When I started this blog back in 2009, I had big plans to finished 100 plus posts about mountains in Canada. I made a preliminary list and encouraged people on Flickr to add photos of Canadian mountains to the 100 Famous Mountains of Canada group. I fantasized about not only finishing write-ups for 100 mountains (or more) but also possibly getting something published – a book would have been great! – about this list.

For the first year, keeping up the posts was not too hard, but after my second child was born, my work schedule got busier, and I began new projects, and later moved even farther away from my work place,  the time I had to devote to this blog receded like the alpine glaciers in the mountains.

For the last few years I have been thinking about coming back to this blog, to add a few more posts just to encourage myself to keep it up, but I’ve begun even more new projects and it’s clear that I just won’t be doing anything further for an undetermined amount of time.

So I’m making an official announcement that this blog is becoming dormant for some time. It could be many years. Or maybe not. No promises. But it would be nice to have the time to come back to this one day.


The Black Tusk

Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia

Elevation: 2,319 metres

Range: Garibaldi Ranges, The Coast Ranges

Candidate #60

The Black Tusk from Clinker Peak

The Black Tusk from Clinker Peak

From Highway 99 it looks like a black shark’s fin carving the sky far in the distance, high above the tree tops. From Blackcomb Mountain it appears to be a sliver of rock pricking the summit of a local nondescript peak. From the Black Tusk meadows it looks more like a gigantic loaf of blackened bread, and from Mt. Price it stands like a black rotten tooth. No matter the direction though, the Black Tusk’s English name is quickly understood for its aptness. The black stub of volcanic rock protruding from the crumbling grey volcanic cone is indeed very much like a tusk.

The native Squamish people had a different interpretation. This was “The Seat of the Thunderbird”, blackened by the mythological creature’s lightning sparks, an image that is also easily conjured in the imagination.

The Garibaldi Volcanic Belt was an active region of volcanism from around 1.3 million years ago until the early Holocene Period. During the Pleistocene Period, the region was heavily glaciated and many of the volcanic features formed in a glacial environment. Mt. Garibaldi actually formed on top of an ice sheet; the Barrier formed when a lava flow was dammed by glacial ice; and the Table is a volcanic mountain that formed beneath the ice sheet. The Black Tusk is believed to be the andesite lava that hardened in the conduit of a cinder-rich volcano. Over the millennia, the outer rock has been eroding away, exposing the darker lava plug of the volcano’s neck.

The Black Tusk is one of the best-known mountains in the local mountain ranges and is popular among hikers and artists. Though the rock is friable and loose, there is a route to the summit up through a chimney which is accessible from the Black Tusk Meadows. From the summit one can see twin peaks of The Lions which stand watch over Vancouver. While it is possible to climb the mountain as a day trip from the Garibaldi Lake parking lot, it does make for a very long day. Most prefer to camp at Garibaldi Lake or Taylor Meadows and take a more leisurely time.

This was the first mountain I ever climbed. When I was 17 years old, a high school friend and I spent two nights camping at Garibaldi Lake and climbed to the summit of The Tusk on the second day. While climbing the chimney, my friend called down to me and as I looked up I struck my right knee against a sharp piece of lava rock, puncturing the skin in two places. I still bear two faint scars from that incident and I proudly think of them as my Black Tusk scars.



Further reading:



Vancouver Trails

Whistler Hiking Trails

Mount Garibaldi

Location: British Columbia, Garibaldi Provincial Park
Elevation: 2,678 metres
Range: Coast Mountains, Pacific Ranges, Garibaldi Ranges
Candidate: #59

Volcanoes have to be the most exciting mountains to read about because unlike other mountains that just look breathtaking, volcanoes actually do things that make one marvel at the forces of nature.

Mount Garibaldi is a breathtaking mountain to behold indeed. Captain George Vancouver was surely impressed by it when he arrived in 1792, and George Henry Richards, who was surveying Howe Sound aboard the HMS Plumber in 1860 was suitably impressed enough to give a new appellation to the mountain, naming it after the Italian military and political leader, Guiseppe Garibaldi.

Prior to European visitation, the indigenous people here had called it Nch’kay, the Dirty Place, because of the muddy waters that flowed from the mountain in the Cheekye River. According to their oral history, a great flood occurred that covered all but two mountains and the people latched their canoes to the slopes of Nch’kay until the waters subsided. The area was of special importance to them owing to the abundance of obsidian – natural glass – which could be found on the upper parts of the mountain.

Mount Garibaldi formed in a series of volcanic eruptions roughly 250,000 years ago. It is a unique volcano in North America because it erupted atop an ice sheet during the last glacial period. Though the ancestral volcano formed a nice cone typical of stratovolcanoes, partial melting of the ice caused distortions in the latter formation of the cone. Not only the main volcano, but several surrounding volcanic features formed during the eruptive periods. Table Mountain is a flat-topped volcanic structure that formed beneath the ice sheet. The Opal Cone is responsible for a 20km-long lava flow from an eruption between 10,700 and 9,300 years ago. The Barrier is a wall of lava that pooled against a glacier when Clinker Peak of Mount Price erupted. Then there’s the remarkable Black Tusk, which will be featured in the next post.

Mount Garibaldi is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc which extends from California up to Mount Meager northwest of Garibaldi, or to the Silverthrone Caldera according to some geologists. Though dormant now, it is considered to have potentially active magma chambers and exhibits frequent seismic activity.

Garibaldi Provincial Park was established in 1927 to protect the rich geology of the area. There are five main hiking trails with wilderness camping areas. Visitors can experience grand views of glaciated peaks and enjoy alpine meadows. Climbing the mountain is dangerous as much of the exposed rock is rotten lava and volcanic ash; however, crossing the Garibaldi Névé, which covers much of the mountain’s east side, and following snow routes are the best way to reach the summit. Therefore, even though hiking is best enjoyed from July to September, climbing should be done during the colder season. The first to reach the summit were mountaineers A. Dalton, W. Dalton, A. King, T. Pattison, J.J. Trorey, and G. Warren of Vancouver in 1907.

Photos: 100 Mountains of Canada on Flickr

Further Reading:



Volcano Discovery



Mount Tantalus

Location: British Columbia, Tantalus Provincial Park (near Squamish)
Elevation: 2,603 metres
Range: Coast Mountains, Pacific Ranges
Candidate: #58

When I was 17 years old, my parents drove and friend and me up to Garibaldi Provincial Park, where just my friend and I were going to hike up to Garibaldi Lake and climb the Black Tusk. It was my first overnight trip apart from my family or any Boy Scout group. When the Tantalus Range came into view, I asked my dad to pull the car over because I wanted to get a shot of that spectacular scene. Black, rocky spires pierced through a white mantle of glacial ice with green forests wrapped around the feet of the peaks. This view has stopped untold numbers of visitors to the area and there is a small rest area with a picnic table situated slightly above the highway so one has an unobstructed view to the mountains.

The mountain names inspire visions of Greek mythology: Alpha and Omega, Pelion, Serratus, Pelion, Niobe, Pelops, and of course Tantalus. As the myth goes, Tantalus was punished in Hades for all eternity by being submerged up to his neck with fruit hanging just out of reach, forever “tantalizing” him with something he could never have. The local story goes that a climber was tantalized by the ice-draped peaks from across the turbulent waters of the Squamish River.

The range is only 16 kilometres wide at its widest and 35 kilometres long. However, it is the first grand view of glacier-covered mountains when driving to Squamish from Vancouver. The mountains are popular with tourists, photographers, and even film makers, but naturally there is a special allure for climbers. The first stage of the climb is a 4 to 6-hour hike up to Lake Lovely Waters and later requires glacier crossing and some difficult scrambles with some short pitches required further up the ridge.

The mountain was first climbed in 1911 but not via the lake. Instead, climbers B. Darling, J. Davies, and A. Morkill went up the Rumbling Glacier route. This route is not possible now due to glacial retreat. The exposed rock would make it very difficult and there is no path through the forest.

View from near Levette Lake

View from near Levette Lake


100 Famous Mountains of Canada on Flickr




ClubTread report

Tantalus Provincial Park



The Stawamus Chief

Location: Squamish, British Columbia

Elevation: 702 metres

Range: Pacific Ranges

Candidate: #57

World-class rock climbing. Yosemite North. Smaller version of Half Dome. At 702 metres high, the Stawamus Chief (a.k.a. The Chief) is not going to compete with Canada’s soaring peaks. But it is a mountain of great significance. Its physical features, accessibility, popularity with climbers and tourists alike, and geology, not to mention its stunning appearance when first viewed along the Sea to Sky Highway when coming from Vancouver, make this mountain a must for the list of Canada’s 100 famous Mountains.

Formed as a pluton of granodiorite way back in the Early Cretaceous (about 100 millions years ago), the rock was gradually brought to the surface by the erosion of overlying material, largely by glacial activity in the last 2.5 million years, and also by uplift caused by tectonic movement along the Pacific boundary. In the final stages of glacial activity, the rock was entirely covered by ice and the glacier that carved out Howe Sound – a fjord – also cut away at the rock, creating a face in the same manner and similar in appearance as Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. The Chief is the second largest granite monolith in the world and bears many features of interest, including deep gulleys, marvelous examples of glacier polish, an array of various sizes of boulders, prime examples of exfoliation (a kind of sheet weathering in strong-quality granite), and a dyke of later-formed igneous material that intruded into a split in the granite monolith. It is also home to peregrine falcons.

The Chief’s excellent rock climbing conditions and the surrounding Coast Mountains have helped make Squamish a world-class climbing destination. However, tourists who are content to simply stand and gawk or snap a few shots can enjoy a visit to the Chief as well as boulder enthusiasts and hikers. The Chief is divided into three peaks and well-maintained hiking trails allow access to the first two summits to hikers. The highest summit is the third summit which is a little more difficult to access and thus less popular. The views from the First Summit over Howe Sound are spectacular.


Flickr 100 famous Mountains of Canada

Further reading:





TourismSquamish (very good 360-degree movable view)


The Lions

Location: Metro Vancouver, British Columbia

Elevation: West Lion 1,646 metres, East Lion 1,606 metres

Range: North Shore Mountains, Coast Range

Candidate: #56

The Lions are the most easily recognizable and outstanding mountain peaks visible from Vancouver and many of the surrounding areas. From my childhood home in Surrey they were visible from the living room window and from my street. Set back from the mountains overlooking the city, the Lions are two twin hornblende diorite peaks that resemble the lion monuments of Trafalgar Square, hence their English name. The Lions have inspired the name of Lions Gate Bridge and the B.C. Lions football team.

Geologic history has them carved out by the great glaciers that once covered the local mountains; however, native lore tells a beautiful story of two sisters. A great chief or Tyee of the area was going to hold a tremendous banquet and celebration – a potlatch – to celebrate the coming of age of his two treasured daughters. People of tribes from all around were invited except for a tribe to the north with which the Tyee was at war. As he had won all the recent battles he decided he could afford to turn his back on their war cries for a week to celebrate. His daughters then came to him and requested that he invite his enemies to the fest. The father could not deny his daughters their wish as it was their celebration and so invitation fires were lit up the coast and the two warring tribes made peace. The Great Sagalie Tyee saw his Indian children and smiled and decided to make the two sisters immortal. He placed them on the mountains where they remain to this day. The name in the native Squamish language means “The Sisters”. For a detailed retelling of the story, go here.

The Lions can be reached via the Binkert Trail from Lions Bay or the Howe Sound Crest Trail. The elevation gain is over 1,200 metres and round trip takes several hours. Most people climb to the base of the West Lion but many attempt the climb to the summit. This is not a climb for the inexperienced and there have been deaths. A good report on the climbing conditions can be found here. The East Lion is the more difficult of the two to climb but it is within the Capilano Watershed and climbing is forbidden though this is not enforced.

For their symbolism to the City of Vancouver and their importance to the Squamish Nation, as well as for their natural beauty and geologic interest, I believe this mountain with its twin peaks is worthy of being considered one of Canada’s 100 famous Mountains.


Flickr 100 famous Mountains of Canada




The Legend of the Two Sisters


Bivouac West Lion

Bivouac East Lion

Vancouver Hiking



Silvertip Mountain

Location: Southwest British Columbia

Elevation: 2,596 metres

Range: North Cascades

Candidate: #55

I remember the name Silvertip from my childhood because my parents often took us to the Silvertip campsite in summer. It was one of our regular camping spots. I had no idea that there was such a fantastic mountain giving its name to the campsite.

Silvertip Mountain is the 35th (or 34th depending on the source) most prominent peak in British Columbia and the most prominent non-volcanic peak in the Cascades. It stands 1,871 metres above the Hope Slide Pass and is the most southern of the ultra-prominent peaks of British Columbia, located only 16 kilometres north of the American border. Regarding Silvertip’s prominence, as the entry of SummitPost mentions, if the American border were extended north 16 kilometres to include Silvertip, it would be the 6th most prominent peak in Washington State and the 25th most prominent in the contiguous states. Why do Canadian mountains exhibit such prominence? A big thanks can go to the ice age glaciers which were much more extensive and did that much more to change the landscape in Canada than in the States. The same reason why Mount Robson is only the 68th highest peak in the Rocky Mountains but has the highest prominence: Canadian glaciers were that much thicker and powerful.

Silvertip Mountain is not an overly technical mountain to climb but that does not mean it is easy. The two most common routes are the southwest ridge, which is said to cover a variety of terrain but is the least dangerous and recommended for first-time visitors to the peak, and the northwest side of the peak where people leave from the Sumallo River valley and climb up steep gullies to the ridge. The hazard of the gully routes is that there is a lot of loose rock that can easily be set in motion. Although the recommended climbing season is during the drier period of July through September, the gully routes are best taken in June when there is still snow covering the rocks. Earlier than that, there is likely to still be snow at the summit, making it a greater challenge to reach the top. To read an account of one party’s ascent by the northwest route, check out ClubTread here. Note that there is a false summit before the true summit and that some scrambling is involved on this final leg of the climb.

Silvertip Mountain first appeared on a map by cartographer Henry Custer with the name, “East Skagit Mountain”. The name was changed a couple of times until finally being given its current name. Because of its height, Silvertip maintains a snow cover on the summit well after surrounding mountains have lost theirs, thus giving the tip of the mountain a silvery appearance. It was first climbed on July 5th, 1908 by a Canadian Border Survey party, led by E.T. De Coeli and then not climbed again until 1940. The first winter ascent was in 1981. Silvertip Mountain is rarely climbed in winter due to the avalanche risks and even in summer few parties attempt to reach the summit. It’s a long hike with a lot of elevation gain and the dangerous route up the scree gullies probably deters many people as well. The views from the summit are, as one would imagine, breathtaking. For a good collection of images visit the SummitPost site mention above.



Flickr 100 Famous Mountains of Canada