Late January 2017 seemed like an ideal time to flee the country and separate ourselves from the crazy theatrics that were taking place at home. With her notably friendly inhabitants and dashingly liberal prime minister, Canada beckoned, so we scurried north of the border to spend the next month crossing mountain passes between British Columbia and Alberta in search of powder to ski and ice to climb. These things and more were found.
Good times were shared with friends new and old. Remy learned to lead ice and in exchange for this knowledge sacrificed several toenails. Max brought glory to the ‘chihuahua mix’ breed category by ski touring like a regal alpine hound. Moby’s newly revamped heater kept us warm and dry even when the temperatures dipped to surprising lows. My long search for well-fitting ski boots came to and end in Nelson, BC and newly enabled, earned my first true face shots on my first hut trip.
Snapshots from our month tell the story best. As a disclaimer, this blog is mostly a show and tell of photos for the benefit and enjoyment of my parents who are social-media challenged.
In late January we met Nick, Allie and Ilia in Canmore for a week of ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies. Canmore is not beautiful at all as exhibited in the photo below, taken during a short hike near the ‘Junkyards’ climbing area just outside of town.
After three days of climbing closer to Canmore we drove the Icefields Parkway to climb at the Weeping Wall, an impressive curtain of ice that tumbles almost down to the road. It was -26 F in the morning but the sun affected ice made for a wet and alpine feeling adventure climb up Sniveling Gulley.
After Canmore we drove west for slightly warmer weather and better snow and Revelstoke delivered with three powder days and excellent tree skiing. We also took the free inland ferry across Arrow Lake to the town of Nakusp in search of hot springs. Ringed by the Monashee Range, the ferry is worthwhile for the views even if hot springs aren’t your thing (but why wouldn’t they be?) Max joined us on the 8 mile roundtrip skin to St. Leon hot springs, much to the delight of the other hot spring-goers, who mostly were twenty-something Australian girls enjoying the benefits of the crown with a year-long stay in Canada to work at the ski resorts.
In Revelstoke we resided in the parking lot for three nights and made friends with our neighbors; Frank, Courtney and their pup, Harlow, are traveling in their van for several months, joined in spurts by their friend Austin. They are both fantastic photographers and you can see more of their journey on instagram @thisvoyageoflife
When not skiing we continued our Cribbage battle, Remy worked on his guitar mastery and I took photos of Max in his natural state in within the van.
From Revelstoke we headed south to Nelson (five stars, would move there) to ski Whitewater and then Roslyn to ski Red Mountain. Neither of these are on the Mountain Collective Pass but both are awesome little hills with creaky old lifts and great backcountry access. Mid-February brought some pressing work deadlines for me so Remy was confined to skiing inbounds while I logged computer hours at various coffee shops.
En route to Whistler we paused to climb some roadside ice at Marble Canyon. Unbeknownst to us, this was Icy BC dying a slow, wet death during the warm weather cycle that was present at the time. A fun collection of climbs that we would like to revisit in better shape!
Our stop in Whistler coincided with President’s Day weekend. Bill Clinton was apparently in town but the main attraction for us was time with friends. Natasha and I finally united to ski together and despite the snain, made the most of two days at the resort with some excellent adventure skiing. Priti and Jeff were also in the area and though we failed to connect on the hill, much aprés skiing was enjoyed.
Marty also joined us, but this was not his first van rodeo. His welding skills, mechanical aptitude and family with workshop space in Reno were the only reasons that we actually finished Moby in time to hit the road in mid October. Marty was as invested in the craftsmanship of the bed and bike rack as we were and I am forever grateful for his patient teaching style and explanations. In fact, Marty was so taken with building metal furniture in small spaces that he was inspired to create a foldable bed and ski rack/luggage platform for his Fiat 500. In one of the smallest cars that you can buy, Marty created a road-worthy winter camper conversion and then set out on a four week solo road trip to ski all of the Mountain Collective Pass resorts.
It was interesting to say the least.
The icing on our sweet Canadian cake of winter recreation came in the form of a trip to the Wendy Thompson Hut, a humble abode set amongst the peaks of the Coast Range outside of Pemberton.
Friend and ski fiend Kameron Harris assembled an excellent crew for five days of mountain play and Ullr + mother nature combined to deliver to rest. Conditions reports leading up to our week were not inspiring, peppered with phrases like ‘suicide trees’ and ‘terrible crust’ so our expectations were tempered. However, we found nothing but sunny skies and super stable, shin-deep blower powder. (Stringing those last four words together must make me a real backcountry skier!) All of the days were great, just about every turn was a blast and the group really brought their A-game for family-style three-course dinners each night, complete with evening sing-alongs.
Get to ze chopper! Wait, no…this is a skin-in hut. Hauling 60+ lbs packs for a week of backcountry skiing means that you can eat a wheel of brie to yourself without shame.
On one particularly excellent bluebird day the boys summited and skied Cayoosh and Meira and I ventured off on a ladies-only exploration into the unknown. Over a saddle we found an awesome bowl, virtually untouched and offering endless fun lines.
Meira leads the way up and over the saddle.
Failing at timer selfies.
The only downside of the trip was that poor Dave, the lone Canadian in our group, fell ill on the second day. He was unable to keep food down for four days, ended up losing ten pounds and pretty much had the worst hut trip ever considering that he spent four straight days in a constant shiver bivey. But, being Canadian and therefore a crusher by birth, Dave steeled himself on the fourth morning, skied out with a smile and went to work the next day.
Canada was so good to us. She even gave us this parting gift of a beautiful, clear view of the Tantalus Range outside of Squamish. To date, this is the most amazing range that I’ve ever played in and I can’t wait to return and explore more this summer.
When we crossed the border to reenter the U.S., we were detained for an hour, thoroughly searched and relieved of several offending oranges and two unmarked frozen sausages.
What We’re Reading: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Like the Kite Runner, but different. I read it in four days and loved it. Remy quickly ticked off Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson and Mitch Albom’s The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. He is currently on the phone and could not be reached for comment.
What We’re Listening To: Containers! An excellent Podcast detailing the history of the shipping container and how it has changed the world. Super interesting!
What We’ve Learned: Spoiler alert, but from Containers we learned that the catalyst for the use of the shipping container and expanding shipping routes across the Pacific was the Vietnam War. I had no idea that packaging items into metal rectangles and using cranes to load them onto boats was a fairly recent phenomena.
Bonus: Our copy of Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest has yet to steer us wrong on this trip. If you are embarking on a road trip through British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, do yourself a favor and add this book to your library.