What to do with an early spring? Chilliwack seems to have embraced the early arrival of spring this year, and already the trails are buzzing with activity. For anyone who has been up on Elk Mountain lately or follows the Hike Chilliwack Facebook page, you have probably seen that the paragliding pilots have also been getting active. This warm weather has meant that rather than launching their paragliding wings and slowly gliding down to the valley floor as they have all winter, the pilots have actually been able to thermal! I was up on Elk last week as a few pilots took off, with families hiking the ridge trail stopping and watching in awe. They took off of their launch sites with ease and immediately harnessed the thermal updrafts that were lifting out of the Chilliwack River Valley. In no time they were high above the hikers and the trees, soaring in slow revolving circles, much like birds riding a sea breeze, staying aloft without flapping.
Rockclimbers have been out as well. With the prolonged periods of rain-free warm weather, the rock has begun to dry off and people have been exploring the new season up the Chilliwack River Valley, in Hope and outside of Harrison Hot Springs. Rock bluffs and boulder fields that are often obscured from view by the early spring foliage, are now visible and the hardcores have been out with wire scrub brushes and rappelling equipment, cleaning new areas for the season to come.
Mountain bikers have hardly seen a pause in their riding since last summer, however those who did put their bikes away have wasted no time in getting out their equipment and hitting the trails. The Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association and their huge group of dedicated members and volunteers have been busy over the winter, building a new route on Vedder Mountain for the riders to climb uphill, which also doubles as a beginner grade trail heading downhill. This trail has been seeing ever increasing traffic as the soils dry out a bit and the riding gets better by the day. The BC Provincial Mountain Bike Team saw fit to make a pilgrimage out to Vedder Mountain this past weekend, a fleeting secret in the West Coast mountain biking community, and they too were amazed at the caliber of riding that Chilliwack offers.
The hiking and mountaineering community has been chasing the snowline up into the alpine this spring and a few people have seen fit to begin summiting their would-be summer objectives. Mt. Macfarlane in the Chilliwack River Valley has seen a few ascents this month, with stable snow conditions and minimal avalanche risk high on the summit. This time of year there is normally a huge snowpack in Macfarlane’s North facing bowl that has a tendency to slough in the springtime in huge wet slab avalanches. This year however there is not much snow to speak of and in the early morning this crisp snow surface makes for easy traveling and quick ascents.
Peaks like Cheam, Lindeman, Lady, Macdonald and Web have seen spring ascents as well. In a typical year some of these mountains might see February ascents by seasoned mountaineers however they would be clad in harnesses, hopes, ice axes and crampons to undertake these objectives. This year however the conditions have made these peaks a bit more attainable for the ambitious hiker.
Stay safe out there this spring and remember to always notify a friend or family when you head into the backcountry.
Sam Waddington is owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors: “Equipping you for rock, water, snow, sand, wind and anything else the outdoors can throw at you.”