This was my first ski trip up to the Duffey this year. I usually like to wait a little bit before the lower elevation approaches filled in along the Duffey. There are some good spots on the Duffey where you can drive long ways up logging roads to access the terrain, which I didn’t take advantage of, this early season. Prior to this weekend, people were still walking in the Cerise Creek area. It snowed a lot the week before, leaving 60cm of snow at the Cayoosh summit. It has snowed since, in lighter amounts, but the snow depth hasn’t changed much since. It’s still around 60cm on the highway, and around 145cm at treeline.
With an unsettled forecast for the weekend, light snow showers in the forecast for both days, I thought the skiing around Rohr lake would be good for the weather. I didn’t want to go somewhere too far, knowing that the trail breaking could be arduous. It took awhile to get past the Whistler speed bump. It was snowing hard, the plows just couldn’t keep up.We didn’t leave the sand shed parking lot until 10:45 am. This was the same weekend when heavy snow was falling on the Rubble Creek trail, knocking trees down.
A group on snowshoes headed into the Wendy Thompson Hut on Thursday, just after the first wave of snow. This was taken on Saturday morning, after nearly 60cm of snow fell on the Duffey, with 33cm in the past 24 hours.
The Aspen-Rohr Junction. This junction could be confusing if you’ve never been in the area before. Go left for the Wendy Thompson Hut in the Marriott Basin, and right for Rohr Lake. I believe Aspen is the original name for Mount Marriott. Sam McKoy has a nice writeup about the Wendy Thompson Hut on his website. Check out Spencer Weber’s website for a good story about the long way to get to that hut.
Trail breaking was slow. Thigh deep at times. With a set track, it usually takes me about 1.5-2 hours to get to Rohr Lake. This time, it took us over three hours just to reach the area below the lake. I reached the clearing in the small basin before the last climb up to Rohr Lake and decided this was a good spot to camp. There was no reason to ski above the lake when the slopes below the lake were in fine form. We dropped the overnight gear and continuing the slow process of punching another skin track up to treeline.
Climbing up through the trees. It was still early season conditions up here, with essentially a bottomless snowpack with no base. Setting a track through the boulder fields, and through the steep trees was really tricky. At times it felt like I was just tunneling through the snow. My choice of softshell pants turned out to be a poor one today. The snow was moist, and I was constantly up to my thighs breaking trail. The softshell material was no match for the excess moisture.
There’s not really much to write in the captions for most of these photos. They are all just photos of either Jason or Mylene jumping off a pillow and enjoying the bottomless snowpack. Jason picked a good weekend for his first ski days of the year.
We skied the boulder field northwest of the western end of Rohr Lake. Going up, it seemed like the snow would be too unconsolidated to safely ski through the boulder field. I even set the track into the forest to avoid a few steeper sections in the boulder field. By the time we got to the top, we didn’t have much time before it was dark. Skiing in the open seemed like a good idea. There was so much snow that the gaps between the boulders felt nicely bridged to me. Then again, I’m much lighter than Jason. He was a little more concerned.
Time to get to business. The standards over here at the South Coast Pie and Beer Club just got set a little higher. Whisking whipping cream by hand is a good way to warm up and pass time while out winter camping. Whipping cream, plus powdered sugar, with a bit of Baileys to finish. The key to whipping cream by hand is to have a cold container, a cold whisk, and cold cream. All three are easy to keep cold here in the backcountry.
Pie eating conditions were excellent as always. This pie sums up the weekend’s snowpack. A freshly whipped layer of backcountry-whipped cream, infused with Baileys, a deep and consistent butternut – kabocha squash filling that your spoon/skis float through, and a buttery firm crust that’s way down there. You won’t even notice it after you’re done with the filling. Consistent face shots.
|Pi. The filling can crack if it’s over baked, at too high of a temperature, or if it’s cooled too quickly and the filling pulls away from the crust.|
We hung out underneath my Sil-nylon tart. I set it up between two trees and used my ski poles to keep it elevated, with enough head room to sit under during dinner. Later in the evening, I rearranged it and lowered the tarp for sleeping. This works well if it’s only lightly snowing, without much wind. Without any new moisture falling on me, I was able to dry out some of my clothing just by body heat alone.
The next morning. It snowed slightly through the night, another 10cm of new snow. The weather was still unsettled, with clouds just at treeline. Pie and my leftover lunch-calzone were my breakfast. I am a pie-atarian, and just can’t get enough crust.
Mylene hanging out under the tarp. The setup is pretty simple. It was colder on Sunday, around -5C. The wet gear that I didn’t manage to dry out, like my ski socks, were a nice frozen popsicle that morning. I was little surprised how wet my liners and ski boots got, after yesterday’s wet trail breaking.
That was fun, despite how lumpy it looks. With the recent snow fall, I think this is probably a smoother slope now. Here’s a recent conditions report by Jeff Van Driel, Dec 13, 2016.
The clouds finally cleared up that afternoon, just as we finished our last lap. I really like the light at this time of the year, the low sun, the long shadows and the deep blues and cold tones in the sky.