It imposes on the already formidable skyline of the Sea-to-Sky. It stands vanguard; this giant, volcanic, blackened pinnacle that beckons and tempts. Black Tusk has been on my mind since I first saw its jagged peak, almost two years ago. It sticks its mighty head above the surrounding mountains and I, gazing from the window of the car, knew I was going to climb it.
Music pumps in the background and mingles with drunken laughter. I lay my head back, resting it on the cool glass of the window behind me. I lazily reach out for my beer and bring the cold glass to my lips, sipping slowly. The drink goes to my already exhausted brain and a smile creeps onto my face. Someone cracks a joke at the table and everyone starts laughing but I’m in my own world, the long day running through my head over and over again.
The day started off with a very different kind of drink, the caffeinated kind. It was to be a long day so the start was early and the warm, energy-filled fuel of Galileo Coffee Company was a welcome stop on the two hour drive to Garibaldi and the trailhead. Everyone grouped up, clutching their coffee’s tight, as the last minute details were ironed out. Then we packed back into the cars and onto the highway.
The keys clatter on the concrete of my doorstep. I am too tired to hold onto them as I fit them in the lock. My body creaks as I lean down to pick them, my legs threatening to collapse from under me. Finally, the lock clicked and the door swung open. I stumble in and unpack the few supplies that accompanied me up the mountain.
The trail is deceitful. It starts gently, slopping up over several kilometres. The trail is a highway of switchbacks, slowly working its way up to Lake Garibaldi. The long weekend had attracted the crowds and the characters hiking up to the lake to spend their weekends lounging and camping by the water. It was great to see such a diverse crowd out exploring BC but I couldn’t help but chuckle at families lugging up grills, inflatable boats and lawn chairs.
As I pull of my sweaty clothes, I wince. The clothes have stuck to my sunburnt skin. Blood is caked on one knee and the other elbow. I slowly peel my socks off to reveal my destroyed feet. 30 kilometres later my feet are feeling it. I’ve ripped a hole in the side of my boot and a rock has lodged itself into my toe.
After the switchbacks, we headed towards the lesser-travelled path towards the tusk and left the crowds behind. The forest opened up and the Tusks peaked its mighty head above the surroundings. I stopped to catch my breath and stare down the peak. The sun was shooting down on the open trail, my water supplies were already running low and a blister had formed, digging deeper and deeper into my foot. I stood back up and do a 360. Lake Garibaldi stands, the deepest of blues, below me with its namesake rising to the clouds above it. I turned back around and keep onwards, up towards the volcanic goal.
The peak was within my grasp, but the loose, piled igneous rock slides out from under me, threatening to start a rockfall with my every step. I top out on one rock pile and traverse the ledge over the the crux move of the scramble, the chimney.
The chimney is a narrow scar that leads to the peak of the mountain, serving as the only way reach the peak. I crawled into the crack, sliding my body between the rocks. I avoided looking down or turning around to see the 1700m drop to the bottom of the mountain. I reached my hand over the lip of the chimney and pull myself up. But now I have to jump across the chimney. I shake out my sore legs and take a deep breath and … I didn’t move. I took another deep breath but I’m frozen; I can’t jump. Another few minutes of deep breaths and false starts before I make the jump and scramble to the top.
It was worth the pain and the fear and the exhaustion. I’d made it to the top of the Tusk. Now I just had 15 more kilometres before the car, my bed and sleep.
The hot water soothes my sore muscles but does little to clean the volcanic dust off my skin. It’s caked all over my legs and hands. I’ve wiped it into my face, under my eyes and in my hair. I scrub, but I’m too tired to bother pulling all the dirt off. I crawl into bed and fall into dreams of the next mountain, the next objective and the next challenge.