Trip Report A month in British Columbia

Endless_Winter

One of Us
Apr 23, 2013
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Back when life was, you know, like, er, normal…



Decided it had been too long since I'd been to Canada, didn't want to stuff around so decided to go for a whole month, Feb ’20. Would have stayed for 2 if I’d known about the impending zombie apocalypse, although getting home may have been a nightmare.



My regular split partners couldn’t make it, so it was just me and mrs winter.



When we landed in Vancouver at midnight it was snowing at the airport, a good omen.
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Up at Whistler, things were great. Not epic amounts of fresh snow, but some and the odd spell of clear weather. Crowds were fairly non-existent. We deliberately planned our stay so the weekend was in the middle so we could have a few days riding, then I could go out touring on the weekend and Mrs Winter could have a couple of days off (earning turns not really her bag baby).
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We got a fantastic deal on a ritzy loft room at the marriott. Mrs Winter particularly liked the ski valet 10 metres from where you unclipped!
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The Sunday was the riding highlight for me. I booked a guide, which is not a cheap endeavour when solo. We were blessed with great weather and the alpine escaped some of the warming that had made below the tree line a bit unpleasant in the preceding days. The guide took me up the blackcomb side, which on a bluebird Sunday was rather busy. For me it was my first day on totally new touring gear, hard boots (atomic backlands) and phantoms, so I was a little apprehensive that it was all going to be ok. I’d ridden them inbounds for 2 days prior. Can I say to splitboarders, if you are in any way, shape or form even lightly contemplating that change to hard boots, it is absolutely worth it. The increase in touring efficiency is massive (700gr per foot less weight being lifted each step with my setup) and whilst I still prefer to ride soft boots when not touring, the riding is still great.

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We started with a short (by Canadian standards!) run down to Circle lake (kind of the beginning of the spearhead traverse) then skinned back up to the southern flank of the Spearhead glacier for an absolutely magic 500m+ run down to the SSE in absolutely champagne powder and glorious sunshine. I’ve forgotten the name of the run. I need to give the guide a plug here, Brent Phillips (spearhead mountain guides). He knew exactly where to go for zero people and good snow. He used to be a patroller at W/B and knows the area backwards. Highly recommend him.

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I was still coming to grips with snowboarding in ski boots. At one point after a transition I had forgotten to take my boots out of walk mode. Something which I assure you, if you do, you will realise very quickly… Generally about the time you want to do your first turn!

Get my camera out, scratch my balls and Brent is already finished transitioning!.
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Skintrack shots
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My first big skin for the season out brought us back to a quick traverse across the spearhead glacier ending in a short boot pack to the top of one of blackcombs more famous backcountry runs, husume. Definitely a glory run as all the resort lemmings (er, me in the days before that!) trundling down the blackcomb glacier can see you on this picturesque 40 degree fan shaped chute.

Husume boot pack with a couple of people in the background on the spearhead glacier.
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Spearhead Glacier
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Top of Husume, the blackcomb glacier is in the bottom of the "V", bottom left.
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Looking up Husume from the ice cave on the blackcomb glacier
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Another highlight was snowmobiling to a remote cabin for dinner (google sproatt steak night snowmobile if you’re interested). So basically you head up some logging roads in a side valley between whistler and squamish to a remote cabin for a steak dinner. Along the way they teach you the basics of how to ride a snowmobile and there’s a few frozen lakes where you can absolutely let ‘er rip to your hearts content. I’m not much of a petrol head, but I really enjoyed it. That was until on the way home Mrs Winter accidentally launches off the side of the track at speed into a steep oblivion and into a tree. No one saw it happen and finding her was hard as when you come off you have a leash around your wrist that cuts power (and therefore the headlight), so we couldn’t see her. She was, thankfully, OK and just had a badly bruised thigh. The snowmobile not so much, FUBAR, though they reckoned they’d be able to winch it out with the cat they use to groom the access road. Thankfully, the price of admission included insurance! The staff were great.
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To be continued....
 

Endless_Winter

One of Us
Apr 23, 2013
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Putting her close call snowmobile crash behind us and after 9 days in whistler we headed back to Vancouver and did the tourist thing for a week. Even went to a hockey match (not sure how the locals afford it, it was eye watering-ly expensive). I’ve never had a hot dog that came with dumplings before!

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Mrs Winter then headed home and I flew to Kelowna for the next part of the trip. I picked up a car there and spent the next week in Revelstoke. I’m very reticent to book heli skiing until very close to the time I want to go, but they were filling up quickly and based on the absolutely stellar conditions in the alpine at whistler (and very good stability) I thought it was pretty safe to book while I was in Vancouver. I only got a seat because I was solo and one group of 4 had someone cancel. I really like Revelstoke, I could easily live there. After the luxury of a loft suite at the Marriott, it was cheap motel time.

Revelstoke
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Had two mellow days messing around the resort. Totally tracked out, as it hadn’t snowed for a little while, but great weather. I had only been to the resort for one day previously and it was nuking snow that time, so it was nice to be able to see your way around. I did a couple of short boot packs near the top lift, but it was hardly worth it as everything had been poached and being on my lonesome and not really knowing the terrain I didn’t want to venture too far.

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For oodles of bottomless pow, the highlight of the trip was 2 days of heli at eagle pass. They have a great tenure in the monashees (range west of revelstoke). First day was absolute bluebird. Stability was great and all aspects up high (even sunny) had great snow, with very little wind effect so not hard to get great turns. The group I was with were a little on the slow side, but not excessively so, and didn’t want extra runs unfortunately. I didn’t even get the go pro out that day as I just wanted to enjoy the turns without worrying about whether the stupid camera was capturing it all. The second day weather was forecast later that night, so it went a little grey bird late in the day and for the last few runs we had to head below the treeline, where there was the potential for shitty snow, but north faces were still beautifully soft. To me heli skiing means being in the alpine, but that area around revelstoke has some absolutely banner tree runs, of course they’re not quite as long as if you start in the high alpine. I had been sceptical of the eagle pass claim that there’s only a few days a year they don’t fly, but when I saw some of their tree runs first hand, I got it. They have stellar storm riding! Great guiding there too, told you shit when it was important but other times just skied off and said follow me. Some of the time the guide even let me go first and just pointed out where to stop.

Get to da choppa!
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Lunch on a lake
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Who says you don't earn some turns on a heli day!
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Had my go pro at a bad angle but got a couple of ok stills going off a nice chute
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Some people call these tree chutes, others call them avalanche paths!
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Top of a run (sorry shitty go pro)
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Find the chopper
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Epic terrain
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To be continued...
 

Endless_Winter

One of Us
Apr 23, 2013
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I then had a week of touring booked at a lodge in the southern selkirks (range east of revelstoke), snowfall lodge. I had to get myself to some middle of butt-f#@k logging road by 9am on the other side of the lake the next day for heli pick up. There’s really only 3 ways in and out of revelstoke, east on the trans Canada over rogers pass towards calgary, west back towards kelowna and south to Nakusp which involves a ferry crossing at shelter bay. It’s impossible to overrate the jaw-dropping beauty of the the country side here - Towering snow covered peaks and glaciers, steep snow covered pine tree ridges and long, snaking lakes (man made here incidentally).

Shelter Bay Ferry
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On the Ferry
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The lodge recommends you stay on their side of the lake the night before to avoid any road/ferry related dramas (getting to the heli pickup by 9am from revelstoke can be tight) so I booked a night at the beautiful halcyon hot springs lodge. Stunning location on the eastern shore of lake arrow. It was nice to relax in the hot springs, although I must admit I prefer an onsen. I met a group going to snowfall at the bar/restaurant that night, nice as I was on my own.

Halcyon Hot Springs
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The storm hit that night and the later part of the drive the next morning was interesting. Without snow tyres and AWD, you’d have been in trouble. It was a little unnerving as the directions were reasonably easy to follow, but there was no phone reception, you rarely saw another car and it was absolutely nuking so I was never 100% sure I was going down the right snow covered road.

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Snowfall lodge (sister lodge to the better known Icefall Lodge which is closer to Golden) is in a remote part of the Selkirks, the Incomappleux river valley. We were stuck at the chopper pickup until lunchtime because it was snowing too hard for them to fly. It’s quite the military operation to get 20-odd people plus food/supplies in and rubbish out of a remote lodge like this.
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With the delay and avalanche rescue drills, it only left time that day for a short, but fun 1-run tour. I lost my goggle lens in a mach 2 stack on the way back to the lodge. Those quick change lenses are great, but don’t believe the Anon marketing spin about being able to tomahawk down an alaskan spine and not have your lenses pop out. Luckily, I had a spare!

Big Stack
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The lodge is in an amazing spot near the tree line on a WNW facing slope (punch 50 58’ 28.3 N 117 33’ 14.2 W into google maps for the exact spot). 3 storey with drying area, storage/heating (wood stove) on the lower level, living/eating kitchen on the middle level and sleeping on the top. There’s a satellite hut which was the original hut and now has a sauna and shower, and by shower I mean bucket that you fill with hot water from the stove in the sauna. All-in-all, pretty nice for a totally remote off-the-grid lodge for 20 odd people in the middle of nowhere. Shitters were obviously outdoor non flushing pits (but with great views). They have an indoor pee only toilet for the middle of the night. The only mildly annoying part (and not a criticism) was being wooden floors, you hear everyone walking around. The cook was usually up around 5am, so that’s when you woke up mostly. Even though I’m normally a night owl, being really physically tired turns you full country boy, early to bed and early to rise.

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For power, the generator runs in the morning briefly and from when you get back in the afternoon until bed time for lighting, cooking, charging cameras/phones. The cook was an absolute champion and the food amazing and varied. You could bring in your own grog or buy beer there. 1 group brought in a small keg.



To be continued (there's a scotch with my name on it)...
 
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Endless_Winter

One of Us
Apr 23, 2013
528
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Melbourne
That scotch I mentioned! :love:
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But back to the remote Incomappleux river valley and Snowfall Lodge!

The day to day routine was very similar to other touring lodges in this part of the world. In the morning you make your packed lunch (sangers, trail mix etc) first then have brekkie with a quick briefing from guides about options for the day, there were always 2 groups with one group doing the bigger day and one smaller. There were 2 lead guides and 2 tail guides with the option sometimes of heading home early with the tail guide if you wanted a shorter day. You were on the skin track by 9am. The snow conditions, like heli in the monashees, were absolutely stellar (my ski crampons stayed in the lodge all week!). At the risk of repeating myself, the terrain is incredible and there are so many options. You can ride down into the trees pretty much directly from the lodge or skin up into the alpine and other drainages. The runs were really varied, very little traversing, with cool things like visiting an ice cave (nice and warm and out of the wind for an easy transition!). Also massive big-ups to the guides at snowfall, they were fantastic hosts!

Our first full day was nervous excitement and ended up pretty big, 1900m vert. I’m not the fastest up hill so any more than that and we would have run out of daylight! It was lightly snowy all week (a couple of 10-15cm overnight falls), I’d have preferred a few more clear days. Avalanche danger stayed low-ish all week, so steep runs were no problem. I ended up doing 10,000m in 6 days, which I wouldn’t have thought I’d be able to do. I put a lot of that down to greater touring efficiency with the hard boots. Also, the skinning was easy and riding all fall line with maybe only 1 or 2 turns the whole week hitting something firm underfoot. I was determined not to have a day off so I did 1 half day in there so I didn’t knacker myself completely.

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Somehow, inexplicably, I managed to survive the whole week without the internet! I did take my iPad to watch downloaded TV, but barely turned it on.

Most of the other people there were a few groups of friends from BC/Alberta and we re-discovered the lost art of conversation as they say. When I did turn my phone on, one of the Aussie news headlines was about toilet paper shortages, I’m like wtf is that all about? I’m always amazed with how few resources you need for a week off the grid. I probably used less energy and water in a whole week out there than I would in a single day in the real world.

I’ve rambled on enough, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.


Frozen Lake Transitions

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Timewise, a lotta walkin' up, a little riding' down!
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Skinning into an ice cave
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Home is where you don't walk under the eves to avoid getting buried by a ton of snow.
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All ahead flank
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More from the skin track
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I broke trail for at least 20m this trip
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Sun came out a tiny bit
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The black and white version of the above photo is now framed in my hallway.
 

Endless_Winter

One of Us
Apr 23, 2013
528
1,706
263
Melbourne
Unfortunately one month just isnt enought time

That is the truth!


An interesting side bar for the whistler part of the trip. Does anyone remember that incident at W/B where the boarder traverses into an area of much "mandatory air"?

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You can see the general area in these photos, although I'm not sure of the exact spot where it occurred, so don't think the arrows point to the precise spot.

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Ret-ro

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Sep 7, 2017
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Great trip we went too , for the first time. Five of our family. Arrived Vancouver from Tokyo on 12 December , into Sun Peaks 2ft snow over the next week. The Big White 2 more feet. Then Whistler 8ft fall over 13 days, The Vancouver for thrid stay 3 feet snow in a week, Then a foot in Seattle , Then Hawaii.
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Endless_Winter

One of Us
Apr 23, 2013
528
1,706
263
Melbourne
Another sidebar. In the last photo in my trip report you can quite clearly see in the bottom right large scale fire damage from the bad Canadian fire season a few years ago.

This part of the selkirks is home to some amazing old growth forests with some 1,000+ year old trees.

Unfortunately, this landscape does not recover as well as ours here in Australia.

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