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  • Writer's picturevanlafaxine

week 31-34: vancouver island, more squamish


Amy: After two weeks in Vancouver/Squamish we were ready for a change of pace. We also had a bunch of folks to meet up with on the island. My friend Leah and her buddies had a campsite booked; the whole Rauser family was coming out for a vacation; Ben and Cheryl were spending a night; and Bill’s friends Lance and Erin were flying in. Getting to Tofino, however, proved to be more of a challenge than we bargained for. The ferry booking system has been overwhelmed this summer, so getting a reservation (especially on a weekend) was like trying to score Taylor Swift tickets. By the grace of the ferry gods, we managed to snag a booking and miraculously passed smoothly through the many highway closures (in June, wildfires totally destroyed the main highway across the island, but we were lucky to pass through without any delays).

After much anticipation, we arrived in Tofino and immediately hit Cox Bay Beach for a surf sesh. It was cold and rainy and I did NOT want to get in the water, but the lure of hanging with friends at Canada’s premier surf location won out. And it turned out to be the best conditions we’ve seen yet! The rain kept the air cool, so the wind was basically non-existent, which meant the waves were perfect. We cruised for a few hours, then drove to town for some iconic Tacofino burritos. Worth the hour-plus lineup? Probably not, but it filled our empty bellies. (bill: whereas the burrito in port angeles was the best burrito of the trip (if not my life), the tacofino burrito was definitely the worst burrito of the trip (if not my life) (extra charge for cheese? that's one of the main ingredients in a burrito??))

juggalo sunscreen application

bill: we landed in nanaimo and essentially beelined it straight to tofino for one reason; our last chance to surf for the remainder of the trip. tofino is an extremely small town way up on a peninsula mid-island, absolutely inundated with tourists all summer. it is famous for being canada’s surfing hotspot, and with the cultural cache that surfing brings, so come the tourists (many of whom don’t surf, at which point i don’t understand why you would come here), as well as the the real estate speculators. the town mascot of tofino is a 1960s vw westfalia van which they keep locked up behind glass, and there are cartoon vans all over all of the tofino merch, magnets, t-shirts, and stickers, which is drenched in irony considering it is illegal to live in your van in tofino because of the real estate speculators. we did manage to score a campsite at a golf course for the week that came in at the low low cost of $52/night compared to the regional average of $120/night for a place to park at night without getting towed.

supermoon rise over long beach

in tofino we were met with probably the best surfing conditions of the trip; no wind, still, glassy water with waist high rollers coming in green across the beach. we got in 5 days of surfing everyday, and by the end we were now catching green waves, making turns, and cutting down the line. it feels great to be making incremental progress everyday.

i feel that there is something about surfing that just hacks my adhd brain maybe the same way that gambling does for some people. you spend a lot of time working, paddling, watching, and waiting for the perfect circumstances to come. every wave is different, every day is different, and everything from the wind to the tide to the storms 500km out at sea need to align to bring a perfect but ephemeral moment of bliss riding on the top of the world, all for it to be over in 5 seconds, always leaving you wanting more and paddling out again. it is so easy to see how people drop out of life to just chase waves. the feeling of being up on a wave is something like riding a motorcycle in that i never understood why surfers and motorcyclists are the way they are and walk around like they “think they’re so cool”; it’s not until you do that thing and feel that feeling that you really get it. it’s not that they think they’re cool. it’s that it feels so cool it changes who you are and what your priorities are. i love surfing. i tell amy that like 5 times a day.

trying to get a sunset photo - thanks lance

Amy: We spent a few days hanging and surfing on the beach, wandering around the local shops, hitting up Tofino Brewing Company (kelp stout anyone?) and eating copious amounts of salmon (thanks Lance and Erin!). We had a big feast with my fam, then watched a delightful sunset at Tonquin Beach with the whole Rauser clan.

The surfing was great and fun but I was SO COLD, so I went out and bought a used $50 super thick wetsuit. After a few more surf sessions, I was absolutely wiped out and unable to get warm despite wearing my new thick wetsuit and sitting in the hot van under my down sleeping bag. It was then I realized I had a fever. It hit me hard - for four days I napped and shivered with a 40 degree fever. With no relief in sight, we headed to Victoria to go to a walk-in clinic.

dinner on the beach

bill: we spent 5 days here, most of it surfing, but also got in some excellent visits with friends and family. lance and erin caught a 12 pound salmon in port alberni that they brought up to share. we ate nothing but salmon for every meal for 3 days and there was still leftover meat, even after feeding the whole rauser clan. inexplicably, when we were leaving, amy went and bought more salmon? we drank a few too many beers on the beaches, caught a lot of waves, taught lance and erin to surf, got sunburnt despite layering on the mark zuckerberg sunscreen, and caught some excellent sunsets. very good time. i love it here but the long weekend is approaching and it is going to be an absolutely disaster here so we have to leave. amy has also been fighting a fever for the past few days so we should make our way towards civilization.


bill: we made our way back from tofino, which is a long and very fucky road with lots of hairpins, potholes, and normally legally unacceptable 18% inclines/declines. the van has started making a squeaking sound from the driver side front suspension and so we are going to need to deal with that, maybe a bad ball joint? it has also become apparent that the brakes need to be done. amy has also been febrile for 5 days now and so we are going to need to seek out some medical attention, my suspicion being that she is fighting a pneumonia. a few hiccups (figuratively).

Amy: Thankfully, after getting a chest X-ray, we realized it wasn't pneumonia. Though I tested negative for covid twice, I suspect I may have had it. We booked into a hotel (thanks dad) and once I felt better, we wandered around Victoria - parliament, beacon hill park, the houseboats on fisherman’s wharf, and Alice Munro’s books. After a day, we agreed it was time to move on.

bill: fortunately, instead of being in tofino or squamish which would be bonkers over the long weekend, victoria is fairly quiet - like it always is. populated entirely by "newly-weds and nearly-deads" as they say, i guess a long weekend doesn't matter to you if everyday is a weekend because you are either retired or on mat-leave.

monkey puzzle tree

the most victoria thing i could imagine: an ambient music festival in the park

beacon hill park is nice


bill: parking is very hard in victoria, and not only for vans; essentially every street has "residential parking only" signs, no matter its proximity to downtown, stores, parks etc. this is only enforced by reporting, aka basically the entire city has nosey old people staring out their windows looking at anybody parking on their street and calling bylaw on anyone they don't recognize. how nimby is that? a wild way to operate a city, but what do you expect when the entire population and city council is over the age of 90?

looking over the juan de fuca straight at the olympic peninsula (and the best burrito shop in america)

after getting amy the medical attention she needed, doing the classic victoria things, and getting some rest, we headed back to the mainland. victoria is a pretty city, but it is also pretty sleepy.


Amy: We moseyed back to Vancouver and had a home-cooked goodbye dinner with my family at Rachel’s apartment. It’s nice to have a piece of home here! We spent a few last excellent days enjoying the city. Rachel and I went to a Steph Strings show at an old burlesque venue. She’s an Aussie guitar picker who went viral on TikTok and is now touring the world! Very cool. Leah and I went SUP-ing in Deep Cove the next day.

Another night we went to a street festival, then spent the afternoon drinking. The most notable stop - an electronic music event at Storm Brewing. The brewery is the definition of grunge. It’s a converted warehouse in the heart of the industrial section of Vancouver’s east end, right next to a chicken processing plant, their mascot is a rat and how they pass a health inspection is a mystery. They have the most eclectic selection of beers I’ve ever seen: dill pickle, watermelon (refreshing), Bloody Mary (michelada-esque), pineapple (yum), orange, and gin and tonic. We downed a few, then grabbed some takeout cans and had a van party. Somehow, we squeezed six people inside and had enough space to film a van tour, pass around a guitar and do wonderwall singalong. 10/10 night.

wedgemount lake

bill: back to the mainland for some recovery time in vancouver, once amy was feeling better we headed back up into the mountains. we booked a few nights in garabaldi park with the aim of doing some mountaineering. mountaineering is different from the climbing and scrambling we have been doing so far in that it requires travelling on glaciers and different tools: ice axes, crampons, ice screws, ropes. the major concern with this is that glaciers are full of man-eating crevasses which you can fall into without notice if a snow-bridge collapses, so a whole other skillset is needed to navigate and to rescue someone should anything happen. our goal was to climb parkhurst mountain (the tallest point on the right in the above photo), which involved a fairly long crossing of the wedge glacier.

Amy: Tucked high in the Garabaldi Provincial Park wilderness lies Wedgemount Lake. It’s a stunning milky blue glacial lake surrounded by alpine meadows laced with pink fireweed, towering snow-capped peaks, and the monolithic Wedge glacier. A beautiful slice of coastal BC paradise - but a gnarly hike to get there. We suffered for 4? 5? hours (1200m) climbing - quite literally - on all fours over twisted roots and loose rock with full packs in 30 degree heat. I’m not a sweaty person, but I was DRIPPING for the entirety of the hike. It was so exhausting that as soon as we arrived and set up camp, I passed out for a solid hour in the golden hour glow. I woke in time to see the cirque of mountains around us set ablaze by the setting sun. Top 3 sunset of the trip.

bill: we had to do an "alpine start" at 04:30 to make sure that we got on the glacier before the sun hit it to ensure that we were through before the sun melting the ice started throwing refrigerator sized rocks at us or collapsing the massive ice seracs that hang overhead. amy's greatest fear is falling into a crevasse, but she did great, even the few times we had to hop over them! the climb up parkhurst past the glacier was mostly uninspiring class 2-3 over loose talus. we decided to continue down along the ridge to the col between parkhurst and rethel, which involved the most loose, steep, bullshit, ankle-twisting talus i have ever experienced. amy and i stopped for a rest at the col while graham and devin quickly went up the next peak on the ridge. overall it ended up being a 700m day but took almost 12 hours because of how slow travel is over glacier and loose rock. we tend to imagine mountains to be distinct entities, but on closer inspection they are basically all just piles of varying degrees of loose rocks. on our way back across the glacier in the afternoon, the ice had deteriorated considerably given it was the hottest day of the year (36 degrees in squamish), and we had a much trickier time finding a way through the maze of crevasses, but we made it off without any concerns. a successful first real mountaineering adventure!

Amy: Day 2 was just as exhausting but way more fun. After a crash course in glacier crossings and rescue, we strapped on our crampons, wielded our ice axes, and climbed onto the Wedge glacier. This part was slightly terrifying for me. I had visions of plummeting headfirst into a crevasse, swallowed whole by the glacier, never to be seen again. Thankfully, my fears did not materialize. In fact, walking across the glacier was fairly uneventful. We trudged along one-by-one in single file, strung along a rope like a kindergarten class. We got some up close views of crevasses (vertigo-inducing) but I didn’t feel like I was going to slip to my death. I guess having massive spikes on your feet and being connected to 3 other people who can pull you out helps A LOT. By the second crossing (on our way back) I was even having fun! Apparently doing the thing that scares you is a good way to conquer your fears. A good lesson for a scaredy-cat.

summit selfie

graham heading down to the col

graham on the summit of rethel

amy on some loose class 3 up to parkhurst from the col

the wedge glacier and the seracs up top that could collapse at any moment


bill: we love squamish. aside from mexico, this has probably been our favourite place on the trip. the climbing is incredible, the friends are awesome, the views are beautiful, there are endless mountains to climb, alpine lakes to swim in, hikes to do. we spent a lot more time here cragging with friends, amy is now flashing 5.9 sport no problem and leading 5.7 trad! we had set our sights on a big multipitch to round out our time here, with our goal being aptly named "the spirit of squamish", 5.8, trad, 8 pitches, ~ 260m. the first pitch is an already celebrated 5.7 "top 100" route called "klahanie crack" which is essentially 35m of plumb straight small hand crack, barely deviating in size the whole way up and very sustained, just the same move over and over again with no breaks. the guidebook says to bring triples of 0.75 and 1 sized cams, but i only have doubles, so i figured i could get creative and run it out a little. even so, about halfway up the climb i realized that i was way above my last piece and completely out of gear that would fit to protect the rest of the climb. uh oh. dan always says "when you are trad climbing, don't panic, you can always sit on your gear", but that only applies if you have any gear left to sit on, so i definitely started to panic. i sucked it up and basically ran it out the last half to the anchor, knowing that every foot i climbed i was getting closer and closer to a ground fall if i slipped. i made it up unscathed, but was super spooked by the time i got there. knowing that there were still 7 pitches to go, we decided to bail. bummer. we were both very disappointed because this is supposed to be one of the coolest routes in squamish.

klahanie crack

a few days later, we decided to try again, this time coming appropriately armed with some extra borrowed cams from steph. with triples we went up klahanie crack without issue, cruised up the next few 5.8 pitches with ease, and made it to the money pitch; a pitch that climbs right beside a waterfall, with a view of the whole howe sound area in the background. unreal. the most beautiful pitch we have climbed for sure, and the climbing was pretty excellent also.

amy fighting her way through the chimney, the backpack makes it harder for sure

the money pitch, waterfall on the right, howe sound in the background

the other special thing about the spirit of squamish is that it tops out into these pools at the top of the waterfall, where you can swim and take in the view.

waterfall and pools

Amy: After two attempts of Spirit of Squamish, it felt good to finish to a stunning view of the whole Squamish area. We took two dips in these extremely cold waterfall pools at the top to wash away our sweat and tears (my tears anyways). With that final climb under our belts, it felt like the right time to move on. It's not goodbye, but see you soon Squamish!

bill: our time here has been unreal. we will miss squamish for sure, this is the closest we have felt to having a home for a long time (even if it means sleeping in a walmart parking lot every night). we will miss our friends here and in vancouver. this summer here has been amazing, bc is beautiful in the summer and so much fun. if only it didn't rain here quite so much in the winter and the cost of living wasn't absurd.

goodbye squamish

here is the bc video:




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