West Coast Adventures: Thanks friends! May 2023

Posted by Patrick Lam on Monday, June 12, 2023

Table Of Contents

After lectures ended and before Nationals, I had an epic trip to the West Coast of North America in May. This was really the first trip since 2020 where I saw a bunch of people. I owe many thanks to people who hosted me. Turns out I can just show up in many places and people will host me. Maybe that doesn’t work if I do it too often.


The flight was at 8am and the lines were long (45 minute NEXUS security/US border line). I returned my rental car at YYZ and caught my flight, though without much time to spare.


In SF, I first met up with Feng from grad school at McGill, one of a trio of tech layoff people I met up with on this trip. He picked me up from SFO and we hung out for the day at his place, with a walk around the nearby Arastradero Reserve, as well as lunch. Then he dropped me off at Christina’s place in the city.

Mountains along the way; grass at Arastradero; leaving SF.

Eastern Sierras

Next up: ski touring in the Eastern Sierras.

After driving to Mammoth Lakes, I got some rental AT skis at Mammoth Mountaineering Supply, and then we did a short ski tour at Mammoth Rock. Gear all worked out great.

The nice thing about being based in June Lake, and presumably Mammoth too, is that there are a bunch of ski tours accessible without much driving. You have to drive 7 hours to get there, but once you’re there, you don’t have 2 hours to drive to get to the mountain every morning. You have 10 minutes to drive. That time savings adds up, but makes it hard for friends to visit.

The next day was the big one, Mount Wood, which isn’t trivial: took us 9 hours and had 1500m of elevation gain. Great mountain views and passable snow conditions. Lots of views of Carson. Made it to the false summit but it was getting late and did not make it to the real summit not far away. The ski down was a lot of elevation loss right to the parking lot, and the snow was pretty heavy, though got a bit better halfway down. I think it’s generally harder to gain elevation in skis versus on a good-quality (class 2) hiking trail. The rental AT skis were still lighter than my telemark skis, so that helps, but some foot shape weirdness was bugging me. Rebooting (boot off and on again) helped a bit. I also applied sunblock, but should have re-applied it, because I got pretty burnt. Best to avoid that happening too many times. (Even once is not ideal). Spot the dog was pretty tired after running around all day. Pizza in June Lake was great afterwards.

Carson, with Devil's Slide visible as shaded chute on left; Silver Lake and Spot; mountains from false summit.

We then looked for something much more mellow. Devil’s Slide, at 548m of elevation gain, fit the bill. We skinned up through the forest and then skiied down on much better snow (in the shade) than on Mount Wood: it was much lighter and easier to turn on. We ran into a guy bootpacking up the slide itself. Excellent rest day activity and great meal at Dos Alas in Mammoth Lakes after going shopping at Mammoth Mountaineering Supply.

San Joaquim; skiing picture; sunset at Dos Alas.

Then it was time to head back to San Francisco. Well, I had a flight at noon the next day, so it would be technically possible to stop at Truckee, but definitely more risky. We did another visit to Devil’s Slide after bidding Lucas goodbye, and bootpacked directly (not in forest) two thirds of the way up. Good chance to test out my new gear. Navigation worked well. Had lunch in June Lake with a plate lunch from Ohanas 395 and a Russian (stroganoff) hand pie from Pies of the World in Placerville (which seems like a touristy town).

Albums so far:


We (well, mostly Christina) drove to the Eastern Sierras via Christina’s ski lease in Truckee. Christina drove all of the 7 hours there; I drove part of the way back.

Heart-shaped snowpatch; Mono Lake; Eastern Sierras

Lucas took us out skiing for 3 days. Since he lives in a van, it’s hard for him to provide accommodation. Christina managed to book a place in June Lake for us with two rooms. Super handy.

John-Kyle, who lived right next door to our accommodation, came out skiing with us on Mount Wood, and also lent me ski poles.

It was super useful to have local knowledge, since I don’t spend much of my time ski touring in the Eastern Sierras. We climbed Mount Wood, Devil’s Slide, and the Mammoth Rock Bowl. Thanks also to Lucas and Christina’s patience while I went shopping, before we went to eat.

The night before flying to Vancouver, Christina hosted me in her spare bedroom in SF, and then she drove me to the airport.

Vancouver (briefly)

After the Eastern Sierras, it was back to Vancouver on an SFO-YVR flight. I took the SkyTrain from the airport downtown to meet Marcus. We decided to not spend $60 each (!!!) on visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge, but did visit the nearby Cleveland Dam, and went on an impromptu trip to check out the Chief in Squamish. It was too rainy to climb on the weekend, though we did see boulderers in the boulder field at the base of the Chief.

Pond below Cleveland Dam; Capilano River Facility; mossy forest; the dam.

Tasty Persian food from Chelo Kitchen + Eatery, banh mi and a quick stop by Kozak.

Boulder at Squamish; at the counter at Kozak.



Marcus drove me around Vancouver, to West Vancouver, and we went on an impromptu trip to a somewhat soggy Squamish. He also drove me back to my airbnb. Then, the next day, he drove us to to Seattle.


I then stayed put in Seattle for the work week. Well, except for a day out at Mount Rainier. I spent Monday doing my April report and Western Newfoundland report, Tuesday at a workshop, Wednesday around and under Seattle, Thursday at Rainier, and out early morning Friday (taxi companies let me down for my 6am flight so I had to take an Uber at twice the cost).

Waiting for the W Seattle Bridge Trail drawbridge; cruiser bike FTW; PNW PLSE; Suzzallo library; me and Ardi; waiting for the Montlake bridge; Seattle at night.


I also crashed at Aaron and Anna’s new place on Wednesday night to facilitate an early start for ski touring at Rainier. Aaron drove us up to Rainier and then we had excellent and untracked snow conditions on the Paradise Bowl.

Pinnacle etc with Mount Adams behind; skinning up Muir snowfield with chiaroscuro; Camp Muir and Cowlitz Cleaver; Rainier in clouds; bootpacking.


Many thanks to Marcus for hosting me for almost a week in Seattle, from Sunday through Friday. Also I borrowed his cruiser bike to get from West Seattle to the University of Washington, a good 23km ride (× 2 for roundtrip) over a couple of bridges.

Thanks to Ardi, Zach, and the PNW PLSE crew for inviting me to keynote the workshop. It was fun to talk about Hot Takes on Machine Learning for Program Analysis. And special thanks to Ardi for taking me to the Bill Speidel’s Seattle Underground Tour.

Also thanks to Aaron and Anna for letting me use their spare bedroom and to Aaron for driving us to Rainier.


Next up was visiting my cousin My Tram in Nelson. I arrived in Castlegar after taking the super early 6am flight from Seattle to Vancouver and then a 9am flight from Vancouver to Castlegar. Because I had to wait for my skis (and couldn’t short-check them), I did not manage to take the city bus from Castlegar to Nelson, but the shuttle with the friendly driver was only $50. I let myself into My Tram’s place and worked on the Director’s Cut of my PNW PLSE talk, to be delivered at UBC shortly.

Mt. Gladstone?; Rescue helo at YCG; Nelson.

The next day, we watched as Grant finished a half-marathon (“Run like a Mother” in Nelson for Mother’s Day) and visited the Nelson Saturday market (more banh mi!). Also went to famous cafe (for Nelson) Oso Negro.

Race start; Grant and Luke after the race; Nelson market.

I managed to get a hike in on Sunday before it got too hot. Pulpit Rock is worth doing. High dog-to-people ratio. Not crowded like the Adirondacks, but there were people. Past Pulpit Rock it is possible to go all the way to CBC Tower and beyond. Way fewer people and not really worth doing in May. The snow is annoying. Could have used snowshoes, if they would have worked. I also dropped in on the Cube (small) and chatted with the staff about the nearby bouldering, which seems abundant.

Nelson's Big Orange Bridge; harsh Indian paintbrush; Nelson; green comma (butterfly); buildings at CBC tower; bikes at The Cube.

I decided to fly out of Nelson via Trail and Pacific Coast Airlines. There is a bus that goes from Nelson to Trail. It doesn’t line up great with the flight schedules, but I waited in the Bridgeview Cafe for a few hours, enjoying a cheese pastry and keeping a zucchini chocolate loaf for later. The demographic was digital nomads and retirees. There was another $45 taxi from central Trail to the airport. Still a better deal than the Seattle Uber.


Thanks to My Tram for putting me up in her extra room (in addition to her new airbnb). I also borrowed her bike to get out to a hike. Tat ride was much quicker than the Seattle ride! Only 4.5km each way, rather than 23km. I provided the service of assembling a table for her airbnb. I also appreciated the dinners that My Tram and her ex-father-in-law treated me to.

Vancouver and Squamish

The last leg of the West Coast part of the trip was to Vancouver, after a bus/taxi to Trail and a flight from Trail Airport (YZZ) to YVR-South over the mountains.

The logistics in Vancouver this time was that I rented a car from YVR (the wait for the car was 30 minutes, ugh) and would return it the next day before going to UBC.

Tulips in Trail; YZZ; on board a Beechcraft 1900D; flying over the mountains.

I stopped by the Squamish Library for a few hours. Then, since the weather was good, I managed to get out cragging at Smoke Bluffs in Squamish with Brad and Becca, and stayed over at their place.

Climbing The Zip (📷 Rebecca Mayers); Trippy and Squirrel; guest room.

I left for Vancouver early in the morning (to avoid traffic, especially on the Lion’s Gate bridge), dropped off the car, took transit downtown, met up with SE alum Sandy (who is starting a master’s at UBC in September), and continued to UBC. Then I gave the Director’s cut of my talk to a crowd of about two dozen. It was good to talk to faculty and students at UBC’s Software Practices lab.

The Chief; Indigenous archway at UBC; cat inspecting my gear.

After dinner at East Is East, I made my way to the airbnb near YVR (only two wrong buses). This was a repeat visit; it might well be the closest non-airport hotel-accommodation to YVR. 6am flight back to Toronto the next day. In fact, it is close enough to the airport to walk, and I managed to lug all my stuff to YVR, rather than taking another Uber. 6am flights still are the worst but surprisingly common in my life.

Air Canada aircraft in the morning; all my stuff back at YYZ.


Thanks to Brad and Becca for the climbing and hospitality!

Thanks also to Alex for organizing my UBC visit and taking us all out to East Is East afterwards.

I definitely appreciate all the hospitality on my first West Coast trip since 2019. Thanks again!


hosts Christina (ski lease, apt); Marcus; Aaron and Anna; My Tram; Brad and Becca
paid accommodation June Mountain hotel, 2 Vancouver airbnbs
activities ski touring, climbing, bike commuting, hiking
people visited 15+
countries 2: Canada (BC), US (Washington, California)
areas Bay Area, Eastern Sierras, Vancouver (Squamish), Seattle (Rainier), Nelson
morning flights 3: YYZ-SFO 8am, SEA-YVR 6am, YVR-YYZ 6am
modes of transportation walking, driving, flying, bicycling, skiing, bus, LRT, SkyTrain
kms flown 9340
kms driven 2160
elevation gain/loss 6300m