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.
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.
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.
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 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.