What do Brandywine Glacier and Katy Perry have in common?
They were both a lot bigger in the early 2000s and are most definitely Hot and Cold.
This weekend 60 VOCers occupied Brandywine Glacier for 2022’s annual Glacier School G1, a weekend of hot sunny days, cold dark nights, amazing views, and, most importantly, learning glacier travel and safety with excellent instructors.
Day 1 started bright and early at 5am leaving Vancouver where Nicole, Laura and I hopped into our Corolla and started the dark drive up. While we were tired we were looking forward to what was to come and feeling grateful to be playing in this land as well as getting spots in G1 with all the gear we needed. We saw at dry school that not everyone was so lucky but we are just so thankful for the organizers who work so hard to make it as accessible as possible, including renting extra crampons from climb on to give as many people the opportunity to join as possible.
Upon arrival at 7:00am we were greeted by the sweet smells of the Whistler garbage dump and began the process of getting everyone to the upper trailhead. We hucked the corolla up to the 2wd lot (honestly that part is super easy for any car) and started to prep for the shuttling process. Big appreciation to all the drivers who drove the road to the upper lot multiple times to get everyone and gear up there. The upper road is no joke and I would not recommend unless you have 4wd and some good clearance. Laura got a fun ride in Jeff’s vehicle while Nicole and I rode with Aidan in his Tacoma with some folks in the box (which had already done a run with like 18 packs).
Once we made it to the upper lot by 8:30am we did a gear check and the usual VOC “Faff” – one of many VOC terms I’ve learned over the weekend. Once we started hiking, we immediately got some fantastic views of the meadows and across the highway of Whistler and Garibaldi Park. The hike up was a slog for most but we ended up making it to the glacier by around 12:00pm. The hike is steep in some sections but not overly technical and I would recommend it for anyone who has hiked a few times before and wants to explore more of Southwest BC. Nicole and I had done Brandywine as a day hike in the summer from the lower lot and we both mentioned how nice it was to be hiking right from the upper lot.
At the glacier we ate some lunch, set up our camp, and quickly began the day’s instruction. My rope team consisted of our Instructors Haley and Kai, with Sri, Nicole, and myself as students. We had a quick moment of panic when Sri was missing his ice axe, but someone had seen it in the lot and carried it up for him. It served as a good reminder to always check your gear when it is shuttled up for you, in this case the ice axe was removed and put next to the pack to prevent stabbing anyone in the bumpy car. From there we made sure to put on our sunscreen, check our harnesses and crampons, and get onto the ice.
On day 1 we covered building different kinds of anchors, setting up a 3-1 pulley system, and basic self arrest techniques. It was lots of information to process but was fantastic to see all the theoretical concepts we learned in the glacier manual and dry school applied on the ice.
By the time we completed the day’s instruction the sun was starting to dip and the wind was picking up a little, more layers were a must. We layered up and made dinner using a combination of melting snow and the smallest trickle of water you can think of, but everyone seemed to make it work. Some folks went up to the summit but having had done it 2 months prior I didn’t feel the need to run up. As the sun dipped down the stars came out and so did the mulled wine (Very kindly prepared by Jacob, Declan, and others). The island of rocks in the middle of the glacier soon became the spot to be and everyone seemed to have a great time despite a bit of colder temperatures. Seeing a band of Starlink satellites pass across the night sky was a neat highlight as well.
We went back to the tents midway through the evening but because our tent was next to rock island, we could definitely hear VOCers making sure no mulled wine went to waste into the evening. By 11:30pm pretty much everyone had gone to bed and was no doubt resting up for the day ahead.
We woke up at 7:00am had a light breakfast and began getting ready for the day’s instruction. We had plenty to cover so we got right to it. We started out with some roped up travel and made it to a Bergschrund not far from camp. Here we simulated Haley falling in, which gave us a real scenario to build our anchors to practice hauling someone out. We used a T-Slot and a Snow Picket as our anchor and practiced using both a 2:1 and 6:1 pulley system to pull Haley from the Bergschrund. From there we went to explore the other glacier on Brandywine, probe down some nice deep crevasses, learning V-Threads, practicing roped up self arrests, and lots of fun glacier facts provided by Kai. All in all, it was another great day of learning, which was made even better by the gorgeous sunny weather that the day provided us. Sunscreen and sunglasses were a must this weekend and even still the underside of my nose and my lips will need a few days to recover.
By 2:00pm the instruction had ended and it was time to pack up camp and hike out. The hike out was very pleasant and the clear day gave us some of the best views in Southwest BC. The steep section was a bit slow going for some of us, but we all got out no worse for wear. We caught a ride with Aidan on the way down to the 2wd lot but saw Jeff and several others helping make sure that everyone was able to make it down safely.
We were on the road by 5:00pm and stopped briefly at the Squamish McDonalds to get some well-deserved drinks. Combined we counted about 7 VOCers using the McDonalds bathrooms, I guess for some reason wag bags weren’t the most appealing thing to use and folks decided to save their #2 for McDonald’s. After getting through the Lions Gate Bridge and Downtown traffic we made it back to Kits by 8:30pm. Getting into bed never felt so good and it still felt funny to not be warming up the sheets with a hand warmer.
The trip was a great time and wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of logistics, thanks to Anton for being our fearless leader organizing everything, all the instructors who volunteered their time with a special thanks to our instructors Kai and Haley, the shuttle drivers who made sure everyone got to the trailhead, Jacob for running to Climb On in Squamish to get extra crampons for everyone, and all the amazing people who make trips like these a reality.