High above a sea of clouds, this was our first bivy spot on a four-day alpine adventure with inflatable standup paddleboards. We were here to explore the outer reaches of British Columbia’s Garibaldi Provincial Park on a route linking 30 miles of mountain peaks, glaciers, rivers and lakes. Nestled between the towns of Whistler and Squamish, this park is an area full of wildlife, covered in old-growth forest, and surrounded by beautiful lakes, jagged mountains and multiple glacier systems.
For decades I have been exploring these mountain peaks, but a route linking up the multiple summits I had dreamed about wasn’t feasible due to lengthy hiking distances. Inflatable paddleboards would allow us to directly cross the big lakes and grant easy access to more remote mountains. Of course, the tradeoff was a lot of extra weight.
The five of us each carried roughly 80 pounds each. Our packs contained all the regular backpacking essentials, plus paddling gear and ice ax, crampons and rope for glacier travel. I don’t think anyone has done a route quite like this here before.
Our first camp spot on Spinx col, captured in this photo, had a 360-view of mountain peaks and the ocean stretching out far into the distance. Our bodies ached from the 17-hour hike and paddle the day prior, but the hard work paid off with this view—we felt like we were on an island in the sky. A thousand meters below, we could still see Garibaldi Lake, where we started the day before, crossing its spectacular, turquoise-colored glassy waters at sunrise.
Our four-day route scaled the top of Mount Carr (8,500 feet), as well as stunning Mount Davidson (8,255 feet), and crossed the Sphinx and Chekamus glaciers. Hiking a total of 16,500 feet of elevation over the four days was tough.
Each time we reached a new alpine lake, we pulled out the boards we’d been hauling, blew them up and then dipped our paddles into the clear water.
There are only three words that come to mind: Totally worth it. Each night we’d inflate our boards again to create makeshift sleeping pads. Every camp was a memorable one, perched out under the stars and catching the first and last light of illuminating sunsets and sunrises.
We finished our quest by paddling across Cheakamus Lake at sunset—not a ripple in the water other than our boards gliding across the smooth glass. The mountain peaks reflected all around us, reminding us of how lucky we are—and that nothing worth doing is easy. After a decade of dreaming about this route, the inflatable boards made this one-of-a-kind alpine adventure possible.
This article was first published in Paddling Magazine Issue 64. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or download the Paddling Magazine app and browse the digital archives here.
Jimmy Martinello is a freelance photographer based in British Columbia’s Sea To Sky corridor. His work has been published in National Geographic, Outside, and Rock And Ice.
Caught in a sea of clouds on Mount Spinx (7,880 feet), peaks float off in the distance in the Coastal Mountain range of British Columbia. For lighter weight inflatable sleeping pads, read 5 Best Sleeping Pads For Kayak And Canoe Camping. | Photo: Jimmy Martinello