Callaghan Country, Journeyman Lodge, Whistler BC


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 2, 2017      
Decent snow in the trees

January 2017 — decent snow in the trees.

Whistler’s Sea to Sky corridor is the land of skiing opportunity. While Whistler Blackcomb dominates headlines and crowds, it is also surrounded by ranges accessed by fewer people. One of these areas is the Callaghan Valley. Just south of Whistler, this range is blessed with more and lighter snow than surrounding regions (up to 50% more!) due to a slightly different weather flow. It was this characteristic that brought Brad Sills and a group of Whistler Journeyman to explore this area and ultimately build a hut to share this terrain. Their contribution to facilities in the area is Callaghan Country’s Journeyman Lodge.

Journeyman Lodge

Journeyman Lodge

As an introduction, the Callaghan area is the gateway to large ski tours and huge icefields (the Squamish-Cheakamus Divide and the Pemberton Icefield). Callaghan Country’s tenure is non-motorized and comprises 120 square kms of treed and alpine terrain on diverse aspects and elevation. Since the 80’s Brad and crew have also created 47km of groomed cross country trails accessed from the Lodge. These trails also afford easy access to wonderful terrain offering a variety of backcountry experiences. From skiing up to the Solitude Glacier or treed runs to pillow huck back to the valley; a lot of choices.

The easy access to backcountry terrain from the Lodge makes this a destination for all levels of backcountry skiers. Additionally there is unparalleled flexibility as you can stay at the Lodge one, two or as many nights as you like depending on your time constraints and sense of adventure. This is not a place to overlook when planning your next ski adventure.

Sharon, Lee and Brad

Sharon, Lee and Brad

Getting There

Callaghan Country’s base area is at Alexander Falls from where you can either ski the Journeyman Lodge or pay extra for a sled or snow cat so you’ll have time and energy to explore on the first day in. This ski-in is via groomed cross country trails so its an easy, if not long slog in. The shuttle to the lodge costs $120 which helps to offset the cost of grooming and operations. Even if you elect to ski in to the lodge all you’ll need with you is your daypack as your overnight duffle will be shuttled. We elected to take the snowmobile tow into Journeyman to maximize ski time.

Base area view

Base area view

We took the snow donkey shuttle option

We took the snow donkey shuttle option.

The Terrain

The Lodge itself is well appointed with pool table, dartboard, fireplaces and comfortable lounge chairs – however the terrain is the star. There are no less than nine separate zones surrounding Callaghan’s expansive 120 square kms of non-motorized terrain (see run maps here). Access begins at the Lodge’s doorstep as the xc ski trails and set tracks are right outside. In and of itself the XC trail network is massive, winding around lakes, valleys, glades and up and down various viewpoints.

During our trip we were limited by strong alpine winds that had valley temps (at 1375m) at -24 deg C which felt colder due to windchill in the alpine. However, we managed to check the ridgelines immediately south of the Lodge. These ridgelines stretch from Journeyman Peak west of the lodge all the way to the neighboring Solitude Glacier and represent a contiguous link of almost 8kms of north facing treed lines ranging from 300m to 600m shots all dropping back in the general direction of the Lodge.

In relation to the terrain’s diversity, and in recognition of how cold it was, we also spent a day touring across the valley from the Lodge towards sunny E facing slopes adjoining Hidden Peak and skiing slide paths into Ring Creek and the Ring Valley for a descent. There are options to easily access the Hidden Peak alpine terrain and enchain further alpine bowls to Callaghan Peak but driving alpine winds made that a challenge – another time!.

Checking out the run maps with Brad - the guy who's probably skied everything.

Checking out the run maps with Brad – the guy who’s probably skied everything.

Hanging out on the Solitude Glacier - picture from a different warmer trip.

Hanging out on the Solitude Glacier – picture from a different warmer trip.

Heading up Journeyman Peak. Not often one gets to go uphill in full puffy and Goretex. It was cold!

Heading up Journeyman Peak. Not often one gets to go uphill in full puffy and GoreTex. It was cold!

Heading down Journeyman Peak. Behind is Hidden Peak and the area we skied the second day.

Heading down Journeyman Peak. Behind is Hidden Peak and the area we skied the second day.

Looking back at the slope we skied towards Journeyman Ridge. We skied a route called FMG. See below for run pics.

Looking back at the slope we skied towards Journeyman Ridge. We skied a route called FMG. See below for run pics.

Some good snow in the alpine in the Hidden Peak area

Some good snow in the alpine in the Hidden Peak area.

Looking towards the Whistler valley from Hidden Peak - view looks SE

Looking towards the Whistler valley from Hidden Peak – view looks SE.

Some fine snow in the trees skiing slidepaths off Hidden Peak

Some fine snow in the trees skiing slidepaths off Hidden Peak.

The winds were blowing hard and cold on this trip so we didn't last long.

The winds were blowing hard and cold on this trip so we didn’t last long.

Enjoying the sun on this cold winter day

Enjoying the sun on this cold winter day

The Lodge

Journeyman Lodge is deceptively off-the-grid and serviced by snow-cat and snow-mobile. All power, heat and utilities are self-contained and there is (gasp) no Wifi. Rogers cell phones do get cell service here but other data users have to wander to ridgelines or some 600m from the lodge to get cell service. The Lodge itself is a step above the typical backcountry lodge; perhaps because all the builders were themselves trades or craft journeyman. The Lodge is large at 5000 sq ft and sleeps up to 24 people in eight private rooms.

Once at the Lodge you are assigned your rooms and given an overview of how things work. Of note there is running hot and cold water, interior flush toilets (a backcountry luxury!). You have choices of private rooms, large group suites or private suites for couples – there seems to be a wide variety of price points for all. There is also a sauna is a few minute walk from the Lodge. The creek is just below these stairs so after getting heated up you can cool down in the creek!

Meals are pretty darned good here. Dinners are amazing, lunches are hearty and packed. The breakfast is continental so a bit on the light side; we brought some extra breakfast wraps to fuel us for the day. Hot coffee and tea is always available. Appies are served fireside before dinner.

Outside the lodge

Outside the lodge.

Boot room.

Boot room.

Valerie putting out the apres.

Valerie putting out the apres.

commonarea

The common area where you can sit around and socialize were well appointed. There were plenty of blankets around too if you needed more warmth. The lodge is heated by a fireplace so on really cold nights the blankets were a nice option. Upper two pictures – main common area, Lower right picture – our bedroom, lower left picture – upstairs common area.

Dinner and breakfast

Dinner and breakfast.

Our hosts - Leah, Fabian and Valerie

Our hosts – Leah, Fabian and Valerie

(Callaghan Country supplied accommodations and food to Sharon and Lee, lodge owners and staff did not edit or have a say in the content of the article.)

Comments

8 Responses to “Callaghan Country, Journeyman Lodge, Whistler BC”

  1. Russell Thaw February 2nd, 2017 5:53 pm

    In your two you tube videos, “how to use Dynafit bindings”, U did NOT show the position of the heel binding when entering it with the boot for descending. (locking the heel of the boot in the binding). So, therefore, I will have to go to my ski shop to have them show me that !! Thanks for nothing !

    russ thaw
    south lake tahoe

    l(light bulbs are no good without the element inside) ! Duh !

  2. Lou Dawson 2 February 3rd, 2017 8:17 am

    Sorry about that Russell, hopefully the ski shop guys can help you out. Lou

  3. corvcycleguy February 8th, 2017 2:02 pm

    Lou, of all the comments you’d get, some folks just don’t know how good they have it. For what it’s worth, I’ve found that this site is a godsend, your contributors and of course yourself have provided, and fueled my evolution into backcountry skiing.

    Also to your contributors and as well as your self Lou, I only hope that this site can keep ticking, providing top notch information, insight, and musings… Can’t wait to plan a trip to Journeyman lodge.

  4. Fraser February 9th, 2017 6:31 pm

    Hey Lee

    With no cell reception was there any way to get updated weather/ avalanche information during your trip? Does the lodge communicate with Whistler to update clients on conditions? Thanks

  5. John Baldwin February 10th, 2017 10:12 am

    Hey Lee
    Nice article. We were at the lodge for 5 days later in January. You forgot to mention there was a 4m snowpack at treeline.
    Thanks
    John

  6. Lee Lau February 13th, 2017 2:08 pm

    Fraser

    One cell phone provider (Rogers fyi) can get receptionfrom the lodge The lodge custodians have a company Rogers phone so wx and conditions could get posted. They also have radio comms.

    If I really wanted email or cell there is actually Telus/Bell reception just 100m east of Journeyman Lodge a short skin away on a groomed xc ski track and also from ridgelines.

    Perfect for posting sunset blower pow instagrams

  7. Lee Lau February 13th, 2017 2:11 pm

    John

    You lucked out with new snow! Just went to Hidden Peak just north of Journeyman and probed 310cms at 1700m. I’d bet 4-5m depth now at 2000m.

    Trailbreaking 60cms of storm snow was a good workout. What a year we’re having

  8. Bruce Moffatt February 20th, 2017 7:00 pm

    Lee,
    We were planning a trip there this January then heard from several different reviews that there was quite a bit of motor noise at the lodge from hell overflights and nearby snowmobiling. You mention in the story several times they are in a motor free zone.
    Can you clarify or refute the reviews. Sounds like a great place but did not want to be backcountry skiing with helicopter fly overs.

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