Daily Archives: October 3, 2017

Valley to peak | Sans gondolas

03Oct

Last month, Pangea Pod Hotel co-founder Russell Kling took part in The North Face Valley to Peak trail running race, a gruelling annual contest that sees long distance runners traverse 22.5 km of harsh terrain and ascend almost 2,000 metres to the top of Whistler Mountain. Here he tells the story of the race, aided by the stunning images of the event captured by local photographer Clint Trahan.

Click on the photo below to get the full story.

Last month, Pangea Pod Hotel co-founder Russell Kling took part in The North Face Valley to Peak trail running race, a gruelling annual contest that sees long distance runners traverse 22.5 km of harsh terrain and ascend almost 2,000 metres to the top of Whistler Mountain. Here he tells the story of the race, aided by the stunning images of the event captured by local photographer Clint Trahan.

Scroll below to get the full story.

READY. SET. GO.

READY, SET, GO — Taken within seconds of the start of the race, this shot gives you a pretty good indication of how we were all feeling at that moment: pumped. It’s this rush of adrenaline, and the memory of it, that makes the long distance runner keep coming back for more – certainly not the physical annihilation that follows. You can see me first from the right (bib # 18). The race starts from Skier’s Plaza in Whistler Village, which is about a 45-second jog from Pangea’s front door.
Taken within seconds of the start of the race, this shot gives you a pretty good indication of how we were all feeling at that moment: pumped. It’s this rush of adrenaline, and the memory of it, that makes the long distance runner keep coming back for more – certainly not the physical annihilation that follows. You can see me first from the right (bib # 18). The race starts from Skier’s Plaza in Whistler Village, which is about a 45-second jog from Pangea’s front door.

ALL BUNCHED UP.

ALL BUNCHED UP — You know you’re at the start of a race when you’re bunched up among dozens of other fit and focussed competitors. Later, as the race stretches out, you often find yourself losing sight of the man or woman in front or behind (depend on how your race is going, of course). You’ll notice we’re all wearing small backpacks – there are few aid stations en route, meaning athletes need to carry their own supplies of water and fuel (read: calories), adding an extra level of complexity and difficulty. As an aside, I ran out of water around the 15 km mark and suffered badly for it.
You know you’re at the start of a race when you’re bunched up among dozens of other fit and focussed competitors. Later, as the race stretches out, you often find yourself losing sight of the man or woman in front or behind (depend on how your race is going, of course). You’ll notice we’re all wearing small backpacks – there are few aid stations en route, meaning athletes need to carry their own supplies of water and fuel (read: calories), adding an extra level of complexity and difficulty. As an aside, I ran out of water around the 15 km mark and suffered badly for it.

RHYTHM OF THE MOUNTAIN.

RHYTHM OF THE MOUNTAIN — This is one of my favourite images from the race, as it encapsulates the atmosphere at the start of the race perfectly. The way that Clint has captured the ephemeral light cast by the combination of the morning sun rising above the mountains and the dust thrown up by hundreds of pounding feet is, I think, pretty sensational. You can see that things start going uphill (or “downhill”, depending on how you think about it) rather quickly, and to be honest, they don’t get any easier either; certain sections of the trail have a 38.8% incline, and at these points you’re forced to hike rather than run.
This is one of my favourite images from the race, as it encapsulates the atmosphere at the start of the race perfectly. The way that Clint has captured the ephemeral light cast by the combination of the morning sun rising above the mountains and the dust thrown up by hundreds of pounding feet is, I think, pretty sensational. You can see that things start going uphill (or “downhill”, depending on how you think about it) rather quickly, and to be honest, they don’t get any easier either; certain sections of the trail have a 38.8% incline, and at these points you’re forced to hike rather than run.

RUNNING WITH A VIEW.

RUNNING WITH A VIEW — As draining as the physical aspects of the race may be, there is no denying that the views offered by the trails that comprise the Valley to Peak race are simply stunning. If your breath hasn’t already been taken away by your exhausting uphill slog, the vistas up here will finish the job. Incidentally, the route includes the full High Note Trail, one of the trails we mentioned in our previous “Best of Whistler on a Budget” blog post, so if you want views like those captured here by Clint, you can have them without having to run 22.5 km!
As draining as the physical aspects of the race may be, there is no denying that the views offered by the trails that comprise the Valley to Peak race are simply stunning. If your breath hasn’t already been taken away by your exhausting uphill slog, the vistas up here will finish the job. Incidentally, the route includes the full High Note Trail, one of the trails we mentioned in our previous “Best of Whistler on a Budget” blog post, so if you want views like those captured here by Clint, you can have them without having to run 22.5 km!

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK.

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK — Here in the foreground (well, more to the fore than those snow-capped mountains) you can see two competitors negotiating some tricky terrain towards the latter stages of the race. In actual fact it’s as tough as this throughout, with most of the trail strewn with rocks and foliage, criss-crossed by icy-cold streams and perilously slippery with mountain scree. It’s this, combined with the insane elevation gain, that makes the Valley to Peak contest more like a marathon – despite being only marginally longer in distance than a half-marathon, the race took me seven minutes longer to complete than the Victoria Marathon did (3:04 here vs. 2:57 at Victoria for those runners curious enough to know the exact splits).
Here in the foreground (well, more to the fore than those snow-capped mountains) you can see two competitors negotiating some tricky terrain towards the latter stages of the race. In actual fact it’s as tough as this throughout, with most of the trail strewn with rocks and foliage, criss-crossed by icy-cold streams and perilously slippery with mountain scree. It’s this, combined with the insane elevation gain, that makes the Valley to Peak contest more like a marathon – despite being only marginally longer in distance than a half-marathon, the race took me seven minutes longer to complete than the Victoria Marathon did (3:04 here vs. 2:57 at Victoria for those runners curious enough to know the exact splits).

GREEN LAKE.

GREEN LAKE — I had to include this in my pick of Clint’s photos from the event, simply because it’s one of the most iconic sights in Whistler. One of the special things about the Valley to Peak trail, and Whistler in general, is the diversity of the terrain. Emerald lakes, glistening peaks, primeval forests, flower-filled meadows – you can take it all in on a good run or hike through the BC backcountry.
I had to include this in my pick of Clint’s photos from the event, simply because it’s one of the most iconic sights in Whistler. One of the special things about the Valley to Peak trail, and Whistler in general, is the diversity of the terrain. Emerald lakes, glistening peaks, primeval forests, flower-filled meadows – you can take it all in on a good run or hike through the BC backcountry.

A TALE OF TWO RACES.

A TALE OF TWO RACES — The race can be roughly divided into two sections. The first half takes you through dense forests, either on or alongside the mountain biking trails. Under the boughs of the trees it’s pleasantly cool, and the going is relatively easy. The second half of the race starts (and ends again) at the Roundhouse and is more exposed to the elements, as these competitors are discovering. With the mercury rising to 29 Celsius, this is where the going gets tough.
The race can be roughly divided into two sections. The first half takes you through dense forests, either on or alongside the mountain biking trails. Under the boughs of the trees it’s pleasantly cool, and the going is relatively easy. The second half of the race starts (and ends again) at the Roundhouse and is more exposed to the elements, as these competitors are discovering. With the mercury rising to 29 Celsius, this is where the going gets tough.

THE SPECTATORS.

THE SPECTATORS — Marmots make great fans. They might not clap or cheer, but they can give off one almighty whistle. In fact, that’s how Whistler originally got its name (in case you didn’t already know). Spectators of the human variety tend to be few and far between when you’re running up a mountain, so it’s nice to at least have the vociferous support of some of nature’s citizens.
Marmots make great fans. They might not clap or cheer, but they can give off one almighty whistle. In fact, that’s how Whistler originally got its name (in case you didn’t already know). Spectators of the human variety tend to be few and far between when you’re running up a mountain, so it’s nice to at least have the vociferous support of some of nature’s citizens.

RUNNING AT ALTITUDE.

RUNNING AT ALTITUDE — You know you’re up high when you’re at the same elevation as a plane! It’s not just a matter of perspective, either. By the time the race had finished my Garmin showed about 1,900 metres, or nearly 6,000 feet, of gross elevation gain, and frankly some of the downhill sections are just as taxing (not to mention dangerous) as the uphill ones. Another stunning photo from Clint, who’s managed to convey the vastness of the Whistler landscape.
You know you’re up high when you’re at the same elevation as a plane! It’s not just a matter of perspective, either. By the time the race had finished my Garmin showed about 1,900 metres, or nearly 6,000 feet, of gross elevation gain, and frankly some of the downhill sections are just as taxing (not to mention dangerous) as the uphill ones. Another stunning photo from Clint, who’s managed to convey the vastness of the Whistler landscape.

ONE FOR THE MANTELPIECE.

ONE FOR THE MANTELPIECE — Ok, so the Valley to Peak trophy won’t be adorning my mantelpiece, but nevertheless I was extremely proud to finish in the top 20 (19th, to be precise). Just the photo of the unique trophy with all the gnarly stats etched into it is a prize of sorts.
Ok, so the Valley to Peak trophy won’t be adorning my mantelpiece, but nevertheless I was extremely proud to finish in the top 20 (19th, to be precise). Just the photo of the unique trophy with all the gnarly stats etched into it is a prize of sorts.

BACK AT THE START.

BACK AT THE START — This picture was actually taken at the start of the race (can’t you tell?), before the physical exertions of the trail took their toll. Somehow it felt like a fitting photo to end with – an image that sums up the general feeling you get from taking part in these events – a mixture of pride and trepidation, fused with plenty of adrenaline. Despite a tough race made tougher by a lack of water, I know I’ll be back for more.
This picture was actually taken at the start of the race (can’t you tell?), before the physical exertions of the trail took their toll. Somehow it felt like a fitting photo to end with – an image that sums up the general feeling you get from taking part in these events – a mixture of pride and trepidation, fused with plenty of adrenaline. Despite a tough race made tougher by a lack of water, I know I’ll be back for more.

Get the lowdown

Find out more about what makes Pangea unique in Whistler (and the world).