Words by Greg Hill. Photos by Greg Hill and Chris Rubens.
I am not sure exactly how long the guilt has been eating away at me, but it has been a while. For years I would jump into my F-350 diesel truck, drive 75 kilometers solo, adventure in the mountains, and then drive home; selfishly destroying nature while I sought fulfilment and happiness. This form of adventure made sense, but as I have aged, this lack of responsibility has finally taken its toll.
I have started to look at ways to be a more sustainable adventurer. Searching out means to get the same rewards but in a responsible way. When I inputted my life into a carbon calculator it was very apparent that the way I was accessing trailheads had to change. I could no longer fly around the world on whims, use snowmobiles to access mountain tops or drive my huge truck around. Sounds easy in theory but my life is about adventure and exploration.
In May, Chris Rubens and I decided to explore the realities of electric adventures. We rented a Nissan Leaf from Ecomoto in Vancouver. This car is an incredible commuter but only has a range of 160kms, so it is not designed for road trips, which is precisely what we did with it.
We started in Vancouver BC, and journeyed towards Mt-Baker. Not being a far drive from Vancouver, I charged up and had no issues getting to Mt-Baker. We met up with the Arc-teryx team and we all summited Mt-Baker. It was a super fun day and then our real road trip began. Topped up from plugging into the house Chris and I drove south. An app called “plug and share” would guide us to all the level 3 chargers, which take around 40 minutes to fully charge the car. This trip was ideal since the I-5 highway that goes south down Washington, Oregon and into California was littered with these chargers.
Our first charging hurdle was getting up to Mt-Rainier. Since its trailhead is quite far inland and well away from any lvl 3 chargers. But luckily our app showed us a lvl 2 charger that Phil, had attached to his house for his tesla. We arrived at the park boundary and started charging at Phil’s personal plug. The percentage slowly moved upwards but we had to hastily leave with barely 70% since the park’s gates were closing. Committed we drove upwards, as we climbed up to the 2000m trailhead our % dropped, and dropped. 40%…35% and then finally at 31% we made it to the trailhead. We parked and decided to deal with this lack of electricity when we returned.
A great couple of days had us on the summit and then skiing down a heavily crevassed, super awesome run. Arriving back at the car we wondered if our first mistake was going to haunt us. Luckily the leaf has a ‘B” mode which allows the car to slow itself using the engine, which puts electricity back into the motor. So we drove down the 1500m and by the bottom our charge was back up to 50%. Yeehaw! Maybe this electric adventure was feasible.
Mt-Hood was our next objective and there were Lvl3 chargers right up to its trailhead. A great summit and silly ski had us driving south. Eventually the ease of charging had us pushing the battery percentage as low as we could go, extending each drive till the % disappeared and the Km’s left blinked out. We realized there was always extra battery left and we pushed it many times. Never “fully” running out of juice.
We made it as far south as Mt-Shasta in California, where there were no Lvl3 chargers and we ended up charging up at RV campgrounds We were the oddball Canadians, camped amongst the behemoth Rv’s.
While we drove back north, hitting Mt-Adams on the way we pondered our experiment. We ended up traveling almost 4000km, we climbed and skied 6 volcanoes, we rock climbed 5 times, had some amazing adventures, camped in great places. Essentially we lived our lives as we normally would. With one major difference, we used 1 ltr of fuel during the whole trip; for our cookstove, instead of the 400+ ltrs we would have normally used.
Not being able to move quickly between objectives made us more relaxed. Forced stops every few hours had us rethinking our Type A personalities. To me electric vehicles are the future, I have bought a Chevrolet Bolt which has more than twice the distance per charge than the Nissan leaf. Which makes everything a little more realistic. A drive to Vancouver will mean a stop for a stretch, a bike ride, or a nice lunch; it will also mean zero emissions, and it will cost 10$ for the drive instead of 90$…
I plan on trying to access all my trailheads, all my mountain tops by driving in my electric car, there will be lots of compromises, and sacrifices but the satisfaction of being part of the solution rather than the problem is intoxicating. Initially my goal will be a 100 different mountain tops, summiting via all forms of adventure. Running up some, biking others, climbing and skiing, so follow along at electricadventures.ca
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