Charles Mann’s 1493

I read Charles Mann‘s fantastic book 1491 a few months ago, and was greatly impressed by its description of the deep cultural diversity of the American peoples and civilizations before their first encounters with European explorers.  From this experience, I was excited to have the opportunity recently to read his follow up work, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. While not at the same level of quality as 1491, it is still an eminently worthwhile read.

The two concepts key to 1493 are the “Columbian Exchange” (the extensive worldwide trade networks that quickly grew following the discovery of the New World) and the “Homogenocene” (the era of history in which humanity has connected the biological world).  Through a series of in-depth looks into examples of these concepts, from how Spanish silver became the currency of the Chinese economy, to how the importation of potatoes from South America to Europe helped end centuries of malnutrition among Europe’s peasants, Mann uncovers interesting insights into how rapidly the discovery of the new world affected humanity around the world.

Unfortunately for Mann there are so many examples of the Columbian Exchange possible that it is impossible to cover them all.  In the end, I was left feeling like I’d learned about a number of interesting and insightful examples of the exchange but didn’t feel like I’d learned much that substantially deepened either my understanding of the modern world or of humanity itself.  It is in this way that 1493 fails to live up to the standard of 1491.  In no way does that imply that this isn’t a book worth reading.  It simply means that this book can only be considered interesting rather than essential.

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Mt. Lincoln

Trip Date: April 22, 2012

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2

After a hard Saturday of labour on my granddad’s farm, Brittany and I had a free Sunday to work with.  We had originally intended to go ski touring in the Squamish area, but the forecast was significantly better out in the Fraser Valley, and so we decided to head out for one of the low-elevation 103 hikes that we hadn’t done before and set out Sunday morning for Mt. Lincoln.  It was a pleasant drive out to Hope in the morning, and we made our way to Yale, where we had no difficulty finding the proper parking area and setting out from the car at around 10:30am.

At no point was the trail difficult to follow, although the ground was covered by a layer of moss in places and it’s clear that the trail would be in better shape if it saw a bit more traffic.  Except for a few views down to the parking area and to Yale, the ascent is entirely in the trees, and the trees are infested with ticks.  On the way up I found no fewer than 3 ticks on Brittany’s shirt while hiking behind her, and so I highly recommend that anyone hiking this trail carefully inspect themselves for ticks after returning home.

From the summit the only interesting views are of Mt. Breakenridge as well as a broadcast tower situated near the summit (and which is supposedly why the trail exists).  There is a viewpoint a few minutes below the summit that actually has a better view of Yale than can be obtained from the summit area itself.  The ascent took us a bit over an hour (definitely less than 1:15), and due to the steepness of the trail it took us a similar amount of time to descend back to the car.  By the time we reached the car, it was sweltering, with the car thermometer reading 25 degrees.  The trail itself wasn’t very interesting or enjoyable, but at least good weather had arrived!

According to the lists at the back of the 103 hikes book, the Mt. Lincoln trail has the steepest average grade by quite a substantial margin, and having done the trail, it’s easy to see why: the trail goes up, and keeps going up.  The vast majority of the trail is just steep dirt, although there are four places where hand-lines have been installed to give hikers some additional confidence where there is some exposure.  This exposure was the most surprising part of the trail to me:  there are many hikers out there who would feel very uncomfortable descending a trail this steep.

Verdict: 1/3.  It’s there, it can be done, but you probably won’t return.

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Continuing my recent kick of reading the classics of mountaineering literature, a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reading Maurice Herzog‘s account of the first successful expedition to the summit of an 8000m peak, the titular Annapurna.  Written in language both vivid and straightforward, Herzog details the trials, challenges, and eventual successes of a trip that set out to climb two of the world’s tallest peaks without knowing even how to travel to the base of the mountains.

After having given up on attempting Dhaulagiri, Herzog and company dedicated all of their efforts towards Annapurna, where against all odds they succeeded in climbing (eventually in near alpine-style) the mountain now known as the deadliest of the 8000m peaks and that has claimed half as many lives as have successfully reached its summit.  Although the language is occasionally stilted, Herzog has no difficulty in revealing either the deep personal motivation of the mountaineer or the great sacrifices of body and soul made in search of beauty and conquest.

It has been said that mountaineering is the art of overcoming, and Herzog makes it clear that that is what these men did, day after day, until they reached the summit and miraculously made their descent losing limbs but not life.  Nonetheless, climbing is not the only means of testing oneself and overcoming, for as he so famously concludes, “there are other Annapurnas in the lives of men”.

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High Falls Creek

Trip Date: April 14, 2012

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 1/2.  Mainly hiking, occasional use of hands, mild exposure in places

Report: On a day where we had to be in town by early evening and the snow line lingers low, we decided to head up to try the High Falls Creek trail.  I’ve been up the High Falls Creek FSR quite a few times to ski / hike Cloudburst Mountain, but I’d never previously hiked the trail that actually goes up past the “High Falls” that give the creek its name.

The day was already warm by the time we started up the trail at around 10:15am, and the trail only stays flat for a few minutes before it begins its upwards climb along the north side of the High Falls Creek gorge.  The trail itself is in excellent condition and has frequent excellent viewpoints for both the falls and gorge, as well as to the mountains across the Squamish river.

Maintaining a leisurely pace and stopping at every possible viewpoint, we had made our way out to the road at the top of the trail and finished lunch by 12:15, and so the trail itself took well under 2 hours to ascend.  From here, it was a quick 1 hour hike down the FSR and back to our car.  Surprisingly, it seems that we were the only people to hike the trail on this warm spring day.  In all, a very short day, but well worth it at this time of year if you want to find a beautiful destination while avoiding the snow.

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Garibaldi Neve

Trip Date: April 5-7, 2012

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Ed Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2

After a couple years of ideas and cancellations, the weather and conditions aligned with our free time, and Brittany and I finally completed the classic Garibaldi Neve traverse from the Diamond Head parking lot to Rubble Creek.  As we only started making plans a couple days before the weekend, we had some difficulty in finding someone else with a vehicle to come with us, but in the end my dad decided he’d come with us as he had last done the traverse around 35 years previously.

We had family obligations on Easter Sunday and consequently did the traverse from Thursday evening to Saturday, and in retrospect I’m glad we were forced to this schedule.  We were the only party to cross the neve on the Friday (more on this later), but from other reports it seems that 40+ people followed in our track on the Saturday, and although the traverse would be great with any number of others around, it was that much more special to have nobody else around for much of the trip.


Under thick overcast, my dad picked me up from work shortly after 2pm, and we made our way up to the Rubble Creek parking lot to pick up Brittany where she had dropped off our car.  At the Rubble Creek parking lot the skies were dark and it was hailing heavily.  By the time we reached the Diamond Head parking lot the precipitation had stopped, but the dark skies gave us some initial doubts as to whether we would be able to cross the neve on the following day.

We finally started skinning up the trail at around 5:30, and travelling at a relaxed pace so as to not tire ourselves out, we reached the high point on Paul Ridge just as the sun set.  Luckily for us, as we ascended Paul Ridge, the clouds had finally parted and the moon had risen, and we made it to the Elfin shelter by 9:30 without ever needing to put on our headlamps.

On the evening before the long weekend, the shelter was modestly busy, but there were still numerous beds free and after a quick snack we quickly settled in for the night with the intention of getting an early start in the morning.


We woke up well rested at the reasonable hour of 7:30, and got ready to set off.  A quick test of the snowpack outside the shelter revealed that there was over 1m of soft powder over the base, although it seemed that we weren’t going to sink in too far with our skis on.  Nonetheless, we decided to wait for a little while as another party in the shelter was intending to set off a bit later that morning to camp early on the neve, just above the Opal Cone.  We finally set off at around 9:30am.  The weather had closed in somewhat since the previous evening, with Garibaldi firmly ensconced in thick cloud, but the cloud was high enough for us to be fairly confident of making it across the neve without having to travel in a white out.

The first few hundred metres from the shelter were quick going as there was an established track heading up towards the Gargoyles, but as soon as we left the existing track, the going became tough.  Extremely tough.  With each step, whoever was breaking trail was sinking in 20-30cm in most places, and occasionally even a little more.  After an hour we had cleared a couple of the gullies on the traverse into Ring Creek, but really hadn’t made it very far, and the legs were already burning.  Consequently we stopped, waited, and after about 30 minutes of not seeing anybody else, made the decision to abandon our attempt on the neve, turn around, do some skiing above the shelter, and head back out to the car later in the day!

Not two minutes after turning around we saw the other party from the shelter following in our tracks, and when we met them, they were optimistic about their abilities to break a trail up to the start of the neve.  Another long discussion ensued between me, my dad, and Brittany, and we eventually concluded that it wouldn’t hurt to follow in their tracks for a while, team up with them to make it up towards the neve, and push off our decision as to whether to abandon our attempt until a bit later in the day.  By the time we got going again to head down into Ring Creek it was already around 11:30, and we knew that given the conditions it would be a long day still if we wanted to make it down to Garibaldi Lake that day.

Following the other party of 4 (and for a short while, a snowshoer who originally intended to head up to Opal Cone, before realizing that he had left his camera’s memory card at home), and occasionally helping break trail for them, it was a long slow journey down into and then up Ring Creek in very flat lighting that made terrain evaluation and routefinding difficult.  We reached the start of the neve well past 3 o’clock and sat down to have lunch.  The clouds had dissipated and we had a fantastic view of Garibaldi, Pyramid, and Mamquam.

The neve glistened in beautiful light as I set out in the late afternoon to break a trail up to the upper neve, and although from some route descriptions it sounds like you don’t have much further up to go once you reach the neve, the climbing seemed relentless.  We finally reached our high point at around 5:30pm, at which point we noticed that we had climbed about 100m higher than necessary and that we could have traversed a relatively flat bench lower down over towards the Sharkfin.  On the plus side, we had a short enjoyable run down the glacier that we otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to ski.

The glacier near the Sharkfin had some large crevasses exposed but we were able to navigate a fairly direct route through them without any major difficulty and were quickly down in the saddle between the Sharkfin and Glacier Pikes.  Here we had a quick discussion of whether we should set up camp or continue on to see if we could stay in the Glaciology huts.  In the end, we figured we still had well over an hour before sun set, and it didn’t look like it would take long to climb up to the saddle next to Glacier Pikes and ski down to Garibaldi Lake.  The skin up to the saddle proved to be both much less steep than it looked and much longer than it looked.  Fortunately, as evening fell, the snow had crusted up significantly and I was no longer sinking much as a broke trail.  We reached the saddle in low evening light and had a gorgeous view of Guard mountain in front of us, and Garibaldi behind.

The ski down to the glaciology huts was easy and uneventful, and we were happy to see that although the smaller hut was somewhat buried and in need of being dug out, the larger hut was accessible and unoccupied.  We spent the remaining daylight and the early hours of darkness melting snow, rehydrating, and cooking some hot food in the hut.  We were all completely spent, but were extremely happy to have made it across the neve that day and with the knowledge that on the Sunday we would only have to ski across the lake and head down to the car.


We woke up rested Saturday morning after a comfortable night in the shelter, and set out across the lake in the mid-late morning.  Rather than make a track straight towards the Battleship Islands campground, we instead broke a trail across the lake with the intention of hitting the the track leading to the Burton (Sphinx Bay) hut, which we eventually did.  From this point we would be on a well trodden trail all the way out to our car.

After a break at the end of Garibaldi Lake, we set out for our car in the early afternoon, and although I found the trail to the 6km junction quite annoying with all of the up and down, it didn’t take too long.  Due to the intense solar effect and clear evidence of solar induced avalanche activity we elected to ski down the trail rather than the barrier.  The air was warm and the first few km of the barrier trail were slushy and easy to ski.  It was only from the 3km marker onwards that the skiing became a bit sketchy, but we were able to ski right to the 1km marker, at which point we had to take our skis off and carry them down to the trailhead as the snow was extremely patchy.

At the Rubble Creek trailhead, the air was warm, the skies sunny, and the road completely covered in snow, and we were once again able to put our skis back on.  I felt sorry for the snowshoers who had to trudge another few km out to their cars, but on skis it took only a few minutes of standing (essentially no turning required) in a track to make it down to the end of the plowed road.  We had all made it down in good spirits and without any injuries, and after changing out of our ski equipment, began our journey back to the Diamond Head parking lot to pick up my dad’s car, and then to make our way back to Vancouver.


It is easy to see why the Garibaldi Neve is considered a classic ski traverse.  The terrain is for the most part quite easy to navigate, it is easily accessible, and the views are simply phenomenal.  By doing the neve a day before everyone else, the going was much harder than it would have been had we travelled with the hordes on the following day, but the extra effort was worth it to find ourselves in such extraordinary places without others around.  You probably already know this, but every ski mountaineer in south western BC should do this trip at least once.

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