Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on top of the world? Well, look no further than Black Tusk. The iconic volcanic pinnacle can be seen from Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and is always the star of photos.
Standing 2,319 meters above sea level and overlooking the spectacular alpine vistas of the Coast Mountain Range, you’re in for a real treat – but, first, you have to work for it. Don’t worry though, your body will thank you…eventually.
In total, the hike is about 29 kilometres or 18 miles round trip. Many folks hike in to the half-way mark and then camp overnight to break up the trip. But, my friend Brad and I decided to do it all in one day. He’d done it a few years ago and was crazy enough to attempt it again.
The first part of the hike is approximately 8km of switch-back dirt trail that climbs from the parking lot (elevation 580m) to around 1,300 metres. Then, there is a deceivingly meandering walk through Taylor Meadows for about 2.5km. As we hike, we can see the fall colours starting to creep up. At this point, my legs are definitely starting to feel a little sluggish. But there’s so much more ahead and I’m not giving up.
After the alpine meadows, the REAL fun begins. It’s only 3.5km to the Black Tusk Viewpoint, but it definitely feels like a lot longer. By now, I can see Black Tusk in all its glory and no matter how tired I am, there’s no turning back; not with my eye on the prize. The views are spectacular and offer quick previews of what’s to come. It’s like licking the spoon before eating the chocolate cake.
The torture doesn’t stop as I climb – one heavy foot in front of another- past streams and over alpine rocks – up, up, up. With the final trudge in my sights, I grunt up the last 200m, which is mostly shale rock. One step forward, two steps back, one step forward … you get the idea.
I’m pretty much dying here, but with a final – and ever so painful last push – I’m at the viewpoint. Thank GOD!
A handful of other hikers are at the top too, and we’re all savouring the incredible views and snapping photos. Whistler Mountain rests proudly ahead of Black Tusk. I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half years staring over to Black Tusk from Whistler, wondering what it would be like to be on the very tip of that black phallic rock. And now, here I am.
Looking out onto the landscape, Garibaldi Lake shines like a brilliant blue gem and the sky is layered with textures and colours. It’s like Bob Ross, himself, made the happy little trees, wistful clouds, colourful lakes and rugged mountaintops.
After a few moments of rest, we embark on the final and most exhilarating part of the hike: the Chimney. Walking across more shale rock, we traverse across the front of Black Tusk until we come to a little gully of weathered black volcanic rock.
Many websites and write-ups on Black Tusk caution climbing the Chimney and warn that it’s only for experienced rock climbers. However, most fit people with reasonable balance and coordination could probably do it. Only attempt it if you feel confident and comfortable. One of the tricks is to make sure you check every rock to ensure it’s sturdy.
A few minutes and a short walk later, we are on the very top of Black Tusk – and what feels like, on top of the world. Above the clouds and above the birds.
In an instant, I’ve gone from posing with Black Tusk in the distance.
To posing on top of it.
The walk down is tiring and feels like it takes forever. Our legs are turning to jelly and we’re trying to distract ourselves from the long trip ahead. But, I won’t bore you with those details. As Brad says: “You never remember the trip down anyway.”
PUBLICATION: Whistler Is Awesome