Words :: Steven Threndyle
Few explorers or guidebook authors have fired the collective imagination of West Coast backcountry skiers quite like John Baldwin. Almost forty years ago—fifteen years before the inaugural Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival—John “shared the beta” collected from numerous Coast Range trips and authored the first edition of Exploring the Coast Mountains on Skis.
2022 marks the eighth time that John has taken to the stage to present his stories and images, which is probably a record when it comes to repeat VIMFF guest speakers. On Tuesday, March 1, he’ll be the keynote speaker at the Beautiful B.C. presentation at the Kay Meek Arts Centre in West Vancouver.
Baldwin’s theme is Coming Home, and it’s very much a story that will resonate with our local audiences. “Like everyone else, I’ve had to focus my attention on skiing and exploring close to Vancouver. The pandemic presented me with the opportunity to see our backyard in a whole new light,” he says. “The presentation is also a retrospective of the past hundred years of Garibaldi Provincial Park.
In 2021, Baldwin put together three trips ranging from a week to ten days in duration that connected the Burke/Pinecone Provincial Park (whose southernmost boundary is in Coquitlam) with the northern boundary of Garibaldi Provincial Park near Pemberton.
In September 2020, Baldwin then completed a high traverse of peaks in the seldom-visited Burke/Pinecone region. “The whole trip really takes place in Vancouver’s backyard. You’re looking at the backside of Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and these landmark peaks close to the city, but you feel like you are hundreds of miles away. It’s hard to believe that there are big glaciers like the one on Meslillooet (Mountain) that are closer to downtown Vancouver than, say, Abbotsford. “It’s within commuting distance,” he jokes. The route follows alpine terrain north of Widgeon Lake before coming out near Seed Peak and Mount Gillespie. He says, “It’s rugged, complicated terrain. You could conceivably build a trail similar to the Howe Sound Crest trail along the ridge.” On this route, some huge old-growth forests have been spared the logger’s chainsaw, thanks to the efforts of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee in the 1990s.
In April 2021, Baldwin and three friends completed a ten-day ski traverse of Garibaldi Provincial Park travelling from Paul Ridge to Mount Currie and Diamond Head. He says, “I had done several trips to the Garibaldi Neve, the Spearhead and the McBride Range, but this was the chance to link them all together. You get an entirely different appreciation and feel for the landscape if you’re out for ten days, as opposed to two or three.”
“This meant we were going down all the big north-facing glaciers in Garibaldi Park; off the Garibaldi Neve, down the McBride Glacier, down the Tremor Gl, and then down the Weart Glacier. Some of these slopes dropped over a thousand vertical metres. The only other skiers we encountered were at the beginning on the Garibaldi Neve, after that we never saw anyone. Whistler and Blackcomb were closed at the time due to COVID, and normally you’d see all kinds of parties on the Spearhead Range.”
The final piece of the puzzle was a seven-day trip which started where the previous year’s trip had ended near Seed Peak and travelled north along ridges and over Mamquam Mountain to Mamquam Lake and out to Paul Ridge. Highlights from this trip included numerous “super blue” lakes, a stunning view of Mamquam from the south, and incredible ‘up close’ views of Mount Garibaldi, the park’s namesake peak.
“Each morning, we were treated to silhouettes of ridges and peaks stacked against each other to the east like Mount Judge Howay, Robie Reid, Mount Clarke, Golden Ears and the Misty Icefields.”
In addition to John’s presentation, several films from around B.C. will be screened including:
9 mins | Canada | 2021
Experience a mountain bike trail coming to life before your eyes.
Mi’ma’omakw: People of the Salmon
17 mins | Canada | 2021
First Nations of BC’s Broughton Archipelago reclaim their territories, leading the science-based removal of fish farms.
The Path of Cedy Nkunze
13 mins | Canada | 2021
From Burundi to Blackcomb, we’re introduced to the passions that colour Cedy Nkunze’s life.
Walking With Plants
23 mins | Canada | 2021
As Styawat/Leigh Joseph navigates walking between academic and cultural worlds, she contemplates her relationship with plants and their role as teachers.