Officially A Ski Bum!

On Thursday we went for a short tour on Paul’s Ridge near Squamish having spent the previous day resort skiing to help Barbara get her ski legs back. We woke to the tinny sound of rain of the roof of Snow White (Bells Toyota Four Runner truck) and our room for the night. I was quite excited to hear the rain as BC has had a serious lack of snow this year and rain in the valley means snow up high. We bounced out of bed, well sort of, and headed down the road to grab some breakfast and food for lunch.

The route starts from the top of a logging road, which we found without too much bother. However Barbara was most unhappy with the lack of grip we seemed to have on the washboard and icy track. I pointed out this was in part due to being in two wheel drive and in part due to the dodgy tyres. This didn’t settle Barbara much, I must try harder with tact and diplomacy!

As we headed on up I was wondering if it was going to be raining or snowing at the start of the route, slowly as we gained elevation the rain became sleet then snow. We then reached a steep hairpin bend and I decided it was time to try out the four wheel drive, as there was no way we would make it otherwise. Even in four wheel drive it was pretty spicy with the car crabbing from left to right across the road. I told Barbara ‘not to worry, it’s normal for these type of cars to slide around like this’. Diplomacy getting better? Well it was a small lie at least, really I had no idea having never driven a four wheel drive before! I’ll count that as diplomacy.

The snow was now falling pretty solidly, this did bode well for the day, and Barbara’s first go on her new touring bindings and skins. Arriving at the carpark there was to a good few inches of fresh snow, sweet!

A Happy Barbara
A Happy Barbara

It was a 6km skin (up hill travel on skis) to a hut where we stopped for a break. It was here I had my epiphany whilst talking to one of the snow shoers about our trip…. It was the 30th January technically my last day of work for RWE! Yes, this is my ‘last day of work’ before officially becoming a ski bum! What better way to see in the momentous event, but slaying some fresh pow! Awesome!

Barbara Skinning the Red Heather Meadows
Barbara Skinning the Red Heather Meadows

There was nothing else for it but to skin up to the top of Paul’s Ridge and ski some lines, there was now about 6 inches of fresh. Although perhaps we should have got up earlier, as there were already another group up top making their second descent of the day, but we still got some nice powder turns in before heading back up the ridge for a final descent all the way back to the car.

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We got back to the car at about 4pm (12am UK time) so That’s It! I AM A OFFICIALLY SKI BUM!

Are we there yet?

I think we’re still in Scotland…

After a fairly stressful and frantic last few days prior to leaving, we finally arrived in Vancouver (if through slightly different routes), to find it is having an unseasonably warm winter.  Genuinely warm(ish) and sunny – we are feeling slightly cheated!  Nothing quite like hitting the ground running though, so after getting to bed at 1am local time we set off that evening on a weekend expedition to Tetrahedron Provincial Park to celebrate Burns Night.  Yes, Burns Night.  Tom had even managed to source some haggis, neeps and tatties to add to the authenticity. This weekend was organised by Neil McKenzie, our kilt-wearing friend from back home who is very kindly putting  us up while we’re here. What with the rubbish snow conditions we were really a little dubious as to whether we had actually left!    Through general mismanagement we managed to miss the 7pm ferry, which meant that we camped in the car park under the stars at the beginning of the trail that night. This turned out to be a better alternative than the trek to the hut that had been planned – which would have been done in the dark – and for at least one of us would have been fairly catastrophic.  It was challenging enough in the daylight!  Generally icy terrain with a fair bit of ascent, it was pretty straightforward up until when it wasn’t.  I had only done two days of ski touring last year, but in Scotland you are generally just going up a hill and then down the other side.  This, it seems, is not the norm. At least not in Canada. Skiing down and skinning up narrow, icy paths through trees is where its at apparently.  Having not been on skis this year it was definitely being thrown in the deep end – not to forget we were carrying packs on our back with all our kit,  including whisky, haggis, neeps and tatties to feed about 10…  I could identify with turtles after falling over a few times.  Thankfully the pack comes off, otherwise I would probably still be there.

Heading for the Edwards Lake Hut with Haggis Laden Packs!
Heading for the Edwards Lake Hut with Haggis Laden Packs!

We arrived at Edward’s Lake hut around late morning (it was a beautiful day), and thankfully got to dump our belongings and rest a bit before continuing. The hut system in Canada is absolutely amazing, extremely well equipped with wood burning stoves and a good supply of wood.  There are even toilet facilities – which came as a bit of a surprise as it seemed unlikely that someone would install plumbing – and then we read the sign inside which asked you kindly not to throw any garbage down the toilet as all waste was airlifted out by helicopter.  I shudder to think about living in that flight path!

There had been a general intention to step up the training two months before we left, but winter colds and the sorting out of stuff got in the way.  Around this time I was really wondering whether I couldn’t have managed to squeeze in a few more gym sessions, really.  I wish I had.  No matter, on we went up the mountain through the woods – the entire time there was a little voice saying “this is all well and good, but how is this going to be coming down?” When we got to a bit of a clear spot just before the final ascent to the summit, Tom suggested perhaps he and I might start making our way back – the second time in all the years I have known him he has turned down reaching the top. This was, without a doubt, the most welcome thing I’d heard all day.

The view was great from here, summiting clearly wouldn't improve on it.
The view was great from here, summiting clearly wouldn’t improve on it.
View from the top of Mount Steele
View from the top of Mount Steele

The descent?  I blame the rubbish snow conditions.  And rental skis.

When we finally reached the hut we started getting supper under way.  Hats off to them, the guys put together a traditional Burns Night Supper with all the trimmings (if whisky counts as a trimming) from very basic beginnings – mashing the potatoes and swedes with a water bottle actually works pretty well, who’d have thought?

The boys getting down to business
The boys getting down to business

We weren’t treated to the Ode to the Haggis as Neal still hasn’t memorised it, but the general gist was there.  The evening then descended into general mayhem but Tom and I ducked out early due to body clocks/jet lag/general exhaustion (delete as appropriate). As the sleeping area was above the living area we did catch the highlight, which was a very heated debate over the difference between a biscuit and a cookie.  No one is quite sure who won.

After Burns Night, Australia Day.

The next day started predictably slowly, and keeping with the international  theme we were celebrating Australia Day.  It was January, in Canada, but we were playing cricket in the sunshine (albeit on a frozen lake).  The boys got so hot they had to take their tops off – ok, this was nothing like Scotland now.

Tom getting bowled out - thankfully he didn't need a box...
Tom getting bowled out – thankfully he didn’t need a box…

That didn’t stop the theme however, and after 18 months in Edinburgh we had our first deep fried mars bar miles away on a frozen lake in BC.  Tom’s skills with a camping stove, a few tortilla wraps and some pine twigs are really quite extraordinary. Actually, it’s quite amazing what you can do with the above – pretty much all the left over food saw the same treatment.

Tom working his culinary magic with a few tortilla wraps and some pine twigs
Tom working his culinary magic with a few tortilla wraps and some pine twigs

We had a leisurely tour back, leisurely due to frequent turtle moments, and then made our way back to the ferry.  A mention here for Snow White the slightly temperamental truck, which is our mode of transport while in Canada.  She is a bit of a madam, and occasionally decides she is lacking attention so refuses to start until coaxed – this happened after a pit stop on route to the ferry.  Thankfully the travel gods were with us and we didn’t miss it, so got back at a reasonable time and collapsed into bed – this was more important for Neal of course, who had to work the next day…  Ah well.