Driving out of Vancouver, we had yet to decide where we’d be skiing that day, despite over thirty emails that had gone back and forth between us the previous week. The weather was unseasonably warm and rainy, so we weren’t expecting good snow. Our original plan was my suggestion to climb some an esoteric peak in Manning, Mount Forddred (I liked the name). This was shot down after a short discussion, due to the low snow conditions. Our backup plan was also discarded when we drove past it and again noticed a lack of snow on the approach. We were left with our default trip, Zoa Peak.
Don’t get me wrong: Zoa is very nice. But it can be boring to go back to the same places again and again. While staring at Baldwin’s Coquihalla map, we noticed a nice touring loop involving an ascent of Zoa and decided that would be a good plan for the day. We parked our car at the Falls Lake exit, and when I got out of the car I almost fell over since the road was so slippery. Putting down the skis on the snow by the car, they didn’t sink in at all – the snow was hard, typical of spring skiing, not mid winter in the Coast Mountains… Climate change strikes again.
The access to Zoa is very mellow, and involves skinning up a logging road to the highest point, and then following a wide ridge through medium dense forest. Marcin and I quickly stripped down to t-shirts – it was just above freezing, a warm day. When we got to the top of the false peak, we were engulfed by clouds, and skied down with apprehensive looks on our faces. The snow was hard, booby trapped with soft patches that threw us off balance. From the bottom we skinned up to the true summit of Zoa. Then the clouds lifted and the views opened up. We could see a long line of alpine peaks, and a weird horizontal blue patch of sky that looked like it had been painted on the clouds.
At the summit we had a snack, took photos, and debated what to do. We decided to go for the loop after all, and dropped down a steep but fun section through trees and then open forest, later gaining a desolate alpine ridge. The clouds surrounded us again and a steep drop greeted us on both sides. We skied through stunted trees, struggling to survive in this harsh desolate place.
We skied down into a small valley and weaved our way in between huge boulders. On and on, through the dense trees and across a creek or two, one of which I dubbed “The Creek of Death”, for unknown reasons, but the name stuck. Finally we skied out to the eerily blue Falls Lake. Most lakes in winter in our area are not too interesting, they just look like a flat snow football field, but this lake was solid blue ice, very beautiful but also slippery to skin across.
When we reached the car, I felt like we had completed an adventure, not “just another trip to Zoa”. Perhaps it was that we had traveled through terrain we had never been on before, committing ourselves to a route we had only seen on paper. We didn’t know for sure if the route would “go”, especially when combined with mediocre visibility and low snow coverage. The last two are usually considered negative, but on this trip they just seemed like: “mysterious terrain” and an “interesting maze of boulders and dense trees”… It’s all a question of perspective.