Attack of the Ski Bug
The trip plan seemed innocent and straightforward, but little did we know there was a mischievous critter awaiting us. Seldom spoken of, the mysterious goddess known as the Backcountry Bug had awoken for the winter, and was lurking in every corner of BC's backcountry. Legend has it the Backcountry Bug preys on unsuspecting ski-touring rookies who ignorantly plan to do only one or two backcountry trips per season. Her exclusive mission is to convert every backcountry slacker into full-on enthusiasts, and she doesn't give up easily. We would no doubt encounter her toils on our tour up Cerise Creek to Keith's Hut and the surrounding peaks of Mount Joffre, Mattier, and Vantage, just north of Pemberton, BC.
Before my trip even started, the Bug was brewing a devilish plan to fulfill her mission. Chris and Scott had started the Cerise Creek trip a day early, only to turn back when Chris' day-old Alpine Trekkers called it quits and broke. Rough start.
One day and a Trekker replacement later, Chris and Scott joined Andre and I for another shot at the trip to Joffre. But as early as our arrival in the parking lot, the Bug was back. She whispered some words into my head, and I unknowingly passed them on to one of my touring buddies; "Dude, you brought Securafixes? Those things suck!" But Andre defended his trusty binding adaptors, and took no heed of the Bug's warning. Sure enough, we gear up and start our skin up to the hut, only to watch Andre embarrass himself like a gorbie who got his Nude Ski Day dates mixed up. Before we've covered any ground, the Bug sneaks out from the trees and kicks his securafixes right out from under him. Wham – his face is eating snow with a bag full of gear on top of him to rub it in. Every few hundred meters the Bug jumps out and spanks Andre again, making him now look like a first-timer at the annual Old-Folks Ski Day.
Hmmm, the Trekker's and now the Securafixes… coincidence? I think not. That was our first clue that the Bug wanted us to go buy real touring bindings or go home. But we didn't take the hint, and kept plugging up to the hut. And that's where the Bug kicked it up a notch.
We arrived at Keith's Hut, the base of our would-be casual backcountry excursion, only to find a range of epic peaks as far the eye could see, each loaded with tasty lookin' couloirs, meaty cliff bands, 55 degree faces, and hairy doglotions. Pretty much any freeskiers dream come true, short of a heli to take us their. Casual backcountry trip; what the hell were we thinking? That decision was going to haunt me forever.
But alas, we maintained our casual tempo, taking a good hour or so to eat lunch at the hut. When we finally got our acts together, there was still time to follow a skin track up the Anniversary glacier. Simple right? But we still hadn't clued into the Bug's hints. Sure enough, less than an hour passed before Chris was shouting bitter words at his newly broken Trekker and again turning back for the cabin. His first backcountry trip had clearly turned into a reality-TV infomercial for touring bindings, and yes, he took the hint. Bug: 1, Skiers: 0!
The three survivors kept oozing upwards at our be-nice-to-the-securafixes pace, only to get nowhere near the top of Anniversary Glacier. We settled for turns down the bottom half instead, and could only imagine how wicked the run from the top would have been. We should have guessed this was all part of the Bug's recipe of tomfoolery. According to her plan, we spent the whole night dreaming about the juicy powder atop the glacier.
When the sun rose, we didn't. Instead we lay chilled in our tents while the Bug quietly mocked us for not bringing warmer clothes and sleeping bags. Just another way of telling us to prepare for real backcountry trips or stay home. But there aren't sick peaks like Vantage and Mattier at home, so we finally joined the world of the living and starting gearing up. Calling our bluff, the Bug sat back and chuckled as she watched us take our sweet-ass time at breakfast and end up as the last one?s out of the hut at 11:00 am–another rough start.
This time Vantage Peak was calling our names, so we busted a move from the hut to the col between Mattier and Vantage, only for the Bug to strike again! When we reached the col, the Bug called her buddies up in the sky, and the clouds made way for a beautiful, bluebird afternoon. Our jaws dropped to the snow and we stood there like drooling statues checking out the unfathomable number of lines we wanted to ski. More coffin-chutes, steep hanging faces, and endless straight lines stretching out of sight. This spectacle distracted us for so long that our gung-ho pace to Vantage Peak faded quickly. When we finally got back in gear, it wasn't long before we realized we'd been hosed. We needed about three hours of day light after our descent to pack up camp and get back to the car, and that didn't leave time to bag a peak. Instead we cruised down the lower west face and scored only a taster of what the freshies would be like down the entire North Face.
After packing up shop, a fun jedi-knight ski-out through the trees was the end of our casual backcountry teaser.
Not until that night did everyone finally realize that we'd been sandbagged; bitten personally by the legendary Backcountry Bug. And we knew she wasn't finished yet. True to her mission, she labored all through the night, filling our minds with dreams of many return trips to Cerise Creek, epic descents on Joffre, endless powder turns down Vantage, week long trips, early mornings, touring bindings, again, and again. We wanted it all. But from then on we'd go with touring bindings, warm bags and more time. And we'd go again and again, just because that naughty critter from the woods always has her way.