Saturday, 9 March 2019

Backcountry Skiing/Snowshoeing at Elfin Lakes Hut

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.   

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Manning Park: A Winter Wonderland

Returning to school after the break, the boys were excited to cling to their last few days of freedom before their everyday school lifestyle began. Only two days into the first week back, this trip truly tested the boy’s perseverance under cognitive change; however, the boys pulled through with high energy and luxurious wake-up times. Manning Park was a winter wonderland! Although the boys were shocked by the cold coming off the bus, their preparation and their knowledge of layering allowed them to keep themselves warm. This included the use of toques, hand warmers, 4-6 layers of winter clothing and in many cases a double-sock layering system.

The boys put up their tents, unpacked their gear and surveyed the location at a well-practiced pace, leaving an excess of time for dinner-time chats and night-time meeting confessions. That evening's meeting was the longest the Disco boys have experienced this year, filled with enthusiasm and energy, cracking a few jokes along the way. Excited for the days to come, we decided to limit the night time tent chatting to a minimum so we could set ourselves up well in the morning.


Alarm beeping, adventure seeking and cold feeling auras filled the air on the first morning of our trip. As all 13 of us were in the same group, and everyone enjoyed the chatter along the snowshoe hike and avalanche testing.  The morning mostly consisted of learning about the three devices and many steps that are necessary for a companion search and rescue. Around lunch time, we got into the testing. Although there were some bumps along the road, all the boys were able to pass. Just before the dusk, the boys started prepping their predominantly soup-based dinners. The comforting warm soup heated the body from the inside out, and was a perfect pairing to the stars and frozen lake next to our camp.

The second day was by far the most action-packed. From building a quinzhee to a two-hour day hike filled with snowshoe races, this was the time to enjoy. Our instructors created a relay race during which we were able to catch some videos of the boys in action. Although the body contact during the race was questionable, this is something all the boys will remember.  After the race, we began building our quinzhee. In a matter of an hour and a half, with the help of ur instructors, the boys finished condensing and piling up snow for the base of the quinzhee. With the knowledge attained from Mr. Allen, we decided to leave the snow overnight to cinter and create a solid structure. With the excitement of shoveling out the quinzhee in mind, the boys quickly crawled into their warm sleeping bags at 9 pm, leaving plenty of time to replenish their energy.

On day 3, we once again rose with the sun at 7:30. Digging out the quinzhee was well worth the wait, as everything processed perfectly. Everyone was able to have a peak inside to see the finished product of the Discovery boys' first snow shelter, and our team effort. We will be able to carry this skill into our backcountry ski and snowshoe trips coming in a few weeks.


Written by Jeremy Hua

Backcountry Skiing/Snowshoeing at Elfin Lakes Hut

After an hour bus ride to Squamish, the Discovery boys finally got to get our hands on our ski touring rental gear. Our g...