Winter showed up, so this week I headed into the Coast mountains with my wife and two friends for some ski touring. It was nice to get outside and discover how much legs can atrophy in 3 months of grad school.
Day 1 we tried to get ahead of the ski touring hoards spilling from Vancouver by heading to the remote and decrepit Lizzie cabin 6-8 hours up an overgrown logging road (I’m not going to call it an “FSR”, since the term implies logging is somehow doing the forest a favour).
Unfortunately an accident closed the highway for several hours, which moved our hike into night mission territory with a 2pm start. We crossed a fallen log over the Lizzie creek washout and began hauling way too much gear up the road/trail. My fat ski setup weighs an embarrassing 30 lbs for skis (Rossi S7), boots (BD Factor) and bindings (Marker Duke) which meant a 50-60 lbs pack for the 4 day trip.
The going was good for the first hour and tolerable for the second, with elevation gains of 300m and 200m respectively out of a 1300m total. However the third hour was a disaster. In the 12 years since the road washed out, the slide alder has displayed impressive growth. With the recent >100cm of snowfall, the alder had fallen over and obscured any hint of a path up the old road. We gained 15m of elevation in the third hour as we crawled and tripped through the alder. With darkness entrenched and no end in sight, we decided to turn around to a hotel as the -17 C weather forecast made cowboy camping in the alder unappealing.
Day 2-4: With plan A foiled, we set out the next morning for a more easily accessed but likely crowded hut. The Duffey Lake area has a large number of unsanctioned cabins that grow more popular each year. We headed for the Steep Creek area, but arrived to find 7 cars in the parking lot for a cabin that sleeps 12. We moved on to Cerise Creek, where 3 cars were parked for the 20 person Keith’s Hut. Encouraged, we headed in and 3 hours later had secured spots in the cabin with 9 others. Our timing was fortunate, as numerous other groups arrived throughout the day and all night to pack the cabin way over capacity. The 1:30am arriving group did an impressive amount of stomping with their ski boots on the wooden floor for half an hour. The all night noise combined with my food bag going missing was a good reminder of why I try to avoid the chaos of easily accessed and unregulated cabins.
Cabin chaos aside, the conditions were great with blue skis and soft powder. We skied about 1500′ vert on the second day and about 3000′ on day 3 and day 4 before heading home. It’s been 2 years since I lived in BC, so there was a bit of rust to knock off but the conditions made being rusty not so bad. Getting out touring was also a great reminder of how good of an exercise skiing is. Back in the 2012 hiking season I had legs carved out of wood after skiing >100 days.
Tonight I’m going to mount up my skinny ski setup (Karhu Guide, Plum 145, Scarpa Alien) and hopefully get some local vertical in on Saturday. I’m trying to get in shape for an ambitious trip I’m planning for February. Details will be forthcoming, but the core concept is a long and self designed ski traverse in the Coast Mountains with a high degree of difficulty (distance, technical, solo) and high chance of failure. I think it’s important to do at least one trip per year that scares you a little. I think aiming for a 25% chance of bailing in a good level of ambition. I didn’t do a scary trip in 2013 so I’m overdue. Corollary to this, I just purchased a Delorme InReach SE.