Birthday Brigade congregated at the Yeoman Park Trailhead on a Friday with only moderate kerfuffleage. By mid-morning the parking lot (complete with a forest service pit toilet) was packed with groups gearing up. Variously heading out for day loops to the old mining town of Fulford, hut trips to the Polar Star Inn, and our clan, headed for the Hidden Treasure Yurts.
A popular winter recreation area for everything from snowmobiles to fat-bikes, the initial road was wide and well tracked. This was to our advantage, as, without much recent snow and unusually high temperatures, significant swaths of snow had melted. Repeated use and being packed down created snow bridges across which our AT ski gear could pass without damage.
Excited to practice the observation and awareness I had been taught in AIARE Avalanche 1 class a few weeks prior. Snow conditions changed along with elevation and aspect. Poking snow with the tips of our poles, it was an advantage, over my generally-solo adventures, to check in with others of our group of 8 (flexing up to 11 at one point) for their read on conditions.
While we were well below tree line and rarely exposed to terrain which could avalanche, I appreciated the opportunity to practice. A gentle snow began to fall as we climbed above the Aspens. Conditions were clement, where my mind was not. Roughly 6.2 miles up, we emerged into a small clearing beneath the yurts mid-afternoon. Now that we weren’t climbing and sweating, everyone donned their down and went about the business of starting fires in the stoves, melting water, claiming house-shoes (provided by the yurts!), storing food, claiming bunks, etc.That night was dinner, Cards Against Humanity, and mid-range sheenanigans.
Our yurt began the practice of ending the night with bed time stories out of a book titled, Scary Stories. A major emphasis in Avalanche Safety is group dynamics. If you plan backcountry adventures with others in winter conditions, this is a key component. Factors such as herd mentality and making assumptions (eg- “oh, someone else will bring a map and compass”) will affect your experience.
To this end, while group meals may be more time consuming, they are fundamental. For me, this goes beyond a mid-west impulsion that feeding equals love. Perhaps to the depth that the only time both my mouth and mind are quiet around other human beings is when there is food in my face.
Eating together was a chance to get to know my compatriots. After breakfast the next morning, we headed up New York Mountain. Skinning above tree line, into what in the summer are scree fields, as I approached the ridge over which the rest of the group had passed, a fog began to sweep and build.
Suddenly, there was no ridge ahead.
Everything disappeared except a dark line below, which I knew to be tree-line.
Brad and McKenzie appeared from somewhere downhill. For the first time, I fully appreciated brightly colored clothing in the great outdoors. It took but a few assurances and we opted against the white-out ridge. Within minutes, most of the rest of the group reappeared and we headed for some lovely glades to the South.
The insulating comfort of the group stood in stark contrast to how I had felt just moments before. My face remembered how to smile and whoop. Legs began to figure out the mechanics of skiing backcountry powder.
By that afternoon, I felt most of the way back to myself. Enjoyed skiing with the crew, communicating clearly and meandering off for bits of time by myself down amoung the trees around the hut. The world is such a different place under cover of snow.
The second night, we had a costume party. It was really something! Super Mario, Huck Fin, Batman(s), 70s print dresses and tassels, a gentleman of leisure, football fans, and even a piece of crap. It was a dance party.
‘Batman Without the Abs’ was a magnificent DJ while ‘Batman Complete With Abs’ was a great sous-chef.
There may have been some late night parade runs just below the yurt.
From dance moves to hat tricks; humans may be complicated but they are also tons of fun!
The next morning, we went for a final, super-hero lap, tidied up at the yurts, and headed back down.
We all sat, glazed and sated at the Eagle Diner that afternoon. Another adventure for the
Special shout out to Jesse for the incredible photos, Matt for coordinating and leadership, and everyone else in the crew for being BA MoFos.