Sightseeing is officially open on Whistler Mountain. Plenty of people heading up to the alpine to ride the Peak 2 Peak gondola and witness winter’s melting snow blanket. The white stuff is still very much present this time of year, as evidenced by the towering snow walls near Whistler Peak. The Peak Chair and the surrounding hiking trails were yet to open, but there’s a more exciting way to the reach the top – the Whistler Via Ferrata. If you’re unfamiliar with the via ferrata experience, check out these 5 reasons why you should go.
Taking an Iron Break
After too many hours stuck in front of a glowing screen this week, I jumped at an opportunity to join one of the Whistler Via Ferrata tours with Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures for a photo shoot. Meeting our guide Josh Majorossy and a group of Whistler locals at the alpine hut across from the Roundhouse, we were soon kitted out in harnesses, helmets and hiking boots for the guys who brought their street shoes. After lathering up with some sunscreen, we set off for our roughly 30 minute approach to the base of the Whistler Via Ferrata course.
For this group of locals, hiking across a snow field usually occupied by hundreds of skiers was a strange sensation. With the summer hiking crowds yet to arrive, the only thing we could hear was a distant snow cat ploughing a path near the top of the T-Bar lift. Members of our group kept pointing out the runs they had skied this past winter, surprised at how much of it is still skiable.
Arriving at the base of the route, snow still covered much of the first section so we all grabbed a rope to help us towards the rock face. Josh reiterated the safety message of only one person should be clipped into one section of cable at a time. With reassurance from the group, he set off up at the first ladder section with each of us following suit.
Trail in the Sky
With every face that we scaled, the view of the surrounding terrain became better and better. Having ridden the Peak Chair hundreds of times, scaling to Whistler Peak in this relaxed and methodical way was a literal breath of fresh air. The hour or so that it took to reach the peak flew by quickly with photo opportunities at every stop.
As much as the group wanted to linger and take photos at the top, we still had to get back to the Whistler Village Gondola before closing time. Walking down from the peak, the snow walls were as tall as houses. But instead of sticking to the road all the way back to the Roundhouse, Josh was able to lead us down the Saddle, a steep ski run to shortcut the walk home. Almost everyone took the opportunity to glissade, sliding down on their bums and laughing the whole way down. The sun was hot enough to dry us all out by the time we returned to the Alpine Hut.
The snow may be disappearing a little more every day, but the Whistler Via Ferrata runs well into the late summer. Plenty of people can say they rode the chair lift to Whistler Peak, but can they say they’ve climbed to it?
It may not be skiing or snowboarding, but glissading is still fun sliding
Heading to Whistler and want to try the alternative way to Whistler Peak? Click here for more information.