Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lizzie Creek Cabin

Well, Dave wanted to know how I was going to spin this particular trip, because the net result of two weeks in Canada was a whole lot of skinning, hard work, and being soggy, and not so much sunny powder skiing. Yes, it's true. You win some, you lose some.

We were psyched to have a nice long chunk of time off, and lots of terrain we had seen in print and on blogs. 8-to-12-hour approach, cozy little cabin, and tons of alpine terrain of varying aspects and steepness. Sweet!! We took a couple days to organize, pack, and position ourselves just outside Pemberton, BC, about 30 minutes north of Whistler, and parked at the trailhead for the evening after sampling some "Chinese Japanese Canadian Cuisine" at the local Centennial Cafe in town. Equipment, check. Intentions, check. In position, check.

Weather, not so much. We woke to steady rain and couldn't bring ourselves to start uphill, choosing instead to haunt the bakery and library in hopes of finding a region of better weather nearby in time or place. No luck! A powerful low pressure system was spinning warm fronts out in the Pacific that were riding right over all the coastal ranges. We went back to the trailhead prepared to start out wet. Sure enough, on and off showers gave way to the dreaded "snain," part rain, part snow, as we trudged up a logging road toward our destination valley. Lots of incredibly heavy snow hadn't been skied for some time, and the trailbreaking was astonishingly tiring.

8 hours in, we decided to call it for the day and built a snow shelter, half cave, half ski-tent, that served quite well since it wasn't stormy, just snowy. A much-needed rest, as we were still a little tired the next morning continuing up. Another 5 hours, directions that didn't quite match the terrain, and lots more heavy trailbreaking later, we reached the hut. Home sweet home!! Very cozy, and almost entirely covered with the 8-9 feet of snow on the ground and roof, it did have some wood stacked inside that let us finally get dry and warm. Whew! The continued snow and fog led us to spend the next day harvesting dead branches and trees to stock up the firewood supply for the next few days, and excavate an outhouse entrance from under the same huge snowpack.

Time to ski! There can be too much of a good thing, though, and we had it. So much snow that trailbreaking continued to be difficult, and enough clouds and snow to keep us from being able to see anything. All those beautiful mountains and valleys around us, and we can't even see them! The avalanche danger had our attention, too - it was warm and had been snowing continuously for several days. We turned back from an intended tour and took a couple of consolation runs on the slopes above the cabin. Could be fun snow, but soooo much work to use it! Fatigue and increasingly soggy precipitation made for an early afternoon.

Next day, a similar story as we broke trail up the same exact hillside, our previous track completely obscured by snow and wind. We had a few runs and still-dry layers when we called it a day - quite an improvement! The next morning was already day 6, and time to head out. Fortunately, the snow had finally consolidated enough to enable us to actually ski out (instead of breaking train again), and we made good time. We even saw the sun once!

If being all hard-core and outdoorsy requires fortitude and endurance, it also requires knowing when to actively avoid it! We ended up at a great place called The Hitching Post Motel, and highly recommend it to anyone heading north of Whistler. Super nice owners, some nicely renovated rooms, and a perfect kitchenette area to allow for breakfast in bed options. Much needed after six days of being cold and soggy! Slept in, checked out, and hung out in her laundomat to reorganize and regroup. The weather was improving, so we stayed close and drove up to Duffey Lake for two more days of skiing, moving back into truck-camping mode.

This time, the weather and snow cooperated beautifully! Others had set a skin track up before us, the snow was fluffy, and we actually got some sun. Ah, timing. A few more people there, not the complete solitude of a cabin 13 km in, but the backcountry of British Columbia is definitely big enough to accommodate. Lots of natural and triggered avalanches were coming down, and we were more than happy to observe from afar as they set off slides across the highway and then cleared debris from the road. By this time, we were pretty tired from only one day of rest in the last nine, so were grateful to head back home, only a 4-hour drive! So close, just across that border line.

I'm definitely hoping to go back to the cabin again, hopefully when the weather is a little more cooperative. Next time, it would be nice to get something more like this: http://richso.blogspot.com/2011/01/lizzie-creek-new-years.html Ah, well. (Oh, and if it looks like I was shooting in black-and-white, I wasn't, it was just grey out!)

No comments: