Another backcountry trip complete, another amazing adventure with friends come and gone. [Please note: many of our photos did not upload, and I’m still trying out figure out why. No videos in this post either, but I’ll likely go back and add some when I can!] I am feeling so refreshed after 5 days in the backcountry near Jasper, Alberta with Mikey and our good friends Ryan and Susan, who came up from Idaho to head out into the wilderness with us for the third year! We kayak and adventure together with these guys in the summer in their neck of the woods and they have been coming up to explore the Canadian Rockies.
We all struggled to get up after Ryan and Susan arrived late Tuesday night and we were reunited, and didn’t leave as early as intended as we cooked 2 kg worth of bacon up for trip snacks (Ryan’s favorite; we now can’t picture a backcountry trip with him without his beloved meat!) and all packed gear until we were set to go. There were a ton of avalanche warnings up and down the Banff-Jasper Highway and it was closed for over 5 days while we were away, so we made up our minds to take the long way around to Jasper from Calgary and left with a car full of gear and food.
We left the parking lot outside of Jasper around 4:00 pm and began the long hike on the road up to the Mount Edith Cavell Hostel – it’s always so hard to hike on a road and just feels tedious! But we made it at night, headlamps on and ready for dinner after about 4.5 hours of hiking.
There was no one else there, and after wandering a bit we found the right hut and code (that you get access to when you book the hostel/hut) and it was so well-equipped! We stayed in the kitchen, not the sleeping area, as we were alone and love being in the same place as the food and the fireplace. 😉 After some delicious fajitas we got our beds ready and hit the hay, mentally prepping for an even longer day on Thursday.
Well…sort of ready to go. 😉
That’s better! Fueled up on oatmeal, we hit the road at a comfortable time of about 10 am the next day and were anticipating about a 7-8 hour day. As the day wore on, our views got better and better as the sun began to poke through and the mountains began to show in the landscape around us.
There was a lot of ground to cover (roughly 19 km that day) to get to the Wates-Gibson Hut, our final destination, and a lot of the terrain is flat, which is actually harder in a different way on your body than the undulating ups and downs or big climbs up mountain passes. But it’s one of those days where you just have to keep moving, so we did, snacking along the way and grateful for the incredible views and chances to talk without interruption or distraction. Severn hours later almost to the minute we arrived at the Alpine Club of Canada hut after a tough finish up a hill. It’s an amazing feeling when you get into the hut at the end of the day, de-layer, get the fire going and prop your feet up!
We plotted the next day, relaxed around the fire and enjoyed our “Christmas Dinner” – Mikey’s specialty that we always bring: ham (heavy but worth it!), Stovetop Stuffing, Idaho instant mashed potatoes, corn, and rolls. It always hits the spot after a long hike!
We slept in, enjoyed some pancakes and maple syrup and set off into sunshine and huge mountains – it’s incredible to wake up and be surrounded by such amazing vistas. The hut, which sleeps 22 people, is well-equipped and plopped right into the middle of huge mountains.
We skied super light powder for about 6 hours after digging some pits and testing avalanche conditions and were thrilled with the perfect snowpack – stable and definitely still winter up there (no spring skiing just yet up that high!).
We had a crazy surprise that night after heating up the hut considerably (read: poor Susan couldn’t warm up so we cranked that sucker up and got the fire rip-roaring!). As we were getting ready for bed, we heard some creaking and cracking, a kind of splintering above us. The snow on top of the roof was about to slide. The sleeping area is in the loft up above the main area of the cabin and it felt like an avalanche on top of us, BOOMING incredibly loud and shaking the entire hut. We had to run down to see the damage, which at night was hard to see, but we knew a ton of snow had come down. We went back to bed, adrenaline pumping, and then, a few hours later, heard the spider cracks again above us – the other side was about to slide. We were ready for it this time, but were shook awake again and didn’t sleep much that night. It was an intense few hours and in the morning we went down to open the door and see the damage:
Yep! Snowed in!
We let the snow hang out while we enjoyed some eggs, peppers and ham (instant backcountry meal for the win!) and finally headed out to tackle the shovelling from the outside in (there is a backdoor that was unaffected so we slipped out that way but knew we should clear the front as there were 4 others coming in that night). It was a lot of digging, but with 4 people it was done fairly quickly and we were definitely warmed up for the day!
This day was much different than the first – snowing hard all morning and wet snow at that. There was still much skiing to be had, but it felt much heavier and we.got.wet! We still ended up with some great turns for the day and headed back right when the other group was getting to the valley floor; we could see them from atop our run! So 8 of us stumbled into the hut wet and tired and ready to get into dry clothes!
Two great days of hiking and two awesome days of skiing and hut life later, we were up early and ready to hike out, bellies full of granola and headlamps on.
It was another long day but a good day out as we took in the views of the incredible mountains around us and set out for the 26 km trek back to the car.
It was an incredible trip filled with lots of laughs, good conversations and that empowering feeling when you accomplish something physically demanding. What a great experience with good friends! I’m thankful for these guys in our lives as well as for the mountains as a place to recharge, reset and be renewed!
See that California coast in the background? Well, it’s still home, but the mountains hold a big piece of my heart now, too.
How do you recharge? What’s a trip you’ve done or an experience you’ve had that’s physically demanding but also renewing and fun? I’d love to hear from you!
Live well & be well,