Monday, April 18, 2011

Pebble Creek Cabin

After an unexpected invitation on a family trip and some hasty schedule reworking so that I could leave two days after confirming I would go, I arrived at the Whister Heliport to board a helicopter that would take me and the Drinnan family to Pebble Creek Cabin for 8 days. Seeing as how I had only met part of the family, an had no idea of their existance until just days before the start of the trip, I was nervous to what the week was going to have in store for me, living in an enclosed space with four people I barely knew.

The trip materialized by chance on a day trip out to cowboy ridge. A family friend of my touring buddy came along for the ski and was talking about the trip they were going to do out to a cabin north of Pemberton. Since they were getting dropped off by helicopter, they were looking for one more person to fill the helicopter. I checked my schedule when I got home and called her the next day. I was in!

Pulling an Ingrid Backstrom
Fourty minutes in the helicopter and we were dropped off near the foot of the Pebble Creek Glacier, about 100m away from the cabin. The weather was great and we got some great views of the surrounding mountains. Too bad we didn't have sun for basically the rest of the trip. We took advantage of the good visibility and went for a quick run down a slope that we named day 1 while we scouted out lines that we wanted to ski on later days.

Looking back at our tracks (and the tracks of the guys that left when we arrived) down day 1

Aside from our first two days, the weather was pretty uncooperative, with wind, snow and cloud which resulted in very flat light. Many of the areas that we had looked at in interest on the first night were not skiable due to their aspect. Anything south facing was garbage snow due to sun crust. Luckily for us, there was so much terrain to explore that we never ran out of stuff to ski. There were so many areas that we didn't get a chance to get to that I would love to come back and ski. There were some HUGE zones out there!

Top of the ridge during a rare sunny break



The Drinnans

The boys built a couple of jumps outside the cabin on the down days when we didn't go touring. We had a few good jump sessions which ended in shin bang for me and Marty almost landing on his mom and brother with a switch 180. It was a good way to kill some time!

Marty on the tree tap

Graham with a tree grab

On the second last day of the trip, Andy (Marty and Graham's dad) and I went back up to the highest point that we had been to during the trip so I could check out a line that had been bugging me all week. It was a narrow chute down a rocky ridg. Actally there were 3 of them but one, a dogleg, had caught my eye. I had to boot pack up along a cornice and over the top of the peak to see if I could get in around the back side because the front had lots of rocky cliffs that were not passable. The weather came in as I was up there so Andy wasn't able to see where I was and couldn't help guide me to where I wanted to be. I ended up down climbing a pretty steep face with my skis on my pack to see if I could get into a chute (which turned out to be a different one than the one I wanted to ski) but the face ended in a cliff above the skiable area. I had no choie but to climb back up and go ski the least exciting of the three chutes. This climb took me a very long time since it was so steep. Finally, I got back to the top and signaled to Andy that I was dropping in. About 10 turns down, the snow underneath me fractured, triggering a class 1 slide that started to pull me down the hill. I managed to traverse over to the rocks and stop before it picked up any speed but it was definitely a wake up call. I regrouped with Andy and we checked out how far the slide had travelled. Lower down, the one I had triggered had run out but released another slide that was much larger, class 2 or more with about a 2ft crown line. Scary! I was pretty happy to finish the day and head back to the cabin after that.


The crown line of the second slide

The next day was clean up day since the heli was coming to pick us up around 1pm. It had been a sucessful trip. I was pretty stoked to get home and shower, I know we all smelled pretty bad after 8 days.

Here comes the heli!

The pebble creek cabin
 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quick jaunt to Baker

Once again the Ryan, Patrick, David and Jenny crew hopped in the bucket of bolts (Ryan's minivan) and started out on a trip to a new mountain. This trip was a quick one, a day trip down to Mt. Baker. None of us had ever been to Baker before and David was the only one on the trip who had ever skied outside of BC before. What an exciting experience! After a mandatory Tim Hortons stop before crossing the border, we drove south to the ski hill, unsure of what the conditions would be like as there was no snow in sight for the majority of the drive. Out of nowhere the mountains and snow appeared as we pulled into the parking lot.
Parking lot change

The sun was shining and the snow was better than we expected it to be. A bit of dust on crust, not too bad considering how heavy everyone says the snow usually is. The first major difference that we noticed at Mt. Baker vs. all the BC mountains we have skied at was the amount of effort spent on signage. There seemed to be a sign for everything, from "snow sliding off roof" to "low chair clearance." They seemed pretty paranoid and even the lift tickets had written on them "your safety is not guarenteed." Despite all the warnings, the chairs didn't even have safety bars! Patrick was very disappointed. Another difference is that to get to any terrain that looked any bit interesting, you had to duck ropes with more signs. These ones read EXTREME DANGER ZONE and proceeded to explain that rescue may not be possible. It was only later, on the way home that we realized that if you wanted patrol to come and get you in these areas, it was a minimum $500 fine!

The terrain at Baker was amazing. It involved a ton of niggling through tight, steep chutes, fins and rocks and had huge potential for cliffs on a deep day. The backcountry there was also tantalizing, next time I go I will be bringing the touring gear and staying for a few days for sure. Hopefully during a storm cycle!
There may have been a bit of snow...
Our sucessful day included skiing 95% in extreme danger zones and hugging the ski boundary area signs all over the mountain. It was fun being at a mountain where we seemed to be the only ones who were checking out the other skiers gear and judging their technique. The number of good skiers at Baker seemed to be low. Perhaps it was because we were there on a weekend? Maybe because it hadn't snowed in a while? Probably all the good guys were out hiking for their turns. Either way, it was a new experience after the constant judgement being thrown around in Whistler.
Bucket of bolts!
The trip back involved a stop at KFC to indulge in a fine American delicacy, the Double Down. Patrick double double downed while the rest of us looked on in horror. After that we decided to keep up the high calorie intake and get some ice cream at Fred Meyer as it was on sale for 8 drumstick cones for $5. Crazy!! We all felt pretty sick on the way home. That didn't mean that we skipped out on the mandatory Tim Hortons stop when we reached the good side of the border.

The best fence I have ever seen

The fence in the picture above was at a shop on the road down from the mountain. It caught our attention on the way up so we felt obliged to stop on the way home to check it out. It went all the way past the shop and around the garbage bins as well as back behind us along the rest of the parking stalls.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Revelstoke

Staring at the unlimited Revelstoke terrain
Since the originally planned Revelstoke trip in early January did not happen, a much shorter version was undertaken on the last weekend of Feburary with Patrick, David and Ryan. We left Vancouver on the Friday night and after many Tim Hortons stops and a few roll up the rim wins by Pat, we arrived in Revelstoke too late to do anything but hit the sack.

Patrick at the top of the bootpack above North Bowl
Saturday was a major mountain exploration day since they hadn't had much snow and it was pretty overcast. Revelstoke is massive! Despite the fact that it was -25 at the top, we managed to check out some pretty awesome zones before retreating to the lodge to warm up and get lunch. The groomers at Revelstoke are also spectacular. They are steep, straight and have killer rollers that could launch you much farther than you expect to go if you don't prepare for them. The only problem is that you get going so fast that body parts start to ice up. Patrick found this out the hard way when his ear froze to his helmet.

There is no Merlins equivalent at the bottom of Revy so we had to just make do on our own
Saturday evening was our night on the town. We did a tour of downtown Revelstoke starting off with the purchase of some Cinnabuns from Coopers foods. That stop was followed by a Little Caesars hot and ready pizza and a trip to the Village Idiot, the local bar. The bar had a wonderful array of retro skis, many of which we would have gladly taken home with us had they not been mounted to the walls or cut in half to make chairs. A quick stop at Outabounds, the local nightclub, concluded our tour and we headed back to the Super 8 to play quarters and poach the hot tub that had already been closed for a few hours.
Cinnabuns!
Repping the sponsors
New quarters rule: the troll
Skiing sunday was more of the same. We went back to the places that we had discovered the day before and looked at them more closely, scoping out the lines that we wanted to hit had there been more snow. It had snowed a few centimetres during the night, enough to soften it up and make for some great skiing in some of the zones that we hiked up too. We also found some snow that was left over from the last storm and had a great time billy goating our way through the cliffs that litter the area.
Ryan struggling with the super S7's on the hike
We drove back to the motel after a great weekend, all ready to go home after we gased up and grabbed some Tim Hortons. Since it had been snowing most of the day however, we check the road conditions and decided that it was probably a good idea to stay an extra night since a travel advisory had been issued. I think that decision was aided by the fact that 15cms were expected to fall on the hill overnight. We spent the evening bowling and back at the Village Idiot where Pat and Ryan ordered the biggest burger I have ever seen. It was pretty gross but apparently it was delicious.

Bowling
Burger, chicken breast, ham, fried egg, two types of cheese...
The next morning we woke up to what the snow report was calling 14cm, but we knew better. We showed up at the hill 30 min before it opened and there was already a line, the first one we had seen the entire time we had been there. Luckily, once we were on the hill the crowds seem to disappear and we felt like we were the only ones left on the mountain. We skied all morning getting fresh laps through the trees and took advantage of our exploring to go hit some of the airs that we had checked out the day before.
Digging the van out monday morning
Miraculously, the sun came out. It felt surreal being the practically the only ones on the mountain with all that snow and terrain all to ourselves. I am so glad that we stayed the extra day, it made the awesome trip into an epic one.
Stoked on life

Another busy pow day at Revelstoke


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Teapot


In the middle of February, Landon and I took a trip up north to Williams Lake where Landon was responsible for teaching a level 1 course on the weekends and the two of us did a 5 day touring trip out at Teapot Lake/Mt. Elsey during the week. This was my first experience with any sort of winter backpacking trip as well as my 3rd through 7th days of touring ever. Luckily, the lack of experience on my part didn't seem to have any effect on the trip and despite stories of having to sleep in a snow cave the last time Landon went on this trip, it couldn't have gone much smoother.

The view of Mt. Elsey from the skin track

Loadinf up the sled for the ride in

The trip involved driving east of Williams Lake and parking the truck past the town of Horsefly. This was followed by a 32km sled ride up the road and an hour long walk into the cabin which we used as a home base for the duration of the week. We left in the afternoon after having to redo the plastic on the bottom of the skidder so that we could tow all our gear in. On the way in, we managed to lose the skimmer and had to double back for it. We also broke a pole but luckily those were all the issues we had.



Inside the cabin
The cabin was fantastic and well equiped for lengthly stays. It had tonnes of wood stacked under the A-frame, a propane stove and some LED lights as well as a large loft with mattresses for sleeping on. On top of all that, it had a wood burning sauna, perfect for relaxing in after a day of walking and skiing.







The cabin!


The first day after our arrival was my first look at the area surrounding the cabin. It was huge and I didn't know where I wanted to start. Everything looked so good and was totally untracked. The first thing we had to do unfortuantely was break in a skin track from the cabin up to the ridge, about 140m of vertical. Once it was in though, we got to use it all week. We managed to drop our time on this skin track down from 42 mins on the first day to 8min 45seconds by the last day! All the other skin tracks that we used had been punched in by the group who had been in on the weekend which was excellent for us. We figure that we were averaging about 1000 vertical metres of walking up and skiing down per day, about three runs of ~350m each.

What is Landon doing? Taking a piss? NO! He is breaking trail...can't you tell?
The snow out at teapot was probably some of the best snow I have ever skied. It was so light that it didn't even stick to your boots and made operation of my Marker Barons very easy and quick during the change overs from walking to skiing. I have never had so much untracked powder. We got so greedy about it, that at one point I had to cross Landon's tracks but in order to avoid that yucky old used snow, I just jumped over the tracks and carried on.

The only tracks on the mountain


Looking at the moon

Love starts at the top of the hill

Although the weather wasn't always the best, we managed to get some sunny breaks as well as a bit of fresh snow during the week, not that we needed anymore snow, it was already blowing up around our shoulders on most turns!


Landon and some nub trees
In order to figure out what we were talking about and make landmarks for places, I came up with the word nub trees. A nub tree is a small tree that is about the height of an adult or is very narrow and can be easily seen over or around. The next largest classification of tree would be a christmas tree which is pretty self explanatory. Anything bigger than a christmas tree is a real tree. We also named lines, such as hockey stick and lightning bolt. There were some huge features in the area that would have been fun to explore but since phone reception was a long way off, we decided to play it safe and stuck to the more gentle glades. It wasn't like there was a shortage of snow or anything...

Lots of snow!
 After skiing, we would get back to the cabin and basically eat anything in sight as we usually would have a late start with a big breakfast then ski/hike all afternoon and skip lunch. One night we had 9 servings of pasta between the two of us and another night we had 2 servings each plus 6-8 servings of grilled chicken. Yum yum! In the cabin we found a snowboard monopoly game which was really fun. Instead of buying properties, you bought mountains. Some of the halfpipe and terrain park cards were really awesome (community chest and chance), for example you got a get out of jail free card for being the fastest one down the mountain, yet if you got caught going fast, you went to jail... The best card by far read "Boned out a chicken salad in front of a Betty, collect $50". So good. Landon dominated both games we played but thats because I let him win.
Snowboard monopoly!

All in all, it was an amazing trip. The only way it could have been better would be to have been there longer (got more runs) or for us to have been fitter (get more runs). I can't wait to go back there in the future and check out some of the zones that we didn't have time for. The area is huge and the snow is unreal. What a trip!

Shreding pow in the afternoon glow


Hiking to the peak

Map of the area

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Touring

After letting the touring set up that I have aquired this season gather dust for the first part of the winter, I was finally able to put the gear to use on my first touring day ever at the beginning of February with Andrew. The weather looked like it could go either way, get sunny or cloud over, but we got lucky and caught some sun up in the Duffy, north of Pemberton.


Looking over at Joffre

Andrew took me up the most convoluted route through the trees to get up to the top. Basically it involved getting cliffed out in reverse to the point where we had to take off our skis and bootpack up part of it. Since it was my first experience touring I am pretty stoked that I actually survived the walk up. By the time we reached the top, I was exhausted, but not tired enough to enjoy the ski down.

Finally made it to the top!


A much easier walk

A week later,  Landon, Tom, Ollie and I took a walk out to Fissile in Singing Pass. This was a much easier skin up, especially since we got to take the chairlift up into the alpine first. The tour out to Fissile was the first time that I got to try skin skiing, Ollie's favourite activity. In order to save time on some of the smaller downhills, we left our heals unclipped and skins on. You don't move very quickly but its pretty exciting. Don't forget to lean back or you fall on your face!

It was a very long walk though, about four hours out to the top which involved a fairly serious bootpack straight up to the peak. When we finally got to the top, we were running behind schedule with the light so we didn't have much time to rest. The run down was awesome, we skied saddle chute which had a steep, narrow entrance then opened up into a huge, steep bowl where I could finally get my skis up to speed. I have been very impressed with the Katanas so far, they are heavy skis but they feel great when you get them going.


Ollies line (summit chute) on the left, Tom, Landon and my line (saddle chute) on the right

It was a bit of a race against the light on the way back out, another two hours that involved a bit of skinning and the ski out on the singing pass trail. Luckily it was uneventful and we made it back to the locker room just in time. What a great day! 

Landon on the hike out

Getting the skins back on









Sunday, January 30, 2011

Finally good to go

So it turns out I broke my mandible in two places when I crashed on New Years Day. After a trip down to the hospital in Vancouver to get my mouth wired shut, I returned to Whistler and spent most of my time sleeping, rock climbing and hanging out at Merlins, the bar at the base of Blackcomb.

x-rays. Can you see where it broke? The doctors couldn't at first

 With the elastics in my mouth holding everything very tightly shut, I wasn't able to eat anything that wouldn't fit through the strainer. For the most part, my diet consisted of milk shakes of various flavours, protein shakes, smoothies and soup. I did get creative though. Some of my more brilliant meals included:

-grilled cheese sandwich blended with tomato soup
-perogies blended with salsa and melted cheese
-scrambled eggs and sausage blended with milk
-pancakes with maple syrup and milk
-$5 tacos at Merlins with guacamole, sour cream and salsa (with a bit of beer to make it liquid)
-yam fries with chipotle mayo and milk also at Merlins (thanks Luke!)
-spicy agedashi tofu at the GLC (best meal of all)



Step 1 of meal preparation: blend

Step 2: strain

Finally, after 4 weeks, I am able to ski again. I have to wear a full face to keep my jaw safe while it keeps healing. I am able to eat, which is fantastic, food has never tasted so good. Since I have to keep my skis on the ground for a while, I am starting to train for my level 3 which I hope to be taking in March. I have some good stuff to look forward too, lots of touring on the new gear, a trip to Revelstoke at the end of February and the infamous Hotdog the Movie the Party coming up this Friday night. Life is good.

Look at that chewing ability in action!!