By Ezra and Jacky
Going into this trip, the boys had already experienced a portion of what winter camping has to offer during their time in Manning Park. Even though we arrived at the fieldhouse at 6am, everyone was buzzing with energy, ready and eager to go. We all loaded the bus and headed out to Garibaldi provincial park, watching the sun rise and grace the city with a brief respite of warmth in this year’s cold winter. After approximately two hours on the bus, the
entire cohort was at the parking lot, divided into skiers and snowshoers. We left the trailhead at different times with the skiers going first as they had to go double the distance the snowshoers did.As we embarked on our new journey, we quickly realized that it was not as cold as most had originally thought. Some members of the group ended up hiking up in their t-shirts! As the skiers were traversing the backcountry to reach the Elfin Lake Hut, the snowshoers had already reached their campsite and had started to construct their snow caves. Needless to say, it was a long, arduous, and grueling task. Being stuck in the snow for hours, most of the group didn’t finish their caves until after sunset. They worked in the cold and dark for hours on end. The skiers finally arrived at the cabin after 11km of ski touring and, thankfully, beating a massive storm system that had moved into the area. Due to this
approaching storm, the decision was reached to not sleep in the caves the snowshoers had painstakingly built and instead were forced to seek emergency shelter in Red Heather Hut.
The two groups finally crossed paths again after what seemed like the longest day of their lives. The fabled snowshoers trekked through forests and snow-covered fields to reach Elfin Lake Cabin in almost a total white-out. Rain, sleet, and snow hailed down on them from every direction. They had no protection on the barren landscape of the alpine. The danger of avalanches present every gully and slope they traversed; it was at this moment that instructor James took out a ghastly abomination of a poncho as his last resort. Finally, they glimpsed the cabin in the distance. Relief washed over the group like the snowstorm around them: refuge at last. On the other hand, the ski group had been sitting comfortably in their warm and dry cabin, huddled around a table playing Risk.
We did our mini-lessons at the beginning of our third day. With all the chaos of travelling and setting up camp we hadn’t had the chance to do them yet. Afterwards both groups headed out for a couple hours of fun in the snow. The snowshoers went a little ways up the trail to a hill to do some extreme sledding. They also had the chance to have a brief lesson from James, their guide, on safe and unsafe terrain. The skiers went in a different direction to go hit the slopes and ski down some fresh, untouched pow. Going down was the easy part, coming back up was another matter. When both groups came back for lunch, the local weather report came in. There was going to be a brief respite in the storm in the area and the snowshoe group leaders decided to leave the hut that day so as to bypass the storm. The skiers, since they were a lot faster, decided to remain until the following day. The snowshoers made it back to Red Heather hut just before the sun set. They managed to complete their snow shelters before the daylight faded. The skiers, back at the Elfin Lake hut, slept outside in their quinzees. As the snowshoe group prepared to go to sleep, the last of the trip, they spent a moment looking at the striking night sky, a black canvas sprinkled with infinite constellations.
On our final day, both groups had a similar story. The snowshoers woke up in their snow shelters while the skiers in their quinzees. Since we hiked back to Red Heather Hut the day prior, our final trek was a lot shorter compared what the skiers had to go through. As soon as we saw the parking lot, we sprinted as hard as we could and arrived at approximately 12:15. On the other hand, the skiers were still making their way to Red Heather, which was an 100 meter incline. The boys who had the fortune of arriving early were all changed and dry when the skiers wearily reached the bus. This trip had been nothing short of extraordinary; it brought us closer together, like a brotherhood.