If you are anything like I am, traveling to a new place for a short period of time can be a bit daunting. Especially when that place is Squamish, BC. I mean, if you only have 72 hours to spend in the “Adventure Capitol of Canada,” you really want to make sure you are able to maximize your fun-having potential.
So, in an effort to squeeze as much fun as possible into my trip, I enlisted the help of local SUP legend and expedition guide Norm Hann. Norm is perhaps best known for his environmental efforts and endurance paddling, but within the Squamish community, he is known as the guy to contact if you want to get in some good adventure time.
Our three-day adventure began when Norm and I were handed the keys to a brand new Chevy Colorado. Every good adventure starts with a good adventure vehicle, so now that we were prepared for anything, we loaded up the boards and were on our way.
Norm and his paddle buddies regularly begin their days with what they call the “Coffee Run;” a relatively short, flatwater paddle that begins at the spit in the middle of town and ends up at Galileo Coffee, which itself is a Squamish must-visit if you are the type of person who likes to be caffeinated.
During the 5 mile paddle, we were treated to two bald eagles, a flock of Canadian Geese and views of Howe Sound that you just can’t get from land.
After having seen a piece of Squamish from the water, Norm thought it would be fun to see all of it from the top of “The Chief,” a large granite monolith that towers over Howe Sound. Because the three peaks that make up The Chief are easily accessed and can accommodate most levels of hikers, making your way up this piece of rock is one of Squamish’s best-known hikes.
It was obvious that day 1 of our Canadian adventure-binge was going to be tough to beat, so for day 2, Norm decided it was time to step things up a notch.
When he arrived to pick me up in the morning, I hopped into the Colorado not quite knowing what to expect. We pulled up to a small airstrip, where Sea to Sky air had agreed to take us for a flight up to an alpine lake hidden in the Tantalus Mountain Range that borders Squamish. No adventure in the BC area is quite complete without a floatplane, so we loaded our inflatable standup paddleboards into the tiny cabin and squeezed ourselves in.
30 minutes of flying over the most beautiful scenery you can possibly imagine later, we touched down on the turquoise water of Phantom lake. Because this particular lake is a Glacier fed Alpine Lake, its turquoise color is caused by Glacial debris (or rock flour) suspended in the water, and is one of the most spectacular colors I have ever seen in real life.
I have been pretty fortunate in my life to have paddled in a lot of amazing places, but this secluded lake in the middle of the mountains definitely makes my top three. Because the lake sits lower than the surrounding mountain peaks, it is shielded from the wind, creating an ideal place to paddle. So ideal, in fact, that Norm couldn’t resist giving our pilot his first ever standup paddleboard lesson before ending the experience with a swim in the icy lake.
For the final few hours of our sea to sky adventure trip, Norm decided that it was time to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones a bit by doing some deep water solo climbing from the boards in Howe Sound.
Upon our arrival at the spit that morning, we were greeted by two of Norm’s friends, local climbers Trevor McDonald and Todd Lawson. With them was Diego, a 20 year old climber from Mexico who has been in the area working on completing the Cobra Crack, one of the most difficult traditional climbs in Canada, as well as an iconic Squamish climb.
It didn’t take long for me to see that, when it comes to deep water soloing, these guys definitely know what they are doing. With nothing more than climbing shoes, the guys made scaling what seemed to me to be a sheer rock face, look effortless. When they reached the top of the rock, they simply made the 50 foot jump back into the water and started the process over again.
My three-day trip to Squamish was amazing. As Norm and I sat at the Howe Sound Brewing Company toasting our adventure, I thought about how grateful I was to have had Norm to show me how to spend 72 hours in Squamish. There is no way my time there would have been as awesome as it was were it not for the local knowledge Norm was willing to share with me during my time in his area. As we finished up the last of our IPAs, I couldn’t help but think about the next trip with Norm, and how I hope I have the chance to to return the favor.