Keith’s Hut

We did this trip in February 2014 but, for very good reasons I don’t want to discuss, had to delay posting this until now.

A few years ago, we heli’ed up to Keith’s Hut only to find that it was full, and that the heli was unwelcome. We decided to repeat the trip, this time on snowshoes for me and up the traditional winter route.

As I’ve been doing recently, here are the resources:

We set out early from the parking (just off the highway, probably space for 15-20 cars) and the forest section at the start was narrow and tricky. The elevation was gradual but present, and continued as we started to open up into the meadows. Eventually we were deep in the valley before it opens up into a very large bowl. You go to your right (the Eastern side) and make your way up through another wood then loop round into the hut.

Sounds easy? It’s not that easy when you can see, hear and know of all the avalanche risks. We went up on a moderate risk day but it soon became clear that slopes were slipping due to heavy wet snow. We took a conservative, planned approach and were all in possession of avalanche safety gear (all but one person had AST1 and that person was drilled on what to do). Unfortunately it looks like I’ve lost it now, but the other skiers and I were mapping out the avalanches on Backcountry Navigator. I won’t soon forget hearing those rumbles down the mountain.

Anyway, we pitched up at the cozy hut with solar powered lights, an out house and a wood stove. The upstairs is ladder accessed but I chose to stay downstairs for the night, reading a book on my phone (yes this is perfectly possible to do).

The next morning we headed down. The avalanche conditions were much worse. Woomphfing sounds under our feet were making it clear that (what I believe) was an early evening weak frozen surface layer covered in heavy wet snow. This promptly collapsed under us and we had many, many sink-ins that we needed our shovels to get out of.

Pleased to see the cars again!

Brew Hut

This is part of my catch-up writing, so this story is from March 2013.

Browsing VOC Wiki one day I found the list of huts in the area and Brew Hut near Squamish caught my eye. None of us had ever done this and we needed a good uphill destination in preparation for Chilkoot in July (more on that in some later posts).

Planning took a couple of weeks of reading trail reports and the wiki page, plus getting people organised etc. We decided all snowshoes for this, and full gear including tents had to come up. Jesse the black lab could join us too as the area wasn’t restricted for this! Avalanche Safety Equipment rule was enforced.

So we headed out from the Powder Mountain Catskiing shed on foot. The first 1km was dirt road but then we switched to snow and therefore snowshoes. The area is very popular with sledders (aka snowmobile users) and we could hear them buzzing along. A few had to be slowed down with hand signals as they were approaching far to fast (but not all I point out).

The first 8km or so is fairly uneventful forest service road into the back country, but the views are great! Better still was Hannah’s home made beef jerky! She bought a dehydrator a while ago. After a long way you’ll see a small sign for the R200 road turnoff, which is actually just after the road as you approach. Keep your eyes on the trees for the sign (photo below) and look out for the long sweeping road joining the FSR and going uphill.

Then you’re into undulating snowfields, not entirely clear where to go here (needs a few more markers if I’m honest). Eventually you enter the trees then come to a somewhat narrow gully (we think this called the draw) you must make your way up (assess avalanche risk before proceeding). Then it’s a few kilometres of tree hiking, all uphill or traversing slopes. You rise out eventually.

The final leg is above the treeline and crossing a few glacial bowls up to the hut. By this point my hip (which I would be later told was inflamed around the socket) was really hurting. More frequent breaks were needed.

You won’t see Brew Hut until you’re almost on top of it, so trust your map. Looping round a ridge you’ll find it and be glad you made it as it’s a great hut! We dug out the wood shed and found some wood was still there, so we got the fire going and waited for the touring parties that had no doubt followed us to arrive. Made a few friends (more Brits, I wasn’t the only one with an accent).

Thinking ahead, we had decided on mulled wine as a luxury item to haul up there! Hannah provided the spices (from her epicure party contacts) and we all carried wine up. Jesse by this point was passed out on a mat behind the fire warming up.

We still had phone reception up there! I had brought my Anker Astro 3E External Battery too charge phones with too. Pretty good being able to give everyone’s phone a boost up there so we could let people know we had made it and send out a few photos of our trip in advance 😛 Yes, I post from the mountain!

Got some sleep, unfortunately I sleep talk so unconsciously cried for help in the night.

Departing the next day, the experience was somewhat tarnished by a skier who really needs to sort out his attitude to sharing huts and dogs, and certainly mind how he speaks to other people. Good news is he is one isolated person in a great number of friendly people who know how to use the backcountry with others in a friendly way.

We headed down, my hip a lot better on the descent, and we moved a lot quicker (took us about 3.5hrs rather than the 8 or 9 it had to do the same 14km the day before). Weather not as good so not as many photos.

Jesse was absolutely exhausted when we got back. I don’t think I had drank enough water either so had a headache.

A great trip and thoroughly recommended!

Thanks and acknowledgements for this post and trip:

Red Heather

I’ve got a backlog of trip reports that I need to catch up on, this one is from December 2012

Winter had arrived and like all good winters, you get your snowshoes out and continue hiking, no stopping, not for snow, not for cold, yes for avalanche danger and not for newly diagnosed exercise induced asthma on my part, nor for the cold I had. The group decided we needed a weekend away at Red Heather Hut in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Red Heather is unique because you cannot camp there in summer, bear activity is too high so (at the time of writing) it was not permitted by the Park Board. The hut too is only a warming hut, not a sleeping hut. Seeing as we usually like to sleep outside, that’s not a problem for us, so off we went.

The drive up was packed snow, I was appreciating my new Nokian WRG2 Tyres on the Impreza. A Ford Explorer up ahead was sliding all over, and when we got to the car park, we saw several pickups sliding into other parked cars. Squamish SAR were up there too, doing safety education and alerting us that the avalanche danger had increased (we all had beacons, probes and shovels). Some free whistles later, we were off.

The first part was a straight uphill slog as it always is, lots of switchbacks on the FSR. I must admit, I was feeling the chesty cold and the asthma. Salubutemol helped but I found myself somewhat grumpy frankly. My pack was cutting into my shoulders and I wished I was touring.

I’ll be honest, this was a slog up. The road isn’t that interesting, aside from the occasional spectacular view, but worth doing for the end result. Once you get out into the trees and snowy meadows, you feel more yourself.

We arrived at the warming hut and proceeded to warm up. Then it was tenting time. We flattened areas of snow ( which takes a lot longer than you think) and while I was doing it I noticed my foot had gotten stuck. I shook it loose and continued.

A few minutes later… where the hell is my snowshoe?

I had been wondering around with just one snowshoe the entire time. Out comes the avalanche probe and shovel, and me and Harini (thanks Harini!) searched for almost an hour for it! In the cold. It was buried just below the surface but damn hard to find.

That night we befriended a few people who gave us some rather good mulled wine and then played Hearts, taught to us by Mark, most of the evening. Slept heavy.

The weather was better for the hike down so the two on skis went off touring and the snowshoers. Better weather so a few more photos, we could see over Squamish. Soon we were in the cars (which miraculously hadn’t been hit by another sliding car while we were away).

Great trip! Gear worked like a champ apart from my (aging) backpack.