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I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tenquille Lake Turns

Last year, we hiked up to Tenquille Lake in mid-November for the first turns of the season. We left Vancouver late on the first day to avoid the rain, hiked in and squeeze in some turns above the hut, and finished off with a spectacular sunny day on Sunday. While the turns were good, it was mostly the freshly wrapped dumplings that I made in the hut that stood out. After so many powder turns, they sometimes get lost in the memory. Those warm bundles of cheesy pea filling, wrapped in a crispy wonton wrapper were hard to forget.

Eleven months later, the Coast was getting hammered by a series of storms. When I checked the snow pillow at Tenquille Lake on Friday morning, there was only 20cm. But by Friday night, that amount was up to 50cm. It would reach 80cm by the end of the weekend.

The night before, Alex asked what would go well with dumplings. I didn't have a good answer, Alex could figure that part out. We showed up at the trailhead, having driven up the water-barred Branch 12 road off the Hurley. Stepping out of the truck, Alex declared that he was bringing up two pies. The bad news that that one of the pies was store-bought, barely acceptable but I would let that go this time. As a group, we are definitely pie snobs. Last season, we started off the North Shore Pie and Ski Club. One of the best nights was when we skinned up to Brockton Point and the apple pie was still warm.

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Dusting of snow at the end of Branch 12

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Early season ski trips usually start with a ski carry

To access the Tenquille Lake hut, we drove to Pemberton, up the Hurley FSR and onto Branch 12. It's a toss-up whether driving and hiking via the Hurley or Birkenhead FSR is faster. There was sign of snow on the road and on top of the trees higher up but only a trace amount at the end of the road. Not much has changed since our last visit here - waterbars on the road require a high-clearance vehicle to drive to the end. The trail head is well marked with the nice Pemberton Valley Wildlife Association sign and climbs quickly into the forest. We hit snow soon, post-holing in ankle deep snow. The trail changes from a west to south aspect and contours around 1500m. You might be post-holing to your shins crossing Mowich Creek, round the corner in the forest and find that there's little snow left.

However, there was more snow this year and we changed to skins earlier, in the meadows shortly after crossing the first major creek (Mowich). The only other sign of traffic were fresh grizzly prints in the snow. It was mostly consistent skinning, aside from a few small creeks to cross and some patchy sections. Just enough snow to skin on, but definitely not enough for the way down.

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Beautiful views of the Pemberton Valley

Snow depth increased dramatically as we skinned up towards Wolverine Pass. There were cars parked at the lower Tenquille trail head, but no tracks from there. They turned out to be a group of four hikers, with only one pair of snowshoes between them. They had fun in the waist deep post-hole to the cabin, hitting the snow line just before the junction with the Branch 12 trail. This approach is exposed to the large avalanche slopes south of Goat Peak, something to keep in mind when traveling here with poor stability. The approach time from the end of Branch 12 to the hut was approximately three hours.

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Approach shoes with cold feet

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The calm before the storm

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Harrison wants to go back to the car

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Creek crossing with the best view of the mountains all day

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Winter!

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Tuck for speed. 

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Knee deep blower. You know it's great skiing when the snow piles up in front of your boots, building up to a mass that you have to stop, push off, before making another turn.

Last year, we shared the hut with seventeen others. Half of the group were skiers stoked for the early season snow and the other half, hikers who were caught surprised by the amount of snow up here. Nobody was up here yet today. It was warm, but still snowing heavily. The freezing levels were around 1700m and visibility was poor. The short ski down from Tenquille Pass to the hut on very sticky snow did not motivate us to go for turns immediately. I started planning out in my head how I would prepare dinner, while Alex and Maddy took care of Harrison, who was not in 100% shredding condition today.

In light winds and grey skies, Alex and I set off into the fat snowflakes, heading up towards the north-facing slopes between Copper Mound and McLeod. At our high point at 1950m, the snow consistency was far from what you might describe as hero powder. But it was still skiing, powder even. If this snow was on the North Shore mountains, it would be the best day ever at Cypress Mountain. Waist deep powder, not a single track around and no visibility. Alex skied first, making effortless telemark turns as always. It was very graceful, except when his ski tips submarined into the unconsolidated snowpack. Alex is Mr. Telemark on the South Coast this year. He's organizing the Whistler Telemark Festival (WTF), held on March 18th, 2017 at Whistler Blackcomb. Save the date and go check it out!

We went back to the hut to find Maddy. The other four hikers had arrived. Harrison was passed out under the table. We convinced her the skiing was amazing.

"Best powder day this season."

"North Shore blower"

And it was that good! Back up and back down. No visibility. No signs of Typhoon Songha, approaching off the Pacific Ocean and fizzling out in the hype. The beers were now cold and it was time for our long and complex dinner plan.

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Beers on display. Meidjo telemark binding. Red Racer Pale Ale and Copper Ale. Hearthstone ippa.

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Where are all the other skiers? We guessed somewhere between 4 to 9 other people showing up that afternoon.

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Skins on time

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Alex breaking trail

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Definitely winter up here

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90cm snow depth at 1850m

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Telemark

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Toque

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Visibility was poor, but the snow was good here

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Heavier snow lower down

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As mentioned above, the only reason we came here was to eat dumplings after skiing. At home, I prepared the filling in my blender - a mix of Parmesan cheese, green peas, lemon zest, garlic and ricotta. I laid out plastic wrap on the hut table and got to work folding dumplings. Alex was in charge of frying the dumplings, the fat of choice was coconut oil today. We might have only skied two laps of powder, but we made up for it with triple laps of dumplings. The key is to have somebody frying, while somebody else folds all the of the dumpling. Somebody also needs to retrieve the beer while this is all going on too.

In hindsight, this was enough food and we should have gone for a headlight ski to burn off some of those calories. But it was time for business. As members of the South Coast Pie and Beer (and sometimes ski) Club, it was time to uphold the first mandate of the club. We warmed up the pumpkin pie, leftover from Thanksgiving. I brought my MSR Dragonfly and my Backcountry oven - a heavy luxury but warm pie is essential.

We saved the store-bought apple pie for breakfast. It was time for a freshly baked apple pie. I had prepared the pie crust at home but brought up my rolling pin to roll it out up here. Despite the lengthy transport, the pastry stayed intact and the butter marbling still present. The filling was also prepared at home, sliced apples, cinnamon, sugar, and tapioca starch. I've only baked cookies in the Backcountry oven. A double crusted pie with a heavy wet filling would be the most ambitious thing I've attempted. I told Maddy and Alex that if it didn't turn out, I would just eat it by my myself.

The pie was baked for forty minutes. The backcountry oven isn't particularly durable. Weight savings come at the cost of durability, and the top lid was warped. This happens in high heat. This results in a longer baking time as heat escapes. I think sometimes in my hurry to heat up the oven, I have the temperature too high. It's best to keep the stove at a low flame and slowly bring the oven up into the "Bake" temperature.  I took the lid off for the final minutes to "brown" the top. If you're baking pizza in the oven, you'll want to go topless too. It's not the same as your home oven though, or maybe I just need more practice.  We still ended up with a delicious apple pie, with a crusty bottom and soggy top, just like the current South Coast snowpack.

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Frying up the dumplings

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The dumpling factory at the far end of the table. Photo by Alex Gibbs.

Apple pie preparations. Photo by Alex Gibbs.

Crimping the two layers of pastry. Photo by Alex Gibbs. 
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Pow Pie! I wonder how long to leave the top lid off to properly baked the top crust. I'll have to find out and report back after my next field test.

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Breakfast pie

There's no firewood at the Tenquille Lake Hut, nor any dead trees in the area to cut. Numerous signs warn users not to cut down any live trees. Bring your own firewood if you want to stay warm here.

 The next morning, it was pie for breakfast. Half of the apple pie from last night and the entire other apple pie. Last year, we were treated to clearing skis and views across the Pemberton Valley from the ridge top. This year, I was just happy it wasn't raining outside. It's been a very wet October on the South Coast, the primary reason for all this early season skiing we're enjoying. There was 15cm of new snow in the past 12 hours. We were optimistic that it would be lower density snow overtop of the heavy stuff, but it was still much of the same. New windslabs had formed on our uptrack slope from strong winds overnight.

I actually had to be back in Vancouver for my family's post-poned Thanksgiving dinner, so I was motivated by that to get as much skiing as I could that morning. We skied as much as we could. But there's only so much mashed potatoes that you can ski in one excursion. I had to save room for later. We were also out of pie and beer. After endless pie shots up on the slope, we skied back down to the hut. Visibility was poor, Tenquille Lake could only be seen at times when the fog bank cleared up. We cleaned up the hut and skinned back up to Tenquille Pass. With only 50cm of snow, I kept my skins on through the meadows with all the meandering creek crossings until the slope angled downwards. In the warm and wet conditions, we slashed epic jealously inducing turns into the super deep powder. A few rocks were hit and then it was time to take off the skis . We only skied to a point below the junction of the two trails. With all the undulating terrain and creeks on the Branch 12 trail, there wasn't enough snow to ski below 1500m.

The warm rain overnight melted out of the snow in the lower reaches of the trail. The footbed transformed into creek. Ski boots stayed on, splashing through the wet puddles. My softshell jacket and pants were barely staying dry. I almost pulled my goretex jacket out. Early season skiing isn't always glamourous. At times, it seems like you're grasping desperately for those early turns. But if you don't mind being outside, in any weather, the journey to earn those turns is just as enjoyable as the turns themselves (if not more sometimes!). We were back at the truck after two and a half hours of skiing/hiking. Everything was soaked, the price of admission for ski touring in the Coast Mountains.

Best ski weekend of the season so far!

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Gloomy morning over Tenquille Lake. The orb and Sun God Mountain were both hiding in the clouds.
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Snowpack

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Alex skiing down to Tenquille Lake

Rich skiing down. Photo by Alex Gibbs. 




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Maddy and Harrison skiing down. This run is about 200m vertical. We could not go much higher due to poor visibility.

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Harrison finding his ski legs after a long summer off.

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It's always neck deep powder for this puppy!

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Alex works it for the camera. Super deep powder extravaganza.

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This image doesn't fully show how wet it was. Rain drops from the sky, sprinkles of water from the tree leaves, a moist snowpack, fog in the air and water cascading down the trail. I poured water out of my boots at the truck. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lisa and Mike's Wedding at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

We stumbled into the wedding group in the parking lot of Num-Ti-Jah lodge. Everybody else looked fresh and ready for the hike around Bow Lake and up to Bow Falls. Meanwhile, Adam and I were still wondering what day it was. Most of the sensible people in the group took extra time off work to make it out here from the Coast, or further away. Going to the Rockies for a weekend

Adam left Squamish, picked me up in North Vancouver and we drove out on Friday evening. According to Google maps, it's roughly 830km, 8.5 hours of driving from North Vancouver. It was rainy and slow driving. There was no way we were driving within that time. Pulling into the campground at 2am didn't make sense. We were lucky that a friend offered his place to us. He was out of town. Just come in, the door is unlocked. Only in Revelstoke.

After a brief four hours of sleep, we continued on the road. It was nice to see everybody as we departed at 9am for our short hike. You don't always go hiking with thirty and more people. The plan was to hike four kilometres from the lodge, around Bow Lake to the Bow Glacier Falls, approximately 4km and 150m elevation gain.

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Morning at Bow Lake, at 1940m.  Looking south towards Andromache, Mount Hector, Bow Peak and Bow Crow Peak. I was being a happy tourist here and snapping photos in the beautiful morning light. It had snowed earlier, but the only signs of snow below the mountains, was a sad lump of snow from a melted mini-snowman on the grass. Bow Lake is located on the Icefield Parkway, north of Lake Louise.

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Part of the group hiking along the level trail on the shore of Bow Lake, with Mount Jimmy Simpson emerging from the clouds. Hopefully the clouds would clear up for the afternoon ceremony too!

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We hiked along the wide open outwash plain to the base of the Bow Falls. The waterfalls were flowy, but we were more interested in where the water was coming from. The source would be the spectacular Iceberg Lake, out of view until you're almost up here. Fortunately, the route to go up doesn't involve scrambling up through those steep bands of limestone.

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We headed over to the moraine, scrambling up through some loose but not too unpleasant rocks to re-gain the trail. By going over to the falls, we were further of the trail. I didn't do any research into this hike, and in my zombie state I was just following along.

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Scrambling across the moraine with Bow Lake visible on the right.

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Hey Keith! A dusting of snow up here at 2100m. It was not the warmest morning, the snow was not going anywhere. When we left the moraine, Mike checked the map and said we would have to go through a section of trees. It turns out that in the Rockies, that just refers to the 50m of trees seen behind our train of hikers.

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I don't particularly like this photo. There's too much contrast and you don't get the small hiker in the large mountain landscape style that I enjoy. But it reminds me too much of my friend Greg, who likes to wear clothing that blends in the landscape, namely black and grey clothing, with a grey ski helmet and black or grey ski backpack to match. We tried to convince his wife that all his future choices of clothing colour should be bright pink. In the meantime, anytime we see something that looks like a rock, we'll know Greg is hanging out with us too. Can you spot Greg in this photo?

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Mike gets ready for his big day, with a morning in the mountains. Half the wedding group was up here. We can just have the ceremony up here?

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Iceberg Lake. This is the fourth water body named Iceberg that I've visited. There are at least two in BC, Iceberg Lake in the Lizzie Creek area and Iceberg Lake below the east glacier of Rainbow Mountain near Whistler (unofficial name). There's also the Iceberg Lake on the north side of Table Mountain, near the Mount Baker ski area in Washington too.

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Greg is everywhere.

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Maddy and Lisa. "I don't need to do my hair yet, right?"

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Liquid warmth.

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The Bow Glacier above Iceberg Lake, at 2200m.  I have this saying, that "all BC lakes are warm." I wasn't sure about Alberta lakes though. I convinced the group to test out the water temperature though! There were some spectacular images that came out of the group swim, but those are not appropriate for the internet. I hear there's this calendar coming out for 2017. If you're lucky, you could get your hands on one of those. Sales coming soon!

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The group up at Bow Lake. This was only half of the group that went hiking. The other half turned around at Bow Falls. We were quite the hiking group to start! Above the Bow Glacier, to the west, is the Wapta Icefields. Mike and Lisa picked the perfect spot for a hike on their wedding day. A spectacular destination that didn't require too much effort or time to get to, but far enough to find solitude in the mountains with twenty of your friends.

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Maddy and Harrison descend the moraine back down towards the trail.

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Swimming beach on the west shore of Bow Lake. Turquoise water, warm sunshine and a sandy beach. Another perfect spot for today's double lake bag.

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Unlike his owners, Harrison is less of a fan of water. That stick on the left was too far away for him, and he quickly lost interest.

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Mount Jimmy Simpson, and the historic Num-Ti-Jah lodge. Num-Ti-Jah is the Stoney word for a pine marten. At the turn of the century, Jimmy Simpson arrived here and decided that one day he would "build a shack here." After years of guiding and hunting and turning into a legendary outfitter in this part of the world, he started building the lodge in 1937 when the Icefields parkway reached Bow Lake. The lodge was completed in 1950.

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Recovering from our difficult hike with some malty beverages outside of the lodge.

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All dressed up in our finest down jackets for the wedding ceremony. It was sunny while we lounged around on the red lawn chairs, but the temperature dropped as the cloud cover increased in the afternoon. Part of the Squamish-Vancouver contingent.

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Moments before this photo of Agi and Adam. "Hold on Rich, let me take off my old lady scarf"

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Walking down the aisle. The wedding ceremony at Lisa and Mike's wedding.

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Congratulations!

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A shot ski with few tall guys, a white dress and Jagermeister. What could go wrong? It seemed like a great idea at the time.

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So happy!

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Hey look. It's the clique Canadian Rockies landscape. Big mountains and some people paddling a canoe in a lake.
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After the brief ceremony, we went down to the shore of Bow Lake for some photos. After standing around in the cold, everybody was antsy to go back inside to the warmth of the log cabin. Do we really need to go down and take some photos while it's cloudy and cold out?

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Hey, I think I know that guy. He's Dave McDonald, and he makes his own beautiful cedar strip kayaks and canoes. Actually just one canoe. This the first canoe he's built, a project that has taken him over 200 hours to complete. He claims to not even like canoeing. Dave was up late every night in the past week putting the final touches on his masterpiece.  Does it float? This was the maiden voyage.

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Lisa and Mike were pretty amused to see that it was Dave out their paddling, having snuck away after the ceremony to retrieve the canoe and paddle out into view.

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This was Dave's wedding present to the couple. Incredible. Earlier in the day, Dave asked me if I was taking photos. I wasn't sure, but I had my camera with me. He told me about his plan. About the stashed canoe. That I should persuade them to head down to the beach to take photos. And to distract the couple from seeing Dave when he came ashore. I was talking that photo above, with Mike and Lisa and the backdrop of the mountains beyond Bow Lake. They were completely surprised. Later on that evening, Dave said this was the toughest secret he's kept. Way to go Dave!

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It was a little wet in the canoe. Tipping it over to drain out the water before going out for a paddle.

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Paddling on Bow Lake below Crowfoot Mountain

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Just awesome

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You can see the Bow Glacier on the right. Our hike up to Iceberg Lake took us to the area below that hanging glacier.

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This lodge is amazing. There's a table with maps. Maps of the Rockies. So many places to explore. Maps to drool over. It's hard not to get excited by all those peaks and valleys. Naturally, Maddy gets in her map time post-wedding ceremony.

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Card games over in this corner with the boys.

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This bear fits right in with the wedding party.

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After some champagne and appetizers, the paparazzi went back out to Bow Lake for some more intimate photos with just Lisa and Mike. The primary challenge was keeping other hikers and tourists out of the camera frame. I can't blame them. It's such a scenic spot. A pair of Korean hikers, now living in Seattle, even came up to the couple and took some photos together.

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Photographers don't end up in a lot of photos. Jana, with the happy couple.

Thanks for taking this photo! It's just awesome. Photo by Jana Hanova. My simple camera setup for the day, Nikon D750 and Nikon 24-70mm 2.8. 




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Signing the guestbook, which was an album of amazing photos from all their mountain and international travel adventures. Aside from this photo, there was not enough biking content in it according to Maddy. Alex and Maddy spent the prior week on a the mountain biking road trip. You might describe them as people who like to bike.

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Mini Lisa and Mike. A fairly accurate depication of Lisa's hiking socks.

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Alex was stoked that we finished the crossword challenge. Some of the questions, all related to Mike and Lisa, were hard to answer. Who would have guessed that Lisa's favourite summer activity is climbing, or that Mike is into researching avalanches.

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Speeches by Ernie and Donna, Lisa's parents.

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Hops for table decoration.

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Agi gives a speech about that time they went climbing at Skaha Bluffs and deer hunting on the same trip. The deer hunt was not intentional.

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The stars were spectacular when the high clouds were not in the way. The Milky Way rises above the Wapta Icefields, with light pollution beyond. I was wishing I had my wide angle lens to capture the night sky. This image works for me. These images are simple to capture with a full frame camera. Just focus at infinity, use a high-ISO setting, and aim for a 20-30 second exposure. It's easy to capture the sparkles on a frame, but the challenge is to come up with an astrophoto that stands out from the rest. It might help it I actually owned a tripod to do this stuff with.

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After messing around in the cold for a while, balancing my camera off the bridge railing, I remember that Mike had his tripod. I started taking photos of the lake and thought, if I could drag Mike off the dance floor, I could capture a shot of the stars and the couple. It was a tricky shot. There was light coming out of the windows of the lodge, so I had to shift them over into the darkness. There was a rock that Mike sat on, staying as still as possible. The first shot didn't work. I went for a longer exposure, but Lisa's dress was reflecting the indoor light. I went for a shorter exposure and used the LED lights from the decorations to illuminated the back of Lisa's dress. The camera was set with a timer. Once the shutter opened, I had Mike turn on the light for a second, and then off again. We tried that twice, the first time the light was on for too long. With a shorter duration on the next try, the second shot worked!

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All quiet outside the Num-Ti-Jah lodge.

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Meanwhile, at the bar inside.

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And on the dance floor.


Starry night and a shiny canoe.

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There may have been a chilly late night swim in Bow Lake. This was close to 1am.

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According to my friend Sarah, all I do now is smoke cigars and wear silk leisure suits.

More photos from this amazing wedding and magical night on the shores of Bow Lake. Congratulations Mike and Lisa! Let's go skiing now!