Monday, April 25, 2011

A ____ by any other name

On our Trophy Hut trip, we decided that it was fair to describe any day of ski-touring or mountain biking as "essentially flat" if you start and finish at the same point. This works well with along with popular directions like "mostly downhill (apart from the climb)", "up and down (mostly up)", and "not (that much) further". 

This weekend we made a trip to Washington State, stopping off in Everett for a SUP race (Lina's department), before heading down to visit friends in Olympia.

On our ride in the Capitol Forest of Washington State with Chris and Kathleen we explored the concept of optimistic naming a little further. We rode "about 20 miles", which took "around 3 hours"... and all of the climbs were "flowing". It was a great ride, on dry trails, in the sunshine.

The Washington jungle
The rains returned on Sunday, so we stopped for some unconventional riding in Seattle... under the I5 highway bridge at Colonnades Park. It is incredible what has been built under the highway deck. You can ride dry, dusty trails, jumps, and woodwork... in the rain, with the rumble of traffic above you. Strange, but fun. Photos here.

An Orange Bike, exploring the urban jungle

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Future Reflections

I have been quite retarded in getting any words on here about my recent winter activities, however, this has given me plenty of time to ruminate on the fun I've been having in the snow and as any cow will tell you... ruminating is great.

I've been into a few backcountry huts before to ski... some quite luxurious, and some otherwise. Some I sweated for, and hauled myself and all my food and gear in myself... for others I was whisked up in a cloud of spindrift and kerosene exhaust by the unlikely device that a helicopter is. Over the years I've come to realize a few things about holidays. One is that when I go away from home, I like it to be a contrast to home. As I'm lucky enough to live in a prosperous, peaceful country and be gainfully employed, my home is a rather pleasant comfortable and pleasant place to live. It's warm, it's dry, I can walk to the shops and buy food, and I have all-manner of contraptions to minimize the inconvenience of daily chores. Part of the fun of spending a week or two in the backcountry for me is doing away with all those things and entering a life of melting snow to make water, carrying loads of stuff around with you, and wondering if you have enough food for the week. This year I was able to experience both a trip of my own devising to the Trophy Hut, and also life within the dream-holiday of others at Durrand Glacier. It was interesting stuff... plus I got to climb up a lot of hills and slide back down them again.

Paul and I joined a group of folks last year in the Trophy Hut and I was quite taken with the place. It feels remote but could easily be accessed without resorting to incinerating too may pre-historic crustaceans, and the varied and complex terrain around the hut provided lots of potential for exploring. I planned a trip for March... late in the season for more daylight (and spring-break for Lina) and managed to recruit 10 friends to come along. Some ancient crustaceans were sacrificed to fly in our food while we snow-cat and self-propelled to the cabin  to maintain the illusion of environmental responsibility without suffering too much. This balance worked out really well and the luxuries it allowed us (food) seemed all the more luxurious. The skiing turned out to be really excellent with deep, stable snow, and sunshine most days. We got to the summit of Trophy mountain and some pretty "ambitious" lines were skied with guidance from JF and Bryce. My organizers anxiety was put to rest when everyone had a good time and we all got home safely. Finding other huts than can be accessed without flying is now high on my list for future holiday plans.

Trophy Winners

Split between February and the first 2 weeks of April, I spent 3 weeks volunteering and skiing at Durrand Glacier Chalet. It's safe to say that I would probably have never been to this place if it had not been for Lina getting the job of High-School Teacher to the owner's family. It was a great opportunity for Lina to teach and live in the mountains, and fortunately I was able to earn my keep there by waking up in the dark every morning and pushing snow around, washing up, serving food, pushing snow from rooftops, throwing firewood, and generally doing what needed to be done. I was lucky to get to ski tour most days, including tagging-along as a helper for the tail-end of the group. Whilst having the responsibility for retrieving lost skis, unearthing fallen skiers, and carrying awkward objects was unexpected, I enjoyed meeting the guests and adding something their trip... even if it was just pulling their skis out of the snow. Durrand Glacier attracts people for far-afield, and I felt lucky to live within a few hours drive of a place that others will travel across the globe to experience.

Other than learning roof-shoveling and ski-retrieval techniques, what I brought away from Durrand was a scale I have not experience before in the backcountry. A single run could involve climbing and descending 1200 vertical meters, through the alpine, sub-alpine, into the forest and to valley-bottom. A topographical journey on skis. I also skied more glaciated terrain than I ever have before, and finally got the hang of skiing the deep snow in wide open spaces. It reminded me of my days of whitewater kayaking, when I moved from paddling steep, technical, low-water-volume creeks and paddled some "big volume" rivers in BC. It was terrifying. Whilst I had paddled things that were "harder" technically... the scale of the big rivers had me floundering. Whilst I have my preferences in all the things I do and it's fun to stick to your strengths, I find it rewarding to expand my horizons and become more comfortable when I am out of my element. Being able to do more things is better. Being the only telemark skier in my group for the whole time at Durrand even made me think I might even try out some Alpine-Touring skis one day. Maybe.

An alarming ski maneuver, with added pole in my backpack - Photo: Michael Fuller

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sea Level

I am back in Vancouver after 2 weeks living at 1946m (occasionally higher, and occasionally lower). Today I'm enjoying trees, above-freezing temperatures, and bicycles. Eventually, I will get around to writing about all these things, and our trip to the Trophy Hut. But for now, here are the inevitable photos.

April on the North Shore