My girlfriend Dana and I had been toying with the idea of winter camping for a while. She went with her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, but it never quite materialized for the two of us. When she suggested a trip to the backcountry hut at Egypt Lake for Easter I was in. Dana is an organizing goddess. She sorted backcountry passes, and various logistics for nine people over the March long weekend.
I had met most of the people before (not all), but Dana was the only person I knew well. When the hike started with the questions “Would you rather not be able to tell babies from muffins or change gender every time you sneeze?” I knew we would be in for a fun weekend. Having six lawyers or almost lawyers also turned the question into a heated debate about whether the question was about changing body parts (sex) or gender while retaining your existing body parts. Further, which of those would you rather.
We started off on a not too difficult trail at the Sunshine parking lot and I cursed myself for packing my heavy snowshoes, when all I needed were my microspikes. As we got closer and closer to the pass, and started sinking in past our knees, I was glad to take my MSR Lightning Ascents off my pack and swap out my Kahtoola Microspikes.
We were misled by some snowboarding tracks, but realized they were headed in the wrong direction and corrected. Our estimated time of 4 hours for our 12.4km hike took us close to 6, and we had completed close to 14km.
A few of us had sad, dehydrated food. The rest of the group had carried in EVERYTHING. Their food was fresh and delicious. I scavenged for leftovers. That being said, I hadn’t been tired when we got to the hut, and wouldn’t be willing to carry a 40+lb bag in for the benefit of fresh food.
I got to test of my brand new Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm (thanks Dad!). It was thicker and more comfortable than everyone else’s sleeping pads, and a massive step up from my old Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite. I can’t attest to the warmth ratio as we were sleeping in a hut with bunks and a wood stove.
We had two unexpected guests – the snowboarders who had started to lead us astray. We suggested they stay the night and dry out their wet clothing by the stove. They were friendly enough, but not the most courteous of guests. They took the front two rows of clotheslines by the fire, and spread out the rest of their gear over one table in the hut… the nine of us made do with the second table. While we certainly weren’t going to turn them out in the dark in the back country… a little awareness of your surroundings goes a long way in a small space.
Day 2 started with a hike to Egpyt Lake for 8 of us, and an attempt to hike to Talc Lake. Two of the boys who hadn’t brought snowshoes turned around fairly early, as they were sinking deeply into the snow. We weren’t able to reach Talc Lake due to the avalanche risk of a slope. 4 of us turned back their. Dana and her roommate decided to go the extra kilometre or so to Red Earth Pass.
When we got back to the hut we were in for a surprise. Those who had turned back early had built a mock “Helm’s Deep” (an ongoing joke was that the nine of us were the Fellowship of the Ring… I was Sam). This was the most incredible snow fort I had ever seen. One of the couples had brought up easter eggs and arranged a hunt in and around the fort. In a cross over of genres we were told “May the Odds be Ever in Your Favour” and set loose – screaming and running around.
THIS FORT HAD A MOAT!!!!
The final night was again filled with scavenged food, communal dish clean up, an intense 90s sing along, and a lot of laughter. None of us wanted to go home in the morning… especially since the first 3km or so were uphill to the pass.
We left through the correct route, early in the morning. The snow hadn’t started to melt yet and was crunchier for those without snowshoes. We hit Healy Pass and there was general wonder at how quickly we had arrived.
The total time out was around 3 hours and 40 minutes, I believe. I’d be happy to take any of these people into the backcountry with me again.
With the pristine snow everywhere the hike was just so untouched. I couldn’t believe that we had arrived there just by walking. One foot in front of the other, that’s it, for a couple of hours and suddenly you have this incredible beauty surrounding you.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm
Marmot Cloudbreak 20
Primus Litech Trek Kettle Pot
Primus Classic Trail LPG
Sea-To-Summit Long Handled Spork
Black Diamond Headlamp
Black Diamond Trekking Poles
Source 3L Wide Mouth Hydration Pack
Bear Grylls Scout Knife
Sea-To-Summit Kitchen Sink
MSR Lighting Ascent Snowshoes
North Face Banchee 65
MEC AirHike 22
Columbia Omni Heat Leggings
North Face Paramount 2.0 Convertible Pants (Did not wear)
Merino Wool Long Sleeve Shirt (Costco)
Arcteryx Maeven Fleece
North Face Thermoball Vest
Salomon Halo Down Jacket
North Face Venture Rain Jacket (Did not wear)
Darn Tough Socks
Outdoor Research Buff
North Face Gloves
Merino Wool Long Sleeve Shirt (Costco) – sleep
Paradox Merino Blend Leggings (Costco) – sleep
Merino Wool Blend Socks (Costco) – sleep
There were more items in my pack (i.e. compass, toilet paper, etc.) but the above listed is the brands that you may have questions about.