Mountain Life – Coast Mountains - Summer 2024

Page 76

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The mountain people.

Where we discover new routes together, and bonds are formed on the summit.

From hard-won successes to frustrating wrong turns, we are spurred ever onwards by the mystery of what lies ahead.

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Klattasine Ridge


Outdoor Etiquette





P.32 SLAB LAND New Granite Descents

P.42 PICTURE THIS Wildlife Photographer Maxime Légaré-Vézina

P.63 SUNSET SESSIONS Orange Sky At Night, Biker’s Delight

P.53 ENVIRO Rugged Coast Society

P.79 EPIC TRIP Nothing Left to Lose

P.82 HOW TO How to Sit Still

P.85 ARTIST April Matheson

P.90 BEYOND Jon Turk’s “Chuck It” List

P.92 GALLERY Sweet Summer Moments

9 ON THIS PAGE Life is good when it's simple (and the fire bans haven't kicked in yet). STEVE SHANNON ON THE COVER No rope, no harness, no bouldering pad, no problem. Tim Emmett keeps it summer simple in Squamish. CHRISTIAN CORE

A place to experience exceptional cocktail cra smanship, delicious seasonal food, cra beers and enjoy laughs with friends, new and old.

e Raven Room is a destination for sustainable hospitality, beautiful views and a refreshingly passionate team.

Mountain Life Coast Mountains operates within and shares stories primarily set upon the unceded territories of two distinct Nations—the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and the Lilwat7úl. We honour and celebrate their history, land, culture and language.


Jon Burak

Todd Lawson

Glen Harris


Feet Banks


Amélie Légaré


Kristin Schnelten


Ned Morgan


Noémie-Capucine Quessy


Krista Currie


Jessy Braidwood, Kieran Brownie, Mary-Jane Castor, Chris Christie, Christian Core, Lindsay Donovan, Joel Ducrot, Guy Fattal, Andrew Findlay, Michael Fox, Ben Girardi, Kara-Leah Grant, Robert Greso, Brian Hockenstein, Shoda Ida, Lani Imre, Justa Jeskova, Blake Jorgenson, Yan Kaczynzki, Reuben Krabbe, Carmen Kuntz, Dylan Leeder, Maxime Légaré-Vézina, Stu MacKaySmith, Jimmy Martinello, Mason Mashon, Ian Middleton, Susan Musgrave, Robin O’Neill, Celeste Pomerantz, Lisa Richardson, Shane Roy, Steve Shannon, Andrew Strain, Jeff Thomas, Jon Turk, Anatole Tuzlak, Frank Wolf.


Jon Burak

Todd Lawson

Glen Harris

Published by Mountain Life Media, Copyright ©2024. All rights reserved. Publications Mail Agreement Number 40026703. Tel: 604 815 1900. To send feedback or for contributors guidelines email Mountain Life Coast Mountains is published every February, June and November and circulated throughout Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor from Pemberton to Vancouver. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited. Views expressed herein are those of the author exclusively. To learn more about Mountain Life visit To distribute Mountain Life in your store please call 604 815 1900.


Mountain Life is printed on paper that is Forest Stewardship Council ® (FSC ®) certified. FSC ® is an international, membership-based, non-profit organization that supports environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests. Mountain Life is PrintReleaf certified. It measures paper consumption over time automatically reforested at planting sites in Canada. Kinley Aitken Sk wxwú7mesh Territory, Squamish, BC

Unplanned Wide-Open Escape


Photo: P.Platzer Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable pro visions of the road traffic regulations! The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipm ent available at additional cost.
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“How we spend our days,” author Annie Dillard once famously said, “is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”

So yeah, every day is a golden opportunity to get out and do something awesome that will culminate into the lives we’ve been looking for. But there seems to be a tendency—especially for those of us living through the smokescreen of social media—to focus on the grand gestures and big moments. The fruits of much labour and effort. The spectacle. We know we’re supposed to live “in the moment” but there’s a pressure to “live large” in that moment as well.

Which is fine. Every day is a gift, so go ahead and make hay when the sun shines. “Live it up” is even the slogan for this very magazine. But there is also value in aiming the other direction, in trimming some days down to good, simple pleasures: a long walk with no hydration gels, no destination and a good dog; a solo campfire with no Bluetooth speaker (obey the fire bans!); patching an old pair of hiking pants instead of coveting the latest trending ones; or even an overnight hike where the rest breaks are for soaking in the

views or dipping your head in a stream, not capturing photos for the followers.

This isn’t to say an absolute simple life is the greatest path for everyone—lofty goals create great stories, so why not go big sometimes (and a heated toilet seat/bidet is more than just a luxury, it’s an enlightenment). So rather than a simple life, how about a simpler one? Because in an economy of attention, with six-word headlines designed to trigger our fears and anxieties without context or nuance; with devices that can beam almost the entire scope of civilization, past and present, into our eyeballs every time we stop moving; with algorithms feeding us never-ending marketing and visual reminders of all the grand things everyone else is up to and the super places they’re visiting that we are not, maybe it’s time to embrace the old idea that less is actually more.

So, take your foot off the gas for a moment this summer. Take a breather. Take five. Then take five more. Rather than looking at what you can add to the days of your life, look at what to take away.

Simple pleasures. Taylor Godber and Mango. GUY FATTAL

Processing Progress

photos & words :: Kieran Brownie climbers :: Will Stanhope & Seb Pelleti location :: Klattasine Ridge, BC

“The great climbers knew that, while climbing could engage every particle of one’s spirit and provide an intensity and challenge absent in mass society, it was not an activity to be taken seriously at bottom.” –Bruce Fairley, Canadian Alpine Journal, 1988

Some folks visit old buildings or museums to interact with the past, but I never enjoyed the transient nature of the experience. The argument is that the signs saying, “Don’t touch,” or the roped-off areas and glass boxes are meant to protect the archive. That the past is meant to be observed from a few steps distant with hands clasped behind our backs. That air of detachment leaves me unsettled. As climbers, we stuff our fingers and toes between the folds of geologic time, touching the same stone as those who came before us. It blends the borders of past and present in ways that it seems only the rocks can allow.

And even then, routes fall off and mountains crumble. Nothing stays the same. But in those instances where the rock has remained intact over the ages, we find ourselves entering into times prior and able to compare our lived experience of a route with the story that painted our imaginations and coaxed us out there in the first place. We have an opportunity to recognize ourselves as a part of the broader picture, that maybe the gap from past to present isn’t as wide as we thought.

Spurred by an article in a tattered copy of the 1988 Canadian Alpine Journal, Will Stanhope invited Seb Pelleti and I to join him on a visit to Mount Klattasine, 40 km west of Chilko Lake in the heart of the Coast Mountains.


These super-remote walls have only been in the consciousness of coastal mountaineers for fewer than two generations. Merely a handful have visited in that time, and among those who have are pillars of the Canadian alpine cultural narrative: John Clarke, Peter Croft, Fred Beckey and Bruce Fairley. Climbers who, like us, share the peculiar impulse to look to the edges of the map with curiosity. As if it were more comfortable to be at the edge than in the middle. Safer in the steep cliffs than in the humdrum of society.

After repeating Golden Klattasine, a route on the southwest side of the ridge first climbed by Beckey, Jim Nelson and Carl Diedrich in 1987, we found an opportunity to carry the story further—an unknown line on an adjacent buttress. I scrambled onto a perch across the way to watch Seb and Will quest up an immaculate panel of granite, a route they eventually named The Lonesome Crowded West (5.11+), after a 1997 Modest Mouse album. That album title was seen as a direct comment on the paradox of the urban-sprawl transformation of the Pacific

Northwest in the late 1990s—the more people that surround us, the less connected we feel with anyone.

It was in this same spirit that John Clarke fled Vancouver for the Coast Mountains each year for three decades, only staying in the city long enough to work up the funds to leave again. Fred Beckey was infamous in his singular focus of new routes, while Croft— often climbing alone and without ropes— would accomplish in a day what might be any other mountaineer’s entire summer tick-off list. Bruce Fairley, who in 1986 compiled the last comprehensive guidebook for climbing in the Coast Mountains, was often “out there,” in both body and mind.

In the very same issue of the Canadian Alpine Journal we’d brought with us to serve as our map to Klattasine Ridge, Fairley penned an essay critiquing the climbing world’s inclusion into mainstream North America, particularly the impact of technological advancement and how it upholds our perception of progression. The progressive view of history, in that “what comes later in time will always be an improvement over that which came earlier,” was, he warned, leading us towards a place where historical figures would fade into obscurity. Rather than having a connection to those who came before, “the hottest [climber] is whoever did the hardest route last week.” And in so much as climbing was becoming a part of mainstream North America, the hottest climber would become synonymous with the hottest gear. As far as Fairley saw it, climbing was drifting further away from a unique culture and closer towards the realm of golf or football, in which climbers were no longer tied to a social or spiritual tradition but rather one of commercial value, where the community would become centred around the progression of grades and the marketing of next year’s jacket.

Thirty-seven years later, sitting on a small ledge on a tall wall in a place far, far away from the din of civilization (a spot I could only reach with money from sponsorships), I launched my ten-year-old drone to take a photo—to justify the expense.

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Don’t Love It to Death

words :: Celeste Pomerantz

If you’re reading this, you’re likely an outdoor enthusiast who has set foot, tire, skin or boot on a trail or in a park in Southwestern British Columbia. On your adventures—no matter how big or small—you’ve probably passed a biodegradable bag of dog poo that was perhaps left with either evil intent, ignorance or, hopefully, the vague intention of being grabbed upon return—never to be grabbed again. (There is no such thing as a Dog Poo Fairy who magically cleans the trails.)

Or perhaps you’re that person who left a hefty number two at the very top of the iconic backcountry ski run Husume this winter. (Yes, everyone saw it. Come on, man.)

To these instances, and so many more like them, I pose the question recently portrayed (hilariously) in the first video from BC’s new Don’t Love it to Death campaign, wherein comedian/ director/athlete of leisure Katie Burrell asks: “You wouldn’t behave disrespectfully in a friend’s home. So why do it in nature?”

Last year alone, more than 600 black bears were euthanized because of their increased dependence on your half-eaten potato chip bag or trash left behind.

A unified venture from 30+ BC jurisdictions and groups (including BC AdventureSmart, BC Wildfire Service, BC Parks, Camper’s Code and each local tourism board and municipality from North Vancouver to Lillooet) the Don’t Love It to Death campaign is meant to educate British Columbians (and guests) on how to responsibly enjoy the outdoors. On-trail signage, blogs, videos and more promote being fire smart, safe, clean, respectful and sustainable when visiting BC’s outdoor spaces.

In April 2024, campaign organizers sent out a survey asking British Columbians to share their experiences with bad behaviour. Questions covered all seasons and activities and the surveyed could answer as in-depth or as vaguely as they pleased.

The eye-opening results were probably not that surprising for Sea to Sky locals who spend time outside. More than two-thirds of respondents have regularly observed poor behaviour such as overcrowding, strewn garbage, human waste (see above), abandoned smoking fires and torn-apart trails. Most agreed that the issues are more predominant in the summer months, as more people access the outdoors when there’s no snow on the ground.

But did you know that nearly half of the wildfires BC has experienced over the last ten years have been human-related? And that, just last year alone, more than 600 black bears were euthanized because of their increased dependence on your half-eaten potato chip bag or trash left behind? I didn’t.

This isn’t the time to point fingers. No one has a perfect history. (I’ve definitely thrown an orange peel into the trees on a long bike ride and didn’t think much of it.) Instead, now is the time to educate ourselves, check out the online resources, share what we know with others (without violence or screaming, please) and unlearn our sh*t behaviour before we leave more sh*t in the wild.

Or, as Katie Burrell puts it: “When you’re wasted in the bush with your buddies and think you’re being cool, chopping down a green tree and setting it on fire… You’re not. Trashing nature makes you about as big a loser as it gets.”

We are all so incredibly lucky to be living and playing in one of the most beautiful and special natural places on the planet. Let’s keep it that way. Go check out and share and tell everyone you know to do the same.

Behind the scenes on set for the first Don’t Love it to Death video with Katie Burrell. AMANDA PALMER/TOPO FILMS

Island Grizzlies?

An exercise in wildlife ecology speculation

words :: Andrew Findlay

Joanna Annett blinked twice when she looked out her kitchen window one spring morning in 2021 and saw a big cinnamon-coloured bear with a hump on its shoulders ambling across the lawn. She was sitting around her Quadra Island table with her husband Rory and two biologist friends, one of whom said emphatically, “That’s a grizzly!”

“We were in awe, shocked,” says Joanna, a retired nurse. “I’ve lived on Quadra Island for 30 years and had never seen a grizzly here before.”

That’s because grizzlies don’t officially live on Quadra Island, nor on nearby Vancouver Island. And yet, in recent years, it seems they’ve been showing up more and more frequently.

Late in the evening of that same day, Ben McGuffie was awoken by a noise. McGuffie, who owns and operates SouthEnd Farm Winery with his wife, Jill Ogasawara, headed outside in his boxers and spotted a bear trying to get at one of their Nigerian Dwarf goats. Ogasawara joined him and they grabbed what was close at hand—a deck broom and a chunk of plywood—hoping to scare the bear away. It was undeterred until McGuffie pegged the intruder with a rock, which sent it into the woods.

“One of our other goats was missing that morning and we sent our kids and some of their friends out looking for it in the forest,” said

McGuffie, who was raised on this family farm near Cape Mudge on the south end of Quadra Island. “In hindsight that was a terrible idea.”

In 2020, at least seven grizzlies were reported on Vancouver Island’s east coast, with some speculating that at times there have been up to a dozen. “The truth is we don’t know for certain,” says Mike Newton, a sergeant with BC’s Conservation Officer Service based in Black Creek between the Comox Valley and Campbell River. “We do track the calls we get. However, they are only a part of the story as I’m sure many sightings go unreported to us. When the odd bear does swim over, it generates a lot of calls, so it’s sometimes tough to separate calls versus individual bears.”

Across Canada, grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) are listed as a “species of special concern” and provincially as “vulnerable uncertain.” There are an estimated 25,000 grizzlies in Canada. Half of them roam around BC. Mature males can weigh up to 500 kilograms and range across rugged territories spanning 2,000 km2. As apex predators, grizzlies inhabit the top of the food chain (the terrestrial equivalent of a great white shark), which means they’re also a keystone indicator species—if grizzlies are healthy, so are myriad other species, from salmon to huckleberries to the riparian forests fertilized by the nutrient-rich fish carcasses bears leave behind on the forest floor.


However, their wide-ranging habitat also makes grizzlies highly vulnerable to industrial logging, commercial recreation, oil and gas development and any other human activity that fragments the wilderness. In 2017, the BC government banned the grizzly bear trophy hunt. Eight years since the ban, grizzly populations have shown signs of recovery in a number of areas including the Central Coast, the South Chilcotin and Sea to Sky corridor between Vancouver and Pemberton. Consequently, there have been calls to renew the hunt. Though it may be too early to draw a causal link between the mainland recovery numbers and more grizzlies heading to Vancouver Island, Nicholas Scapillati, executive director of the Grizzly Bear Foundation, believes it’s a subject worth studying.

“It’s a fascinating question why grizzlies haven’t colonized the island,” Scapillati says. “There are mountains and there’s salmon,” Scapillati said. “It’s great grizzly habitat.”

Add in remote valleys and mountainsides ripe with plump summer huckleberries and blueberries, and the idea becomes even more plausible. But so far, all grizzlies identified on Vancouver Island have been young males, typically juveniles. They arrive by islandhopping across the Broughton Archipelago to the North Island or across the Discovery Islands, which includes Quadra. Grizzlies are strong swimmers, but traditionally haven’t been seen straying far from shore. This makes their Vancouver Island forays particularly intriguing.

One theory is that mature males, or boars, may be chasing younger males out of coastal mainland valleys. Another is that recovering grizzly populations are prompting randy young males to venture further afield—and across Johnstone Strait—in search of mates and food. It’s quite likely a combination of these factors.

They’re a keystone indicator species if grizzlies are healthy, so are myriad other species, from salmon to huckleberries to the riparian forests fertilized by the nutrient-rich fish carcasses bears leave behind on the forest floor.

According to the Ministry of Forests, however, none of their on-staff biologists know of any “confirmed observations of grizzly bears denning on Vancouver Island.” Nor have there been any females spotted or identified, an obvious prerequisite for a grizzly population to be seeded on the west side of the Salish Sea.

But what if, one day, a female griz does decide to make the island-hopping journey over from Rivers Inlet, Knight Inlet or some


But what if, one day, a female griz does decide to make the island-hopping journey over from Rivers Inlet, Knight Inlet or some other bear-rich mainland valley? Could that event be the genesis of a Vancouver Island grizzly population that would thrive alongside their black bear kin?

other bear-rich mainland valley? Could that event be the genesis of a Vancouver Island grizzly population that would thrive alongside their black bear kin?

It makes for a fascinating “what if?” thought experiment. Adding grizzlies to Vancouver Island would significantly alter the predatorprey matrix. Certainly, the bears would quickly join the range of creatures (including human fly anglers) that gather for the salmon feast every fall on island rivers (which would likely reorganize the feeding hierarchy at the best fishing holes). Seeing as how Columbian ground squirrels—part of the marmot tribe—are a favourite summertime snack of grizzlies from the BC interior, the already endangered Vancouver Island marmot would likely face an even more uncertain future should the bears show up on its turf.

Vancouver Island’s bountiful black-tailed deer have a habit of taking refuge in urban areas (they are the bane of gardeners from Port Hardy to the Cowichan Valley). Would the massive grizzlies follow them on a suburban walkabout? Gardening becomes a lot less

relaxing if green thumbs have to shoulder-check for bears with that telltale silver hump.

Back to reality, Quadra Island’s Joanna Annett says the wonder of seeing a grizzly in her backyard was tempered by the knowledge that when this animal and humans get too close to one another it often goes bad for people. “As a nurse, I’ve seen people in ER who have been attacked by bears,” she said. “You don’t forget that.”

And when it goes bad for people, it usually also goes bad for the grizzly.

While it’s interesting to consider, the odds of grizzlies actually colonizing Vancouver Island any time soon are likely remote. So far, these ursine visitors have been either trapped and relocated—or shot—or they’ve simply swum back to the mainland. However, ecosystems are never static. Over time they adapt, evolve and change. All it would take is one fertile female with an adventurous nature to take the plunge and swim to the Island. Males would be sure to follow and then, well, things could get very interesting.

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An Excluded Sort of Place

Notes from the simple life in Haida Gwaii

As I crumple an old newspaper to light a fire in the wood stove, an article catches my eye: Every day, a teacher in a remote corner of southern China treks an hour and a half up and down craggy peaks to reach his students on a mountain ridge in a limestone cave, “without electricity, running water or any other amenity that would identify it as a home for residents of the 21st century.” Sounds like home sweet home to me.

The newspaper is dated December 11, 1993, but the news hasn’t changed much. Weapons of mass misery, genocide, political blunderings—the so-called real world seems a long way from the misty, mystical isles that I call home. Here in the wilderness of Haida Gwaii, I encounter a different sense of time, where my days fail to follow orderly paths, unfolding instead in unpredictable ways. I reset my body and mind to a cosmic time frame, plan my activities around the incoming and outgoing tides, the rising and setting sun.

When people find out where I live, they often ask, “Don’t you feel isolated, living out there, away from it all?” I even had a taxi driver in Toronto ask me if I came from an “excluded” sort of place.

Living in seclusion, or exclusion if you like, does have advantages. People are forced, by circumstances, to be polite to one another. You can’t risk running the local undertaker off the road because he turns in front of you without signaling—you may need his expertise one day.

Living in a small town, you never have to use your turn signals, anyway: Everyone knows where you are going.

At the north end of the world, home to any number of social misfits who have fled from the normal stresses of modern living, the barter system is alive and well. If you want all your garbage hauled away, you leave a reefer on top of your can as an incentive for the local collector. In the old days when they hired strippers at the hotel,

one now-famous local beachcomber is said to have offered an exotic dancer 50 pounds of shrimp to pass the night with him.

Life is simple here, pared down to the bare necessities. We have only one traffic light, for instance, and few other signs giving directions. There is no such concept as mañana on Haida Gwaii; no word exists for even that kind of urgency. A tourist once stopped for Buddy—a local character who spent his days walking the five miles, back and forth, between Skidegate and Daajing Giids—and asked him if he needed a ride. “No thanks,” Buddy replied, “I’m in a hurry.”

But the simple life can get busy here. Between cleaning crabs, gutting deer, canning razor clams and picking huckleberries for pie, I finally find time to finish reading the article about Yang Zhengxue and the limestone cave dwellers. The only modern appliance they possess is a battery-operated plastic alarm clock. Twice a day its owner lets it chirp on and on, for 45 minutes or more, “not to tell the time, but to entertain, like music from a Stone Age radio.” Those cave dwellers sound too high-tech for me.

One now-famous local beachcomber is said to have offered an exotic dancer 50 pounds of shrimp to pass the night with him.

Haida Gwaii. No place else compares to living where you can see three rainbows in the sky at once, count 25 eagles perched on the same rock, or lie out under the stars in August and watch the Perseids, the Northern Lights and forked lightning all at the same time. And when the winter storms start howling and the plane doesn’t come in, when the ferry is stuck in Prince Rupert and supplies are running low in the Co-op and the Government Liquor Store, there’s no place on this earth I’d rather be.

A simple stroll, Haida Gwaii style. YAN KACZYNSKI



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Unlocking new granite descents on the Sunshine Coast

words :: Ian Middleton photography :: Jimmy Martinello
Jorge Ackerman into the great wide open. Granite for days.
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“Friends don’t let friends climb slab.”

I picked up this quote from an old rock climbing partner, but life in the Coast Mountains, surrounded by granite, quickly taught me otherwise and I eventually embraced the techy granite slabs that Squamish and the Sea to Sky corridor offer.

After I became comfortable climbing the featureless rock, it only made sense to try descending it, too. Isn’t riding down a rock slab a bit like reading a climbing line in reverse? As mountain bikers visiting the region quickly learn, there are a plethora of incredible confidence-building granite ribbons scattered throughout our established trail systems. It’s easy to learn to love the slab.

Adventure, for me, has always been best found off the beaten path. I grew up poring over topo maps of Vancouver Island in search of new trails to run or peaks to bag and let that thirst for adventure carry me all over the globe. But a foot injury sidelined me in 2016, leaving me with serious FOMO in Squamish, so I chose to escape, heading to the more-remote northern Sunshine Coast. Finding a great community there, I turned to satellite imagery and ever-improving mapping apps in search of new granite and larger backcountry topography. I’d spent a few previous seasons dipping into the wild in the infamous Eldred Valley and suspected there’d be plenty more rock there to discover.

Sandwiched in the mountains between Powell Lake and Jervis Inlet, coastal climbers had been exploring the Eldred for decades. I’d heard grand stories of new routes and big walls in the adjoining

Daniels River Valley from Powell River climbers and knew a few moto-trials riders had been exploring granite slabs closer to town. So as soon as my foot healed enough to allow it, I followed some local beta and hike-a-biked the backside of a climbing route I’d ascended a few seasons prior. At the top, I found myself staring down a 1,400 m granite ridgeline with views of Hotham Sound and the Strait of Georgia. I was in slab heaven! The riding conjured memories of skiing volcanoes, and I felt myself craving another carving turn as I descended over the final roll and into the forest below. I immediately hiked back up for a second lap, pondering and itching for more, thinking, There must be longer, rideable slabs on the higher, inland peaks. What opportunities lay deeper in these mountains?

Scouring a few maps, I took note of a large granite ridgeline with riding potential atop the formations known as Super Unknown and Red Alert Wall. Local aviator and all-around legend Jason Rekve agreed this zone may go, but finding other keeners willing to junglemountaineer their bikes and kit up 2,000 metres of coastal bush would be challenging. Plus, I was still recovering from surgery, so I challenged myself to put my usual human-powered ethos aside and assembled an experienced team ready to heli-drop into what I hoped would be the heart of a new granite playground. Local rider Andrew Shostak joined Revelstoke-based Matt Yaki and photographer Ryan Creary to get tires on the ground that summer.

New friends on a slab day—climbing and biking in harmony. Ian Middleton (left) and Jorge Ackermann (right).

After countless hours studying contour lines and satellite imagery, I knew the granite rolled to vertical or near-vertical in many sections. In case our descent line landed the group in a hairy situation, my pack included rope, harnesses and an anchor kit to offer an escape. A Hughes 500 helicopter dropped us on the leeward side of some of North America’s tallest walls. After traversing a long ridgeline (with a bit of afternoon scrambling) we gained a south-facing spine—a 500 m concerto of steep, heart-pounding descent that delivered us on a final precipice, where it felt as if we were hanging above the forest below. Our bellows of joy echoed through the valleys as we picked our way down, carving from one dihedral to the next until the slabs gave way to vertical relief.

Adrenaline still pumping, the helicopter plucked us off our precarious pickup spot and bumped across the valley to an adjacent ridgeline, which had previously been ridden yet offered plenty more options to unlock. With three unique summits and myriad lines to explore, we ascended a nearby ridge to gain a better perspective of this incredible landscape. What we discovered was not only exponentially more vast, but also offered huge relief across all aspects: a ridgeline to the north, a bowl of slab descents to the south and a huge descent—more than 2,000 m—to the west. We’d found the playground I’d been hunting for, and I immediately began scheming how to share it with others.

As word got out, fellow Vancouver Island rider Darren Berrecloth called to plan a video shoot with some of his sponsors on this new slab paradise. (Footage from the trip was eventually released in a highlight reel called The Granite Fringe.) As I couldn’t join due to still battling that injury, I continued to work out how to further open up this unique riding area and how to share it with guests. It wasn’t a simple process, and is one I won’t likely repeat.

Nationally, 90 per cent of the Canadian landscape is royal domain—in British Columbia it’s closer to 95 per cent. This means these areas can be explored by any person or non-commercial operator; however, some areas may also be leased for use by logging corporations, mining operations, fish farms, hunters and trappers.

What we discovered was not only exponentially more vast, but also offered huge relief across all aspects: a ridgeline to the north, a bowl of slab descents to the

south and a huge descent more than 2,000 metres to the west.

I grew up on Vancouver Island, where logging and railway companies have limited access to vast amounts of this public backcountry Crown land. There, locals hoping to fish or kayak freshwater streams, explore forests or ride bikes across connecting ridgelines often run into locked and gated resource roads. I recall, at a young age, witnessing blockades and protests on these lands to protect the last remaining old growth forests (many of which are still at risk). Across this province in particular, there has historically been a tricky balance between conservation efforts to slow further deforestation or other resource extraction, and the privilege of accessing these remote areas via private resource roads.

Pool party.

After spending a few years exploring this Sunshine Coast slabriders’ paradise, I submitted my first tenure application to commercially guide mountain bikers through a 2,000-acre section in early 2018. The subsequent six years have been filled with detailed map submissions, consultations, assessments, wildlife analyses, First Nations outreach, management plans, resource tenure overlap negotiations, flight path approvals, flora/fauna outlines, risk management strategies, conflict reports and more. Waits were endured, hoops were jumped though and bureaucratic nightmares endured.

The other, more enjoyable, side of this process was returning to the location to ride and track potential terrain as well as move endless rock to forge an updated emergency egress line. This task required plenty of physical labour and old-school navigation on foot, combined with endless mapping and topo-line hunting to link improbably long descent lines down slabs and ridges into the rainforest canopy and logging roads below.

I love to share wild places the way others have shared them with me. My new company, Flow State Guiding, is about reconnecting people with the power of these sacred spaces and with that joy I first felt while riding these slabs, marrying the experience of bagging peaks while climbing and the freedom of movement enjoyed on two wheels. In communities that have historically relied heavily on

resource extraction, I will be overjoyed if I can contribute to driving a different kind of economic engine. The more people are willing to get off the beaten path and open up a different side of adventure, the better their recreation value will be.

On this particular sliver of Crown land, I feel blessed with how that tricky mix of industry, recreation, preservation and appreciation has all come together. After more than half a decade chasing a dream, my last trip to this incredible slab land included Jorge Ackermann, Jonathan Hamilton and photographer Jimmy Martinello, all of whom were heroic in their unwavering support and gargantuan efforts to unlock a last uncharted ridge. Our stoke level was high, each of us eager to explore the next ridgeline in seamless harmony with each other and the landscape.

Perhaps my friend was onto something with his old adage about slab climbing. But gifting a new climber a techy pitch of granite, a new surfer their first closeout set or a skier their first icy descent may spark a curiosity to experience our landscape in a new manner. It may offer someone that necessary push to explore beyond the daily grind and ultimately find a way to enrich their lives and those around them. It may just instill a lasting desire for those with curiosity to discover and share their own sacred spaces.

Check out for more info.

Transform and roll out! L to R: Ian Middleton, Jonathan Hamilton, pilot James Mode, Jorge Ackerman.
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Picture Thi

The passionate eye of wildlife photographer

Maxime Légaré-Vézina
words :: Feet Banks

Picture this: You’re hunkered down in your “hide,” a camouflaged tent the size of an outhouse but with a much lower ceiling. It’s midwinter in Canada, a freezing time to just be sitting perfectly still. At your feet is an expensive metal Thermos with a couple mouthfuls of still-warm tea; beside it, a plastic bottle to pee in.

You’ve been here more than eight hours, shuffling incrementally from side to side to keep the blood pumping, clenching fingers to keep them nimble. Probably 95 per cent of the time the only things moving are your eyes, scanning the outside world through a 15-cm window in the hide. It’s cold, your joints ache, your stomach rumbles and you

feel another piss coming on. By almost any metric, everything sucks.

And then the bald eagle you’ve been watching for hours turns its head in just the right way. Piercing yellow eyes stare directly at you and its snowy head feathers raise up a fraction to signal at another incoming bird. Your focus is crisp, and the silent push of a button fires up the motordrive on your mirrorless camera, capturing 30 frames in little more than a second. For a brief, frozen moment you’re the happiest person in the country.

You’re wildlife photographer Maxime Légaré-Vézina, and you just got the shot.

Saying patience is the key to wildlife photography is like proclaiming the sun an important part of daylight. Patience is a baseline necessity; it’s passion that makes a difference.

“I would say it’s [like] a disease,” Maxime says. “A lot of photographers have it, especially wildlife photographers. That fear of, What will I miss if I don’t go out this morning?”

It could be a baby and mother raccoon peering from their den in a hollow tree trunk, a photo Maxime captured in his home province of Quebec that was a finalist at the prestigious Montier Photo Festival in 2023.

Or it could be a woodland caribou trotting majestically through a winter forest, a tiny loon chick riding on its mother’s back, a pouncing fox, a wary lynx, a great horned owl, a moose, a cedar waxwing, a grizzly bear, a grey wolf. Name a Canadian animal and chances are Maxime has searched, waited, found and photographed it.

“For the first few years it was pretty intense,” Maxime says. “Photography was the only thing I wanted to do. My friends would ask me to go do things with them and it was always, ‘No.’ Now that I do it full-time, I’m more relaxed. If I don’t go out every day, it’s OK. I think that’s more reasonable.”

Born and raised in Quebec City, the now 34-year-old was a typical Canadian kid who spent weekends canoeing or hiking with his family. “As a teenager I had the same interests as pretty much all the young guys,” he admits with a hint of gentlemanly restraint. “We weren’t getting out into nature as much, you know? But when I turned 22 I just reconnected to it and that still drives my photography. Sure, I’m trying to capture what I see, but really I’m just finding a new way to connect to the natural world around me.”

Why do people love photographing animals so much? “It’s a good question,” Maxime ponders. “Why do I love them so much? Because they’re not human, maybe? I don’t know, but I feel like we get a glimpse into another world with animals. Some are fierce predators, some are super-cute. They can be graceful, powerful, and they all have their specific behaviours. It’s another reality.”

Since 2019, Maxime has been sharing insights and techniques on how to visually connect to animal worlds through photography workshops and tours. In 2022, he quit the security of his bank job (though he credits the hours—noon to 8 p.m.—as hugely beneficial, allowing him to shoot photos every morning) to become a full-time professional wildlife photographer, chasing images and mentoring others throughout the year and around the globe.

“I haven’t met anyone who learned wildlife photography by going to school,” he says. “It’s the kind of thing you learn in the field, usually by yourself. So, if I can help someone get started in the right direction, I enjoy that.”

“My best photos come from Canada because it’s my home. I know the animals, the landscapes, and it’s a huge country.”

Part of starting that journey on the right foot means understanding the rules of the trail ahead. These days, photographers are expected to be as non-impactful on animals and ecosystems as possible, and many competitions disqualify photos taken in a manipulated situation. Gone (for the most part) are the days of tossing chicken gizzards into a field to attract red foxes, or sinking a dead fish (or a live one in a glass tank) just below the surface of a lake to lure a diving osprey or torpedoing kingfisher.

Working at what he calls “the worst job I ever had” (selling insurance for a bank), Maxime’s photo career launched in 2014 after an argument with his then-girlfriend. “She had a camera and we’d both use it when we went out on trips, then argue about who had taken which photos. So I realized, OK, I should get my own camera. And then, quickly, taking photos was my entire life.”

These days, wildlife photography is the act of visually documenting animals in their natural habitats. And while people had been photographing birds and captive animals since the mid-1800s, National Geographic didn’t publish its first wildlife photos—whitetailed deer in Pennsylvania photographed by George Shiras III—until 1906. (Keep in mind that until the late 1800s a photograph required the subject to stand absolutely still for up to 30 seconds while the image developed on a metal or glass plate.)

Times have changed. In 2023, almost 55,000 photos were submitted to the Natural History Museum’s global Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, up from 38,570 images the year prior.

“Even when I started, just a decade ago, you would see photographers in Quebec feeding mice to snowy owls,” says Maxime. “I think it was more common here in the east than in BC, but either way, it’s an old way of thinking. The new generation tries to get more natural shots and be more respectful of the animal and their space. It’s much more rewarding when you get a photo because you waited for hours rather than threw the animal a live mouse.”

Part of the appeal of capturing images in the most natural way possible is that it requires a much closer understanding and respect—a bond, even—with the animals and the landscapes they inhabit.

“It started early for me, just learning the difference between bird species. For most kids, a bird is a bird—but for me it was a chickadee, a junco or a tufted titmouse. I still use what I learned when I was young. If I know a bird by its sound, or what ecosystems it likes to inhabit, or its behaviours, the mating season… all this knowledge is going to help me or the people I’m guiding to get the photos we want.”

In recent years, this knowledge expanded internationally as Maxime’s love of wildlife led him to toucans in the jungles of Costa Rica, flamingos in the highlands of Chile, wild horses in the south of France, and to Spain, Austria, Colombia and Alaska. On an annual

PREVIOUS SPREAD Black bear, Vancouver Island. LEFT PAGE, CLOCKWISE STARTING TOP LEFT Pine marten, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario; bald eagle, Homer, Alaska; great horned owl, Vancouver Island; common loons, Quebec City.

Tips for New Wildlife Photographers

Exhibiting his photography two to three times a year in Canada and Europe, Maxime Légaré-Vézina’s Instagram account (@maxime_lv_photography) showcases more than 1,200 photos. A portfolio that deep makes the following tips certified gold for anyone keen on getting into wildlife photography:

Camera: Start off shooting in AV—aperture priority—mode. Many people want to shoot full manual, but don’t really understand how shutter speed, aperture and everything work together to manage the exposure. Full auto mode is no good because the camera doesn’t know what you want to shoot, so go with AV and the widest aperture (lowest F-stop) possible. You get a nice, blurred background with maximum light coming in, translating to the highest shutter speed, which is what you usually want for wildlife.

Winter in Switzerland workshop, he leads a group into the forests, plains and mountains in search of ibex, chamois, ermine and more. But most photographic adventures still occur in his homeland, whose animals, according to Maxime, are as impressive as anywhere—and more laid back.

“Our wildlife seems a lot less skittish than in Europe. Even when animals are aware of me, they don’t care as much. A nervous animal stops acting natural—you see photos of a fox with his ears flat and you can tell that whatever is happening just isn’t right for him. I’m not after those kinds of shots. I prefer when an animal is relaxed, or accepts that I’m around. That’s when good stuff happens.”

Whether it's because Canadian wildlife possesses a built-in national chill factor, or simply due to sheer numbers, Canada is a global leader in wildlife photography. A recent study analyzed more than 70 million user-uploaded Flickr photos and ranked Canada number two in the world for the ratio of national photos tagged “wildlife.” (Kenya—home to Africa’s quintessential lions, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, leopards, etc., took top spot.)

With 80,000 known species and 20 major ecosystems including tundra, boreal forest, grasslands, temperate rainforest, the world’s longest coastline and a healthy amount of mosquito-infested muskeg and bog, Canadians have more than enough wildlife to fill a career in their backyards. “My best photos come from here because it’s my home,” Maxime says. “I know the animals, the landscapes, and it’s a huge country. There are so many species in the mountains of BC and Alberta we don’t have in Quebec, but we have stuff here that’s unique, too. And I love shooting in winter conditions because

Framing: When you get your first big telephoto lens, it’s natural to want to zoom in to the max—but be careful. I was so excited, I zoomed so far in on a mink that I cut its tail out of the frame. I wanted the animal so bad I didn’t think about composition. I learned to calm down pretty quickly.

Weather: Animals know more than we do—like when a big storm is coming. Birds will often be out feeding more than usual before a storm because they know it might be a day or two before they get another chance. Think like an animal and watch the weather.

Parks: City parks are a good place to find animals, especially owls. You can go 100 kilometres into the wild but it may be harder to find an animal because they have so much more space. In smaller habitats like parks, they can be easier to find. They’re also used to seeing people around, which helps.

Snacking: Be careful. For instance, don’t eat apples in the hide—the crunch can scare animals.

ABOVE Cross fox, Anticosti Island. BOTTOM RIGHT Maxime in Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier, Quebec. SANDRA BOURGEOIS

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of the frost and the snow. You can also get a good night’s sleep in winter. I can wake up at six—which is reasonable—and still be out in the field before sunrise. Many of the birds are gone, but I think winter delivers better photos.”

Regardless of season, success is never guaranteed. Maxime once went out every morning for three weeks without capturing a photo he liked. “I was like, Oh god, should I sell my camera? But I know it will always get interesting at some point, so I just keep going. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

It’s predawn on a crisp March morning. Maxime is outside Quebec City at a spot he’s visited hundreds of times before. There’s still a bit of snow on the ground, but his attention is focused skyward. Northern hawk owls will soon begin their northerly spring migration, and Maxime hopes to get a photo of one with the moon setting in the background. With wildlife such a wildcard, incorporating celestial elements like the moon or northern lights takes time and work. “The moon is supposed to set at 5:42, right over there,” Maxime says in a hushed voice. “I came yesterday and saw some whitewash [a polite way of saying “owl shit”] on that tree, and look—there’s an owl right there now.”

Perched atop a dead, lichen-covered tree, even in dim blue-hour light, its yellow eyes stare from a perfect half-dome head of brown and white. A cluster of sharp tail feathers juts down below the branch. Just 40 cm or so from head to tail tip, an adult northern hawk owl will eat several small rodents (or birds) a day. Maxime is just hoping it doesn’t spot one before moonset. The silence, the stillness—it’s all-encompassing.

“I’m crazy about owls,” he’d explained on the 40-minute drive out. “I’m always looking for them, and it’s not easy because they’re nocturnal, but owls have their own attitude that often feels like emotion. Like they’re angry you woke them up, or curious, or just focused on the hunt. Do animals have a soul? I’ll never know. But look into the eyes of an owl and there’s certainly something enigmatic there.”

Patience is a baseline necessity; it’s passion that makes a difference.

The owl stays in position. To shoot in such low light, Maxime stops breathing and stays completely motionless as he depresses the shutter.

“I don’t use tripods,” he says after a few dozen frames. “I have enough stuff to carry around.” He captures about 600 images before it’s time to leave, but the mission hasn’t been a success. The moon (but a crescent sliver) set in the exact spot where the sun rose. The new day had washed out Maxime’s vision—this time.

He’ll try again tomorrow.

PAGE, CLOCKWISE STARTING TOP LEFT Raccoons, Quebec City; white-tailed deer, Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville, Quebec; black bear, Vancouver Island; American kestrel, Utah. BELOW Great blue heron, Quebec City.





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Mission: Coastal Cleanup

Rugged Coast Research Society unites surfers, scientists and more to clean the remote coasts of Vancouver Island

“Does everyone remember the procedure if someone is impaled in the eye?”

“Donut!” responds one of the 13 people huddled around the fireplace of a remote cabin on Vancouver Island. “Make a donut of gauze and secure the debris,” is the quick (and correct) answer. It’s a fairly extreme question, but such an exchange is common practice given the nature of the expedition the following morning.

The group of staff, all outdoor experts of various forms, have gathered to help undertake one of Rugged Coast Research Society’s largest operations. The next morning, the assembled crew will hike, float and fly into remote coastal regions to remove caches of collected debris from shoreline cleanup operations along the outer islands of Vancouver Island’s western shores.

Rugged Coast Research Society started in 2017, when a group of surfers hunting for remote breaks along Vancouver Island became fed up with the amount of marine debris washed up on the coastline and began organizing cleanups. With a variety of professional backgrounds in outdoorbased careers, the group’s passion for the protection of wild places, combined with their “get-it-done” attitude, has inspired rapid growth for the organization. What

started with simply filling their personal boats with flotsam and beach trash has evolved into a highly specialized crew with the equipment to conduct large-scale operations that feel almost military in scope.

Nowadays, these cabin-based briefings include a wide variety of technical experts, such as commercial dive teams and Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping specialists. Expanding the group’s expertise has allowed Rugged Coast to broaden their mission through underwater restoration, education, mapping and assessment. Additionally, their expansion has seen partnerships with like-minded organizations and communities throughout Vancouver Island as well as the Clean Coast Clean Waters Initiative, a provincially funded program focused on marine shoreline cleanup and derelict vessel removal in BC. Also significant is the group’s strong working relationship with Indigenous communities through a combined passion for stewarding the lands and waters they share. Through collaboration and partnerships with a wide array of coastal Indigenous Nations such as the Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/ Che:k'tles7et'h', Metlakatla and Hesquiaht First Nations, Rugged Coast and their Indigenous partners provide employment and skills development opportunities to one another, creating a mutually beneficial alliance.

Departing before sunrise, the crew take trucks to the end
of Gold River Highway and board landing craft, navigating through the darkness.

Renny Talbot, a director and founder of Rugged Coast, explains: “It’s always flashy and fun to point to the approximately 800 km of shoreline we have cleaned and the 240,000 kg of pollution [debris and vessels] we have removed from the coast. No doubt, this has greatly benefited the nearshore ecosystem and prevented injury and death to a plethora of small and large organisms. However, the lasting impact is the creation of a community and network of skilled coastal stewards with a passion for removing marine pollution and taking action to protect what they love. These

values and skills will be passed on, and I have no doubt that this will result in millions of kilograms of pollution being removed from the marine environment over time.”

What is clear the night before the expedition is the scale and professionalism of Rugged Coast’s operations. Their briefing outlines the various helicopters and watercrafts in operation the following day, what procedures will be in place if unexpected weather leaves crew abandoned on remote islands, and the importance of the significant survival gear they all must carry.


It all signals the earnest and exhilarating nature of their work.

Following the briefing, with the fireplace simmering low and the cabin full of anxious excitement, Renny proclaims, “Well, everyone, get some rest. See you all at 5 a.m.”

At oh-five-hundred the next morning, long before the sun is set to rise, the cabin is already abuzz as crew members throw on rain gear and double-check their equipment. Ignoring the pouring rain, we jump into the trucks and head to the boats to finally begin our mission.

After enduring more than an hour of navigation through rough ocean waters and relentless rain, the crew gears up for their arrival in Yuquot. Sourced through the generous donations of their devoted supporters, the landing craft is instrumental in transporting equipment that is then hiked to the designated landing zones, ready to meet the helicopters.


Having unloaded the landing craft, the team awaits the arrival of the helicopters. Utilizing the available time, they review logistics and ensure everyone is familiar with the procedures. With potentially threatening weather looming, it is imperative that all team members are informed of the variables and familiar with the protocols for evacuation should conditions deteriorate.


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Located in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia’s interior, and one of just two cities in the world situated between two lakes, you’ll find a mecca of outdoor adventure in Penticton! From hiking, biking, and rock climbing, to paddling, kitesurfing, and golfing—it’s all here.

After a day of adventure, reward yourself at one of the over 80 wineries, 8 craft breweries, or cideries and distilleries. Plus, Penticton is home to world-class dining, with the culinary scene offering local farm-to-table ingredients.

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Helicopters are used to retrieve the piles of debris collected throughout the summer and fastened together into bundles. On the ground, crew members hook each bundle to a dangling long line as the helicopter hovers above. The precision of the pilots is paramount for the success of each pickup and the safety of the crew members below.

As one helicopter transports bundles of debris to the barge, another shuttles crew members between pickup zones. The day is a relentless race against time, with the team striving to collect 132 bundles before running out of fuel or daylight while oncoming rainstorms loom.


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While navigating through limited visibility amidst foggy conditions, highly skilled pilots land on small, remote beaches often barely spacious enough for their propellers to safely clear. With precision, each pilot flies with hundreds of pounds suspended beneath the helicopter, then drops the payload onto a moving barge amidst rough waters.

Jenelle, project lead and operations manager, and Renny, co-founder and director, receive news from the helicopter pilots that, due to incoming fog and hazardous flying conditions, they must terminate the mission early and quickly evacuate all volunteers from the remote beaches. Everyone was safely airlifted.


Returning to the trucks at sunset, the crew gathers their gear, marking the end of a successful mission. Despite being cut short by rain and fog, the team still managed to collect 96 of 132 bundles and, before arriving home, had already made arrangements to collect the rest the following week. Ultimately, for this one project, 180 bundles weighing in at 20,353 kg (44,870 pounds) were collected across 370 km of shoreline.


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"Bring on the night. I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight." –Sting

words :: Feet Banks

Probably vampires like sunset more than anyone, but photographers have to be a close second. Those final moments when that burning, life-giving ball of flame dips below earth’s horizon brings incredibly warm, sideways-beaming light into our world. It’s a noticeable moment in a cycle that, even though it happens every day, can often blend together into a summer blur of adventures and patio sessions as the Northern Hemisphere gifts us with extra hours of summer daylight and sunsets that often take place after your second-grade bedtime.

But don’t take those summer sunsets for granted; there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. The sun is about 1.4 million kilometres in diameter (as wide as about 110 Earths) and around 150 million km away from us (93 million miles). Travelling at the speed of light (just under 300,000 metres per second), a beam of sunlight takes about eight minutes and 20 seconds to make it to Earth.

And at sunset, that white light is coming in at such a low angle it has to push through an extra amount of atmosphere (and all the dust, ash and whatever particles are contained therein). As such, some of the colours with shorter wavelengths—like blue and green—get scattered out of the beam and the result is that “golden hour” light photographers dream of.

“Golden light and long shadows,” says photographer Joel Ducrot. “It only gets better and better… until it’s gone.”

Unless you get a photo.


“Work ended at 5 p.m. and I rushed home, loaded my bike and, on a whim, decided to grab my camera. Sometimes I lug the camera around without taking a single photo—what I call ‘taking my camera for a walk’— but it’s nice to have it for spontaneous moments like this. I remembered this specific shot but had never been there for sunset. To me, this photo captures the thrill of chasing your friends down a dusty trail and makingthe most of a long summer day with nothing on your mind aside from how perfect the moment is. Shooting at sunset takes timing (and fighting off mosquitoes), but it allows me to create imagery that feels like pure bliss and reflects what I feel out there at the end of the day.”

photo & words :: Shoda Ida riders :: Will Clack and Alex Gosselin

“Summer is a busy time for photographs and I can get overwhelmed, watching the season pass by quickly. We get out for weekend sessions, leave Saturday and hike-a-bike for an overnighter in the alpine—spots with fantastic views where you rarely see anyone else. Hiking with bikes and gear can be demanding, but that’s when I decompress. The physical exhaustion makes me feel carefree. Then at the top, watching the sun start sinking down and seeing this magical light. Sunsets from new vantage points in our extended backyard recharge my soul and my creativity. I can’t just sit and enjoy it. I have to take photos.”

photo & words :: Justa Jeskova rider :: Steve Storey
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“We started hiking up at 4 p.m. in the blazing heat with bikes and overnight gear, and we suffered mightily. The biggest challenge (apart from those incessant bastard mosquitoes!) was that everywhere I looked was an epic shot but there was so little time to shoot. Being up in the alpine at sunset, I had the feeling of being somewhere that few people ever tread, and at a very special hour—that moment when the shape of everything is silhouetted against the golden light...and then darkness falls. It’s fleeting, but that may be why we find sunsets so beautiful.”

photo & :: Michael Fox rider :: Michael Gill

photo & words :: Justa Jeskova

“Our camp setup is easy and light—a tent without the fly, sleeping bag, mattress and a couple of drinks to enjoy at night with just a few protein bars and a sandwich to last us the evening and morning. The rest of the pack is filled with camera gear. When the light goes out, we just sit outside by the fire (if it’s possible) or in the dark and watch the stars and chat for hours. I love that quality time and we never really lose out, even if we don’t get the photos we were hoping for.”


“There’s something finite about a sunset, even though it happens every day. I think that’s because it’s tied to where you are and what you did just before it. This shot is on Goat Ridge. The route we set up for took longer than anticipated, and with weather supposed to come in overnight we decided to head back to the valley. I saw this shot while traversing a ridge. We didn’t have much time, but dark clouds making for spotty light and calm water seemed like a good combination. I’m a sucker for a good reflection, and we still made it to the truck just before the headlamps came out.”

photo & words :: Joel Ducrot rider :: Celeste Pomerantz

“May 10, 2024. Well after sunset but the aurora borealis gave us a show that almost left us in disbelief. I contacted Sandy Ward at 4 p.m. to see if she wanted to capture something. She had zero hesitation. It was on. We had a plan but it all went out the window. At around 10:30 p.m. we decided to head up to join some friends who had been riding a rock slab. Sandy admitted she had backed out of riding this slab in the daytime and now she was going to do it in the dark for her first time. Needless to say, she crushed it. The beauty of it all caught me off guard and we stayed out until the early morning hours, capturing probably the most unique form of art I’ve ever been witness to.”

photo & words :: Shane Roy rider :: Sandy Ward
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Nothing Left to Lose

A 14-day, 400-kilometre solo paddle from Prince Rupert to Bella Bella

As soon as I saw “Wheels” drift into the marina parking lot on a junker bike, I knew my solo kayak journey through the outer islands of BC’s North Coast was not gonna start smoothly. He was perhaps 25 years old, shirtless with tattered jeans, and sporting the bug-eyed demeanour of a speed freak. Oddly, he had a dirty life jacket clipped to his left arm. Not wearing it, just attached and flapping—though perhaps this style is quite normal in the world of unhinged coastal tweakers. Who knows? I’d seen a few other rough-looking souls hanging around the shuttered buildings in the quickly declining downtown of Prince Rupert—end-of-the-road people living in an end-of-the-road city.

The first day of any expedition is always a psychological slog. You’ve planned and plotted for months, accumulated gear and support from sponsors, booked flights and carved out time in your schedule. Then, on the precipice of the start, umpteen more things pop up preventing you from that first paddle stroke. As usual, I found myself stuck in a quagmire of tasks and—not helping—I was also a wee bit blurry from a late night at the local brewery. The last thing I needed was this random guy added to the mix.

Riding toward me in a weaving but intent manner, he stopped a few feet short of my pile of gear then immediately launched into a twitchy, stream-ofconsciousness diatribe.

“I’m Wheels. Who are you? Where are you going? What are you doing? I’m from the future, you know. I own this marina in the future—you’re lucky I let you use it.” He swept his hand over what he claimed was his domain, or at least would be.

Wheels babbled on. And on. He offered me meth. He offered me his life jacket. He offered me a wife. I told him to leave me alone. He wouldn’t. We almost came to blows. He finally left.

The jarring interaction reaffirmed my desire to be alone for a while. I needed the tonic of solo travel, to step away from humanity and merge into a wondrous, dripping, verdant, temperate rainforest paradise.

An hour later, I finally glided away in my overloaded kayak. I’d freed myself from the trappings of that dingy coastal town, broken the fiddly inertia of preparation and was finally moving. The compounded arduousness of the hangover, my crank’d out buddy and the packing ordeal all evaporated as I set off. Now I just had to paddle, camp and eat—a simplicity that instantly put me at peace.

“I’m Wheels. Who are you? Where are you going? What are you doing? I’m from the future, you know. I own this marina in the future you’re lucky I let you use it.”


A week in, sitting by my beach fire on Campania Island, I listened to the gentle lap of waves as the sun’s caramel glow melted into the horizon. Ancient cedars loomed behind me, several with strips of bark surgically removed in previous centuries by the indigenous Tsimshian to make clothes, baskets and numerous other useful implements. The spirit of these people lives on, part of a synergy that connects everything here—be it the kelp, the trees, the moss or the whales.

The Tsimshian have a word, laxmoon, that means “of the sea.” Living day-to-day, quietly on my own, I gained an intimate understanding of this term. Through the course of my trip, I became a member of a coastal community, where all varieties of life are symbiotically bonded to the ocean. I was alone, but never lonely.

Have you ever had a moment? By “moment” I mean a distinct, seminal experience that crystallizes an entire journey. That moment happened for me as I battled into a gale down the east side of Banks Island. My head was down as waves driven by a southwester washed constantly over me. In the midst of this turmoil, a movement caught my eye.

A lone, lank wolf, its fur matted from the deluge, trotted along the shoreline. It moved purposefully until it caught my gaze and paused. I stopped paddling and let the breeze blow me back in line with the creature. We stared at each other for a moment—a moment that seemed like a year. The wolf turned away first, then continued north. I watched for another beat, then carried on south through the gale.

Inexplicably, I thought of Wheels from the marina—but in a different light. A societal outcast with a tenuous future, he now seemed much like this wolf and I. Each of us was on our own mission—for better or worse—and unencumbered by anyone or anything. Nothing to do but move forward through space and time. Free in every sense of the word.

STEVE WOODS Paddle stroke number 25,769.





words & illustration :: Carmen

When was the last time you sat still? Holding a phone or lounging in front of the computer doesn’t count. Sitting on a plane, a train or in the car? Also not included. I mean actually still. Unmoving. Intentionally. Hands empty—no scrolling feeds or fidgeting with gear. (Reading this mag also doesn’t count.)

Maybe it was at the end of a yoga class, or lying in an MRI. For some it may have been longer, back in primary school on a timeout in the corner, cross-legged facing the wall. Maybe more timeouts are the missing link—any reason to stop and let the world move around you. What if what was then a punishment is now an indulgence?

The commitment required to send a tacky gap or paint artistic pow turns is different from the commitment required to be sedentary, even just for 15 minutes. Sitting still isn’t a formal meditation; there is no pressure to empty your mind. There is no pressure to do anything. It’s an excuse to pause, to think, to observe, to listen, to just be. Could it change the way you see the trail, your day, your world? Maybe. Or it could simply provide a shot of focus and a wave of calm that can’t be accessed by constant movement. Dare you to try it.


There are no special requirements. A grassy spot in your yard, your favourite mid-ride rocky outcrop or just a bench outside the office. It’s the action (or inaction) that needs to be intentional—to go out and just sit.


Take off your bike gloves. Put your phone in airplane mode and out of arm’s reach. Turn off your smartwatch, too. Take off the shackles of technology and be completely detached. Time is gonna stand still with you for a few moments.


Choose a position where you can let your body relax. Place your hands in your lap. You don’t need to sit like a statue, but this isn’t the time to fix your hair or pick dirt out from under your fingernails. There is no minimum or maximum time and no alarm or stopwatch needed. You are disconnected, remember? Start and stop when you want, but challenge yourself to stick with it past the first 20 times you think of getting up to get on with your day, your run, your ride.


If your mind wanders, let it. Don’t follow or judge it. If you have an itch, scratch it. If your eyes wander, roll with it. Readjust your posture as needed. Take deep breaths. Blink freely and engage in being unengaged, taking in the world around you. Feel your legs buzzing from the climb and listen to the birdsongs weaving through the forest. Let the earthy dirt scent fill your nose and feel the breeze on your face.


Surroundings increase in sharpness when the observer is still. Shadows dance. Details pop. Layers reveal themselves—from a delicate blade of grass to the robust mountains in the distance. A crow, a squirrel, a neighbour—patterns and monotony become an orchestra of the ordinary. Drink up the details and allow the mundane to fascinate you.

Fight the urge to get up, to check your phone, to glance at the time. You won’t miss anything. If you come up with questions, let them ruminate. Don’t try to solve anything. You are busy being still. By being sedentary, you can explore your surroundings in ways you cannot while moving through them. The sensations of your surroundings can become the entertainment: the warmth of the sun, the breeze through your shirt, the bench beneath you. Or perhaps your focus will fixate on the physical being within: the curve of your spine, the tempo of your heart, the tips of your fingers and the creak of your knees.

Indulging in the act of stillness is something you can tap into anytime, anyplace. While you wait for your buds at the trailhead or when you get home from work or during your Sunday morning dog walk. Sitting still is less about the journey and more about the experience and sensations that occur when you get there. It’s the opposite of adrenaline, yet it’s a very good companion.

Before you stand up, check in with yourself. Was the pause worth it? Maybe your surroundings are a little richer and your insides a little calmer. Or maybe nothing has changed. But you won’t know until you try. And you won’t try until you stop moving.

Do it. I dare you.



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April Matheson breezes into Squamish’s Cloudburst Cafe, hot pink toque smooshed over her blonde locks, lamenting the lack of coffee spots on Highway 99.

She orders a dirty chai and lets it go cold while sharing the origin story of an artist who—though she would never claim it—may have invented a brand-new technique.

This is an artist who, at age 16, wowed family and friends in her small Ontarian town of Fort Frances with a pencil-crayon drawing of Nelly Furtado, yet didn’t find her way into art proper until her mid-30s. Why? Crippling intergenerational perfectionism.

“It’s everywhere. I feel it seize up my whole body,” says April. “I never finished that piece because it had been shown to people. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to their expectations.”

Instead, she applied to the pharmacy program at the University of Manitoba—despite how working as a pharmacy tech made her feel. “Every day counting pills. There were no windows, everything was fluorescent lighting, the walls were white, your coat was white and it was soul-sucking. I’d dream about counting pills. I felt claustrophobic.”

Days before uni began, two people—her boss and a beloved aunt—delivered an identical message to her within twenty minutes: “I just really wish you were doing something with your art.”

This technique creates a filtered window into the photo underneath. Each piece contains row after row of hundreds of miniature hand-etched windows.

Same words. Same tone. April panicked, listened and switched to a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Post-degree, still saddled with that perfectionism, April used her artistic skills in high-end clothing boutiques. “It was a slow on-ramp to creativity,” she says. “It was less vulnerable, which was what I needed.” April even started her own successful boutique in Winnipeg with a business partner.

Then that relationship imploded.

“My identity was built into that business. That was my retirement, my career, my baby, my entire life,” she says. “I felt like this crumpled empty paper bag, smashed and pulverized into the ground. The rapid shedding of skin was wildly uncomfortable but the other side of it was this rapid growth, which I needed.”

April escaped to Vancouver, wandering through home furnishing stores for months, cinnamon bun and coffee in hand. “Ikea is the same wherever you go. I felt… at home. It was an easy way to meditate while still out in the world.”


That idle time created space for art to emerge. April met a boutique owner who rented art studios and says that, “Within a few months, I was like, ‘Can I maybe rent one of the studios?’ I began an art practice. I was so gentle with myself, with what I did.”

April created limitations, such as only using natural black ink on white paper and not being allowed to lift the pen. She smooshed things together that weren’t meant to mix—like oil paint and latex. She messed around, messed up and made mistakes, showing up in spite of the resistance.

“I would go in, sit there and scroll Instagram. As long as I got there, it didn’t matter. As long as I made just one mark on a piece of paper, it didn’t matter. I was so gentle with myself, with what I did.”

This gentle approach and her ability to just play, paying no mind to the results, finally bypassed April’s family pattern of perfectionism. Her experimentation over the years developed the technique that now defines her work.

April applies oil paint over an acrylic base atop an enlarged photo before doing a “remove and reveal” process with a triangular eraser to etch away the oil paint. This technique creates a filtered window into the photo below. Each piece contains row after row of hundreds of miniature hand-etched windows.

She’d already had her first show and sold some pieces when, meditating on a beach during a trip to Haida Gwaii, April resolved that she wanted more art in her life. “I didn’t know what that would look like, or how it would happen,” she says. “I just knew I wanted more art.”

Within 24 hours, April got the call from Whistler Contemporary Gallery co-owner Kyle Nordman. He’d seen her art at a dinner party and was impressed enough to reach out with an offer to showcase her work exclusively.

“We were captivated by April Matheson’s artistic prowess, particularly her reveal-and-remove technique,” says Tara Wolters-

Smythe, COO of Off-Piste Fine Arts, which owns a number of galleries including Whistler Contemporary. “In her work, we found a delicate dance between presence and absence, where every stroke unveils a hint of what is below. It’s this ability to provoke introspection and evoke a sense of mystery that compelled us to showcase April’s artistry in our gallery.”

April’s latest exploration is applying her method to old family pictures, often on commission. “I like taking these little photos, often stashed away, and turning them into heirloom pieces that demand to be seen,” she says. “Old photos are great—there’s a simplicity to those images. Everyone standing straight, facing forward; we’ve got one shot, don’t mess it up.”

She hasn’t messed it up—those old photos shimmer with vitality under rows of etched windows, giving new life to people long gone. And while April doesn’t claim she’s created a new method, it’s possible the new method created her—a fully-fledged artist no longer caged by perfectionism in a windowless building.

Find April’s work in the Whistler Contemporary Gallery in the Four Seasons Whistler or hit up


– Amélie

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was a pleasure working with Adam during my real estate transactions. His attention to detail and high-level of efficiency is impressive.”

My Chuck-It List

Like a bucket list, but better for you…

words :: Jon Turk

illustration :: Lani Imre

Four wheels and a motor. Van life. My third winter in the Arizona desert.

Yesterday morning, as usual, I set out with my shovel, toilet paper and toilet paper burn can to take care of business. I hid behind a mesquite tree, dug my hole and squatted down. And there, right in front of me, I saw a pile of yellowish-brown pottery shards in the yellowish-brown dirt—the remnants of an ancient Hohokam pot, shattered. The pieces in a neat pile as if some child had dropped the clay vessel yesterday, not a thousand years ago.

And this is what I love about living in the desert, that you might walk by something a million times and not see it, that there is so much quiet wonder out here waiting to be discovered. An owl hooting from the top of a saguaro at first light, a bumblebee on a cholla flower, the first shoots of green grass rising after a rain, frozen drops of dew on the spines of a prickly pear cactus on a January morning. And you experience these treasures only if you keep your senses open and your mind still. Presence.

People ask me which national parks I visit on my journeys. I answer, “Nope. None of them. They’re all on my Chuck-It List.”

Certainly, each of those parks is spectacularly beautiful—no argument—but it’s almost like cheating.  The lofty panoramas are so in your face that you don’t have to work to see them. You don’t have to remain open to the possibility that there may be a treasure in the dirt, anywhere, anytime, hiding but not hiding, right in front of you, even while you are taking a crap.

I am attracted to spending time in nature because I seek to escape the over-crowded, oilsoaked, consumer-oriented, internet-crazed, politically wacko world we live in. And what do I get in the parks? Unfortunately, tragically, I find long lines, reservation systems, traffic, parking lots, restaurants, souvenir shops and rangers with ticket books and guns. Okay, I’m sounding crotchety and old, but that doesn’t mean I’m not right.

Instead, I say search your map apps and Google Earth, sharpen your dirt-road driving skills, fill the rig with gas, groceries and water, and head out for the hinterlands. Oh, and be sure put on your roadtripping playlist:

Head out on the highway

Looking for adventure, and whatever comes our way

Nope. Not happening. Put Steppenwolf’s sentiment on the Chuck-It List, too. Same with adventure… Chuck it…. OK, OK… Let’s back up and ‘fess up.

I spent forty years as a professional adventurer, working the trade shows for a pro deal on a pair of goggles. And to score those pro deals and sponsorships, I had to do things so outrageous that others hadn’t done them before, because no one before me had thought of it—or they were too afraid or too sensible to do it. I loved those years and those adventures. The night I washed out to sea in my kayak with luminescent algae sparkling in the gale-driven waves washing over my head. Or arctic ice crashing against the cliffs, showering sparkling crystals that danced rainbows in the sky. Or the ski lines, the vertical rock. Those adventures formed me and made me who I am today. I would do it all over if I were young again and had another go-around.

But now I’m looking through a set of free goggles that anyone can acquire, even without that pro deal. And I realize what should have been so obvious all along: That life-threatening adventure is only one way to experience the outdoors. An idea often attributed to Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson is that adventure should only happen when things have gone wrong, because you made a mistake, not because you intentionally seek it.

So many times, in so many interviews, over so many years, I repeated the cliché that by intentionally putting myself on the ragged edge, with my life on the line, I artificially created a do-or-die situation that forced me to become present. And all the while, I ignored the alternative that I could have embraced presence so much more simply without all the danger and hoopla. I failed to recognize that presence arises out of simplicity as well as complexity.

Back to the road-trip playlist, I prefer The Grateful Dead’s take on the highway:

Going down the road feeling bad, hey hey hey, yeah

Not bad as in evil, or bad as in badass, but bad as in giving the big Chuck-It List middle finger to so much of what goes on out there in the “real” world today. And then once you have made your escape, you can just hang out in the desert, or in the forest, riding your bike or doing whatever you like to do. Is that so radical? Or just so simple?

Brittany Gustafson, Squamish. LINDSAY DONOVAN
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Heidi Krause, Farwell Canyon. STEVE SHANNON
97 Sechelt Inlet. ANDREW STRAIN
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Eric Carter and Andrea Lawson, Squamish, BC. GUY FATTAL
Aniol Serrasolses, Squamish. GUY FATTAL
Experience the art of BC in Whistler, just steps from the village. Xwalacktun, He-yay meymuy (Big Flood) (detail), 2014-15. Art, Elevated. 4350 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC
Matt Maddaloni, Mamquam river. JIMMY MARTINELLO
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1. Take on your next trek in a versatile JACK WOLFSKIN BARRIER LONGSLEEVE SHIRT. Texashield Pro fabric creates a soft barrier that helps ward off mosquitoes without any chemical applications. An adjustable collar and roll-up sleeves regulate hot conditions to keep you in comfort, while three pockets stow your phone and other essentials. Available for women and men. // 2. Is there anything better than fresh-brewed, piping-hot coffee at the campsite?

The YETI RAMBLER FRENCH PRESS features a ceramic lining reminiscent of those old mugs at the cottage and the GroundsControl filter ensures no more grounds in your pour. Plus you can run it over with a truck and it will still pour a hot cup of java in a heartbeat. // 3. The ORTOVOX PEAK 55 BACKPACK is multifunctional for alpine explorers who need a durable, versatile and comfortable pack for multi-day missions and expeditions. Built for heavy loads, the pack has a clever storage option for each piece of key gear and contact surfaces are lined with Swisswool fleece that absorbs moisture and dries quickly. // 4. The SMARTWOOL MEN’S ULTRALITE MOUNTAIN BIKE

3/4 SLEEVE TEE is designed with the mountain biker in mind. A regular fit allows for unrestrained movement, reflective elements boost safety in dim light and a longer back hem offers extra coverage. Made with responsibly sourced merino wool and TENCEL performance fabric for breathability, moisture management and odour resistance. // 5. The LANDYACHTZ FIBERGLASS RALLY CAT BOARD is handmade in Vancouver, at the headquarters of an innovative, homegrown company that’s been building bikes and boards since 1997. Designed as the ultimate cruiser with generous rocker and molded fenders, the Rally Cat is comfortable, maneuverable and allows for huge wheels. A brand-new fibreglassand-fir layup makes it unbelievably light, thin and strong.

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6. THE NORTH FACE LIGHTRANGE SUN HOODIE is designed for maximum protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays with ultra-breathable technology and an impossibly light and comfortable design you can take anywhere. Accredited by The Skin Cancer Foundation, this hoodie is made to keep you cool and dry during high-output activities. // 7. The ARC’TERYX BETA AR JACKET is created to deliver performance versatility with packable, breathable and durable waterproof protection across the spectrum of alpine environments and activities. The GORE-TEX PRO Most Rugged Technology delivers maximum durability, the helmet-compatible DropHood has an internal collar for added protection and an embedded RECCO reflector improves searchability in emergency situations. // 8. The FJÄLLRÄVEN KEB AGILE TROUSERS are all-around trekking trousers for adventures where freedom of movement, durability and protection are paramount. Made of a double-woven stretch fabric that dries quickly, the trousers boast zippered leg pockets and knees reinforced with G-1000 Lite Stretch. The low-profile design, tapered legs and articulated knees will make these a go-to favourite. // 9. All new (and all red), the KTM GASGAS MC-E 2 mini dirt bike is designed for the youngest possible riders (90-130 cm tall) that want to get to grips with trail riding, motocross or exploring the neighbourhood. Battery powered (so it’s very quiet and inexpensive to run), the GASGAS will last up to 100 minutes on a full charge and features three power modes, multiple ergonomic adjustment options and a ridiculously quick recharge time. // 10. Light and fast with multi-sport versatility, the all-new OSPREY TALON VELOCITY 20 ups the ante on speed and efficiency—be it PR-setting, bagging peaks or linking quick laps on the snow. With a running-vest-inspired harness, flexible back panel and lightweight design, it provides access to essentials without skipping a beat. And it’s a bluesign-certified product.

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Wide enough to keep you looking

Open enough to keep you moving

Dry enough to keep you honest

Prickly enough to make you tough

Green enough to go on living

Old enough to give you dreams

~Gary Snyder, Mountains and Rivers Without End

Celeste Pomerantz. LINDSAY DONOVAN
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