Easter long weekend requires an adventure, it’s not every week that we get a four day weekend. Gili and I signed up for the trip to Brew hut organized by Philippe LeBillon a few weeks in advance. We were hoping for a nice weekend in which we’d skin up to Brew, enjoy some spring skiing and warm up in the hut at night. As usual nothing really worked out as planned, especially when a trip to Brew is involved.
When a group of us gathered in the clubroom on the Wednesday before the trip, Philippe opened by saying that the weather didn’t look too good and maybe we should reconsider the trip. The enthusiastic bunch of people that came to the meeting had already started organizing rides and food groups, so it didn’t look like anyone was considering a change of plans. Philippe announced that he was only planning to go up for one night, so as not to miss the traditional Easter Egg Hunt with his daughters, and a few others also wanted to go up for only two days. The rest decided to go up for three days and to relax in the city on Easter Monday.
Throughout the winter I suffered from painful blisters, since the New Year’s trip to Phelix hut on which I wore boots that were two sizes too big. On the next trip, I tried another pair of boots, but they were way too tight. A few days before the Easter trip to Brew, I bought a used pair on Craigslist. I didn’t have time to try them out before the trip and I was praying that I’d manage to get to the hut without too much pain. Surprisingly, on the trip it felt like the boots were made especially for me and I didn’t suffer from any blisters, unlike some other unlucky people.
Already when we left Vancouver early Friday morning it seemed like the weather was going to be interesting. It was raining hard and visibility was low even in the city. We later found out that the Lions Gate Bridge was closed for part of that day because of strong winds. We met up in Tim Horton’s in Squamish for the usual faffing and then drove up towards the trailhead. The snowline was just above the cat skiing operation and we weren’t able to drive much farther. Roland and Philippe managed to drive a bit more and then returned to pick up the 2wd passengers. Our group “lost” two people when Phil Tomlinson and Vicky Alfred discovered that they had forgotten their skins in Vancouver… They decided to drive back and come up by themselves the next day. One of the new guys, Daniel, decided to carry his snowboard up to Brew even though some people advised him it wasn’t the best idea. Also, we later found out that he was wearing mostly cotton.
The long slog up the logging road began and it was snowing all the time. As the day progressed it also became very windy and wet. We were happy to finally reach the forest, but we knew we still had a long way ahead. Progress was very slow and visibility became worse. It’s known that the Brew hut is somewhat difficult to find even in normal conditions, so it’s much worse in a whiteout. Gili, Doris Leong and Avery Gottfried took turns breaking trail. As we passed the lake the route finding became trickier. However, with the help of the map and his GPS, Gili had everything under control, until his map blew away in the wind… Luckily he had another one.
Daniel was having a hard time, it was very wet and windy and as mentioned he was wearing cotton. He started to shiver and we knew we must get to the hut soon, before things get worse. Some of the guys helped him with his snowboard, although by this point carrying the snowboard up seemed like a ridiculous idea. Every now and then Daniel lay down in the snow to rest, which was not a good sign. I was right behind Gili when he shouted “we reached the hut!” We were less than ten meters away from the hut and it was still hard to see it. We passed the good news to the end of the line, and James Murphy kindly showed people the right way.
As soon as we arrived to the hut Chris Petrus and Len Goff took care of Daniel. They made him take off all his wet clothes and Len offered his sleeping bag to keep Daniel warm. He was on the verge of hypothermia and even an hour longer outside could have been very bad for him. It was already 6:00pm by the time the last person arrived, and not long after that everyone was already busy cooking dinner. We were all hungry after this long day. I tried to go to the outhouse but failed to find it. The wind was blowing so hard that as soon as I got out of the hut I couldn’t see anything, even though I put on my ski goggles. Eventually, we decided to go to the outhouse in pairs, both to make sure we’d find the way, and also so that no one would get buried inside. It was snowing so hard that by the time one finished his business the other person had to shovel the snow away from the door…
The hut was warm and cozy and we were all happy to be indoors in this storm. Olivier Thommen, the Swiss guy, carried a bottle of white wine and a kilo of cheese and made the most incredible cheese fondue. In the middle of dinner Daniel woke up and seemed a bit livelier. Hopefully he and the rest of us learned a few important lessons, such as not to carry a snowboard on your first trip and more importantly that “cotton kills”. About 16 of us snuggled together upstairs for a solid good night’s sleep while Roland and Daniel slept on the lower level.
In the morning the storm hadn’t died down yet. We had a long breakfast and the two-day group started to prepare for their trip down. I was happy we didn’t leave that day, even though it seemed like we wouldn’t get to ski much either. After the group left it became a bit roomier, but we were still waiting for Phil and Vicky to arrive. Doris managed to communicate with them using text messages and it sounded like even the logging road was in white out conditions. A few hours later we got another message saying that they were “lost on the logging road” – they had skinned up the wrong logging road for a good few kilometers. Eventually they turned around and wisely decided not to try to make it to Brew.
A group of us got bored at the hut and decided to try and ski anyway. Visibility was close to zero, but it didn’t stop us. The skiing was pretty horrible, the snow was wind affected and the fact that we couldn’t see anything didn’t help. Laura Davies fell off a windlip, and on the way back Gili managed to fall in the exact same spot, even though he had just warned us about it. One run was more than enough for me, but Gili, Klara Sedlacek and James went for another run. Then we did a few beacon searches and tried to kill time. In the late afternoon Philip Ketterer suggested that we’d play “Palermo”, a game named after the famous Mafia town in Italy. We all snuggled upstairs sitting in a circle and listening to the plot. In this game “a murder” was committed and we were supposed to solve the mystery. It was very amusing, especially since Stan Sedlacek was always randomly chosen as the murderer. Then it was time for dinner again and off to bed.
The next morning it seemed that there was a slight improvement in the weather. A group of people decided to head straight to the cars, while a bunch of us decided to go skiing and then head back. The visibility was much better and the fresh fluffy powder was heavenly. We skied a few runs and headed back to the hut for a quick lunch. We had to hurry up because the drivers/passengers were in different groups. We split up from James and Philip who wanted to hurry up to meet up with Roland, and from Klara and Stan who wanted to take their time in the forest with their split boards. We met up with James and Philip at the turn off to the logging road where Philip had crashed into a humungous snowman, which was built by the previous group. It was Philip’s first backcountry skiing trip and he couldn’t stop even after he had noticed the snowman…
We met up with everyone else and reorganized the cars since Doris and Avery came up with Phil and Vicky and now needed a different ride to Vancouver. They also didn’t have their shoes since they left them in Vicky’s car… All in all in it was an excellent trip and one of the best skiing trips I’ve ever been on. Having fun is not always related to perfect conditions or great views. It is sometimes about adventures or misadventures, it’s about meeting great people who become your closest friends, eating cheese fondue in a storm and playing creative games to pass time while it’s snowing outside and we are all warm and cozy inside the hut.