It was a fine winter’s afternoon as trip number 16 came to a close with all in high spirits although at least one (myself) a little tenderised… It was just then that Steph uttered the words I had successfully avoided on trips 1 through 15, “So Ross, would you like to write the trip report?” Damn! Although in truth, having enjoyed yet another masterfully organised and thoroughly enjoyable trip al la the VOC I can hardly complain.
So, the trip had begun the day previous as every trip with the VOC begins, breakfast at Tim Horton’s. I arrived with Andrew perfectly on time and was in the process of savouring my mixed berry oatmeal and reminiscing with other VOCers of trips gone by as our full contingent slowly amassed. Steph had decided to give herself an easy life on her first organised trip by only inviting 30 odd people… Everyone was more or less running on time so that by the time we arrived at the bottom parking lot and hiked the 15 minutes or so to the upper lot we were all present and accounted for. From this point on we were already able to skin up and start skiing, a huge improvement on the weekend previous where we hiked in the rain as far as Roland’s fountain of eternal youth.
Setting off up to the hut, we managed to get the skis on early doors!
This is where this trip report might get a little disjointed and/or self-centred; I simply don’t know what all 30 odd VOCers were up to (I refer back to Steph’s “easy life…” Additions to this TR from others is positively encouraged however!). For my part the trip up to the hut will be most memorable for trying, yet failing, very hard to keep up with the nice blonde girl on her dad’s cross country skis [my apologies but I’m not sure you ever told me your name. (Now authentically identified as Casandra!)]. I don’t know if it was a product of her funky skis, or of some great technique acquired over her previous three ski trips, but this girl flew! As a result we both arrived at the hut in double quick time and tucked into some lunch as the rest of the gang appeared in dribs and drabs. It would seem there were no major dramas on the route up although I did hear some mutterings from a small contingent of, presumably, unintentional bushwacking before re-joining the main route up…
After lunch I joined a group of 12 day trippers lead by one Jean-François up the gentle rolling hills around the hut. He revelled in his temporary role as leader and got us started skiing/swimming in the snow before joining Scott and his merry band of trepid explorers as they went to hit up the big and scary hills further yonder in search of thrills and excitement. For news on how they got on we will need another trip report. I am a very long way from the “trepid explorer” class of skier. All I know is everyone got back in one piece and looking rather content within themselves. Back on the gentle slopes our troop of now 11 keen beginners was now being led by the infinitely charismatic Peter Lambert. I’m not sure how much skiing we actually learnt from him but he certainly kept us entertained. We did learn how to take our skins off our skis without taking the skis off, and also the strange Canadian tradition of the snow cone, proving it is at least sometimes ok to eat yellow snow… As more VOCers arrived on the scene we all disbanded into smaller groups in an attempt to free up space. This seemed to work. My own attempts to ski “with” someone by this point were being severely hampered by my inability to ski. I would start following someone, fall majestically into the beautifully soft powder and emerge with no idea where my partners had gone. By this point though it didn’t matter. The VOC were out in force, we owned those hills for the day! Whenever you reached the bottom, with the inevitable face plant that consistently followed the 10 foot drop down to the summer bike/hike route, there was always another friendly group of VOCers heading up for another run.
Anna surveys the general carnage…
As time wore on the day trippers slowly disappeared, the “trepid explorers” breezed past complete with a fancy jump here or twist there (10 foot drops do not lead to inevitable face planting for these guys!), us dedicated campers enjoyed a couple more runs before retreating to our delightfully fire heated cabin for the night’s entertainment. Our respective dinners for the night all looked very appetising; we’re definitely better cooks than we are skiers! However, first prize has to go to Camellia and Emily who decided to shun the traditional gas stove in favour of the wood burning variety to prepare their dinner. Their backed potatoes and roasted aubergine (or egg plant if you must…) looked good, and the melted marshmallows they shared afterwards is of course a well known classic, but those juicy, plump sausages they were flame grilling on sticks looked truly exquisite! They ought to become a staple of any camping trip to Red Heather from here on in. As our night was copiously lubricated with a collection of rum, wine, whiskey and whisky, we reminisced of the trip so far, excitedly anticipated the next day of skiing and eventually descended into an entertaining game of who am I?. As a soon to be merry bunch of snowshoers popped up for a few hours of debauchery (as you do…) we withdrew to our tents.
Fun in the hut come nightfall, note the excellent use being made of the fire!
It was a beautiful night. The day’s overcast sky had now been replaced with a clear, star filled spectacle crowned by a full moon that was making our headlights all but redundant. There was not even a hint of a breeze. Standing in a silent, still, moon-lit forest gazing upon the not so distant Tantalus range was enough in its self to make the whole trip worthwhile (and this was our reward for merely succumbing to the inevitable trip to the wash room, or bath room, or however you polite Canadians refer to the bog in the backcountry…).
Our tents looking more than a little chilly in the moonlight.
The night’s sleep had been anticipated with some trepidation amongst some of us and the levels of success were certainly mixed. For example, Camellia learned that her sleeping bag was rated more like +10°C rather than the -10°C she had previously thought, Jim learned that he gets cold once the alcohol wears off (this seems easily fixed!) and I learned that flinging your tent down any old place in any old way on the assumption that “snow’s soft isn’t it?” is not conducive to a good night’s sleep… It was probably a good thing for all that there was no wind. Certainly we all (except Marie-eve, who’s sleeping bag was only now finally reaching an appropriate temperature) were very quickly tempted into the hut for breakfast, and much more importantly, the heat from the wood burning stove. People were even crazy enough, possibly fuelled by sleep deprivation, to allow me to use an axe unsupervised; definitely the most manly activity I’ve pulled off yet!
A warm stove was just what the doctor ordered the next morning!
After breakfast, the inevitable morning faff and a very impressive looking sandwich production line, we braved the cold (without doubt colder than the day before) to enjoy some more skiing. If the view from the night before had been something special our backdrop the next day, looking down onto the mist filled Squamish valley, with the ever imposing Tantalus range protruding beyond in the morning sunshine was truly breath-taking. No picture could do it justice but we tried! During the next few hours our capers I’m sure would have kept any distant onlookers more than amused. Of particular note was an incident involving Benjamin, Jim and I. Ben was descending a hill with all the grace of a war torn frigate yet with the pace of a man determined to attract some Vulcans with man’s first ever achievement of warp speed (geekiest simile in a TR ever?). This was a method of descending hills that had been frequently adopted by myself, and I’m sure many others besides, all weekend and was in its self of no special significance. However, mine and Jim’s amusement, as onlookers who could easily sympathise with Ben’s current plight, quickly turned to concern as we noticed that this war torn frigate was heading straight for us! We watched with some trepidation as he drew closer, ourselves also suitably lacking in any grace on skis as to make any attempt of evasive action completely futile. Surely he’s going to tactically bail any second now we thought? Why’s he still on his feet we thought? HOW is he still on his feet we thought? He’s getting bloody close we thought? WHY’S HE STILL ON HIS FEET we thought? FFFUUUUUUCCCKK!!!!!!! Jim and I dived to our left, Ben dived also to his left (unlike the Fray I know my lefts and rights…) and, after a moment of genuine concern, general hilarity ensued as we relived our near miss, read VERY near miss. He later told us that he had a choice between aiming for us or for an adjacent tree, apparently he chose us!
Our fearless and graceful leader enjoying our spectacular morning vista.
After lunch there was little left to do except ski back down to the parking lot. The already well worn “snow” of the switchbacks is responsible for the tenderisation I referred to earlier. Unlike our beautiful powder by the hut, falling on this stuff hurts, especially if, like me, you find yourself in the war torn frigate class of skier… We made it down in good time though, 1h 20 compared with over 2 hours the weekend before, and so our weekend came to a close. We had skied from the parking lot, enjoyed beautiful powder by the hut with all the many other beautiful people, had a night of merry entertainment and skied back to our cars (more or less). No one got lost and we all made it back alive. All in all it was pretty much the perfect beginner friendly ski trip, and its only November! As you Canadians would put it, it was “totally awesome!”. As a suitably inebriated Scot might put it, it was “pure dead mental!”. Our heartfelt thanks most definitely go to Steph for organising this wonderful weekend, as well as to all the other kind chaperons who kept watch allowing our trip to accommodate so many keen VOCers. Trip number 16 will definitely be remembered as one of the highlights of my time here in Vancouver! Now the only question that remains, now us beginners have been sufficiently stoked on skiing, when’s the next trip?
What you all came here to see, random, hilarious face planting galore!