Sunday, January 13, 2019

Trophy Hut New Years

The hut (Phil Tomlinson photo)
This New Years, we joined Phil, Christine, Kyle D, Sean, Joel, David and Tyler in Well's Gray Park for a week at the Trophy Hut where we were treated to endless epic terrain, fresh pow, gourmet meals and ceaseless rounds of Hero Realms between sauna sessions. Lets just say, it was a very successful trip despite some initial logistic and weather issues.
Hut info click here: Trophy Hut

On December 27th, David, Tyler, Sean, Joel, two Kyles and I arrived at the Well's Gray Inn in Clearwater BC. Phil and Christine were to join us 2 days later after an unfortunate mix-up booking time off work. Phil had been the trip organizer and had been coordinating the logistics of getting into the hut with Ian from Well's Gray Adventures over the months leading up to the trip. As a result, I hadn't given the itinerary that much thought until we arrived and had no Phil to guide us. Fortunately, Kyle Duran had been on a trip into the park the previous year (Discovery Hut) with the same company and took on the role of team lead in Phil's absence. The plan was to take a snowcat up the road 11km, then ski tour the remaining 5 km and ~600m up to the Trophy Hut. We had booked a helicopter to fly in our heavier gear which allowed us to pack nice food, beer and other luxury hut items for our extended stay and New Year's Party. Kyle Duran was to fly in with the chopper to help unload at the hut while the rest of us skied in with our light packs to meet him.

The first order of business upon arrival in Clearwater was to explode our gear all over the hotel room and repack everything. We needed to pack our stuff in such a way that it could be easily loaded and unloaded into the heli, keeping in mind that we would have to carry out everything that we didn't use or eat. We opted for cardboard wine boxes so we could burn the boxes at the hut. Joel and Sean had banana boxes which were nice and big but ended up being a big pain because they wouldn't stack flat in the helicopter! After the packing frenzy, we met in the restaurant for dinner and a beer to toast to our upcoming trip. This was followed by a hot tub where we met some other skiers who were also flying into the park with Ian the following day. They were heading to Discovery Hut and had been coming into the park every year for the past. 

The next morning, we met Ian bright and early at the Well's Gray Inn for a safety briefing. He gave us information about the hut and terrain in the area as well as the avalanche conditions. He walked us through their radio check in's that would be happening daily to give us weather and avalanche updates. Then we were off to the hanger! The Discovery group got the first ride and successfully made it to the cabin. As we waited, clouds started to build. There was a storm in the forecast that we had been hoping to beat. Things were looking promising and we held our breaths watching the skies. 
The heli arrives and we hold our breaths waiting for the news (Sean Jacklin) photo)
Holding down our precious cargo - kilos of cheese, wine and beer (Sean Jacklin photo)
It wasn't much of a surprise when we got the news that the weather was getting worse and the heli wasn't going to be able to fly that morning. 

We had to make a choice:
1. Repack our gear and carry in as much as we could for the whole trip and forego the heli altogether, ensuring that if the weather didn't improve that we would be able to spend the whole trip at the hut
2. Carry in the essentials and leave the rest at the hanger in hopes that they would be able to fly our gear in later. The risk was that if the heli couldn't come it that we would run out of food and might have to ski out to get more.

The weather wasn't looking good for the next two days but the forecast was calling for clear skies Sunday morning. We decided to take the gamble and carry in our lightest meals, leaving the majority of our food at the hanger. We had already paid for the helicopter flight and didn't want to skimp on our supplies if we could avoid it. Another packing frenzy ensued as we sorted through boxes for essential items and our lightest meals to carry in.
What to take and what to leave? (Sean Jacklin photo)
By the time we were reorganized, the morning was gone. It was time to load up the snowcat and make our way up to the hut. We drove up the road to Well's Gray park to meet Ian and his machine. Spirits were high despite the change in plans.
Loading up the cat (Sean Jacklin photo)
Enjoying the ride (Sean Jacklin photo)
At the cat turn around (11km road marker), we unloaded our gear and started the slog into Trophy with heavy bags. It had started to snow, but a group had skied out that morning so we didn't have to break trail. Ian joined us for about two-thirds of the way before leaving us at the upper meadow with instructions on how to find the hut.
Excited to start the trip (Sean Jacklin photo)
Heading up the skin track (Sean Jacklin photo)
After a few hours of touring, we arrived at the Trophy Hut (~2080m). It sits just at the tree line, below a small peak (midnight runs). The hut was heated with a propane heater, providing constant temperatures without any wood chopping. It had solar lights and a propane sauna too! The hut sleeps 14 people in the loft and had sleeping mats, blankets and pillows. All we needed to bring was a sheet and pillowcase. The kitchen was well stocked and the hut was spacious with plenty of hooks to hang up wet gear. There were even yoga mats for after ski stretching. It was very comfortable! On clear days, you had great views down and across the valley to Raft Mountain. With steep tree skiing below, and big chutes in the Playground behind the hut, there was tonnes of terrain to explore. It was going to be a great week!
Snowy Trophy Hut! (David Lee photo)
After the morning's events, we didn't reach the hut until mid-afternoon. Sean and David were stoked to get skiing and went out for a quick afternoon lap while the rest of us settled in, unpacked and lounged around while Tyler started making us dinner. We had a dinner schedule so every night a different person/group was making dinner and cleaning up for the whole group. This gave everyone else time to chill out and relax.
Storm rolls in (Sean Jacklin photo)
David finds fresh pow on the first run of the trip (Sean Jacklin photo)
In celebration of our first night at the hut, we went out for a night ski on Midnight Run above the hut. The snow was deep and soft. It was preview of what was to come later in the trip. We were all smiles on the tour back up to the hut. 
Top of Midnight Run, getting ready to drop in (Tyler Jones photo)
Skins off (Tyler Jones photo)
Night time powder farming (Tyler Jones photo)
Winter wonderland (Tyler Jones photo)
The storm raged all the next day. There was no way the heli was going to fly so we went to explore the terrain above the hut. In the white-out it was hard to get a feel for the terrain but over the next few days we discovered some excellent tree skiing (Cleopatra), long gullies on Raft bump, as well as steep chutes and couloirs in the Playground. The group at the hut before us had been skiing mellow terrain so we ended up punching in our own skin tracks. After a few days, we had a network of trails all over the place! It continued to snow but we were surprised to find good stability and were able to push into steeper and more committing terrain. There were a few cool alpine runs that tempted us, but high winds scoured the exposed slopes. Instead we opted for the more protected runs at and below treeline where the snow was deep.
Tyler doubles down on the praying and we were rewarded
Hut down time - maps, books, coffee and tunes
Map with hut marked (on green boarder of Wells Gray) and some of the ski runs
Kyle scopes out a gnarly entrance into the Playground
One of the mellower Playground chutes
Fresh lines into the Playground (Tyler Jones photo)
David getting some air
Steep and deep on Cleopatra

Heading home after a full day on the trail (David Leephoto)
Exploring the other side of the Valley - Raft Bump
Top of the World! (Tyler Jones photo)
David and Kyle scope their line (Tyler Jones photo)
We had been rationing our supplies carefully but were starting to run low on food. We woke to sunshine Sunday morning and were back and forth on the radio with the base about weather conditions. There was just enough cloud to keep them from flying. We had to watch and wait. Christine and Phil were skiing in that day with a cat ride up the road but nobody knew when they were going to arrive. Eventually we grew sick of waiting and a few of us went out for a ski leaving the others to man the radio and wait for the heli. We had our own radio and could listen in on the conversation but our signal wasn't strong enough for us to respond. There was some drama as Discovery Hut needed the heli to pick up one of their group members. At some point, the heli did a fly-by but didn't land at Trophy. Finally we heard the words we had been waiting for, they were on the way with our gear!

Suddenly we had a huge surplus of food, drinks and other non-essentials. We set to work eating as if it was our job. There was not way we were going to carry out any more than we absolutely had too. It seemed like all waking moments that were not spent skiing were spent eating. Good thing we were having high output days!
The clouds part and the helicopter arrives (Phil Tomlinson photo)
David and Tyler on dinner duty
Risotto feast 
Then the sun came out! Suddenly we had views of the whole area and were able to get out and explore further from the hut. We broke into 2 smaller groups and set out to ski the fresh powder left by the storm.
Kyle surveys the view of Raft from the deck

Group 1 leaves the hut in search of pow
Slopes above the Playground (Sean Jacklin photo)
Sean in the pow (Phil Tomlinson photo)
Kyle Duran ripping (Phil Tomlinson photo)
Joel enjoys some fresh tracks (Sean Jacklin photo)
Phil and Kyle ready for more! (Sean Jacklin photo)
Huts, skin tracks and mountain ranges (Sean Jacklin photo)
Phil and Christine in search of new terrain (Sean Jacklin photo)
Endless possibilities (Sean Jacklin photo)
Jenny gets some fresh tracks (Tyler Jones photo)
David finds a line
The days blurred together as we established a comfortable routine of skiing, board games (Hero Realms), giant family dinners and endless saunas. After the high output days, we were often in bed pretty early. One exception was New Year's Eve where we pulled out the Tickle Trunk and shot ski for a wild night of board games, box wine and amazing food. We even braved the snowy night for a New Years night ski. Somehow everyone made it to midnight, perhaps not entirely by choice!
Shot ski fun (Sean Jacklin photo)
Team night ski! (Phil Tomlinson photo)
Getting ready to drop in - in style (Tyler Jones photo)
Following New Years, the snow continued to fall. Everywhere else in the province, the avalanche conditions were getting scary but we continued to find excellent skiing without any signs of activity. It was only on the last two days when the temperatures started to rise that we began to notice any sluffing or fracturing. 
Cleopatra laps (Sean Jacklin photo)
Storm snow celebration (Sean Jacklin photo)
Joel getting some face shots (Sean Jacklin photo)
As the trip wound to a close, everyone was heading their separate ways. It had been a blast disconnecting from the "real world" for a few days and to spend time with friends in the mountains.
Kyle and Joel tend to the "burn barrel" (Sean Jacklin photo)
Kyle's massive pack for the ski out was not very fun
It might have snowed a bit while we were gone. I skied right past the Subaru initially and was confused when I couldn't find it...