Sunday, October 21, 2018

Wild Swimming in Squamish, BC

Climbing and wild swimming go together so well. You can swim before climbing in the morning to get yourself psyched or at the end of what has hopefully been a good day out on the crag. When it is time to rest your body and let the skin on your fingers grow back,  swimming once again comes in and this time you can spend the whole day lazily enjoying the slower pace, drinking coffee, chatting with pals and giving your muscles a well deserved cold bath - or in the case of British Columbia, more of an ice bath!
Finding wild swimming spots seems to be on my agenda as much as finding good climbing routes so here is a list of my favourite spots which are all short drive away from Squamish. This is in no way a full list. There are so many more places that I want to go and explore but as I run out of time, it will have to be on my next year's visit!

1.  Alice Lake 

This was the first spot which I have discovered whilst being in Squamish. It is perfect if you have a few hours to spare as there are some nice picnic areas around to have lunch or to have a bit of a lazy day. The lake is surrounded by forests and the water is surprisingly mild in temperature compared to other swimming spots around. There are toilets and changing areas. You can either park at the tip of the lake or drive a little bit further until the road ends. This end of the lake seems to attract fewer crowds and there is a nice platform which looks like it has been made for the ultimate chill.

2. The Squamish River 

 It is cold, cold, cold. But the views in the background make it worth it. The river is full of salmon during the season and this is apparently a prime spot for eagle watching. The water is clear although shallow for a while. The deeper in you go the stronger the current so I ended up having a quick swim and dip near the shore. There is a lovely coffee shop a few minutes walk from there so you can warm yourself afterwards with a brew. I imagine you can get into the river in several spots but this one is super awesome, largely thanks to the view. I have scouted around for what the name of this spot is but no one seems to know if it even has a name! To get to it, get yourself to the Watershed Pub, then head north up the river for about 100 metres until you reach a set off steps going down to the river.

3. Shannon Falls

This spot is breathtaking. The huge waterfall cascading down is mesmerising to watch and attracts hikers who make the 40 ish minute up hill walk just to go and have a look at them.  I couldn't resist an opportunity for a dip. The water is so cold and the exposure so beautiful that it makes for an incredible experience. I didn't stay in for very long.  The water is so cold that my mind was really just focused on calming my breathing and there was very little space to think about anything else! It is precisely this which makes it one of those meditative experiences. I came out and my mind was silent for a few minutes. It seems that there is nothing  better to reduce the mental chatter than a bit of cold water.

You have to be very careful in this spot. If the water level is very high, there is a danger of being swept into the falls. I assessed how safe it was and went in, stayed very close to the entry point and just had a dip in the small pool, well away from the edge of the waterfall.

To get there takes about 30-40 minutes of hiking. Park at Shannon falls car park and take a path leading up to the crags. Follow the path which will bear right when you pass climbing crags. There are some fixed ropes in place which are useful for some steep sections.

4. Browning Lake, Murrin Park 

This is a bit of a honey pot spot during the summer months due to accessibility from Squamish. It is the kind of place where you have a nice plunge following a good picnic. Even better, you can combine it with some climbing on the Pet Wall! As the lake is just by the road, it is not the most relaxing place ever but the location makes it pretty convenient.  If you want to avoid crowds, your best bet is during the week. The water seems really clean and you can get into the lake easily. The walk is literally a couple of minutes from the car park.

Big thank you to Andrew (Coldplay) Mckay for being the guide and the driver to most of the these places!


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