It was 5:30am and the sun showed no signs of rising. A brave group of adventurers were waking up and preparing to embark on a journey that would take them to them to Taylor Meadows in search of the fabled White Powder that Canadians call ‘snow’. One by one, they prepared themselves and joined their fellow travellers in this epic adventure. All had to hurry, for they had to cross the Lions Gate Bridge by 7am to make the rendezvous at Tim Horton’s where the brave would meet and gain strength before commencing the ascent up the dreaded trail to Taylor Meadows.
From the point where the travellers had to leave their transports, a group of experienced heroes began the trek up the trail with no hesitation in their minds. The young and inexperienced, however, waited to be guided by those veterans willing to share their knowledge and experience. For those who have made the pilgrimage in search of the White Powder year after year, this trek proved to be no challenge. For many who came from other lands or those who sought new adventures, the 8km ascent proved to be a difficult undertaking, to say the least. The difficulty lay not so much in the inhospitable terrain, but rather in the boots used by the adventurers to ride the snow, boots which cause much…..much pain to those not used to their rough nature. Luckily for all adventurers, signs of this magical White Powder were apparent very fast in the ascent. Merely a few kilometres into the hike, these lucky souls were able to put on their skis which made the trek much more enjoyable and fast.
Magical is not a strong enough word to describe the scene our pilgrims found in Taylor Meadows. Whiteness surrounded them. Silence surrounded them. Peace surrounded them. What during the summer are green meadows, were now white fields whose purity was broken only by snow-covered trees. Life was still in the meadows. Nature was dormant. Awe was in the face of the newcomers.
After setting up camp and enjoying a well deserved rest, our adventurers skinned up hills near the camp in search of slopes that promised speed and adrenaline. The veteran adrenaline-seekers went ahead of the group in search of slopes known only to them. Those with little experience, however, sought only slopes that could prepare them for the next day’s challenge. The way back to camp proved to be difficult, for darkness overtook these explorers in the middle of a forest. Using their head-torches, as they are called in New Zealand, everyone found their way safely, though not easily, to camp.
That night was a time to rest for some and a time to feast for others. The young and inexperienced, too exhausted and cold, found only energy enough to eat before they retreated to the not-so-warm warmth of their tents to rest for a difficult day ahead of them. This left the warming hut free for those veterans with energy enough to feast and celebrate the coming of winter and snow. In honour of the snow gods and their own prowess these adventurers enjoyed the luxuries of baileys fondue and copious amounts of cheesecake which some brave souls carried up the mountain. That night they feasted, for they knew the next day they would face what they came for: The Black Tusk.
Dawn came as a relief to most. Whether it was because it meant warmth or because it meant the could begin their trek up to Black Tusk. Everyone had a warm breakfast before preparing their gear for the day. The more experienced spared no hesitation and a group of them left early to reach the heights of Black Tusk by late morning. As the rest of the party prepared itself to depart, the group’s fearless leader, Katherine, realized three men were still comfortably sleeping in their tent. After waking them this party split in two, one to begin the journey and the other to wait for the sleepers and others still preparing themselves.
The climb up to black tusk proved not to be as difficult as the climb up to the campground. The steepness of the mountain was no obstacle to the skins and the strength of the adventurers. From the bottom of the slopes, the first group to leave could be seen climbing high up in the mountain. To avoid any interference and possible avalanches, the second group sought another path up the mountain. Due to time constraints and the large number of inexperienced skiiers, the second group chose a clearing halfway up the mountain to begin their descent. The leaders studied the snow and their surroundings to ensure no avalanche would eat them alive and gave the signal to begin sliding down the mountainside.
This was the moment the entire party had been waiting for. For the veterans, it was the moment where they could release their minds from the mundane worries of the world and give themselves to the rush and freedom of speed. For others, it was a moment to learn this ritual that so many in Canada and the lands of the North have practised for generations. For those not accustomed to this ritual called skiing, sliding down the mountain proved to be a greater challenge than climbing up. One in particular, coming from lands so warm that snow is known only through images, could not make a single turn without getting buried in the snow. Often, his skis would dig so deep into the powder, his fellow companions had to go back up and help him dig his legs out. It’s rather miraculous he took no injury as he repeatedly sped into trees, creeks and other dangers on the way down. At one point, not being able to turn in time, he ran into the forest in such a way that he buried both his skis into the snow and tangled his right arm in the bushes. Out of his four limbs, only his left arm was partially free. He could do nothing to save himself but wait and hope the skiers behind him would stop and help him out of his self-made prison. In his name, I would like to give special thanks to Nicole for saving him from this ordeal.
In the early afternoon everyone had made it safely back to camp, even our foreign friend. The group had only a brief respite before having to pack their tents and equipment for the way down. From this point on, the party got separated and most went down separately, mostly with the people they shared transports with. Fearing the sharp turns, steep falls and thick forest, some inexperienced members of the party opted for walking down the trail rather than skiing down to ensure they arrived home safely. For them, this made for a slow (and rather painful) trek down. For those not used to skii boots, they can be rather unpleasant, to say the least. One was quoted to have said, “I am not looking forward to warmth, or food, or rest. I am looking forward to a pair of shoes”.
Luckily for everyone, shoes, dry clothes and warmth could be found in the cars at the foot of the mountain. By the time the slower groups were making it to the cars, many of the veterans had already left. On the way back home they all gathered under the Shady Tree to eat some big, juicy and fatty burgers to replenish all the energy these brave adventurers left in the slopes of Black Tusk and Taylor Meadows.
Photo Credit: Phil Tomlinson