Have you ever been a little obsessed about a particular BC destination?
Regular readers of the TFTH reports will have gathered that our part of the Hinterlands is hilly and snowy but a little short on the vertical feet. Telemark Dave and I have been scheming about skiing a particular large hill in our area for a long time. Dave first saw it while timber-cruising on a summer job (and THAT was a longggg time ago ) and I had the good fortune to see it from a helicopter while flying over Algonquin Park several years ago. This particular hill has a whopping 600 feet of vertical (measured on Google Earth) - twice as much as the local lift-serviced offering - faces north, and is way off the beaten track. After two unsuccessful ski attempts, a bicycle recon, a lot of staring at Google Earth and Bing Maps, quiver tweaking and gear acquisitions, the planets were lining up for another attempt. This week, with a very consolidated March snowpack covered by four inches of dense new snow, it looked like the timing was right. TD and I arranged schedules and planned to meet Saturday morning.
To put things in perspective, our vague plan consisted of driving to the end of long dead-end road in the middle of nowhere, leaving the vehicle parked on the side of the road, skiing in on logging roads a couple of kilometres, somehow getting to the top of the large hill, skiing down the other side to a river and then coming back. Given the remoteness of the area, I even brought a first-aid kit and a couple of zip-ties. Oh yeah, and a headlamp. And a map and compass. TD claimed to have packed some duct tape.
Here's a map. Start at the center left bottom, follow the 400 m contour (more or less) and go up the obvious drainage between the two big hills. Keep going north-ish to the river:
Like any proper expedition, we met in the grocery store parking lot:
Half an hour later, we parked our portable ski lodge at the side of a side road:
We left a note in case anyone was wondering what the heck we were doing there:
In a typical ADK or western trip report you might get a big view. Not here. We are heading down the logging road in the general direction of the hill you can barely see through the trees. Nordic skiers take note, these are lovely trails, only skied by a few locals, winding through a rolling landscape of hardwood forest.
Eventually we left the lovely open trails, found an old skidder track that went in the general direction we had plotted, so followed that. When it led us to the top of a rise, we concluded that there was no point in going downhill when the current objective was uphill. So we deviated from the plan and went up.
This route led us onto a wide ledge in the middle of a cliff band. The ledge gradually got narrower and put us in the middle of the cliff. Not exactly a precipitous drop but a cliff nevertheless. Skis were off at this point but the booting was excellent. We backtracked upwards and found a climbable gully going up. Note: in this case, "climbable" means that we have skis in one hand, poles in the other, and are in tele boots. This took us to another plateau, which eventually led us into the gully we had originally planned to ascend. Though we could have skinned at this point it was simply easier to keep walking up.
Finally at the top, Dave's phone bleeped. We had assumed there would be no cell service but amazingly he had four bars. The text was from one of his sons, informing Dave that he WOULD be home for dinner. Not having kids, I can only assume that means buy more food.
The top of the big hill was lovely, with large glacial erratics scattered around. Our first view of the long-awaited downhill route was a bit underwhelming. Anti-climactic. Even disappointing. It was not exactly the wide-open hardwood glade I had imagined.
Oh well. We had come this far, might as well go down. Imagine this image without the trees smaller than your wrist. The terrain was fantastic but the trees just a little too tight for skiing with abandon.
The descent allowed us to channel all the nordic, telemark and alpine techniques in our quivers. Thick dust on steep crust - how about some "falling leaf?"
After the, uhh, interesting descent, we made it to the river.
And took a well-deserved break. Dave had spared no expense on the snack food.
We skied by a Hinterlandian Border Patrol outpost.
Looking back to the hill we skied down. Nice pitch, eh?
Rather than skin back up the hill, we decided to ski up the creek, without a paddle.
Skis on, skis off, we made our way up the creek and eventually back to the logging road trails. Five and a half hours truck to truck. I was dehydrated, pooped and completely stoked about a great ski day.
Never deny the opportunity for exploration. Even if the destination doesn't quite match your expectations, the journey will be definitely worthwhile.
Zip ties? Is that in case you needed to administer an emergency tourniquet?
Ha ha, possibly. Actually, zip ties can come in very handy in a wide variety of Macgyver repairs. Making splints, fixing bindings, repairing a busted ski pole - the possibilities are endless. Zip ties may the duct tape for the new millenium.
I plan to cut back on my pre-purchasing of vouchers next season to leave more room for random exploration.
Allrighty then. Have you got that lightweight touring setup yet? Waxless metal edge skis - perfect for random exploration. I'm sporting the Fischer S-Bound 112 and TD is on the Karhu Guide, now available as the Madshus Annum.
SBR = the original.
I thought TD was an undercover agent who couldn't be photographed?
I absolutely LOVE the last four pics.
Doesn't everybody ski like we do? It's just the way we roll in the Hinterlands. We thought of you out there, Harv, you would have dug it.
TD is rarely a rarely photographed creature but he was pretty proud of his Costco brownies.