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.