My father lost his hoodie on Blackcomb Mountain. We were descending a little over a week ago after a day of hiking and gondola hopping for his 70th birthday.
If anyone finds it they won't want to keep it — it's not a thing of beauty (sorry, Dad, but I aim for accuracy in my journalistic work :-P ). It's mostly white, with faded mint green, grey, white and blue blotches — "Like paint dabs," he told me. He really likes it and that's all that matters, I guess.
I checked Whistler Blackcomb's two Lost-and-Found bins, but it must be still up there somewhere. A few moments after he dropped it from the chairlift we saw a bear. I'd like to think of the hoodie in a colour-blind ursine home, keeping a cub warm at night.
Earlier, I stood with Dad on the summit of Whistler Mountain and he told me it was the highest place he'd stood in this life.
He's from England, raised his family in Winnipeg and now lives on Vancouver Island. For him, distances travelled overland have tended to be horizontal rather than vertical.
We wanted to do something a little different for his birthday. The plan was take him on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola for the first time; we bought our passes on what I'd say was a record-breaking day for both people and heat, and went up to the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler.
"Agog" was the operative word when it came to Dad's feeling about that first pass on the Peak 2 Peak. He could see the Spearhead range in the distance; at this time of year the glaciers share the mountains with meadows and snow-free stands of pine. He learned about (and coped with) the engineering marvel of a Peak 2 Peak gondola car descending considerably before rising as part of a curve — rather than going straight across the chasm — and yet remaining a half-kilometre above Fitzsimmons Creek.
His impressions were rapid fire and he shared them freely between taking photos.
Dad, being the frugal sort, agreed to a birthday bacon burger at Rendezvous Lodge. Over lunch we decided we'd try the Peak Express Chair to Whistler's Summit, something I'd never done before, but we'd seen a steady stream of sightseers walking there and were feeling brave.
I should backtrack to mention that both he and I have varying degrees of acrophobia.
I ski, I used to rock climb and I've overcome a lot of the height thing. Nevertheless, at 12 I fainted at the CN Tower in Toronto and there are stretches of the Coquihalla Highway that scare the living bejesus out of me.
And though I'm good with gondolas, I should have had that printed upside-down on a T-shirt to remind myself as we went up the Peak Express. The Birthday Boy was an unknown quantity on this score. It has been 25 years since we've lived together, and when we've visited our feet have mostly stuck to the flat earth.
So we got on the chairlift, which unlike the gondolas is all open-air fun. Sound can carry a considerable distance down the slopes.
When the F-bombs started dropping from Dad's lips this was my first thought. The second was my sense of guilt at inflicting a sheer rock face on him. He closed his eyes and fell silent, and I discreetly did not point out the several ski poles from last winter that had been dropped by their owners and lodged on unreachable ledges. That was the only time I felt a little uneasy on the way up.
We got there after seven minutes of mostly silence that was broken only by the sound of the wind and the odd expletive.
And as anyone who has reached the summit can attest, it is worth it. It really is a case of a picture saying more than any of the words that can be put down here, but suffice to say that seeing Black Tusk at that elevation is alone worth the price of admission.
Dad decided he wanted a small stone from the highest elevation he had ever been and went off to look for a suitable one. He was soon out of sight and I was diverted by the view. But after 15 minutes he hadn't returned, so I went to look for him.
I found him around a bend communing with everything around him. For a retired glazier with a strong working-class informal streak about him, never having held a pair of skis in his life let alone put them on his feet, it was a big moment. Those 15 minutes alone with his thoughts was probably the best thing I could have given him for his birthday, for when he saw me he rose and was ready to go back down.
After a further short look around and a few photos he was ready to return to the Village — and to lose his hoodie on the way.
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