I waited for my fellow trip member’s car to arrive, all snugly packed with fancy equipment. I wore almost all the warm clothes I owned, uncertain of how cold it would be. This being my first experience being in snow (let alone hiking or camping in it), with my family back in Mumbai, India, experiencing the peak winters of 20 degrees Celsius at the time, I wondered if I would make it back to campus after being in below-zero temperatures and snow for two whole days of my first VOC trip.

With the kind help of google maps and phone numbers, Andrew, Lia and their cars, we got going with a pleasant start to the trip. The slippery roads from the snowfall the night before slowed us down a bit but we made it on time for a quick grub and hot coffee at a Tim Horton’s, where I got to know the rest of the group, not too far from the trailhead. Scorching summers back home often got me to open the fridge and stand in front of it to get over the heat, daydreaming of how great it would be if it snowed in west India.  But then we drove further and as soon as I opened the door to get out of the car at the trailhead parking lot, I suddenly preferred the 44 degrees oven effect to numb and frozen toes and fingers.

With lunch and snack breaks, surprisingly and pleasantly elaborate for camping, we finally made it to the Taylor meadows camp grounds about 6 hours later and set out our tents, and more importantly, the food. After an hour or so into eating, shivering and planning, five of us headed out to snowshoe our way to Garibaldi Lake and Jeff, Andrew and Tom put their skis on, ready to rock and roll. The sunlit azure sky left us in awe and the snowclad meadows and the Black tusk stood out in the soft light of the setting sun. We struggled to finally click a few pictures as all our cameras discharged so quickly in the chill. Lia’s tiny digital camera was our only hope, so we saved it for the next day.

We seemed a little navigationally challenged as the ‘trails’ covered in thick snow, had us standing at a diversion, confused in front of a trail map. Finally, while having banana chips and candied nuts, we decided on another trail. The sun set and the headlamps guided us now. The snow shined in the moonlight, making the chilly, arduous hike up the mountain absolutely worth it. Post-dinner Lia and Jeff introduced Anna, Tobias and me to the know-how of avy-kits while the others set out their sleeping bags and indulged in hot rum. It went down to -19 degrees Celsius at night but metal water bottles filled with hot water kept our feet warm enough. Next morning was beautiful with sunny skies as we hiked up almost till the tree line at Black Tusk, overlooking Garibaldi Lake.

The rest of our time hiking back was spent getting creative with poses and clicking photos with Lia’s camera that still buzzed to life despite the chilly weather. Back at the tents, we started to pack, making sure we left the park before dark. Few of us left before the others while the rest followed. Halfway downhill, our headlamps were put to much needed use and sliding and falling on ice covered trails became common by the time we got to the parking lot. At the parking lot, after scrambling backpacks into car trunks and brainstorming, we finally decided to get dinner at the ShadyTree, where the plates of hot sumptuous food looked priceless to us. On the drive back home, the radio, chatting and some Bollywood songs kept us passengers entertained and Andrew, the driver, awake. By the time I got home I was walking like a grandma. But the sore legs and shoulders were all absolutely worth it, the trip taught me a lot and the fellow trip members made it an even more special first VOC trip for me.

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