Some of spring so far…

Above: Me enjoying some paddling out on Northstar Lake, BC.

The end of the ski season and transition into spring was a busy time in our household. As well as doing some cleaning and purging of unnecessary things whilst waiting for the snow to melt,  I was able to fly back to Aus again for a friend’s wedding, have my 30th birthday celebrations down in Whitefish, Montana and drive back to Megs hometown to say goodbye to Tristen as she left on her own Aussie adventure.

 

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My friends getting wigged out before bowling in Whitefish

It was an amazing few days for the wedding for my mate Damon and his new bride Anna and definitely worth the short trip back. This time I only stayed for 6 days with 3 of them spent out in the small town of Wollombi, NSW for the event. Some great time spent with Damon and my other close high school friends and then it was time to say goodbye to 30 degree sunny days and back to spring snow. It was a whirlwind tour and the day after I flew back to Canada, it was time to have my own celebrations for my 30th birthday.

The weather so far has been very agreeable with hot sunny days in the 20’s making it ideal for some early season camping, hiking and lake time. Meg and I have had a great time exploring some new spots within a short drive from Fernie, namely Northstar and Suzanne lake, the latter where we spent May long weekend. It’s also been a treat enjoying a camp fire or two as last season the fire ban seemed to stretch the whole span of summer.

The time at the lake has also allowed me to try out the new inflatable paddle board my friends back in Aus got for my bday present. Along with my Dad, a bunch of my mates put some money together and I decided to put it towards the ISLE SUP that I picked up from the states a few weeks ago. So far it’s been amazing! The 11ft long 32 inch wide board when fully inflated is super rigid and feels very solid, so much that it fits both Meg and I on it without any issues. The board came with a pump, collapsible paddle and a great backpack to store it in which so far has proved very handy for carrying it to and from the car. Also, the bungee cords and each end make it easy to carry food/drinks and other random stuff for exploring out on the water for hours.

Other fun things during May included a boys bike trip to Rossland, BC. It was my first time to the town as I’ve never skied Red Mountain before and the biking didn’t disappoint. A group of 8 guys made the trip over a couple of days where we got to sample some of the great trails on offer as well as some tasty food and beer (fried chicken waffles from the cafe FUEL is a must!). In between all the fun I managed to cut my leg open after a foot slip off the pedals which had me hitchhiking to the nearest hospital in Trail. After some debate over my health insurance status, I ended up getting some stitches in my shin for the princely sum of $1000. After returning to Fernie however it seems that I was covered under BC health and have since been fully refunded. Crisis averted and wallet restored to good health, the trip was an overall success and hopefully it won’t be the last time out to that beautiful town.

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Above: Steve and Meg on the last parts of the ascent up Mt Fernie. We got to hike up this weekend on a gorgeous day.

 

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Spring Touring

March continued to be a great month for some slack country and ski touring trips around Fernie. Earlier in the year, the conditions and snowpack made for some pretty sketchy conditions so it was nice to capitalise on some great snow which continued to fall in the valley all the way til mid April.

I managed to tag along with some friends to explore some new terrain off the ski hill into Fish bowl and Liverwurst. We covered some decent vertical for the day, around 1300m for 2 downhill runs on some nice pow with a bit of a crust on top. Again, I definitely felt the advantage of a lighter touring set up and was able to enjoy the uphill skin whilst saving some juice for the way down. The skiing was super fun with the snowpack providing enough confidence that we could all ski some fall line runs top to bottom without stopping.

Normally when the skiing is so good I never stop for photos but this time I managed to snap a couple of photos coming down into fish bowl at the end. A great day of slack country touring!

With some foresight back in October I had arranged to book the cabin at Tunnel creek for a night and it just so happened to be Easter weekend which also coincided with Robs birthday. We assembled a small crew and spent the day exploring some new terrain from the hut, again lucking out with the weather getting to skin up under sunny skies which provided some amazing views.

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View from the top of our first skin track with Rob, Ryan, Zach and Jay

The skiing conditions were stable but a bit crusty, however we managed to get some pow turns in for our second and last run of the day. We spent the rest of the night playing cards and having a few drinks before passing out. The next day we decided to skin back up to the same area, conditions were snowy and we had a nice run back down to the cabin with 5cm of fresh before taking the fast road back down to the car.

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From the same viewpoint, a cool perspective of Silver Springs above 2000m elevation

Exploring with the boys

There are countless ways to explore the vast wilderness here in Fernie and the surrounding valley, with ski touring being one of the most fun choices even if it does kick your ass a bit. Creating the opportunities to get out and do so is however quite challenging due to a variety of factors; finding the right crew, getting said crew to commit to a time, conditions being safe… and the list goes on. So I count myself lucky with the adventure myself and mates had on the weekend, staying out at Thunder meadows once again for the long-awaited celebration of Tim’s 29th birthday.

Years in the making, Tim was finally able to secure a booking of the legendary Fernie hut for a couple of nights of birthday/St Patty’s day shenanigans. After some unforeseen circumstances, the initial group of 10+ ended up just being myself, Tim and Rob. A small but mighty group, we would not be deterred and decided to head up anyway on a sunny Friday for just one night. Having done the trip a couple of years back, we were treated this time to much better weather and being able to approach the cabin off the back side of the ski hill would cut our uphill skin by a couple of hours much to our delight!

After waiting for Rob to finish up work in the morning, we got going shortly after midday, taking the chairlift up to Polar Peak and then dropping into Polaris bowl for our first run of the day. To our surprise the conditions were great, some nice playful spring turns got us down to the bottom where we pushed through a flattish section of trees to the next downhill pitch. Again, we enjoyed a nice party lap in the sun down towards the bottom of a drainage where we would transition for the uphill.

Lucky for us, a group earlier in the morning had set the skin track up “Easy Street” so we were able to navigate easily up to the cabin. The going was relatively tough, the sun making it very hot and sweaty however I felt good with my pace and for the first time really felt the advantage of my lighter touring setup (G3 synapse and Marker Kingpin). We stopped a couple of times in the shade  for a breather and to view a couple small loose slides happening in the distance. With the warmer temps and sunny days we have had recently, there was definitely evidence of loose avalanches and our skin track even passed a decent size 2-3.

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Above: Rob and Tim at the start of easy street, looking back at Polar peak in the far distance and the second downhill pitch, Large slide at the top of the skin track.

Rob and I pressed on and made it to the cabin around 3:30pm, reassured Tim wasn’t far behind with our ‘ca-caw’ and ‘hootie hoo’ method of communication. After chilling out for a bit, we made the most of the fading sun by skinning up the ridge for one final downhill lap under the watchful eyes of some giant Turkey vultures. To our disappointment, the conditions were pretty cruddy but nothing a few beers, dinner and fireworks wouldn’t fix.

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The next day we woke up well rested and took our time getting ready. We were greeted with another fantastic blue bird day and after consulting some maps and photos, made our way up the ridge again to descend in Orca bowl, having been denied the chance to do so a couple of years earlier due to horrible white out conditions. We scoped out some different aspects and chose some mellow terrain which provided some nice turns in the North facing spring pow. We stopped halfway down to watch some other group ski some amazing lines down chutes on the other side of the bowl.

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The run out of the bottom of the bowl down Orca road was a fast, slick and narrow pump track through the forest providing some fun and terrifying moments on weary legs. We all made it down in one piece, bringing us out by one of the cross-country ski trails near Island Lake lodge from which we had to skate a further 10-15 minutes along the road to get to the car park where we had dropped my car the day before. It was sweaty work and  it felt amazing finally taking our bags off after a few hours.

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Looking back up at the top of Orca bowl from the bottom of Orca road

The tour was wrapped up in the best way with a hot tub and beer back at Robs place before a few more drinks out in town later in the evening for St Patrick’s day. A great way to spend the weekend and get a taste of the spring sun, which has already gone back into hiding. Hopefully we get as good conditions in a couple of weeks for Tunnel creek…

 

 

March Pow Madness

Last weekend saw the annual “Griz Days” festival in Fernie, a celebration of community, mountains and the mythical Griz; a fabled man creature who was born in the mountains and shoots snow from his musket across the Elk Valley in which Fernie lies. It seems as though he was pleased with the festivities as the Fernie factor produced over 50cm of fresh powder from Friday to Saturday.

I managed to sneak in some morning laps on the ski hill before heading to a busy shift at the Pub. The hill was crazy busy and made even more so by the fact much of the terrain was closed due to avalanche danger. They even issued warnings at the lifts to keep an eye on children because the snow was so deep haha.

The following Monday, a few buddies and I decided to do some slack country ski touring into Mongolia bowl. What we experienced was one of the deepest and fun skiing conditions I’ve ever encountered. There’s not too many opportunities to ski in waist/chest deep powder! Luckily enough one of my buds Matt who was in the crew is a great photographer for the local cat-skiing operation Fernie Wilderness Association (FWA). I normally don’t stop for photos when skiing, especially in good conditions because it’s too much fun. On this day we were all happy to oblige! Full photo credit to Matt Lewis, if you ski with FWA make sure to get him taking photos for you.

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Matt taking a break from camera duties to shred the deep 

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Ryan hitting a tree feature

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Ryan

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Rob getting the goods

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Rob could’ve used a snorkel

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Me 🙂

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Me again

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Rob all smiles at the bottom

Trip to Aus

February came and went in a flash with Meg and I spending the first 2 weeks of it in Australia for a trip back home. It was our first visit back since 2016 for a friend’s wedding and much like last time we were super busy jumping between catch ups with friends and family.

This time around my brothers wedding took main stage at the Gunners Barracks in Mosman, Sydney. A small international posse of friends and family gathered on a stunning summer day where we got to see my brother James tie the knot with Sophie. It was an amazing day and a great chance to catch up with the family and old friends James and I have known since childhood. I didn’t bother taking too many photos as the photographer was sure to do much better, despite mild harassment from our mate George.

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Freshwater Beach, Sydney

Apart from the wedding, we spent the rest of our time in Sydney catching up with my high school and uni friends over some amazing meals, 30th birthday parties and beach sessions. We did manage to sneak away for 4 days up north to Noosa for a mini getaway and to have some time to ourselves. I hadn’t been to the small beach town for many years and it was nice to show Meg another part of the country that we used to vacation to as kids. We definitely enjoyed the 30+ degree days, amazing restaurants and the beach at our front door.

This time around we didn’t have to spend too much time doing many touristy things as we covered that in the last trip. Instead we got to hang out with the fam a bit more, including celebrating Chinese New Year with my Dad, George and his mum Veronique. It was the first time in many years that we got to celebrate it together and in a proper Chinese banquet style restaurant. Dad treated us to an amazing dinner of lobster, xo scallops and barramundi.

 

 

 

Winter life

Above: Rob enjoying some rare winter sun above the inversion. With the White Pass chair down for repairs, we both slapped on some skins and hiked up to higher elevations in the resort to find some fresh snow.

It’s been some time since I’ve posted something so I thought I’d update anyone who reads this thing on how winter in Fernie is going so far. Where to begin…

First off, snow. It has been coming down hard and fast with the official ski hill figure creeping past 6 meters for the season and considering it is still only January, this is very promising. Initially before the ski hill opened we had quite a snowy November, bringing the base up to 1 meter before opening however the month unfortunately ended in a whole lot of rain which put a delayed start on much of the resort terrain opening. In true Fernie style though, like a Christmas miracle on cue, the snow came heavy just before the holidays so Meg and I got to enjoy some great pow days before the huge tourist rush came to town.

The snow has not only been plentiful but coupled with very mild temperatures which is making skiing extremely enjoyable however causing some havoc with the snow pack and danger of avalanches on the resort and in the back country. Regardless, ski patrol on the hill have been doing a great job of trying to open as much terrain as possible and if you head up enough days you’re lucky to get first tracks through some terrain that has been closed for days/weeks.

Back to Christmas, Meg and I ended up driving back to her hometown to spend it with her family. Enduring some horrible winter road conditions, we made the most of our time up there enjoying 4 separate Christmas dinners with all parts of the family and mainly staying indoors as temps dipped to -30 for most of our visit. It was a nice way to spend our first Christmas together and likely our last one in the Northern Hemisphere before our plans to move to Aus in 2018, so we definitely made the most of it!

New Years was rung in with our Fernie friends around a bonfire in similar frigid conditions to the week before. Pallets and old Christmas trees provided the fuel to keep the raging fire going with countless bottles being passed around the circle. A great way to sign off 2017 and with feeling only mildly worse for wear the next day, we spent the first day of the new year cross-country skiing with some friends.

Just after New Years the town saw its usual lull as school was back in session and most people returned to their usual routines. During this time, as mentioned before, the snow has been amazing and I managed to go cat-skiing for the first time. A last-minute decision, I tagged along with some friends who had signed up and it turned out to be a very good day.

We went with Fernie Wilderness Adventures and I couldn’t say enough great things about them. Their super cosy lodge, heated cat and the guides were all top notch and combined with 8 runs through thigh deep fresh pow, open trees and drops made for an amazing ski experience. It was one of those unique experiences that made me extra thankful to live in a mountain town like Fernie and I was riding a high even though I had to rush straight from the lodge to work. I didn’t end up finishing at the pub until 1 am but  still had a smile on my face because as most people who love and make the most of this town know, you work and play hard!

It’s not long now until Meg and I head to Australia for my brothers wedding, something we are both really looking forward to. As I’m enjoying skiing so much at the moment, trading the snow for the sandy beaches and hot weather is somewhat bitter sweet but I’m extremely excited by thought of spending time with family and friends, some who I haven’t seen in many years, as well as seeing my brother tie the knot! Only a week and a half til we leave so til next post enjoy some photos of the daily goings on of a ski bum in Fernie…

 

Halloween 2017

Last week marked my 4th Halloween spent on Canadian soil. Again, it didn’t disappoint and our household definitely put in the extra effort for our costumes. Luckily enough it paid off as I won the prize for best costume at the Northern bar in Fernie. It was up to the crowd to judge so I bounced my jerry-curl wig and executed some prince like hip thrusts to gain some extra applause and it was enough to make the $500 cash prize mine. It was oh so sweet and the cherry on top of a great night out. Thanks to Meg for helping me pick out some of the costume and perfecting the make up for my purple rain look. Hope you enjoy some photos of the night 🙂

 

Above: piecing together my prince “symbol” guitar with cardboard. I used a wire coat hanger in between two layers of cardboard to strengthen the guitar and it seemed to do the trick, the guitar made it through a whole night in the bar without falling apart! Meg starting the hair spray for her David Bowie look and Brandon painting his nails for the Freddy Mercury look.

 

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Above: Meg with her own spin on a classic David Bowie look.

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Above: Brandon transformed into Freddy Mercury’s housewife from “I want to break free”.

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Above: Me as the one and only Prince Rogers Nelson. I bought the wig and puffy shirt but the rest of the clothes were found at Value Village in St Albert. I added the sparkly shoulder patch from a discarded dress and the guitar and shoulder strap were made from arts and crafts scraps. Together we oddly all fit into a theme of dead androgynous/gay superstars, I guess you could say it was an homage to some absolute legends of music!

Above: Tim as the pet monkey who got lost at Ikea haha, Sarah as a lovely cinderella and Meg’s Bowie pumpkin carving.

Above: Sammy as a Glow wrestler chick with Mitch the nerd, below are the finalists from the Pub Halloween competition (Kate the glow-worm and Madli & Matt as a Mexican and a wall), My lovely co-workers for the evening Justine and Jenna as scary dolls and Jake AkA Dr Seuss.

Fall in the Kootenays

Above: Rob on the ridge leading up to the top of Mt Hosmer. Amazing views!

After a seriously hot summer and record-breaking forest fires, the temps have taken a sudden turn in the valley bringing with it some amazing colours and the first snow on the peaks. It is coming up on 4 years since I moved to Fernie and I’d have to say that it is the most spectacular I’ve seen it. The low temps have made for some great hiking weather with less crowds on the trails, an ideal time to go exploring. Below are a few photos of some new and some familiar sights…

Above: Earlier in September saw some nicer weather, Meg and I rented a paddle board and had a picnic out on Norbury lake. The next day our friend Jenna celebrated her birthday with some sprinkler/water bomb action.

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Above: our first visit out to Silver Springs this year as it has become quite the hot spot. We were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves as we hiked to the third lake. My buddy Jordy’s puppy, Ziggy, enjoyed some swimming lessons along the way.

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Above: panoramic view on the hike up Mt Hosmer, (Rob) steep scrambling on the way up in a foot of snow and some nice fall foliage. It was my first time hiking Mt Hosmer and I was not disappointed with the views. Rob and I had some snowy conditions on the way up which is a decent slog without too many flat sections but the trail is intuitive, even with snow covering. The conditions were more slippery on the way down with compacted snow/mud but it was fun sliding down and getting the skiing muscles working again 🙂

Slocan and Valhalla

Above: admiring the water of the Slocan. Shallow areas like this led into steep drop offs. The mean depth of the lake is 171m with a max depth of 298m!

Early in the summer Meg and I had booked a Fall trip in Kootenay National park to hike the famous Rockwall trail, a 3-4 day adventure  that we had been building up to for the past few months. Unfortunately however we had to cancel the trip last-minute due to a combination of factors but mainly because of the continuing risk of fires nearby, which recently caused an evacuation alert to the next two towns over and would have surely obscured the views on the hike because of smoke.

Having already booked the time off, we both went back to the drawing board and looked to plan a last-minute trip somewhere within 3-4 hours drive that wasn’t close to the fires, a tall order during BC’s worst bush fire season in history. We stumbled upon the small town of Slocan in the West Kootenays about a 4.5 hr drive from Fernie with a beautiful lake backing onto Valhalla provincial park. This was the place! And after a quick call we arranged to rent a double kayak for 3 days and paddle the length of the lake from the north end.

We took off early Friday morning to get to the rental place, Smiling Otter, by 10.30 so we could get a shuttle up the lake. Long story short, someone forgot their hiking shoes about 30 minutes into the drive so we had to double back and ended up just missing the first shuttle. We tried to call them but turns out this little town doesn’t have cell service so all we could do was wait in a quiet little cafe and catch up on local gossip.

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The guy who runs the rental company, Jim, got us kitted out and drove us north whilst entertaining us with some interesting if not slightly strange conversations. We bid him farewell and hit the lake paddling by around 1.30 under partly cloudy skies. Having not kayaked much, let alone in a double, it took us a good little while to find our rhythm however we managed a steady pace keeping to the lakes edge and enjoying calm conditions and stunning views of the mountains until we came across our campground for the evening Wee Sandy Beach.

Dotted along the west coast of the lake, there are 7 official campsites with plenty of other places you could pull up on a whim, all first come first serve and the best thing being that they’re free! We had the place to ourselves with an epic spot right on the beach next to a waterfall and running creek. It has to be one of the nicest campsites I’ve ever stayed in! After setting up camp we hiked up to a small lookout at dusk before tucking into some dinner. We brought along the dehydrated meals from Backpackers Pantry we had purchased for the Rockwall trail and decided this trip was the best chance to try them out. Meg had the pad thai and I the beef stroganoff and we were both pleasantly surprised with both. They were deceptively large meals and quite tasty, the resealable pouches made for handy trash containers too.

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We both slept well despite a cold night nearing zero degrees and woke up to watch the sun rise with breakfast. We packed everything up and continued paddling south along the shoreline, lucking out with a bluebird sunny day and glassy lake conditions. The shallow water was clear and turquoise next to the yellow sandy beaches and we made a couple of stops at Nemo creek beach for some lunch and Cove creek beach for a swim before finishing the day at South Evans beach. All in all a decent 5-6 hour day of paddling which was helped at the end of the day with the wind at our backs.

We spent the night doing crosswords and reading, enjoying the fading light down by the beach at the campsite. This night we were joined by another couple however along with them, we had only seen about 8 or 9 people over the past 2 days, truly amazing considering how beautiful this place is and it only being mid September.

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South Evans beach

Having done so much paddling on our second day, the third was much shorter and after waking again at sunrise we took to the lake and were back to the Smiling Otter before noon. The paddling was harder going with a decent head wind and we got a taste of the warnings that we had read about conditions changing quickly. We felt lucky to have had such a calm day previously and could see if it were windier how treacherous it could be. At the end of our 3rd day we had paddled around 44km and the shoulders were feeling well worked!

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Stoked with such an awesome experience, we packed up the gear and decided to put our legs to work on a short hike in the area. Jim had suggested such a hike, Gimli peak, in the south of Valhalla which we could do in a couple of hours and still have time to drive back to Fernie by night fall. Driving up the rough road to the trailhead took some time and we encountered a small family 3/4 the way up who told us it was a further 30 minute drive and then a 2 hr hike one way. With this new information and happy with the trip already, we decided to turn around and had a picnic by the river before driving home.

We were both pretty exhausted by the time we got home and were happy that we made the decision not to hike as we would’ve got home around midnight instead of being on the couch demolishing pizza by 8pm. We are already talking about going back next summer and hopefully spending more time on the lake which would allow us to do some of the full day hikes. I would recommend Slocan and Valhalla to anyone wanting an amazing camping/backcountry experience without the crowds (and cell service 🙂 )

Side note: it was sad to find out the other day that the wildfires ravaging Waterton National Park had destroyed the visitors centre and many of the beautiful hiking trails, including I believe the Tamarack trail, that I wrote about just 2 months ago that Meg and I had completed. I feel fortunate that we were able to see the park in all it’s beauty as the scars of fire will remain for many years to come. As I write this rain is falling in Fernie and I can see snow on the peaks, I hope that this is also hitting those fires and they come to an end soon.

 

 

Fernie Three Sisters

Above: Meg and I with the East horizon in the background at sunrise.

August was a busy month here in Fernie which saw Meagan and I doing lot’s of hiking, camping and most importantly putting together my permanent residency application for Canada. The former being much more enjoyable, amongst several outings we managed to hike up the Three Sisters here in Fernie and make summit for sunrise, something we had done together a couple of years before.

This time around we teamed up with my buddy Eric who was taking his family for their first trip up in the Fernie backcountry. We all convoyed to the trail head up Hartley Lake road and after a quick beer we took off on a 30+ degree day in late afternoon.

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The hike took us past the familiar sights of the Jumping waters and Bisaro cave before we treated to some beautiful wild flowers out in the open meadows. We kept a decent pace the whole way and I was pretty impressed by the stamina of Eric’s parents who didn’t miss a beat. We made it to the ridge just below the final push for the summit by mid evening and had plenty of time to set up camp, enjoy some dinner around a fireless pit (extreme fire bans this summer) and find a suitable tree to act as a bear pole.

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One of the main motivators for the hike this time was the fact we would be up in the alpine for the Perseid meteor shower, a phenomena which would’ve been obscured down in town due to the smoke and light pollution. I managed to spot a few comets flying across the sky however due to tiredness and a fairly bright moon, Meg and I didn’t get to see too much.

We all rose as a group by 4am to make the push to the summit, donning head lamps in the dark of the morning. Despite a very poor sleep due to noisy high winds, we made excellent time on the way up with the final ascent taking around 1.5 hours. Again I was very impressed by the fitness of Eric’s parents and our group as a whole and the more I got chatting to them it seems as though they have a good pedigree for mountain activities.

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We all enjoyed a beautifully serene sunset which was blood-red behind the mask of bushfire smoke. With perfect timing, the wind had died for the whole period we were up there allowing for camp stoves to boil up water for us to enjoy a cup of tea and instant coffee whilst we huddled in sleeping bags and watched the valley wake up.

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Following a few last pictures we began to descend back to our tents in full light where we managed to spot a lone mountain goat grazing on the slopes. We were all packed up to hike back to the cars before mid morning with Meg and I deciding to hike back the way we came whilst the others continued on Heikos trail to Island Lake Lodge for a much deserved lunch. We made good time and were back into town for lunchtime and a chill Sunday before the work week began again.

Strangely enough, the last time we had done this hike was also a season where wildfires were wreaking havoc just south of the border in the USA and here in BC. This summer has been no different and as I write this staring out of my balcony, I can scarcely see 50m in the distance as the smoke is so thick. The worst season for fires in BC history has seen almost all hiking and biking trails shut down for 100km in each direction. It’s an uneasy time for people here in town, firstly for the proximity of the fires to us and secondly because we live in a town full of people who are passionate about being outdoors who are currently being limited in doing so. Looking back I’m glad we made the effort to do this hike as it may be off-limits for the remainder of the summer. Fingers crossed for some much needed rain!