If you’re like me, then the phrase “VOC Harrison Hut” might be synonymous with forbidden isolation. Sure, people say it used to be accessible, and there are journal articles to prove it, but that might as well be ancient history. A club myth, even. Like raunchy journal articles, sketchy Coleman stoves, or loft crossword puzzles, you can’t be too sure what to believe when people talk about it.
In any case, besides the odd club workhike, nowadays the entire area is supposedly the preserve of heli-skiiers, the access trail said to be guarded by grizzly bears, loggers, ginormous landslides, and the most formidable force of nature of all, bureaucrats with gate keys. While there might be some shred of truth in all of this, back on BC Day long weekend Alberto Tancon and I set out on our bikes to prove the nay-sayers wrong. We had a plan. We were going to bike to the Harrison Hut and try to summit a mountain, and we were going to have a wonderful time.
The trip began on Friday night with Berto picking me up from work and us setting out on the Sea-to-Sky, arriving at the end of the Pemberton Meadows Road at 7pm. The sun was still brilliant and the waters of the Lillooet River made for a refreshing rinse before we hit the sack by the 2km gate.
The next morning we were up and pedaling our mountain bikes by 6:30am. The gate at 2km was open, but neither of us had bothered to investigate the georisk situation so we decided to play it safe and keep the car on the outside of the gate, just in case it got closed. We would come to rue this decision.
The morning was glorious. Despite some smoky haze and bumpy gravel, the sun rising over the mountains was a sight to behold. 23 kilometers into our ride we happened on a group of people camped out, also preparing to bike in. So maybe the 2km wasn’t going to close after all. Oh well. We chatted for a bit but didn’t bring up the gate lest we provoke undue worry, said bye, and continued on our way.
This is where things began to suck a little more. From the 2km gate all the way up to the second gate at 23.5km the road fluctuates a fair bit, making for a frustrating ride, but following the 23.5km there’s a very long incline that climbs to a view above the junction of Meager Creek and the Lillooet River. Wearing clunky hikers and an overnight pack, this bumpy and loose hill was the first of many which we would have to dismount and push our bikes over. The surroundings, of course, made for a good distraction, as did a package of wine gums I had stashed in my pocket.
As the kilometers went by and the pushing started to outweigh the pedalling, we began cursing our decision to park sooner than we had to. As the sun heated up, the 23 kilometer head start began catching up to us, and the final grunt up through a large clearcut to access the trailhead had us in a foul mood and ready to bid the road goodbye.
The sun was not nearly as punishing under the trees as in the clearcut, but it was still warm and Berto and I were demolished from the ride in. Eventually we made it up to the hut, and were quizzed to find bags from another group. Disavowing our fervent made-on-the-trail plans to hit the ground and sleep as soon as we arrived, Berto and I put our packs down and set about picking our way through the giant boulders which are scattered all around the hut to go for a swim in the nameless lake just to the west of Harrison.
I feel like a bug when I’m walking here. The rocks are so big, and this valley is so wide; I’m spaced out. Still the mountains look huge. There’s a very cinematic feel here, like everything else has stopped and you’re in a scene which is the only thing that exists in the universe. So big and arresting. The lake feels so close but it still takes twenty minutes to make it.
And the lake. Cold and turbid, but oddly shallow. The bottom of the lake is slippery with glacial mud, and the water is so frigid that I feel walking out to where it’s deep would be dangerous, so Berto and I make do with plopping ourselves down in the mud and feeling the warmth depart our bodies like electrical current. Despite the relative warmth of the mud keeping our asses somewhat unfrozen, we didn’t spend long in the water and were anxious to get back down to the hut and relax—no mountaineering for us today thank you very much.
Back at the hut we were glad to meet the group which had spent the day in the mountains (where specifically escapes me now…) and chatted, while more people (!!) began filtering in. In the end I think there were eleven people in the hut—pretty busy considering the approach! After much socializing and eating, we retired to the loft to crash to sleep by 9pm.
The next morning was forecast to rain a bit so Berto and I got on our way by 6:20, feeling sad that we had to leave such a pretty area after so little time…