‘Tis often more about the company than the view …

… although a good view doesn’t hurt.

In keeping with my posts about hikes, waterfalls, and beautiful views, today I’m featuring my most recent hike with three friends. With the last of the four children leaving for university on Monday, we decided to memorialize the moment with a walk up the “Stawamus Chief,” south of Squamish (between Vancouver and Whistler), on Sunday.

Known to locals simply as “The Chief,” the massive granite rock rises over 500m straight up from Howe Sound. We hiked to the first of three peaks, which is only a 4km round-trip but as I said, one does gain 500 metres in altitude on a trail that includes some freakishly steep stairs, a few ladders and chains. One of our party ran up every flight of stairs. Oh, how I resented her light feet and mountain-goat like gait. I would have said something scathing but I had diverted all available oxygen to my leg muscles and by halfway had transformed into a blithering idiot, completely unintelligible even to myself.

The hike did nothing for my self-image either, as I was overtaken by a 91-year-old great-granny and several dogs, including one wiry-haired one, which we named “the rat.” While I was wheezing my way up the path, it sashayed from rock to rock cheerily, and when tired, would wait for one of its young 2-legged bond-servants to carry it further, until adequately rested. If “the rat” had thumbs it would have thumbed its nose at me. Of that I’m sure.

Speaking of which, the 14-year-old who normally only gets up at 2pm joined us despite our early 10am start, and was most perplexed at how the dogs had managed to scale both the ladders and the chains. (Not to spoil the punchline, but they were carried, obviously.)  I replied that I too was at a loss to explain it, what with their lack of opposable thumbs.

The other member of the party, who happens to be studying to be a veterinarian, explained that they were probably using disposable thumbs, developed for just this purpose. For the rest of the hike we asked every person walking with a mutt whether they had invested in disposable thumbs to help their pooches climb. As with most inane jokes we thought it was hilarious every time, while they regarded us with mild, bewildered irritation.

But really, hikes like The Chief are all about the snacks one gets to enjoy guilt-free at the summit. And we had the best of the best – mangoes, but no knife to peel them (what a glorious mess that was) and biltong, a South African dried meat delicacy. The vet-in-training convinced the 14-year-old that it was made from bull’s tongue but that didn’t faze her, and she polished off most of the bag on her own.

We laughed on the way up, we laughed on the summit and we laughed going down. And in-between all the laughter I took a few photos too.

(You do know to click on the images to view them slightly larger, right?)



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