Crossing the homathko
With Arran Whiteford
Leaving the road, we were bubbling with stoke, regardless of how heavy our packs were or how bland the trail. Months of planning, organising rides, food drops and making DIY gear, our adventure was now H-A-P-P-E-N-I-N-G. Hours after, we realise that we've probably missed the crucial turnoff, and we didn't really get around to sorting the route for this 21-day trip. Shoulders groan in protest. Leaving a hunting lodge were told: "When you see three blazes near to a huge fir tree, turn left onto a smaller trail.” Which would be wise words, but we’d seen about 10 triple blazed markings and the forest was full of big firs. Getting to the snow is always the worst part of a ski trip – as our leaden skis attached high on our packs caught on overhead branches we stopped to untangle each other. I closed my eyes, slowly exhaled and imagined the glorious snow ahead, the smooth slide of skins on spring snow crust. Soon. We hopped over dryish patches in a smelly wet swamp for a second time, climbing back up the hill. Tottering over fallen trees, rigid ski boots and tall packs tested our balance. Not long after finding the right route – with no triple blaze in sight – we dumped our packs on dank dry earth to settle down at our first camp and the stoke started smoldering again. Mike was thrilled to build his first bear hang. Dave built a fire. Ridiculous amounts of effort went into reducing our pack weight: we’ve converted our ice axes to double as shovel handles, the four guys are sleeping in a threeman tent, one in the vestibule, and our menu is meticulously planned to have an uber high calorie-to-weight ratio. As a result, I’m at least disappointed to find I’ve accidentally packed 18 extra tent pegs hidden in the tent pocket. Huddled around the cosy fire we agreed we’d gone slightly overboard cutting weight–we’d got no whiskey for the entire first week. By the third day, we're finally high enough to properly ski. The Stikeline river we follow is mostly frozen over with snow –It is a highway, an autobahn, a yellow brick road leading through the dense forest up to the mountains. Our skins glide swiftly, heavenly on the hard morning snow and we make exceptionally good progress. At lunch, sitting in front of a magnificent frozen waterfall, the four guys are blown away by the dehydrated hummus we have brought. “How much did we bring?” Dave asks. Erm… “3.2 kg of powder so that makes umm….” Joane calculates. “10 1/4 kg of hummus.” Fortunately, it’s super scrumptious.