After an hour bus ride to Squamish, the Discovery boys finally got to get our hands on our ski touring rental gear. Our guide Andrew introduced us to our skins and how they would become our best friend for the next four days. We did a quick transceiver check and we were off. We skinned five kilometres up an old logging road until we reached Red Heather Hut. We did a blister check, and carried on. After a quick detour and a couple rough kick turns, we arrived at the Elfin Lakes Hut just past sundown.
The snowshoe group arrived at the trailhead later than the ski group, and therefore departed later as well. The snow was coming down heavily for the 5-km hike to our first campsite, Red Heather hut. Upon arrival, we began constructing our snow shelters as we wanted to make sure we had a place to sleep since we hadn’t brought our tents. Our instructors Mitch and Rob helped us out with the kitchen, which we used when making dinner around 6, due to the fact that our shelters took us all afternoon to build.
The following morning, we woke up to the sun glistening on the mountainous peaks surrounding the hut. We geared up and headed out with little plan to follow. Andrew took us down Paul Ridge twice, and showed us how to dig pits in order to study the snowpack. We got to learn about all the tools and techniques for testing the snowpack. By the time we finished our second skin up, it was time to head in for the day.
The snowshoers awoke around 7 and packed camp up in an organized manner since we had a long hike across some tough terrain. We saw some beautiful views along the way and stopped at the best one for lunch. We got to Elfin Lake hut in the early afternoon, and set up our belongings, beds and kitchens in the warm cabin before doing an avalanche rescue simulation, and a lesson in snow science learning about snowpack and how to identify the different layers. The ski group showed up just as the sun was going down, and we hung out in the hut, talked about the last two days and all enjoyed a warm and dry sleep.
By day three, everyone was feeling tired. We had an early wake up so that we could get a head start on the day’s objective. We planned to skin up the saddle between Columnar Peak and the Gargoyles. We reached the saddle at 11am and carried on up the ridge towards Columnar Peak. We took off our skis and dug another pit to study the snowpack on a North-facing aspect. We decided to summit Columnar and eat lunch once we got back down to our gear. Once lunch was finished, we clipped in and shredded “The Gnar”. We carved every turn with grace. We opted to lengthen our ski down instead of traversing, so as to preserve the magical feeling of the descent. We made our way back to the hut, and the executive decision was made to go for another run. We went off Paul Ridge once more and found some of the most enjoyable skiing of the trip. We then decided to lap it again, it was that good!
Unlike the skiers, we took our time leaving the hut on the third morning since we were hiking the same route as the previous day only backwards, and we had done it with plenty of time to spare. Previously, we had noticed a few Whiskey Jacks here and there who would occasionally try to steal our food, but today when we stopped for lunch they seemed uncharacteristically abundant and bold, swooping in close to us in hopes of snatching a free meal. After lunch, we continued on to Red Heather to perfect our existing snow shelters, which we made on our first day. We also made a kitchen to cook in and had meeting before bed.
After a long day, the day before, the skiers were sore and ready to head home. Upon leaving the hut we discovered that the weather had made a turn for the worse. Luckily we had a short skin ahead of us before we could glide the rest of the way down. After crossing Paul ridge in high winds and snow, we reached gently rolling meadows sprinkled with trees. We slowly traversed through dense forest with lots of quick turns and a drop near the end, after that it was smooth sailing until we reached the parking lot. We concluded our trip with some reflection and reminiscing on the bus.
On the final morning of the trip, the snowshoers awoke to heavy snow which started while we were sleeping and made it very difficult to get out of our warm sleeping bags. Packing up camp was a grind, with freezing fingers and frozen boots which were nearly impossible to put on; however, we eventually got everything in our bags and made our way to the parking lot where the truck was parked. On the bus ride home, we were all thinking of our warm beds at home.