End of Leg 1: Pitt Lake to Whistler

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:

Marcus Waring
Ian “cheddar” Watson
Dave Treadway
Leonard Maloney
Meagan and Duncan in Bella Coola
Chris Ho
Jeremy McCall
Irene Isacs
Bobbi and Earl “Pitt Lake water taxi”
James Retty
Jeff Rabinovitch
Eric Hoji & Jen Ashton
Lee Lau
Jasmin Dobson
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.


Before we got skinny!

Before we got skinny!

What are we getting into?

What are we getting into?

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The Prequel

“Mike and Erica want to traverse the Coast Mountains, and they’ve asked me to join them.”  Ryan said to me in the fall of last year.

As soon as Ryan told me this, I knew he would go. And so, five months ago, after unwinding from an incredible summer we spent tripping in the Canadian Arctic, and after starting the paramedic program, Ryan started amassing food and gear for this trip.  By Halloween, our tiny urban living room began to look like a Famous Foods warehouse: whole milk powder, coconut milk powder, oatmeal, rice, couscous, quinoa, noodles, tea, coffee, vitamins, tomato sauce, energy bars, nuts, raisins, chocolate, honey, peanut butter… and butter. So much butter. Even our refrigerator quickly became divided into trip/non-trip foods.  And then there was the cooking—every day, I would return home after work to the delicious aroma of food cooking in the crockpot… food we would not be eating for dinner: it was ‘trip food’.  Over many weeks, massive volumes of sauces, soups, fruit, meat, and vegetables were reduced to almost nothing, thanks to the miracle of food dehydrators.

On Halloween, Mike and Erica came from Alaska to visit us in Vancouver and to start preparing in earnest for this trip.  Ryan and Mike have a long history of trips together, and I had met and skied with Mike a couple of years ago in Whistler.  They are ideal trip mates. Neither Ryan nor I had ever met Erica, but within minutes of meeting her, she excitedly whipped out her ‘cotton candy’ costume, complete with pink tutu, tights, and a large pink cone hat.  Needless to say, she would add a vital component to the team—fun!

As I watched these three cement their bonds as they planned, I was left with the dreaded FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out. Then, in January, I obtained permission for a six-week leave of absence from my teaching position in Vancouver.  That’s when I finally became excited about the trip too and allowed myself to be swept away by Ryan’s endless river of excitement, energy and enthusiasm.  My apprehension of spending six months apart from Ryan was gone and now, I am counting down the days until I join them for a very special six weeks.

I know they will succeed, not in any small part because of Ryan. In many ways, he is an enigma.  On the one hand, he is a dreamer and a visionary, but he is a pragmatist who understands the importance of details.  Ryan also brings incredible drive and ambition, but never at the expense of the group.  Ryan’s resolve only strengthens when he encounters barriers: When others tell him that a trip is impossible, Ryan does everything in his power to make it happen.  His gift is that he sees all problems as puzzles and uses his creativity to solve them. His endless stamina, optimism, and infectious joie de vivre make him an ideal partner.

Last Sunday, as I watched the three heading up the road, north of Pitt Lake, to spend their first night camping by the hot springs, I thought of my last conversation with Erica.  She admitted that the concept of this six-month ‘mega-expedition’ was completely overwhelming and she would simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, over and over, every day…which is exactly what she is doing right now.  And eventually, they will reach Alaska.

Categories: Posts from loved ones | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

We’re leaving tomorrow!

We’re ready! We’ve made the final touches, mailed out packages and moved belongings into storage. Tomorrow, we start our journey by boating up Pitt Lake. We plan to reach Whistler around February 25, where a few more members of the team will join us.

Look for our position updates and send us messages on our Delorme Map Share page here: https://share.delorme.com/194440ba2c0e43b7bdcd80bd4726dfdf
The password is chemistry.

We went to a friend’s presentation yesterday about a very inspiring trip they did last year. You can read more here: http://carolineandpat.wordpress.com/

A list of thank yous keeps growing, so I’ll try to rattle off some names to the ever expanding list. You all know who you are.

Norm and Denice Bougie
Bridget Mcclarty
Jasmin Dobson
Dave Treadway
Jon Johnston
Whistler Blackcomb
Tracey “Trix” Kindrachuck
Rod Gee
Lena Rowat
Tim Blair
Chris Michalak
Chris Ho
Erin and Ryan Boyle
Wayne Flann
Dale Douglas
Lorne Graham
Jia Condon
Irene Isac’s
Tim Smith
Jerome David
Michael Coyle (true north geospatial)
Ian “Cheddar” Watson
Jonas Hoke
Nicole Koshure
Jeff Rabinovich
Pat and Caroline
Meghan in Bella Coola
Julia Franseko (in-reach Canada)
Leonard Maloney
John Scurlock

I just read an interesting article rating this winter as one of the most boring winters in history. Rounding out the top three was the year a group made this trip across the coast range.

Coming soon: A bio of who we are as a group, which we will work on. Basically, we are each taking a leave of absence from regular life and embarking on the trip of a lifetime.

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Snowpack status and outlook

Looks like our team is rolling 7’s with the conditions this year. The last 3 years have been pretty similar with above average accumulations and none existent spring high pressure’s. Let this be the year to traverse the coast. The information below was taken from http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/bulletins/watersupply/current.htm

Current Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin

The February 1st snow survey is now complete. Data from 107 snow courses and 53 snow pillows around the province and out-of-province sampling locations, and climate data from Environment Canada, have been used to form the basis for the following reports.

Stable weather conditions prevailed across British Columbia through January. High pressure ridging in the middle of the month created prolonged dry weather and inverted temperatures, with above freezing temperatures above snowline elevations. Conditions were much drier than normal across the province throughout the month. Temperatures were +1 – 3 ̊C above normal through most areas of the province, with some low elevation regions in south-west BC having below normal temperatures.

Due to drier conditions, most regions saw below normal snow accumulation and a decline in snow basin indices through the month of January. Snow basin indices ranged from a low of 78% of normal, to a high of 116%. Drier conditions are prevalent through west-central and north-west British Columbia, including the Nechako, Middle Fraser (Chilcotin), Central Coast and Skeena-Nass basins. Snow packs are above normal (>110%) in the Okanagan-Kettle and South Coast regions, and near normal or slightly below normal (85-110%) through the rest of the province.

BC Snow Basin Indices – February 1, 2013

% of Normal


% of Normal

Upper Fraser








Middle Fraser




Lower Fraser


South Coast


North Thompson


Vancouver Island


South Thompson








This season has favored neutral El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions, with near normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Current forecasts from the Climate Prediction Centre with the U.S. National Weather Service (NOAA) favour neutral conditions into the spring of 2013. This suggests that current ocean conditions favour normal seasonal weather conditions. Current 3-month seasonal forecasts (February through April) from Environment Canada are fairly neutral, with similar likelihoods of above-normal, below-normal or normal precipitation and temperature. A slight increased likelihood of below normal temperatures is forecast for south-west BC. Current short-term weather forecasts indicate a period of high pressure across most of the province to the middle of February, and limited snowfall is expected.

By this date, generally about two-thirds of the annual BC snowpack has accumulated. While there is still two and a half months left in the snow accumulation season, given current short-term and seasonal outlooks, the current snowpack is not expected to change significantly over the remainder of the season. At this point there are no strong indications of a high likelihood of extreme wet or dry seasonal weather through the rest of the accumulation season. Unless the region experiences some late-season Pacific storm cycles, dry conditions are likely to persist in the Nechako, Central Coast, Skeena-Nass, and Middle Fraser. Normal conditions are expected to persist in other regions. While possible, heavy snow pack accumulation over the remainder of the season is unlikely.

In general snow packs across the province are below levels that were observed last year (see snow basin graphs below). Below normal seasonal flows during freshet and into summer are likely in the west-central region of the province (Nechako, Middle Fraser, Central Coast, Skeena-Nass). Above normal seasonal flow, and the potential for elevated seasonal flood risk, is possible in the Okanagan basin. Above normal seasonal flow is also expected in the Lower Fraser, South Coast and Vancouver Island, however these regions tend to have limited flood potential in the spring, and current snow packs are not expected to have a significant impact on seasonal flood risk. Normal seasonal flow and seasonal flood risk is likely through the rest of the province.

Snow data reporting has been adjusted for this snow bulletin (attached) and this format will be used through the remainder of this snow season. The River Forecast Centre is currently estimating values for 6 snow pillows, and the February 1st, 2013 estimates can be found in Table 1.

The next snow bulletin will be released on March 7th, 2013.

Produced by: BC River Forecast Centre
February 8, 2013

Categories: Posts from the field | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Early February updates


The month of our departure has arrived. Everything is coming to together for our team. The Alaskans Mike and Erica showed up on Friday at Vancouver International with a mountain of gear and food. Things are a little busy for me as I am finishing up a practicum working with B.C Ambulance. By all accounts we are on track and under budget for a February 17 departure from Pitt Lake. Michael has made our proposed route map that you can view on Google Earth here http://bit.ly/12jOy58
Of course, we are not undertaking this project alone and our thank you list keeps building by the day. As of right now we are teaming up with Michael Coyle and True North Geospatial in developing some custom maps using his state of the art technology. You can check their company website here http://www.TrueNorthGeospatial.com/
It’s still in testing right now but I think this is another large advancement in cartography for many different user groups.
We are also teaming up with De-Lorme In-reach Canada. We are going to be thoroughly testing their two way satellite messenger and tracking device in the remoteness of applications. Blogging from beyond I’d like to coin it! We are hoping Rio Tinto Alcan decides to support our group by allowing us to cross their property in the Kemano site outside Kitimat B.C. Crazy to think that this is even an issue but so far we have been told we cannot ski traverse the Coast Mountains around Kemano, which is owned by Rio Tinto Alcan. So we will have to wait and see how this issue progresses.
We are being joined by a few more folks on our traverse in Whistler but this number keeps evolving so I won’t say anymore about that just yet. While most of you powder hungry skiers are hoping for the never ending storm I am hoping for this below average snowpack “La Nada” season to continue, allowing us favourable travel conditions. This truly is the most ambitious undertaking I have ever committed to and am extremely excited to begin our long traverse of the Coast Mountain range of B.C and Alaska. Please continue to follow along with our blog if you are interested. For all the critics out there I ask that you please retreat back to your secluded internet forums and keep your opinions amongst yourselves because there is no hope of killing our team’s enthusiasm. Skiing has been my own way of experiencing and relating to the world around me. It has taught me more than any other medium could ever achieve. Through skiing I have met some of the most selfish people in the world as well as some of the most generous. This is my first blog and it is my attempt at giving what I can back to the world. Most people reading this blog will not be able to fathom what it takes to initiate a trip of this magnitude. I hope I can relate to you some of our struggles, triumphs, failures and wow moments over the next 6 months.


Categories: Posts from the field | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Traverse the coast

This is our teams blog of our journey starting in February 2013, through the Coast Mountain Range of British Columbia by Ski and Packraft. We hope you enjoy following some of our adventures. If you want to get in touch please leave a comment or drop us an email ryanbougie@me.com. We are looking for open source scientific projects that we might be able to help out with along our journey. This includes animal observation, snow and avalanche observations, geo tagging or anything else you the public can come up with.  We are equipped with iphones and a 2 way satellite messenger.

Our core group of 3 travellers is Michael Burmeister, Erica Madison and Ryan Bougie.  Various people may be joining throughout the trip.  We hope to be completing our journey sometime in July by skiing into the Alaskan town of Skagway.  In submitting oursleves to such a long and remote trip we are at the mercy of what the elements will do with us.  The odds are stacked against us getting all the way to Skagway but that certainly is not going to stop us from giving it a shot.

Categories: Posts from the field | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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