British Columbia Hut Trip - with Jamesa Hampton

British Columbia Hut Trip - with Jamesa Hampton

When my good friend Nick Pascoe let me know that he'd just dropped in on a 2011 Subaru Outback in Squamish, we immediately got to planning it's maiden voyage. A trip up the Duffy Pass ("up the Duff" as we like to call it) boasts an array of classic backcountry huts with all the typical Canadian goodness. We set off dreaming of deep pow, pillow lines and swigs of fireball in the cosy hut.

We laughed our way driving past Whistler with the crowds spilling out onto the main road thinking of all the freshies that we'll be getting with no one to snake our lines. Unfortunately, our laughs didn't last for long when Pascoe's dash lit up with all sorts of engine warnings. We pulled over and walked around kicking tyres, waiting for the engine to cool off, still pretty unsure of what might be causing the issue. After a few curses were sent towards the name of the seller, we decided to limp on to the last (but steepest) part of the drive up the Duff. It didn't take long to realise that the steep road was too much for this beast of a vehicle and our pillow skiing dreams were slipping away. Another session of tyre kicking and me stating "Pascoe, I think you've bought a lemon mate" was the final straw and we pulled the pin, eventually making it back to Squamish without the car completely exploding.

As any good friends would do, we left Pascoe to go and sort out his car and rounded up a crew of fresh troops consisting of Harry Cookson, Craig Murray, Jules Bellot and myself to finish what we had started. With the inside knowledge that there are no sleeping mats in these huts, we stopped in at Walmart to find the only sleeping mats available were kids yoga mats. Naturally, we cleared them out, with an array of Incredible Hulk, Spider-man and Frozen mats.

Other than running about 5 hours behind schedule, this drive was much more successful and we cruised up the Duff to arrive in the carpark around 5.30pm, just as the sun was setting. We loaded up our packs, turned on the head torches and got moving towards Keith's hut. The crux of the hike in appears within five minutes of leaving the carpark where there is a river crossing bridged by an ice covered felled tree. This is a real test to see who can walk properly in ski boots and luckily we made it across with no incidents. As it was a low snow year, the walk in was quite the scramble with the skis coming off and on a countless number of times.

We eventually made it to the hut and walked in to what looked like something out of a Home Alone movie. There was a full contingent of French Canadians, a large dog, hamocks set up and a cranking fire. We got some weird looks as we rolled out our brand new sleeping mats that only spanned half the length of our bodies and parked up in the loft, directly above the fire. We definitely didn't need the winter sleeping bags as the loft turned into a sauna overnight. Those who had sleeping bag liners chose to just sleep in them while Harry ended up with the extra warmth of the dog next to him overnight (we still don't know how it got up into the loft).

With hardly any snow over the previous two weeks, we had pretty low expectations, which were not exceeded on the first day as we cut a few laps near the hut. The light was flat and the snow was crusty so we opted to build a snow cave for our afternoon entertainment.

As the French Canadians were preparing their Fondue and Wine for the evening, we pulled out our packets of Mi Goreng noodles, only to find that these Canadian huts aren't as well equipped as the DOC huts we're used to in New Zealand. There were no extra appliances or cutlery, so we resorted to cooking our Mi Goreng's one at a time in the single jetboil we had for our group.

Luckily Jules could speak French and spent the evening eavesdropping on the Canadians and heard some rumours of better snow high up. This gave us the motivation we needed and we opted for an alpine start to try get up higher onto the glacier. The Canadians probably thought they were having fondue fuelled cheese dreams as we scrambled around in the dark, tripping over people, waking up the dog and giggling our way out of the hut. We retraced our steps from the previous day and then punched on higher and made it up to the glacier in time to watch the sunrise. The sun revealed a mix of high consequence couloirs, some mini golf lines and some fun lower angle stuff.

Jules' eavesdropping came to fruition with some cold pow preserved by the cold temperatures up on the glacier, but the higher lines appearing a bit wind stripped. We ticked off some minigolf lines and this time were not let down by the conditions. A few cheers and shouts were called out as we reminded ourselves how it felt to get a face shot.

After a couple of runs we found that the temperature had dropped to about -20°, which meant it didn't take long for the sweat to cool off and we couldn't stop for long. We smashed a couple of tooth breaking, frozen cliff bars and headed up for one more run. We lined up at the top, intending to "acid drop" our way in, which involved a decent leap to clear the wind scoop below. Craig and I made it over and enjoyed the party lap down onto the glacier, while Harry came up short, double ejected and had to climb back up to the windscoop to collect his skis. He still got a good run down, even though we gave him a fair amount of stick at the bottom.

Feeling satisfied, it was time to head back to the hut to defrost the fingers and toes by the fire. We smashed our last Mi Goreng's, rolled up the kids sleeping mats and got on our way back to the car. Having walked up in the dark, we hadn't quite appreciated the beauty of the valley until the way out.

A recent landslide had drastically changed the landscape, giving it more of a Kiwi riverbed style walk. Large snow capped peaks and glaciers spanned out on either side of the valley and we joked that it reminded us of a poor mans Southern Alps. With tired legs, but big smiles we made it back over the icy river crossing and had a good old fashion gear explosion into the waiting vehicle. Mishaps included, we still called it a successful trip and we made it home to find that Pascoe still hadn't sorted out his car...