Waddington Hut Backcountry Skiing – Guest TR

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Skyler Mavor

With the winter quarter drawing to a close up here in Bellingham WA, and spring break nearly upon us, my roommates and I hatched a plan to head to BC for some multi-day backcountry skiing. We settled on the Brian Waddington Hut north of Pemberton. The hut is famed for its location among “Lord of the Rings” themed mountains Gandalf, Aragorn, Tolkien, and Shadowfax. The hut is run by UBC’s Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC), which charges only $5 per person per night. The VOC was able to build the 24 person hut with a grant from MEC, given with the condition that the hut not have a wood stove installed. We found the hut to be plenty warm with a puffy jacket and down booties, and it was even warmer with the addition of extra people later in the week.

Waddington Hut with Peregrine in the background. Not a bad spot to have a cabin to ourselves.

We loaded our packs with a week’s worth of food and fuel, and drove to our trailhead at Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park. The following day was our “slog” day, and we trudged up the valley with heavy packs under a blue sky. Six miles and a thousand meters vert later, we crossed a frozen lake under the Lord of The Rings themed mountains. We arrived at the hut to find it uninhabited. We made a large dinner and settled down for the evening.

Cloudy sky greeted us the next morning, and we headed out to ski laps on treed runs. It’s no secret that our Bellingham group loves to ski pillows, and we had no trouble finding outstanding pillow runs that kept the smiles on our faces. I would have been content to do this all week, but as luck would have it we had better skiing yet to come.

Touring under Shadowfax Peak on day two.

Returning to the hut, day two.

Partly sunny skies the next day was enough to convince us to head out for a ski tour of the surrounding area. We climbed north between Aragorn and Shadowfax mountains, and dropped into the north facing slopes beyond. This spot held excellent snow, and a long run brought us through the alpine and into the trees. The weather alternated between sun and snowflakes, then decided to be both at the same time. Sunny and snowing isn’t usually on my weather radar, but it was more than okay with me. We made it back near the hut by late afternoon, but we were hungry for more. We ran laps on North facing slopes as the sun set. Somewhere between the excellent powder and the beautiful sunset I knew that we had hit the jackpot.

Jazzed from the great snow of the previous day, we again headed to Northern slopes for day four. The weather of the day was apart from the usual Coast Mountain storms, and beautiful cloudless sky held for the entire day. We strolled up to Gandalf Col, were we were greeted by amazing views and terrific snow. We ran a lap in an upper bowl, then headed back down the col. The run down from the col gave us 400 meters of beautiful powder. Smooth turns down to the upper lake left us all smiles. Again, we ran laps of the Northern slopes until sunset.

The hut valley with Mount Taillefer behind. The hut is on the near end of the lower lake.

Zach cruises powder below Gandalf Col.

On our fifth day we slept in, and cloudy skies confirmed our choice of a rest day. In the afternoon, we cruised laps of a nice bowl close to the hut. From our high vantage point, we noticed people and dogs marching across the lake. After four nights to ourselves, we welcomed the company.

Day six was again bluebird, and we headed out towards nearby Peregrine Peak. We were joined by a friendly pair from Squamish and a couple of local dogs. Apparently, the black and white canine duo live near the trailhead, and regularly follow skiers to the hut and join them for backcountry skiing. The dogs gladly marched behind us along a scenic ridge to the summit of Peregrine, and we continued down the other side of the peak for an excellent run.

The local dogs surveying Shadowfax in evening light. We dubbed the dogs Fang and Wolf after a pair of dogs in Lord of the Rings.

Zachary enjoying the snow off the summit of Peregrine.

Running powder laps on the last day. Gotta pay to play!

The following day we ran some morning laps of nearby Cabin Hill, then packed our bags for the ski out to the car. We chose the scenic way out, and were rewarded with a long 1400 meter backcountry skiing run back to the car, as well as great views of our area and nearby ranges. We had left the car a week before much less tired and smelly, but we returned with an awesome ski experience.

Comments

15 Responses to “Waddington Hut Backcountry Skiing – Guest TR”

  1. mc April 12th, 2011 10:42 am

    Enough there boys. Ever heard of the saying “loose lips sinks ships”? These trip reports are on the verge of starting an international incident. No Mr. Green this time.

  2. Lou April 12th, 2011 10:50 am

    Um, better disband the VOC first, then start on us! :D

    That said the 6 mile 3,000 vert approach slog probably filters at least a few people.

  3. mc April 12th, 2011 10:57 am

    Fully supportive of that idea, but why not two birds with one stone!

  4. Lou April 12th, 2011 11:12 am

    Ouch!

  5. Lee Lau April 12th, 2011 12:26 pm

    Oh noes!!! Now all the D’arcy Pemberton dogs will be following everyone there. Nevermind two Powder mag spreads, the VOC wiki, countless trip reports, inclusion in three guidebooks, & on bivouac Skylar has now let out this Secret Spot.

    As for “international incident”, this Canuck thinks that the LoTR group needs more skiers there to counteract the sled poaching. Nice trip and well done on the snow guys.

  6. mc April 12th, 2011 1:01 pm

    You’re just as guilty as the rest of them.

  7. Lee Wasilenko April 12th, 2011 1:28 pm

    We ran into Skyler, Zach and Henry while they were up there – Skyler didn’t mention Henry reading LoTR out loud in full costume while we played Settlers of Catan :-D
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/eljaydub/5578081786/in/set-72157626276883047

    Lee Lau is correct, we VOC’ers are happy the hut is seeing use and helping us keep the zone non-motorized
    Glad you guys enjoyed the hut!

  8. Cam April 12th, 2011 2:11 pm

    @Lou,

    trip reports in canada should have metric stats :lol:

    nice work guys! one of my favourite zones!

  9. Skyler Mavor April 12th, 2011 7:32 pm

    Nice photos Lee, looks like you had a ton of fun as well.

    Cam, I agree. I’d prefer to switch to metric.

  10. Gregg Cronn April 13th, 2011 8:33 am

    It is odd to me that people would complain about trip reports when the real threat to the area is out of control heli drops by “locals”. I spent three days skiing in the Joffre Group last week and I counted five heli drops. The area is well known and has been for over twenty years. Large groups getting bumps to a high col in an established touring area is not cool in my “non-local” opinion.

    Spent a couple of post storm days with my buddy at Keith’s Hut and enjoyed fantastic skiing. Nice hanging out with Louie and Lee in the hut after an outstanding day on Matier. My buddies beautiful pictures are here:

    http://alankearneyphotography.blogspot.com/

    Cheers,

    Gregg Cronn

  11. Lee Wasilenko April 13th, 2011 9:57 am

    Alan got some great shots! The grizzly one is very cool. I was lucky enough to be at Keiths hut during the Supermoon event on a clear night and got some shots of the area here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/eljaydub/sets/72157626324163602/

  12. Lee Lau April 13th, 2011 10:45 am

    wow gregg – alan did get some bangers. LJ thx for your shots. Particularly like the effort into the self-shot moonlight one

  13. Mitch April 13th, 2011 7:04 pm

    Gregg, you mention a new development that is hitting the Joffre/Marriott areas. The areas are classified as non-mechanized but folks are taking flights in and getting dropped off for runs as well.

    In addition, the huts are being accessed by folks in helis and then leaving their garbage behind. This means more to pack out for the custodians and higher maintenance costs…not to mention “heli” ski tracks in a non-motorized area.

  14. Sharon Bader April 14th, 2011 11:46 am

    Why are people bitching about a popular area that is described in maps and guide books in a trip report on another area?

    Get a life. Everyone else, enjoy the snow.

  15. Zachary Winters September 26th, 2011 12:31 pm

    Ahhh revisiting this post makes me want to go back! Not sure if we’d ever score conditions that nice again though – oh to relive those moments…

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