It is always nice to go back to the same place in different seasons. When we hiked to Mt. Rohr in early September, the forest was colored by shades of green and the lakes were deep blue. We returned in early spring, this time with our skis. Everything around us was white, of course, including the lakes.
Last winter was rough for backcountry skiing, and it was the first season that I actually got a bit into it. Unfortunately, most trips included low snow conditions, icy slopes and in several cases we had to carry our skis instead of using them. However, we heard that conditions in the Duffy Lake Road area were good, so in the first weekend of April, Gili Rosenberg and I headed there along with our friend Warrick Whitehead from Vancouver Island.
Being able to sleep from the moment we leave the house till we reach the trail head really makes distances look short. When Gili parked about three hours after we left home, I was still deep in sleep, dreaming sweet dreams.
Soon we started making our way up in the forest. The first part was quick, but after lunch the terrain became steep and our progress was slow. When we arrived to the first lake, also known as Rohr Lake, Warrick suggested stopping for the night, even though we still had a few more hours of sun light. Gili was a bit disappointed, he hoped we’d continue farther and get to ski a bit that day. But we were all tired and it was nice to eat dinner when there was still some light outside, and to get into our sleeping bags early.
The night was long, but not terribly cold and we woke up to another sunny morning. We set out towards the summit of Mt. Rohr and during breakfast tried to think of the best route. Our progress was good and shortly we reached the second lake and then made our way slowly to the summit. When we were there in summer this terrain was a boulder field and we hopped from one rock to another. I had to admit that it was easier on snow than rock hopping for a long while.
Once we gained the ridge, it was very windy. We stopped, looked at the maps and considered turning around. We weren’t sure how far we were from the summit, but Gili pushed us to continue, of course, and it was only about 20 minutes later that we were on the summit of Mt. Rohr. The views from there were magnificent, and it was also very different from what we saw in summer. Unfortunately, with all the snow it was impossible to find the summit register. We admired the views of Joffre and Matier and later that day we discovered that there was a huge avalanche there not long after we admired those beautiful mountains.
Then, the real fun began, it was time to ski down. I was nervous because of previous experiences with backcountry skiing, but it was nothing like other times. The snow was soft, there was plenty of powder and open slopes, and it was the best backcountry skiing I had ever had. I was a bit disappointed that we were back in our camp so quickly. We had lunch, packed up and started making our way down.
We took a different route to try to avoid the steep section in the forest, but found ourselves facing even steeper terrain, but with less trees. I even caused a small avalanche, but luckily nothing serious happened. We took our time, keeping distance from one another and breathed a sigh of relief once we were done with the steep part. Now, all we had to do was make our way down through the thick forest, battling the sticky snow. We made it down in one piece and got back to the car just after 6:00pm. We drove straight to Horseshoe Bay and Warrick managed to catch the 9:00 o’clock ferry to Nanaimo while we headed back to the city. I was happy I gave backcountry skiing another chance before the season ended, and had an opportunity to ski powder, this time with no ice and no rocks.