Keith's Hut 21/01/12

Dennis at Keith’s Hut:
“From the beginning, this was a hike full of warnings and red flags. The Duffey Lake area is known for avalanches. Going into the weekend the Canadian Avalanche Centre had a high avalanche warning for the region. On this note, I received more than one stern warning from concerned Wanderungers. Nevertheless, four brave souls (Ian, Liz, Calum and Rita) joined me on this ominous trip.

Recent heavy snowfall and cold weather have made the Sea-to-Sky north of Squamish a nightmare for anyone not equipped with a 4wd or chains. As we drove towards Squamish, the warnings continued with Mountain Radio describing the road past Squamish as a sheet of ice and to avoid driving in that direction if possible. The drive up was a slog in stop and go traffic through a couple different sections on the highway due to accidents. If you plan on heading to this region in winter weather, be prepared for these kinds of delays, especially on weekends when many inexperienced drivers head up to Whistler. In total, the delays added 2 hours to our travel time which I had not anticipated.

The parking lot is a pullout just off the highway and was easy to spot with 3 other cars already parked there. The hike up to the hut was straightforward on a well-marked and frequently used trail. The new snow however made for a bit of a workout breaking trail. The evening was spent pleasantly socializing and drinking wine with seven other backcountry skiers also staying overnight. Great location and lots of firewood. Despite all of these amenities, Calum feeling more adventurous and much more energetic than the rest of us, dug a snow cave and slept in it overnight.

The next morning we quickly ate breakfast and left the hut with plans to do some light exploring before returning to the car. I had all but abandoned my original plans to summit Vantage. But, after judging the snow conditions of the route leading to the Matier-Vantage col, we decided it was safe to make our way up to the col. The trail and cairns marking it are hidden under snow at this time of year, but a route is fairly obvious nonetheless. It took us an hour to the col and back. At the top we were rewarded with spectacular views of what I assume was Joffre Peak.

The drive back was again sluggish due to winter road conditions and accidents. So, I repeat, do not attempt to drive here without a 4wd or chains. Finally, I cannot say enough good things about everyone who joined me on this hike. All strong hikers who radiate positivity. I would recommend them to any organizer. Thanks again guys for making this a great trip.”

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