The Best Laid Plans – Downtown Creek
2900 metre peaks just off the Duffey Lake Road. Drivable logging roads to 1500 metres and 4km from the summit! Sounds too good to be true. Well basically it was. Jack and I had this great plan…there are a couple decent sized peaks, some of the highest in the south coast range, that look like worthy descents and had logging roads up to small lake at the foot of the mountains. We then dug up a trip report on Bivouac.com that described the area, Dowton Creek drainage, and how easy it was to drive up a good way up. Based on the fact that there's not much snow below 1500m this year we thought we'd give it a shot.
We plotted the waypoints from the route description into my GPS and we were off! We turned off the Duffey Lake road and started climbing the Downtown Creek logging road. 11km later we're at Branch 2, the intended turn off, and the road is covered in a about one foot of old snow. We gear up and start our arduous 3km, 100m climb. Everythings going great! We set up camp and head off into somewhat cloudy alpine to do some recon for our blue bird 1000m run tomorrow! As we approach the head of the valley we start to realize the mountains and elevations don't jive with the map. Uh oh. Jack asks me to check my GPS, somehow, we're now 6.2Km from the peak which is 2Km farther away from Peak 9200 where we left the car. But that's impossible, we followed the route description perfectly…oh wait the route description doesn't mention anything about the 2 peaks we're going for! Turns out we're in the wrong drainage. After some debate we decide to make the best of it and go a bit higher. The weather doesn't really improve so we decide to just gain the top of a moraine at approximately 2200m. By this point about 15cm of new snow has fallen, and a bit more has accumulated in wind loaded areas.
As I start my descent I decide to do a quick ski cut, sure enough 15cm of snow on top of soft spring crust rips right down the 100m slope I'm about to ski. Oh well, it's not that much snow and it's not that heavy I decide. So I drop in making a series mid size turns because the visibility is poor, but I don't want to go any slower or my slough will hit me. Jack follows making bigger and faster turns, I guess using my tracks for definition. The rest of the way down is spent feeling our way through the fog, scoping some short but steep couloirs and chutes coming down the surrounding ridges. Great skiing to be had here, for the adventurous and mellow skiers alike.
We return to base camp, light a roaring fire and dine in style with some papadums, curry and rice. Of course we're wishing all along we'd brought some wine. We get to bed early expecting blue skies and big descents tomorrow.
5:15am weather check. Socked in and snowing at a steady pace. I go back to bed. So much for big descents. A couple hours later I get up, it's still snowing. We decide to at least gain the ridge above the lake. We get there and the visibility is even worse than the day before. We ski back down a small gladed run, narrowly escaping our sloughs. Once back at camp we pack up, try to take comfort in the fact that it's nice area with a pretty creek and a nice camping spot. But basically we wanted a big descent and it didn't happen.
On the way back we took a couple hours to rally Jacks Volkswagen station wagon up several logging roads in preparation for another trip. There's lots of great logging roads to explore off Duffy lake road. One word of caution if try this, watch out for a guy named Mark driving an orange pick up rather slowly. Here's why. He waved us down and we chatted with him about skiing for a few minutes, he seemed odd but nice enough. Then he asked if we could point where we had been on our map. Seems innocent enough right? Except as he gets out of the car he has to zip up his pants, a common courtesy?!?!? Then when gets closer to the car we can smell vodka heavy on his breath… what's the name of the derranged canoe trip movie? You know the one wih Banjos. We escaped…good thing Jack brought the rally wagon.
The Downtown Creek is located about 1.5 hours north of Whistler, accessed by taking the Duffey Lake Road from Pemberton towards Lilloet.