My son, Devlin, was all fired up to skin up to Brew on his own steam. I’d been looking at the snow forecast thinking that maybe it wasn’t meant to be this weekend but we went anyways because he didn’t know any better and I thought I ought to do something to make an entertaining trip report.
I started things off right by being way behind in packing largely because of work, Friday hockey and general disorganization. In the morning Devlin was the epitome of distractedness and eating breakfast took an agonizing amount of time.
We didn’t get nearly as close to the trailhead as I was intending to. I’d brought the V-bar chains for the truck I borrowed off Scott Webster as well as his normal chains such that we could make it all the way up. We were foiled by a log blockade where we should have turned off from Roe Creek FSR. This added an extra 1.9 km of logging road that totally would have been drivable. Devlin did a good job skinning up it, though. As usual he was highly camera-resistant:
Devlin making his camera face
Still fighting any urge to smile
After I showed him how ridiculous he looked on the camera he couldn’t help but laugh.
Crossing the clearcut was a bit of a thing because there was enough snow to hide holes but not enough to support us but it went shockingly well considering. Once we got into the forest things got a lot better and I was feeling like were totally going to make it without anything meriting a trip report happening.
There was a lot of snow falling and it was pretty wet. It made things reminiscent of a seasonal greeting card.
Devlin was still plugging along and everything seemed good.
Shortly after the picture was taken my binding broke in a somewhat annoying but not so disastrous manner. This plastic thing that stops the heel block from spontaneously turning broke such that using the heel riser resulted in the heel block turning to descent mode and locking my heel down. After having several faffs with it I resigned myself to finishing the trip with no risers. Not the end of the world but moderately annoying.
A couple hours later Devlin was starting to run out of gas. I pointed out that he’d need to pick it up a bit if we were going to get to the hut before dark. He made it clear he wouldn’t be able to. Since I’d suspected that he might not make it I’d brought the tow line, so we took off his skins, locked his heels and I starting trying to tow him. This didn’t work at all. I was initially blaming Devlin, suspecting that he was intentionally falling over and I tried to emphasize the importance of making it possible for me to take him to the hut.
Last year I’d routinely tow him around. It worked poorly going up to the Waddington hut because of all the switchbacks but everywhere else it seemed to work great. Here it felt like I was pulling an anvil at the best of times and at the worst he was just fallen over. It was pretty frustrating because he was recently an expert at being towed, he’s a good skier now and he used to be towable when he couldn’t ski worth a damn, so I was beside myself.
I told him that we could either bail and go back to the cars, snow cave it or he could just suck it up and skin to the hut, but that we’d be getting there in the middle of the night. He said he was going to skin up which is not what I was expecting. I asked him if he really meant that a few times and he said that he did, so I started putting his skins on.
When I picked up his skis I had to scrape a giant pile of snow off the bottom of each ski. I thought that it was annoying, but I hadn’t yet put it together that the snow stuck to the bottom of the skis was both the reason why towing failed and ominous foreshadowing.
We skinned up for a while and it was getting towards twilight. Devlin’s skis were shorter that the rock-to-rock spacing and he was falling through a fair bit. I asked him again if he was sure that he wanted to make it to the hut instead of heading back or digging a cave. This time he decided to head back.
I got Devlin set up to go down. He was on top of a little drop off. I told him to go down. He said that he couldn’t. I told him that he’d dropped off things five times as tall last week and to just suck it up and do it. He said it was impossible. What was actually going on here was that his skis had fifty pounds of snow stuck to the bottom and just wouldn’t go. I thought he meant that he had forgotten how to ski. We had a heated argument for a while and I eventually dragged him down. He still wouldn’t go. I put on my skis and I wouldn’t go either.
I finally figured out what was happening. The skis were well waxed, so that wasn’t the issue. I think the root cause was that the air and the skis were well below zero but the snow was still totally wet and was freezing onto the skis on contact. I tried scraping them down a bunch of times but the snow froze on again basically instantly.
Realistically the right thing to do would have been to just suck it up and skin to the hut as skins seemed to be working. The next most reasonable thing would have been snow caving it and making it back to the truck without being able to ski down was dumb. In retrospect I probably should have tried to ski down with the skins on as that would have been less resistance than having snowball skis, but that’s not what we did.
I put the skis on my pack and we started booting it back down the skin track. Devlin weighs 50 lbs, and with his boots, clothes and a bunch of water the total package is maybe 60 lbs. On the other hand my chunky butt is 235, plus a pack for two and two pairs of skis is probably over 300. That factor of five difference between of the two of us did actually matter as Devlin was mostly walking along the skin track while I was often sinking below my waist and sometimes ended up going through the snow and between the boulders. There was a lot of full-on swimming.
Our boots were doing the same thing the skis were which complicated walking. I’d periodically break the snow off Devlin’s feet to make things a little more reasonable.
Ridiculous snowball feet
In order to try to show that things weren’t so bad I told the story of the 17.5 hour Brew Hut epic where someone whose name I’ll refrain from disclosing decided that melting drinking water would take too long, filled her water bottle with snow, peed in it to melt it and drank the mix. Devlin found this entertaining, showing that schadenfreude is still fun even when you’re getting spanked by life.
When we got down to the logging road I tried to put Devlin’s skis on again, hoping that it’d be warmer or colder or something such that skis would slide on snow again.
Ready to ski down to the truck
This was a complete failure. He wouldn’t slide. I tried dragging him and he just nose dived. I tried telling him to lean back to keep his tips up. He got himself into a ludicrous limbo stance but he just wouldn’t slide.
I popped his skis off and told him that he was walking to the truck. With the pack I had and the skis I just didn’t have the means to carry him for more than 50 meters at a time. He’d been fairly chipper up until now with occasional periods of being upset, but he got really despondent and was whimpering. I felt somewhat guilty, but at the same time I think we were well equipped to at least bail with class if we didn’t have goo snow.
I told him that I’d take him to the Watershed in Squamish and he could eat anything he felt like when we got there. I gave him some Chewy bars and did my best to make conversation. The Chewy bars I think helped more than anything else and he went back to being mainly okay with occasional periods of discontent.
“Dad, what’s the biggest thing someone has ever eaten?”
“All at once, or over time?”
“I think that Cessna.“
“Are you sure no one ate something bigger?”
“Did someone eat the outside of the universe?”
“How do you know?”
“I just do.”
“A Chewy bar is part of the universe so when someone eats a Chewy bar they’re eating the universe.”
Walking down the logging road was a royal pain because the snow would build up on our feet and get taller every step until it broke, which would cause the foot to slide sideways. It happened to me all the time and I could see it getting Devlin on about every fifth step.
I asked him if he knew what Type II fun was. He said he didn’t so I told him how Type I was just normal having fun but Type II was when it doesn’t seem fun at the time but is fun when you’re telling people about it afterwards. I then said “This is really Type II fun, isn’t it.” As soon as it came out of my mouth I was bracing for a firm denial that this would ever be construed as fun under any circumstances but he surprised me by agreeing.
We were pretty happy to come to the barricade on the road because it meant the truck was nearby.
Climbing the barricade
The drive down to the highway was interesting. Even with chains on all tires and two of the chains V-bars we were still sliding around driving at about 10 km/h. We were driving through all kinds of vegetation that had leaned over onto the road.
When we got to the Watershed Devlin tried to order a Shirley Temple, a hot chocolate, the kids chicken nuggets and a prawn cocktail. They’d changed to their winter menu so no prawn cocktail and the hot chocolate machine was broken so he didn’t get the meal of his dreams that I’d promised. He didn’t seem to really care, though.