I like to think that Remington and I are not ignorant tourists. We don’t wear t-shirts saying, “I love Dollywood” and we don’t attempt to eat at every Hard Rock Cafe. We normally talk to locals to find the best restaurants and attractions. During our honeymoon in Whistler B.C. we had the bright idea to ignore the local advice about hiking Panorama Ridge.
We had heard there was still snow on the trail, but the sun was shining with the highs in the 80s. We figured the snow would only be near the summit and it probably wouldn’t be very deep. After all, we live in South Carolina and thus are experts on snow. We also knew that Blackcomb Ski Mountain was still open, but that was a different mountain; it was the ski mountain. We packed our bags the night before and headed to the trail first thing in the morning. The Panorama Ridge trail is 30 km round-trip, so we planned on the hike taking 11 hours. We arrived at the trail head around 8 AM and there was only one other car in the parking lot. Perfect! We could feel like Lewis and Clark as we explored the trail by ourselves.
During the first 5 kilometers of the hike we were in complete awe of our surroundings. There were creeks rushing down the side of the mountain and trees as tall as we could see. The trail was as steep as we expected and it led to our growing feeling of accomplishment. After the 5 kilometers trail mark we started to see little patches of snow. Huh…in our mind, the snow wasn’t supposed to appear until the last 5 kilometers of the hike not in the first 5 kilometers. Still, we were hiking in a completely shaded area, so obviously the snow would disappear once we hiked to the sunny side of the mountain.
A little while later we reached a fork in the trail with one side going Girabaldi Lake and the other side going towards Taylor Meadow and Panorama Ridge. At this point there was a consistent line of snow on the trail, but nothing too major, so we decided to continue hiking towards Panorama Ridge and we would reevaluate at the meadow. It quickly became obvious that we were not going to make it to the top of Panorama Ridge. There was now snow everywhere, not just a thin line on the trail, everywhere. Suddenly we were following a set of ski tracks instead of foot prints. Most of it was snow pack so we were walking on top of the snow. However, it was significantly more tiring and in the warmer spots our feet would fall through the snow.
After what felt like the longest kilometer ever we finally reached Taylor Meadow, the half-way point of the hike. It was around noon and our map had told us there was a shelter in the meadow, so we planned to have lunch in the shelter and reevaluate. The meadow was absolutely stunning. There was an amazing view of Black Tusk and the surrounding mountains. It was also in the meadow that we realized the depth of the snow. There was a trail sign completely submerged and a snow drift up to the roof of the shelter. We had easily been hiking on snow that was 10 to 15 feet deep. Clearly we weren’t prepared to hike any further. We accepted our defeat and decided to spread out our emergency blanket on the snow pack for a picnic in the field to enjoy the view. With full bellies and slightly higher spirits we began the trek back down the mountain.
On our way back down we encountered other tourists and my morale was slightly lifted. At least we had started our hike at a reasonable time and we weren’t attempting to hike the mountain wearing sneakers, shorts, and t-shirts, but if I am honest we were just as ignorant as them. This hike was a nice reminder that we are not above local advice especially when we are in a different climate.