As this ski season of seasons enters spring and snow continues to pile up I, weekend by weekend, am starting to amass a collection of snapshots of elegant piles of snow. Here's to pillow lines and a deep, stable pack: Here's to Snow Boulders!
Ryan Fehr wearing a satisfied "Boss Face" en route to the Brew Hut
Same Ryan displaying an inquisitive demeanor topped by a nice spring baseball cap
Bobby Edwards with a nice layer cake near Coquihalla Pass
Ben Doubroff working his way up the Bonny Moraine (Roger's Pass)
Descending from Lookout Col (Roger's Pass) I find myself in a sea of Snow Boulders
When the misty mountain clouds of autumn met the frigid winter winds of the north the result was a favourable love-child. Snow returned to the Pacific Northwest and winter enthusiasts like myself have been taking to the alpine with vigour. Below are a series of shots from some of these early adventures on the skin-track.
Atwell Peak coming into view on Paul Ridge
First Snowman of the year at the Watersprite Lake Trailhead
Skiers heading for home after a day near Hanging Lake (Callaghan)
The jagged Hozameen massif from Gibson Pass Ski Area (Manning)
Re-organizing before a descent off Columnar Peak
Laura emerging from the trees near the Elfin Lakes Hut
We all name our vehicles. Betty Lou is the affectionate title of a friend's inexhaustible pick-up. Dusty Rose was the Honda Accord my roommates and I punished up and down the Sea to Sky highway in the early-to-mid 2000s. Baska was the moniker of Laura and I's VW Golf - named after a horse guide we had in Mongolia who, like the car, could push onward to infinity. And now...Misty.
When the decision was made that we needed a new vehicle - one that better matched our lifestyle of mountain exploration, logging roads and camping trips - we wrote down a list of desired features. Diesel, 4X4, 4 cylinder engine, 4 doors, with enough room to comfortably sleep in the back. Plug all of that into the craigslist search function and presto! Japanoid automobiles dominate the results. We settled on the 1995 Nissan Mistral because she was full of character and her motor rumbled with strength. The name Misty had been given to her by her previous owner. We felt no need to change it. Misty are the mountain sides when the clouds roll off the roiling Pacific; Misty are the valley bottoms when standing atop those remote summits. Misty has become a part of our adventure family, and to explain the motivations of this blog I felt the need to share.
The sun shines in the Pacific Northwest in unpredictable spurts. The rest of the time we find beauty in the rugged, wet, and bold scenes of misty clouds clinging to proud conifers on the mountainside.
I'll admit to it myself. The media I've posted over the course of my internet career has almost always been self-aggrandizing. Bluebird days, powder lines, alpine lakes in the background. In the social media age of marketing we're either showing off our best moments or trying to put an upwards spin on the less-than-hero material. But what about our great failures?! Ask any card player and they'll tell ya: Few remember the great hands won, but all remember the great hands lost. It is the trying moments then, the grit and discomfort, that builds our sense of resilience and gives us the courage we need to continue when the wind gets sharp.
So here's one for the survivor in you: a weekend backpacking trip into the eye of the storm. The droplets of water didn't fall from the sky, they pummeled us. We had thought we could outrun the forecast, we had said, "How bad can it actually be?" Well, we found out. Rain can last for 24 straight hours, wet wood will burn, old diesel motors will eventually turn over, and with equal parts time and water an entire alpine bowl can turn to mud. Enjoy the dreary photos below, they're the best we took.
Two days after returning from Bella Coola I set off with my best mate Ben Doubroff for Bugaboo Provincial Park. Deep within the Purcell Mountains, this alpine mecca attracts climbers like pins to a magnet. We reached the trailhead in the late dusky hours of Monday, August 3rd, and it immediately began raining. Hard. Water from the skies and sweat from my inner depths dripped to the rocky ground as we grunted ever uphill into increasing darkness, packs loaded with food for four (4) days, tent, stove, sleeping roll and climbing equipment. We reached the Conrad Kain hut sometime around 11pm and were invited inside for tea and warmth, which promptly turned into a full-blown campaign led by an enthusiastic Russian alpinist attempting to convince us to sleep on the hut floor, rather than continue on. But we could not be swayed from our plan to reach the high Applebee Dome campground. Revitalized from the moment's warmth, we continued up the steep moraine, pitched our tent, and crawled into what would be our home for the rest of the week.
Over the course of the following four days Ben and I climbed Pigeon Spire's West Ridge (PD, 5.4), Crescent Towers' "Lion's Way" (PD+, 5.6), and Bugaboo Spire's "Kain Route" (AD, 5.6+), with a mid-week rain day spent playing cards in the aforementioned hut. Pressed by a time constraint, to be at a wedding in Whitefish Montana the following day, we left The Bugs on Friday night, already planning our routes and tactics for when we return next summer.
The following video is of Pigeon Spire's West Ridge, the first route we climbed, and our intro to Bugaboo hail, thunder, and exposure.
The late July weather in Vancouver was hot enough to boil lettuce so after work one evening Laura and I packed up the rig and headed north. Our destination was the steep & wild Bella Coola valley. We had heard legends of a land untouched and wanted to pull back the curtains and see for ourselves. From the moment we reached "The Hill," the steep dirt track that takes you from the high Chilcotin plateau to the lush river valley 1500m below, the adventure needle spiked high. As the following photos can attest, we found the points in time we had been seeking. The air was cool and dense and buckets of cold rain fell from the sky; but still, nothing could diminish the beauty of such a rugged landscape. The native land of the Nu-Halk people slowly revealed her spine of jagged peaks as over the course of our 9 days the clouds blew off the Pacific and deep into the folds of the Coast Range. When our time was up, we drove home with expanded imaginations and a keen sense of content.