From the Sea to the Sky

Trip Start Jun 30, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Thursday, August 25, 2011

To be honest we had not even heard of Whistler prior to getting to Canada. While in Toronto, someone at one of the parties recommended booking a trip up to there. Sushma and Ravi also spoke highly of it, so we went ahead and booked a bus to take us up to Whistler. As usual I [Sharndeep] just looked for the best value for money option of getting up to Whistler. It was only after booking that Sushma informed us that some buses don't take the Sea to Sky route, which was in fact the most scenic way to travel up to Whistler.

The day of the bus journey and had to get up extra early (5.30!) to make sure we didn't miss our bus. We were not sure what route we were taking but took Sushma's advice and sat behind the drivers side for the better view. The journey lasted two and a half hours and we immediately saw the benefits of sitting on the correct side. Views were magnificent. Still weren't sure if this was the Sea to Sky route, but couldn't imagine scenery much better than this.

We arrived in Whistler village and promptly made our way up to Whistler mountain. The area is primarily a ski resort, so this was the off season, but the place was still busy. We made our way up in a Gondala - smaller than the ones at Grouse Mountain, it was just the two of us in this one. I sat facing forward and the nerves weren't too bad. Saw some people parallel to us riding an open chair lift, how crazy are they, I thought to myself.

We eventually reached the top of Whistler and the views were breathtaking. We were impressed by the views on Grouse Mountain, but this, due to being a lot higher (about 1000 feet higher), was even more spectacular. The ice capped mountains that I mentioned before - we were actually on them now! The gondala had taken us to the to top but I spotted some others taking a chair lift further towards the very peak of Whistler mountain. I quickly ushered Parminder away, and we walked around the area, exploring all the different views of lakes and other mountains. 

We sat down for a bite to eat - must be the highest BBQ in the world - in the lodge. Free WiFi was a bonus and we took the opportunity to send a few pics while we were up there. We then decided to take the peak to peak, which was another Gondala ride between the peaks of Whistler and Blackcombe mountain. Before we were able to board, the attendant recommended we take the open air chairlift to the peak of Whistler mountain. I asked how much it cost,  hoping for an extortionate amount, which could form the basis of my reasoning not to go on it. Free, he said, it's included in your ticket. Damn! We made our way towards the peak chair lift, I quickly spotted a closed sign and pointed it out to Parminder, hoping it was temporarily out of order. However, after she saw that the lift was still running and people were on it, she noted that closed sign was indeed for a different pathway that was leading down. 

It was a fairly quick hike to the bottom of the chair lift, however we didn't have the most suitable footwear.  Weight allowances didn't permit us to bring hiking boots, so trainers were the next best thing. Looking at the chair lift I thought Oh My God! It seemed quite steep to me and a lousy metal bar as a seat belt didn't instil me with much confidence neither. Anyhow, we jumped on - I tried to maintain my focus on just looking forward, as looking around made me queasy. Maybe having lunch before wasn't such a great idea. Once I made it back onto terra firma I was fine. Looking around, it was well worth the ride up. This was the actual peak, and we could see all the other peaks of surrounding mountains also. Not quite above the clouds, but we were more or less level with them. After a bit of a hike around, my thoughts turned to the ride down. Just looking down while sat on the chair lift, I knew this was not going to be good. Kept my eyes open for as long as I could (about 10 seconds, give or take...) and spent the rest of the journey eyes shut and holding onto that metal bar as tight as I could. The whole time, I could hear Parminder taking photos (of myself, as well as the great views she kept reminding me that we were privileged to) I kept telling myself that it was perfectly safe, and thousands if not millions must have used the chair lift before, but just peaking through my eyelids led to them being firmly shut once more. Got to the bottom, phew - thank god that was over I thought to myself.

We finally moved onto the peak to peak ride. Although this was also high up, I wasn't as fussed. We even waited for the glass bottom gondala, allowing us a view of all the mountain scenery directly below us. (Which, in all honesty was many trees, and many felled trees - no bears on this route, have to look for the berry bushes to spot them!) I found having my feet firmly on something solid helped. It was still scary, but the relief of having come of the chair lift and the fact that I was looking forward to just coming down Blackcombe mountain on a gondala relieved me somewhat.

We made it over to Blackcombe Mountain. It looked much the same, a few different views - still awesome but had spent the best part of five hours on top of the mountain now. My thoughts were firmly on getting down to Whistler village. I wasn't afraid while we were on solid ground, but the thought of trusting another cable cart to take us down wasn't too appealing. Sooner it was over the better I thought. I looked around and saw a chairlift going down. A guy who was in the same peak to peak gondala remarked that that was the best way down. I looked around, and to my horror that was in fact the only way down. Gulp! 

Needed a break before going thousands of feet down on a chairlift. We visited another cabin and Parminder had a hot chocolate with cream while I had to opt for something a bit stronger. Free WiFi enabled me to say my potential final goodbyes via whatsapp, facebook and viber. Contemplated writing a will by email but figured it wouldn't stand in court anyway. 

Solar coaster was the name of this chair lift. I was hoping its name being similar to rollercoaster, wasn't to signify the speed it would be going at...then again maybe the quicker I get to the bottom the better. I was actually past caring by the time we sat on the chair lift, maybe the alcohol was kicking in. It didn't relieve me of my inability to look where we were actually headed though. Parminder found it hilarious while I repeated my custom of eyes shut and metal bar firmly gripped. It didn't help that she was constantly talking about how nice it all was, so asked her not to keep reminding me about the environment we were currently in, and I had seen all I wanted to see whilst perched at the top of the mountain. Parminder said she could see the end in sight after what seemed to be an eternity. I was filled with relief but thought I wouldn't risk opening my eyes until we are a bit closer. Soon after, Parminder noted that this was just a stopover to change onto another chairlift. That's just great I thought to myself. 

We came off one chairlift, and I enquired how much longer till we get to the bottom with one of the attendants. Another 15 minutes he informed me. 15 minutes I screeched (think jabez Clegg, 5Pounds...), he reassuringly told me that people don't often fall out and that the odds were with me - like I didn't know that already! We sat onto the next chairlift, and Parminder commented on how the metal bar on this one felt a bit dodgy - inspiring me with so much more confidence... 15 minutes, I kept thinking to myself. That's not too long, the length of a halftime team talk. All kinds of irrational thoughts kept entering my head. Suddenly remembered how Parminder hadn't done her daily path that morning, as we had been instructed to by the gyani at the gurdwara before we started our yatra. Could this count against us? Maybe the effects of alcohol were being enhanced by the high altitude, I had read that once. Tried to focus on deep relaxing breathing, but the crosswinds weren't helping that neither. Parminder was still talking about the surroundings, so we made a deal she could buy whatever she wanted if she didn't talk about it for the rest of the ride. She failed - good for my wallet, but not so good while I was still thousands of feet above the ground. After close to the longest 15 minutes I've ever known, Parminder remarked that she could see the cars. Let me know when you can read the number plates was my reply.

Finally, we got off the chair, and I felt so relieved. Although I found the whole experience, lets say, gut wrenching, I would definitely recommend it to others. The views while on top of Whistler and Blackcombe mountains are unforgettable, and were something we had never imagined seeing before. I would've preferred to trek up but Parminder was worried about encountering Black Bears (I had even read up what to do if confronted by one) 

We still had a few hours before our return to downtown Vancouver, so we walked around Whistler village. Parminder did some more shopping, and I managed to catch the rapper AZ doing a mic check for a performance he was doing that night. Pity, we couldn't stick around, entry was free before 10 as well.

We caught the bus back to Vancouver, and found the journey doubled as a sunset tour, blowing the views we witnessed on the bus journey up out of the water. A great bonus, and a great way to end our day and our stay on the west side of Canada.
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