The first leg of our journey, from the north end of Pitt Lake, just outside Vancouver, B.C., started after weeks of dry weather. On Sunday, February 17, three of us, Mike, Erica and Ryan, boated to the north end of the lake, along with captain Leonard and Ryan’s fiancé Bridget, marking the start of our journey to Alaska. There, by the Pitt River hot springs, under clouds hiding the tops of the snow-covered peaks, we spent the first night chomping Subway sandwiches. The next morning, we hiked up to the upper cutblock in the rain, marking the end of the dry spell. The following day brought us to the glacier at the head of the Misty Icefield.
The Misty Icefield became our home for the next little while, as it lived up to its name with hurricane-force winds and zero visibility, making travel over the icefield and negotiating crevasses too hazardous. For the next four nights, until the weather cleared, we read, slept and played rousing games of ‘Pigs’ in our three-person tent and doled out our seven days of food carefully. As we were not expending too much energy, due to a lack of exercise (and therefore lowered energy requirements), this was not too hard. To ration our precious fuel, we passed on hot meals and used only as much as we needed to melt snow for drinking water.
Finally, on Saturday, February 23, our sixth day, the visibility improved enough to move, and our crew set up camp just below Snowcap Peak. Alas, high winds returned. They were not nearly as strong as the winds we experienced on the Misty Icefield, but at speeds of over 100 km/hour, combined with low visibility, they made the risk of traveling over the glaciated terrain less than optimal. Snowcap Peak camp became our home for the next three nights.
By Tuesday, the weather cleared enough to move camp, but with a weather forecast of continued stormy weather, we decided to change our route plan to exit via the Cheakamus Lake trail. The lake was still a long way off, and due to dwindling food and fuel supplies, we needed to get lower to make sure we could keep moving. Rather than negotiating the glaciated alpine terrain of Snowcap peak in the still poor visibility, we descended the east side of the aptly named Misery Summit of Snowcap and traveled through the valley bottom for two days to Snowcap Lake.
There we were hit by a massive storm that dumped almost 2 metres of snow, making us tent bound once again. From Wednesday to Saturday, the rumble of nearby avalanches kept us up at night. Otherwise, we spent our days and nights brushing snow off the tent to keep it from collapsing, as we cocooned in our now smelly, but cozy tent.
On Saturday night, the weather cleared and early Sunday we headed out, negotiating over avalanche debris from slopes that had avalanched on every aspect and at every elevation. By day’s end, we reached Veeocee Col and the entrance to the Cheakamus Valley and the last bit of the first leg of our journey.
On Monday morning, we ate breakfast and made our way to Whistler. At 5 p.m., on the east side of Cheakamus Lake, we met Bridget and Jasmin, who brought us a meal of meat and sweets. Together, we five arrived in high spirits in Whistler later that night. After a good night’s sleep, we began packing for Leg 2, which will take us to Bella Coola, on B.C.s northwest coast, along with Neil Waggoner, Jeremy Wood (from Alaska) and Bridget McClarty.
Today, Thursday, March 7, we’ll be heading up the Callaghan Valley, over the Pemberton Icecap and up the Lillooet Valley, towards Bella Coola. We’ve had an awesome time in Whistler, and we loved seeing our friends, but it’s time to head out.
We owe BIG BIG thanks to Jerome David, who graciously and generously opened his Whistler home to seven dirtbags for the last week! Merci beaucoup, notre ami.
Also, big thanks to all our supporters and helpers including:
Ian “cheddar” Watson
Meagan and Duncan in Bella Coola
Bobbi and Earl “Pitt Lake water taxi”
Eric Hoji & Jen Ashton
AirBlaster Ninja Suits
We’ll post again when we reach Bella Coola in about a month. Our map may sometimes give our position away, sometimes not. No news is good news is our motto.