18km 5084ft trailhead 8000ft col vert gain:3000ft
For Thanksgiving weekend, my friend Jim came out for a backpacking trip. Its been a long time since I carried around a big pack. When I'm working in the bush, I usually have helicopters and quads to carry my life around so I was paranoid about weight. Above, Jim proudly sips a take-out coffee that lasted from Calgary.
After gaining around two thousand feet, the crux of the trip faced us. A very steep gully for a thousand feet taking us over a pass and then down the next valley to our proposed camp.
Here we are taking a break, fuelling up with chocolate for the big push. The snow though had drifted and in places was knee deep. Climbing a 45 degree slope through deep snow is very hard. Couple this with altitude and we would take 10-20 steps and rest for 10 seconds. We didn't talk much and I kept thinking that I'd try and go a bit further but was doubting whether we'd make it up.
The pictures above are above the treeline. At this point, the temperature has dropped to around minus five and the wind is blowing very hard. There was nothing enjoyable about this part of the trip. It was really a test of will in a binary world of up/down, quit/go on. And so, at 4pm we crested the summit and stared down into the valley we were going to camp in and had a quick assessment of conditions. We thought that the snow was very deep on the other side and perhaps we might not be able to climb out if we went in. This was complicated by the fact that our backcountry permit technically only allows us to camp in that valley. Of course when its -15 with windchill and you're standing at 8000 feet surrounding by nothing but the overwhelming, the park bureaucracy seems pretty meaningless.
Prudence prevailed though and we ended up hiking back down the way we came and over to Lillian Lake where we pitched our tent as dusk enveloped us. We were proud of the ascent but we sort of felt as though this campsite was our second place. Amazingly, there was two other groups camping in the snow and they had a passable fire going already. When they asked us where we had come from, we filled with pride when their mouths dropped as we pointed up at the mountain we had just retreated from. With hot coffee brewing we looked up at the route and answered their questions. Success is relative. The next day we packed up the tent and hiked back to the road