Years ago when Murray started backcountry skiing I remember saying that I would never go into the wilds in the winter. Too dangerous. Too scary.
On Sunday, as I was sitting in the trees all by myself waiting for Murray to take his couple of runs down the cut block below the lodge, I realized I was sitting in the wilderness, in the winter and I was not scared. It was peaceful, beautiful, comfortable.
How things change.
Today is Tuesday and the snow quality has changed for the worse. It is too warm, rain was even falling earlier today.
We decide to walk to South Cariboo Pass. Not a lot of elevation change and it should be relatively safe. B, Murray and I start out along the same track we went on our first day. The snow is wet – pig snot, as they say – and Murray is hoping the sun will come out and soften up the top couple of inches and be skiable.
As we trek further from the lodge towards the pass, we keep an eye on what is above us looking for cornices that might let loose, or possible terrain that might slide. We walk across these slopes 50 feet apart. Murray tells me if some snow lets loose in my path, to turn downhill and go straight down and don’t stop. He also tells me if it is in his path to not take my eyes off him.
Okay, NOW it is scary. Murray and B keep discussing the conditions and the plan and I do feel confident in what they decide.
J, A, N and K catch up to us and we collectively decide to stop for lunch at a grouping of trees that are in good condition, telling us that they have not been hit by an avalanche in a long long time.
The view is stunning. The top edge of the mountain range opposite us creates a stark line across the sky. This is why we are up here. The scenery, the camaraderie.
Four of us decide to turn back and three decide to carry on to the pass. The snow is wet and slow but it is faster to ski than to walk skinned up, so we stow our skins and K and A set a perfect gentle slope for B and me on the way down. We get to the last couple of big rollers that lead to the lodge and K and A point their skis straight down and go swooshing down. B takes me down in a large zig zag pattern. I am so lucky to have B with me, he knows what a beginner can (and wants) to do.
Murray, J and N turn around before the pass as the conditions get worse. They reach the lodge just after we do.
We create snow chairs outside, sit for Cokes and beers enjoying our last day and the view up at Sol Mountain. The experienced skiers in our group have had an excellent trip and are sure they will return here. The terrain is varied and there are so many choices in direction to go.
The beginner skier (me) enjoyed most of the skiing, but the trekking was hard work. K explains to me that it took awhile for him to like the trekking part so I should keep doing it because I will get better and therefore will enjoy it more. I would return, scary and not so scary parts included, to ski the terrain we went across today. It’s been a long time coming but, I’m in for next year at Sol Mountain.