Another day full of adventure! We started the day by taking the gondola up Whistler Mountain. It is a long way up - took about 25mins to the top. Once there, we had our photos taken on the Olympic podium and looked around at the snowy vistas for a while. Then we got onto the Peak2Peak gondola which took us across to Blackcomb Mountain. The gondola opened in 2008 and takes you over 4kms across the valley in 11mins. It was pretty amazing - we only crossed 4 support bridges. The view from the gondola were beautiful. There were mountains all around, mostly snow capped which looked even more spectacular under the blue sky. We were constantly scanning the forest below looking for bears but didn't see any. But, I did see a cougar.
When we got off the gondola, we hiked the Alpine trail which took us further up the mountain. It was about an hour's walk. At times there was a trail but we also had to pick our way through rocks, and through snow and ice. It was very warm in the sun. Right at the end of the walk, we saw a little creature called a Pica. They look like a cross between a guinea pig and a mouse. After the hike we waited for the glass bottomed gondola to go back to Whistler mountain. There are only 2 of these gondolas on the circuit and always have a queue. It isn't completely glass - just a section in the middle. Back at a Whistler, we got on one of the regular gondolas and did the circuit to Blackcomb and back again. The views really are beautiful.
There was a cafe on Whistler where we got a sandwich and sat out on the balcony enjoying the sun. There were a few grey jays around who would come and take scraps of bread out of your hand. That was pretty cool. After lunch we went back into the building and watched a short film on the building of the Peak2Peak gondola. It was no easy task getting all the materials up a mountain that big.
We had seen a red helicopter and assumed it was a joy flight. We had both said that would give you a fabulous view of the mountains. After the movie I picked up a brochure about heli tours and was surprised to see there was a Blackcomb glacier. On the spur of the moment we decided we both had plenty of Canadian dollars left and if we could do a helicopter tour we would. By now it was just after 3pm so we walked up to the office and asked if we could go. The guy said they usually required a minimum of 3 passengers but it had been quiet so he would ask the pilot. The pilot agreed as this would be the last flight of the summer season. We walked straight up to the helicopter and after the safety demonstration, we took off. It was such a good experience. After the 8 seater plane and the float plane, this was definitely the best. It really felt like we were flying and we could get so close to things.
We went to a volcanic mountain called Black Tusk first. It was odd to see this very tall black rock sticking out above the snow caps. It wasn't that long ago that there had been active volcanic activity in the area. We also saw Garibaldi park and the spectacular Garibaldi lake which was a stunning green. Then we went to the glaciers. There were 2 - Blackcomb and Cheakamus. It was like no other glacier we have seen on this trip. Blackcomb was hidden under a lot of snow but parts were showing through and had the familiar blue colour. The Cheakamus glacier was enormous and stunningly spectacular because of the crevasses. The ice here was so thick. It was just beautiful. We could see hikers right on the top of one mountain. They looked so small as we flew past. We were close enough to see them and wave to them and it really gave some perspective to how big these mountains are. The helicopter tour was a great experience. I would definitely do that again.
By the time we got off the helicopter it was getting on to 4pm and there was a massive queue waiting for the gondola to go back down. On the way up we had a gondola to ourselves but going back to the village they were full. I was scanning the forest below the whole time for bears and spotted one in the clearing. It was a black bear but it was brown in colour. Very cool to see a bear. The mountain is very popular with mountain bikers and there were bikers of all ages going up and down. The track went very close to where the bear was and there was a rider just there. I wonder whether he or she knew how close they were!
It is much quieter in the village tonight. The parties were still going on at 2am this morning. Looking forward to a good sleep tonight.