Women’s backcountry adventure

It’s Monday at 10:00 am and I just got up. My body is screaming – which is a good sign. It tells me I have been on an adventure this weekend; that I have pushed myself to new limits. Even though my body is tired, I feel great!

All of us outside Sphinx hut, ready to start skiing back.

All of us outside Sphinx hut, ready to start skiing back. We found one more girl in the hut, who joined in!

This trip was a lady’s only backcountry ski trip to Sphinx Hut, Garibaldi lake for one night. It involved 7 hardcore girls, 21 km one way, 1000 m elevation gain and sticky, heavy snow. I would say that this had been more of a regular trip if it wasn’t for the lake. Yes, that lake. No one who wasn’t there will ever understand just how much willpower it took to cross that *** lake that night.

But there’s another reason why this trip was not only special but also important, for me and I believe for the VOC as well. I can’t speak for all women or about all men. I only speak from my own experience (which just happens to be very similar to so many other stories from girls I talked to).

Here is why: Both random men I encountered and men in my life just love to tell my how to do stuff in the backcountry. I know most people just want to be nice, but let me tell you this: every time you tell me how to take up my heel raiser you are only telling my that I am wrong and that you know better than me. You are in fact stronger, more experienced and better suited for backcountry adventures than I am – you are a man. Even though this might not be what you wanted to say, when I have been told how to use my heel raiser from hundred different men – that’s what I hear. Most of the time I will answer nicely: “oh thank you, that is better”. Because it’s just easier that way – I can’t fight for my integrity every time. I pick my fights carefully.

That is why I was so excited to just have a break from all that and meet some cool girls to ski with! I needed this trip to know that I am experienced, hardcore and cool – no matter what random men tell me. VOC needs women that knows this. Women that can push the club forward both in the backcountry and in the club room.

So if you are a man that do sometimes give helping comments to women out in the backcountry (or anywhere really), could you do me a favour and next time before you speak, think about if your comment is necessary – How much will it actually help? Only speaking for myself: if I forget how to use my heel raiser I will ask you – I promise.


Stoked and ready to get out there!

Backing up to Saturday morning; feeling stoked! And a bit nervous, because on the pre-meeting we decided that because of the bad avy conditions we might as well do a longer hut hike, knowing that we wouldn’t ski much anyway. So we were up for a rough 15 km(turned out to be more) and 1000 m elevation. I had only done that kind of elevation gain once before to Lizzie hut – and God that logging road just never ended. After meeting up the others I forgot about the km’s and the meter’s, we were a great team! At 9:30 we were on our way.

Up, up, up it goes!

Up, up, up it goes! (Photo Joane)

Up up up it goes towards Garibaldi lake. Coming up to the first little lake everything went smooth. Coming to the next little lake someone questioned if the trail usually pass that lake, but because the skin tracks were clear we all just followed them without further questioning. Coming towards the creek the forest gets more dense and the terrain steep. The skin track was no longer easy to follow. We asked what idiot made those tracks and started to fight our way up and back to the trail.

Emily:“I didn’t think it was possible to get lost to Garibaldi lake”
Joane: “We are not lost. I know exactly where we are”

Well, lost or not, we got back to the real trail and up to the lake at sunset. We needed to catch our breath and get our head lamps out. No one felt too exhausted after the climb and everyone was feeling good knowing that we only had the easiest bit to go, just straight across the lake. Looking back at it, the word “Easy” should not be in the same sentence as crossing Garibaldi lake that night. When we started skiing across the lake it was 5:30 ish and soon pitch black. The snow was wet and heavy. It sticked under our skis so that we in every step carried some extra 10kg or so. Afterwards we joked about how many tonnes of snow we had carried over that *** lake.

Those 6 km over the  Garibaldi lake are longer than all other 6 km I ever done.

Those 6 km over the Garibaldi lake are longer than all other 6 km I ever done. (Photo Joane. This photo is from the morning after)

It is a unique feeling, being out on a lake in the middle of nowhere, it’s pitch black around you, no stars, all you see is the small area that your headlamp lights up. Don’t know how far you have left or how long you have gone. I kept my eyes fixating on the end tips of the skis in front of my, moving when they were moving. One step at the time, legs burning. Only knowing that I have to keep going. I’m so thankful for our group, that kept up the spirit a cross the lake. For Emma, Emliy and Ragna who kept playing games and telling stories, making my thoughts focused on something else other than my tired legs.

Up in the cozy hut we shared food, wine and New Year’s resolutions. Next morning we started our way back down. No time for any turns.

To wake up to this view makes the late night fighting over the lake worth it!

To wake up to this view makes the late night fighting over the lake worth it! (Photo Joane)

The lake was awful this time as well. But not just as awful as in the dark. When it was time to take skins off and ski down my legs were done. There was no strength left and I had real trouble standing up going down the narrow trail to the parking lot. As the last person to get down, the other’s welcomed me with cheers and water.

This was outstandingly the best VOC trip for me so far. And the most challenging. Thank you Emily and Joane for organizing. Thanks to all that came and made this adventure a great experience!

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3 Responses to Women’s backcountry adventure

  1. Joane Elleouet says:

    Thank you for this well-written trip report Agnes!
    Undoubtfully a great VOC trip that I will remember for a long time. Awesome synergy in the group. Awesome women.
    And thank you for your paragraph about mansplaining. It resonated with me a lot. We all experience it. I even experienced it just before this same trip from men who were (obviously) not coming on the trip but thought they should get me to understand a couple of things before we go (Things I already knew of course, because I prepared the trip accordingly to my sufficient knowledge and necessary research).
    So… more of those trips? yes please. Until women feel as confident as they should according to their knowledge and experience.

  2. Agnes Gronvall says:

    Thank you:)

    Sorry to hear that. Yes please more trips!:D until men stop making woman feel stupid and insecure, so that we actually have an honest chance to be just as confident as we should I will sign up on every Lady’s trip to come.

  3. Jeff Mottershead says:

    I remember my uncle Joe telling me that he’d never show a woman how to change a tire because it was too dangerous for them. That was when I was eight. I’m thirty eight now, so if I can subtract correctly that’s thirty years ago, yet I still remember it because I thought it was gross.

    Last summer I was on the ferry from Nanaimo and was on one of the vehicle decks getting my computer when this lady approached me and asked if I knew how to change a tire. I totally don’t mind changing a tire for some random person, but I’ve been asked by women a few times and never by a dude, which is because of Joe and a couple billion more men like him.

    “Sure. I can change it for you. We could also do it together if you don’t want to have to ask some random person next time; whatever works for you.”

    She enthusiastically took my up on that, and the first thing we did was start looking for the manual, because I didn’t know anything about her car. She didn’t know exactly where it was, so we were looking around when from behind us came this voice:

    “A man doesn’t need a manual to change a tire! I’ll show you what to do.”

    I immediately didn’t like the dude at all. If it was me and my car I would have told him that I didn’t want or need his instructions, but it wasn’t my car or my tire so I didn’t want to turn down help on someone else’s behalf, even if it was really annoying help. I was hoping that lady would tell him to go away, but she didn’t.

    He informed us that all we needed to do was jack it up, take the lug nuts off and take the wheel off. He was of course missing the critical step of loosening the lug nuts while the vehicle was still on the ground. I politely told him as much and he said “of course” like it was somehow even more obvious than the other stuff he said.

    I insisted that I was incompetent and wanted to use the manual and then he gave a “here, let me show you what to do”. He started trying to put the jack handle/wrench combination thing over top of the plastic lug nut covers and didn’t succeed.

    “I’m not totally sure, but I think you need to take those plastic covers off first.”

    “How are they supposed to come off?”

    “I have no idea. It probably says so in the manual.”

    The lady seemed fairly distraught. I was also distraught. I was trying to not be a jerk but was royally pissed off. I didn’t know how to handle the situation because I was sure that the last thing the lady wanted was two guys getting in a big squabble over who gets to be the hero, but it seemed irresponsible to just leave. I totally didn’t care about who got the fairly meagre hero points, but I didn’t want to walk away from it and let the dude handle it because it was pretty clear that he was totally incompetent and he’d either fail to get the plastic nut covers off or inadequately torque the lug nuts when putting on the spare.

    I tried to find the manual again and the dude was giving me grief again. I ended up using my keys to get the plastic nut covers off even though I knew full well that if we were allowed to look in the manual there’d be a better way.

    At that point a ferry employee showed up and told us that jacking a vehicle was not allowed on the ferry and that we’d have to get a tow truck when the ferry docked. He asked her if she had BCAA, she said no and then he shrugged and things were awkward.

    The glorious thing about the arrival of the ferry employee is that it scared off the helpful dude, so it was just the ferry employee clearly feeling sorry about condemning the lady to a two truck, but not having any other options. He tried to explain that if the boat hit a rouge wave or a whale and the car tipped off the jack we’d be crushed underneath.

    “Don’t worry about it. We’d actually be nowhere near under the vehicle and we’d only have to jack it up a half inch to get the tire off, but I understand that you’ve got to do your job and can’t let us do it even though there’s really no chance of injury.”

    He got it. He nodded. “I still can’t let you do it. I’m going to go check out the other decks and I won’t be back for a while.”

    As soon as he was out of sight I started loosening the lug nuts and then the helpful dude came back. He stood over top of me with his hands on his hips while I changed the tire. As I was putting the jack away I noticed this little hooked tool clipped to it that was clearly for taking off the nut covers. Oh well.

    All of the contents of the trunk were now on the ground. I told her that I shouldn’t touch any of it because my hands were filthy. The other dude went for her stuff and she told him that she’d handle it, so he just stood there and looked at her bum every time she bent over to pick something up.

    As she was packing, she was thanking us both profusely. I said “no problem” and got the hell out of there. The helpful dude continued to linger and give advice as I escaped.

    Later the lady found me and offered me a joint for my services. I declined; I don’t ever touch drugs because I’m lame and boring. She said that she really wanted to do something for me so I asked her if she really meant it when she was thanking that other guy; she said she didn’t at all and that he was stupendously annoying. That made me much happier than the joint would have so we called that good enough went our separate ways.

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