Thursday, December 5, 2013

Egypt Lake Shelter via Healy Pass Nov 30/Dec 1

I have been following Alex Wigley's blog ( for the last few months and a recent post really resonated with me. It was 10 tips on how to have the best season ever. One of the tips was to do one hut trip each month. With this in mind, we realized that November was about to end very soon! It was looking like the one hut a month challenge was going to be over before it had even started due to poor snow conditions and a lack of ski buddies that wanted to go ski hardpack all weekend. Resigning ourselves to a day touring trip, Kyle noticed that there was a Parks Canada shelter very close to our destination. Somehow, the stars aligned and we grabbed some of the last spots in the hut for the night of November 30th. I guess the challenge is back on!

We had a relatively leisurely start of around 9am from the Sunshine parking area for a ski out to Healy Pass with the CSMC. We had a big group of 10 plus a dog, but it also had not snowed in a while so we weren't too worried about getting fresh tracks. The trip was more of a nice walk in the woods with skis on.
Leaving the sunshine area en route to Healy Pass with the CSMC
The track out to Healy Pass had been well set and it was easy going the whole way, much of the time it was wide enough to ski side-by-side! We stopped at the campground to do some beacon practice before heading up to the pass. At the top, we scoped out how to get down to the Egypt Lake Shelter. The others seemed quite concerned that we would get lost, apparently it can be quite hard to find. Luckily we had a GPS with the hut on it and some route info to guide us down. Before we split off from the group, we went for a bit of a ski and actually found some decent snow. The coverage was still pretty bare and you had to watch for rocks and shrubs, but it is filling in nicely!
A bit of good snow in the larches
The rest of the group skinned back up to the pass for another lap before heading home, while Kyle and I broke off and started traversing North to get to the hut. We followed the GPS, choosing to stay high through the trees as we descended instead of taking the summer trail (which we contoured just below the whole way down). It got pretty thick in some spots! Somehow we popped out at a perfect ice bridge over Pharaoh Creek.
Filling the water bag as the evening approaches
It was less than 100m to the shelter from the stream, which we easily found thanks to some old tracks. We found out that our GPS had been guiding us to the Warden's Cabin, so it was kind of good that we were slightly off bearing. The whole ski in was about 12-13km along pretty mellow terrain (625m gain, 300m loss).
The Sphinx
Approaching Egypt Lake Shelter with one of the Pharaoh Peaks towering above
We arrived at the shelter and were the only ones there! After lighting the wood stove and getting started on dinner, a group of 8 arrived and suddenly it got alot noisier in the shelter. It is a pretty minimal structure, with 6 sleeping platforms (that could easily sleep 3-4 each if you were ok with getting cozy) and 2 long picnic tables by the wood burning stove. Other than a broom, axe and woodpile, there wasn't much to it. Someone had left an LED lantern that took 4 AA batteries and did a really good job of lighting the whole place up!

It was an early night for everyone after the long ski in. We went to bed with expectations of a snow storm, but awoke to only a dusting on the ground. Kyle and I got an early start and went exploring behind the hut in the direction of Pharaoh Peak. On Wendy's recommendation, we skied up the "meadow" which turned out to be more like a boulder field with some snow on it. The ski down was treacherous. There wasn't even enough snow on the ground for Kyle to feel comfortable on his rock skis. We slowly and carefully navigated the upper wind-blown slope before descending the boulder field holding our breath as we floated above the rocks.

Treading lightly with sharks below

Kyle "going for it" through the boulders

Right about now I am wondering what the heck we are doing here
Luckily the lower slope was much nice and we were able to piece together a few good turns before we got to the trees!

Took this picture a second too soon, but great snow down low!

Dead trees and pillows!

Kyle getting his turns in

Great success!
Despite the low coverage, we still had a great time. We were back at the cabin by about 10:15, made some lunch and then started the ski back up to Healy Pass. We caught the big group at the pass who had left just after we returned to the hut after our morning ski. The ski out from the pass was much faster than I anticipated. The lack of snow in the past few days had allowed the track to become very quick and we only had to take our skis off to climb one hill up to the Sunshine cat road. I don't think that it would be much fun on a snowboard though, there was a decent amount of side stepping up small rises, much better for skis!

One month of winter and one hut down. Lets see what December brings! 

Edit: This was my first time really trying out my new pack (Deuter Guide 40+ SL) which I was a bit nervous about because I was worried it wouldn't be big enough (downsized from a 60L which was often stuffed to the point of things dangling off the sides). Much to my distress at leaving so much behind and Kyle's shock, wonder and pride, I managed to fit everything I needed for the overnight into the bag with room to spare. Even with all the ultra-light gear Kyle has, I think my pack was lighter (he blames the water). This bodes well for the season to come. Maybe the days of being the girl with the monstrous pack are coming to an end.

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