butI think it's just so interesting to watch them climb the mountains and fall back to the valley, swirling in chaotic but smooth movements until they eventually fade or completely take the scene. Here's a timelapse of 30 minutes compressed into 22 seconds:

Me above the clouds. Photo by: Luke Gibson

Can it get better than this?

The sun finally gave us a farewell, leaving behind some incredible colours and painting the sky with all the love we deserved for working so hard to be here. It's difficult to come up with words to describe those exact moments but my heart and my soul were full of joy.

Now the only lights were the ones coming from our headlamps and cellphones, that means it was time to get inside our tent, change our bodies to a horizontal position and get ourselves a well deserved rest. Me and Luke had some very interesting conversations about life and society, maybe we got too deep in the conversation, but that is a good thing.

Little did we know that this wouldn't be an enjoyable night as we were hoping for. We saw some lights hitting our tent and I thought it might be one of the other campers walking around but a few seconds later the loud noise of a thunder proved me wrong, a storm was coming, or as we learned later, several ones.

The winds rocked our tent from side to side and the rain was trying to make its way inside our little shelter. Luck for us, we were in a very sturdy and water resistant tent, and we also had a few heavy rocks outside preventing it from taking off like a plane. Yes, a few drops may have gone through the seams and dripped onto us but in general we were safe and dry for most of the night. The storm lasted for several hours and some our neighbours didn't have the same experience with their less durable tents.

The morning came and the first thing I heard was "I regret buying this $20 tent", and even though I couldn't see them, I assume they slept on a puddle. It was time to get up, make breakfast, pack everything and head back to the car. We stayed inside the emergency shelter for a few minutes and chatted to another group while we were all enjoying a warm breakfast and instant coffee. Meanwhile, all other groups were leaving because there wasn't much to do, no views, no warmth, no fun. We were in the clouds, literally.

A few more hours hiking in the rain were ahead of us.

The ladder near Panorama Ridge. Can you spot Nina at the top?

Not much more happened on the way down, we stopped for some more photos, Luke shot a few more videos and we talked a lot about videos, photos and pursing a living with outdoor and media activities, very interesting conversations. We saw very few people hiking up and only one group that was going to camp for the night, they were not lucky at all, it was a gloomy day.

After getting back to the car we drove to Maple Ridge to end the journey in a brewery, trying to get all the calories we lost back. Farewells are always hard but the feeling of accomplishment and happiness is well worth the short moments we share with like minded people. Certain that more adventures will come in the future, we can safely say goodbye, or see you soon.

Gear I used for these photos

Camera: Sony A7III Full frame mirrorless

Lens: Sony GM 16-35mm f2.8

Lens: Sony G 70-200mm f/4

In this post:

Carlos Lazarini. Instagram: @carloslazarini

Luke Gibson. Instagram: @shotsbyluke / Youtube: @lifeoflukefilms

Nina. Instagram: @ninathestrong


"I must go chase this dream of mine,

and I know I can do you proud

when I'm high above those clouds"

— Wars, The Strumbellas