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Author Topic: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC  (Read 3166 times)
Marcus
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April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« on: 04/23/10, 05:00 PM »

Five years ago, when we did our first hut trip to Fairy Meadows, we fell in love with the "hut trip" concept.  We've since gone to several others, but have been trying each year to get a spot at the Kokanee Hut via the Alpine Club of Canada's lottery system.  We missed it again this year, but managed to grab a later winter/early spring spot when the vacancies were announced in January.

We quickly filled the 12 spaces in the hut, reserving one for a cook.  In the past we've divided the dinner duty so that everyone cooked one big meal during the week and did fend-for-yourself breakfasts and lunches.  We wanted to go the luxury route this time.  We'll never go back.  It cost a bit more, but having coffee waiting for you at 6 a.m., breakfast on the table without having to wake up, appetizers when you get back and fantastic, varied dinners each night?  Well worth it.

As the trip got closer it became clear that we were going to have a tricky snowpack.  I was hoping that spring would have started early, but the heavy snows in the Cascades the week prior were moving right on to the Kootenays, dumping up to a meter of fresh snow onto an already complex base.  The Canadian Avalanche Association was still finding persistent weak layers from as far back as December in their deeper pits and clear, cold weather in late March and early April had left a skim coat of surface hoar behind.  Worse, the storm snow had come in with 80+ mile/hour winds.  Windslab city.



That's about what every steep north facing slope looked like on our flight in on Saturday morning.  The group that was flying out had a sobering week, sticking to the trees the entire time after one skier remotely triggered (and was caught in) a slide.  She wasn't completely buried and was extricated quickly, with no injuries, but it was an ominous note for the beginning of our trip.

One thing I've always felt about our usual crew -- we can generally make the best of anything.  From Trevor's moldy yurts to bitterly cold winter trips, not much can keep the good times down.  High avalanche danger doesn't stand a chance when you have copious delicious food, good friends and a hut that's more sophisticated than most of our homes.  Mini-hydro power (enough that you have to keep lights on, just to bleed off energy), indoor flushing toilets (with a sewage treatment plant in the basement), ample electric baseboard heat, three stories (including a huge gear-basement and loft space for 20 upstairs) -- Kokanee has all that.  And impressive ski terrain, too.



We spent the week gradually testing the snow, getting more and more confident as we dug our pits, made our observations and skied the lines we felt were safe.  The first few days were 100% powder-pig.  The ski year in the Cascades had been a little thinner than usual, so we were delighted to find beard-crusting blower snow in Happy Valley, Smuggler's Ridge and the eastern Nansen arm.  It was the best snow of my season, without a doubt, and there was plenty of it to be had.

 

By the end of day three the forecasted warming had started to arrive.  Valley bottom temps were well above freezing and we started seeing some cornices collapse, though we'd yet to see any reaction out of the windslabs we knew were lurking.  Tests still showed moderate to hard results and ski cutting, cornice drops and all other observations pointed to a fairly stable snowpack, so we poked a little higher, making our first climbs of Kitchener and John Carter, the two most prominent, accessible peaks in the valley.  Kitchener is on the western end of the Kokanee Glacier, with John Carter's broad, low angle summit plateau further west, above Kokanee Lake.

 

The warming continued throughout the remainder of our trip and our precious powder turned first to mush, then to crust, then (finally) to early spring corn.  We ended up ranging out from the hut much farther than I would have guessed, given how touchy the snowpack had been the week before.  Still, our days were fairly relaxed and we spent a lot of time in good company, soaking up the views and eating Annie's amazing food.  The beer and wine lasted to the end of the trip (barely) and the helicopter ride was as awesome as ever.  Great trip everyone and I look forward to the next one.



More pics here.
« Last Edit: 04/23/10, 05:04 PM by Marcus » Logged
Kirsten
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #1 on: 04/23/10, 05:42 PM »

I've been waiting all week for your trip report!   That first picture ... yikes!!  :o   

Sounds like a great trip -- need to get the full scoop in person soon.  Wink

Q
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peteyboy
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #2 on: 04/23/10, 06:35 PM »

Great pics, Marcus, and good meeting you all on the heli-pad in Nelson last Saturday.  Our week was of course spring good and spring bad.  Great corn, a few big settlements under ski, many giant crowns to gawk at, no skiers caught in slides, some mush, some crust.  You may have underplayed how much the hut and terrain rock, though.  Hope we all get back here time and again (as we fly out tomorrow).
Pete
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Marcus
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #3 on: 04/23/10, 07:35 PM »

Nice Pete!  Glad you guys had a great week.  Yeah, the hut and terrain are fantastic -- I felt like we barely touched it, since we spent so much time gently getting comfortable.  I'd love to go back.

And Q, anytime.  We'll be around the house all day tomorrow, with dog training on Sunday.
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ron j
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #4 on: 04/23/10, 08:34 PM »

Nice trip, Marcus.
Thanks for sharing.
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"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
alecapone
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #5 on: 04/24/10, 08:38 AM »

Excellant trip and write up(I viewed it on your blog first). Sounds like it was a lot of fun!

Thanks for sharing, and adding a few more entries into the lottery.
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scott
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #6 on: 04/24/10, 05:39 PM »

Great pictures, great memories of a great place.

Tell me -- curious minds want to know -- did Murray bring a shovel this trip?
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silaswild
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #7 on: 04/24/10, 07:09 PM »

So this is when I can start living vicariously through you?  Okay, good.   Smiley
Back at you!  Nice!
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Marcus
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #8 on: 04/24/10, 11:03 PM »

Ha!  Murray did indeed bring a shovel this trip.  I don't think he'll forget that one again any time soon.
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Marcus
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #9 on: 05/11/10, 09:36 AM »

Andy's finished movie from the trip, on Vimeo.  Takes a bit to load...

http://www.vimeo.com/11637061
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ron j
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #10 on: 05/11/10, 10:14 AM »

Impressive.
Hat's off to Andy. Nicely crafted.
Marcus, it certainly appears that you have some friends to be treasured.
High Five. Smiley
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"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
Marcus
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Re: April 10-17, Kokanee Hut, BC
« Reply #11 on: 05/11/10, 10:18 AM »

Indeed -- them's good people.  And Andy does nice work in the editing booth, yup yup.
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