By: Billy Dixon
After about 14 hours of flights and layovers, I arrived in Vancouver, BC – a city consistently deemed one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life. I could understand why as I toured the magical city, surrounded by vast expanses of blue water and snowcapped mountains.
The next day my girlfriend, Vani, and I took a shuttle to Squamish – also referred to as the adventure capital of Canada. Upon arrival, we realized the estuary we had chosen for paddle boarding would be at low tide most the day, so we wandered to the Smoke Bluffs for some top-rated bouldering! When it was time to check into our Airbnb, we rented some cruiser bikes and let Google Maps lead us astray down a mountain bike trail. Imagine carrying a bike uphill with a 30 pound pack on… I’ll never do it again. Sweaty and exhausted, we finally reached the Airbnb and were pleasantly surprised by the most incredible view of The Stawamus Chief, a 2,297-ft. tall granite monolith that looks a lot like Half Dome in Yosemite. Once we recovered, we biked to a local restaurant and were perfectly content sitting on the deck and taking in the view of the Chief for the rest of the night.
I could write a novel about the next day, but I’ll do my best to keep it brief. We took a cab to the trailhead of Black Tusk, the most prominent peak in the area. The hike was a total of 10 hours long, covering 18 miles and over 5,700 feet in elevation. The journey to the base of the tusk was excruciating to say the least but also filled with the most beautiful meadows, alpine lakes, and mountain vistas I’ve ever seen.
The final climb to the base of the tusk was a steep ascent up a field of loose shale. Every step you took caused you to slide backwards a foot. Outdoor Vancouver summed up the final ascent perfectly: “Climbing the chimney is quite dangerous, and recommended only for rock climbers or experienced mountaineers. A slip here would mean serious injury or worse. And remember, coming back down is much more difficult than going up!”
But nevertheless, we went for it.
Of the many people we saw on the trail and exploring the base of the tusk, only five others were at the summit with us. We took turns taking photos of each other and, despite the panic that was slowly setting in thinking about the descent, I made sure to get a photo of me repping my Venture Outdoors shirt.
I can only describe coming down as being my answer to the question “what’s the craziest / most terrifying thing you’ve ever done?” While Vani and I documented every part of our trip, we didn’t dream of pulling out a camera while coming down. Reaching the base of the tusk was among the best feelings I’ve experienced in this lifetime, but the trek down was not over then. The shale was too unstable to walk on while going downhill, so we literally slid on backsides to the bottom where we proceeded to soothe our sore behinds in the snow and admire the glacial lakes before making our way back. We took a side trip to Lake Garibaldi, one of the glacial lakes we could see from the top, and made it back just before it got dark.
The next day I conquered my greatest fear – Bungee jumping. I looked at the site that I was to jump from and was comforted by the fact that at least it was a beautiful place to (potentially) die. Below the suspension bridge was a pale blue glacial river in the middle of the mountains where you could even see Black Tusk through the tree openings. I forced Vani to jump tandem which means we were awkwardly strapped together for the jump. They counted down, “5,4,3”… that’s where I’m convinced I blacked out. All I remember is bouncing back up and screaming, only to do it a few more times before stabilizing.
When all was said and done, it was well worth it and actually less terrifying than Black Tusk descent. To cool off and calm down, we went for a swim in a nearby lake and spent the rest of our time exploring more of Vancouver. My biggest takeaway from the trip was that you don’t need a ton of time or money to have the trip of a lifetime. A few planned points of interest, some well-placed shuttles and rides, and four vacation days can make for an experience you’ll never forget.