Harrison* Workhike, Spring 2023

Trip Participants: Elias Bowman, Sri Chaitanya, AJ Dreher, Joanna Gower, Anushika Jain, Mozi Lu, Braydon Massoud, Naomi Prohaska, Adam Steele, Joshua Tindall, Allen Zhao.


On Friday, May 19th, three cars of excited VOC’ers set out from Vancouver to visit the club’s most elusive hut, the Julian Harrison Memorial Hut. The plan was to do some cleanup, marmot-proof the outhouse, pack out garbage, and expose a new group of members to a beautiful part of the province which has been largely inaccessible for the past decade. Witnessing an epic landslide zone and some wicked big clearcuts were, as a matter of course, also on the list.


Sunset light in Pemberton Meadows. Allen Zhao photo.

After a beautiful drive up the Sea to Sky Highway, eleven of us gathered at the northern edge of Pemberton Meadows to ninja camp beside the Lillooet River, before setting out into the unknown Saturday morning.


Sunrise; what will the day bring? Adam Steele photo.

A 6am wake-up had us packed up and on the road right at 7, filled with anticipation as we approached the 2km gate on the Lillooet South Forest Service Road. Feeling rather smug with the VOC’s key and Wildlife Act exemption permit in hand, I got out of the car to open the gate. The key slid into the lock perfectly, but then I tried turning it. It wouldn’t. After getting all ten other workhikers to try the key, it was determined that we were not in fact dumb, but that the Ministry of Forests had given us the wrong key!

After some pensive discussion, the disbelief lifted and the decision was made to go to Phelix. Although we were all quite miffed (maybe even peeved) that our friends at the office in Squamish would make such a consequential mistake, we figured we could do some cleanup work at the other hut and maybe even plan for (or simply visualize) this summer’s roof reno. And so it was decided! 7:30am we began our way back south, having only made it two kilometres up the Lillooet South FSR…


And closed it would remain! Adam Steele photo.

Getting to the Phelix FSR at around 10:00 following a stop in Pemberton for muffins, some of us set to work clearing rocks from the slide path, before AJ’s car group began hiking and Elias and my own pressed on en véhicule. Arriving at the end of the road and faffing about, we finally set out on foot at 11:11am (good luck or something?). In any case, we’d spent so much time hanging around getting our packs ready that AJ’s crew had caught up with us.

Hiking along the closed portion of the FSR, we were able to walk briskly, passing the car wreck and starting onto the trail in good time. Riddles were shared and mountains were pointed at. Apparently one of our group members’ dog has skied the Birkenstock couloir, just down the valley; also, another member could not keep riddle answers to himself (What’s greater than God, worse than Hell, rich people need it, poor people have it, and if you eat it, you die? …I’ll keep it secret this time). As we passed through the alder, many of us decided to take our boots off to ford a small creek which was about calf-deep. The cool meltwater was refreshing.


Going along at a nice clip well before the snow. Elias Bowman photo.

Finally in the forest, the trail was fragrant with the smells of summer. Occasionally there were vestiges of snow and ice, but we were mainly walking on duff. About two thirds of the way to the lake, however, this changed, and the snowshoes AJ and I had forced everyone to pack paid dividends. There is still lots of snow approaching Phelix, and even with the slowshoes we occasionally postholed.

Arriving at the hut around 2:30, some workhikers took a break, while others set to “work”. A captured mouse was given a proper burial. Drawers were rummaged through, garbage was collected, and inventories were taken. Sri has volunteered to update the first-aid kit, while I’ve resolved to update the hut wiki page to reflect what is actually there. No more white gas stove, no more espresso maker, no more dish rack, no more empty propane cylinders, etc. Taking stock of the hardware and tool collection might also end up helpful for this summer’s reno.


Lakeside. Elias Bowman photo.

AJ, who was leading a slower group, had called out on the radio upon making it to the lake asking if I’d gone skinny dipping yet. Alas I had not, being rapt by the prospect of deciding which seemingly useful albeit rodent crap-encrusted widgets to keep in the hut, and which to pack out (spoiler alert—they all came out). By the time I was feeling like getting skinny and dipping, the sun had dipped beneath the mountains and the largely ice-covered lake seemed much less inviting. Next time!


Upper Lake at sunset; doesn’t it look inviting? Adam Steele photo.

Instead, we all set out for a little walk to the upper lake to see what we could see. The fading light in the valley was balanced by the brilliant sunlight hitting the peaks around us. Birds sang in their muted spring way, and you could hear creeks rushing everywhere. Coming to the far end of the lake we stood around and took in the surroundings, talked for some time, and then decided it was probably a good hour for dinner.


Happy VOC’ers frolick in the snow. Adam Steele photo.

Back at the hut, everyone started their own interpretations of backcountry gourmet. I made a packet of beef ramen and sprinkled bits of beef jerky into it. Elias made a very high-class smoked oyster sauté, with pasta and fresh spinach. For second dinner, I made another packet of veg ramen, with some of Elias’s spinach. Dessert had us sharing some banana bread and digestives.


The last evening light hits Mount Taillefer as VOC’ers begin to feast inside the Waddington Hut. Adam Steele photo.

My favourite part of VOC huts is probably journals. There’s so much great stuff to read. Epic adventures, disasters, hilarious escapades, sage reflections—it’s all there. It’s sort of like the internet, but not quite as gigantic. Anyways, AJ and I took some turns reading trip reports aloud, before the music portion of the evening began. There were many guitarists and vocalists along this weekend, and everyone took part—I don’t even think any alcohol was involved. Highlights included Riptide, The Highwayman, and Teach Your Children.


Storytime and Singalong. Adam Steele photo.

The VOC glossary defines backcountry time as “a different time zone, experienced in the backcountry, most applicable in the dead of winter when it gets dark really early and the party starts at 4:30pm. For example ‘It’s 10pm.’; ‘Whoa, that’s 3am Backcountry Time!’. Alas, it is not currently the dead of winter, so when we were dead tired and ready to turn in, it was actually midnight. We resolved to wake up at 8am and get going by 10 to avoid softened snow and any potential long weekend traffic.


Packing up to go. Naomi Prohaska photo.

Everybody woke up on Sunday by 8, and we all made good time packing our things up. Some people had a whale of a time getting their bags loaded up with garbage, while others enjoyed watching packs inflate to comical proportions.


Bidding the lake farewell with a nerve-wracking creek crossing. Naomi Prohaska photo.

Walking down through the forest was largely uneventful, and it took us about three hours to return to the cars. With everyone tired of walking, we managed to fit three carloads of people into (onto??) two cars for the amble back down to the Blackwater FSR. Thus concluded another successful workhike to the VOC’s Harrison Hut, albeit not at Harrison.



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6 Responses to Harrison* Workhike, Spring 2023

  1. AJ Dreher says:

    Good report Adam! We have to find a way to insert the video of you burning that rat.

  2. Roland Burton says:

    Thanks for the report, Adam. Did the wood-burning heater work? How about the lights?

  3. Morgan Cooper says:

    A good omen for a summer of phelix workhikes to come … Good luck with Harrison round 2 this weekend!

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