33 years after my last VOC adventure I have to admit to being a newbie in the backcountry. I have strained the boundaries of countless ski resorts but have finally broken FREE and love it. Thank you to Ran for perfect organization.
Ran and the VOC site provided email, phone numbers and Map links so it was my pleasure to pick up the “Euro Boys” (Swiss kids Patrick and Thierry and the indomitable Swede, Johan) in Van and head to meet Ran and Mirjam at the Swiss Club lodge in Glacier just outside the Baker National Forest. The only surprise was filling up on the US side and getting change for a $50 – and they think $4/gallon is expensive. The Swiss lodge was fantastic – pin neat, cedar lined, wood stove, large kitchen and great double-size bunk beds all for just $25/night. Mirjam is working on getting the place available for rental to outsiders like the great unwashed of the VOC – good idea for everyone. The crowd was all pretty beat from the week and after a couple of $1 beers we hit the sack (maybe we could have used some under grads to light the fire).
The 8:30 am mist was burning off as we got gear together and headed out the Cat Track to the base of Table Mt. This is a very civilized hike and the snow looked decent – 12 cm of fresh on a breaking crust, which for a split boarder sounded OK. The first run was heaven as the sun broke out just as we hit the snow pillows below the chute entrance – HEAVEN.
Trecking west around frozen Begley Lake and up the Ridge on the second climb the “Johan Diesel” hit its stride and he led us to the top without a pause. Thank god for lunch break – Thierry produced an amazing homemade bread – some Venison Bundnerfleisch (Jerky for Canucks) from my bag, and Swiss chocolate and somehow the energy returned. The day was so sunny and hot we had all stripped to underwear for the climb and the snow down was heavy spring cream. We drifted lazily down in these late spring conditions to Begley Lake – to a BIG surprise – the world had turned into an ice sheet covered with 2 cm of powder. I very much regretted not bringing crampons and even the skiers were having trouble holding on in the steep 3rd climb – we could not make it back to the top of the ridge so caught just enough vert to get launched most of the way around the lake and then up to the Cat track. We were saturated with snow-field endorphins. After the huge feed at Chair 9 (mine compliments of the Euro Boys) I could not describe a better day!