Losing an hour of sleep due to daylight saving time isn’t the best for trying to get an early departure, so when I called Pete Hudson last night, he suggested a 7:15am “old time” departure. The destination: Hanging Lake, aka Sledhead highpoint city.
We drove to the Callaghan Olympic centre, and parked at the Biathlon centre. As we were putting on our boots, we were approached by one of the staff, who told us about the backcountry pass. We really didn’t want to pay it, and tried to argue that we were going to be on the groom trails for a very short period of time, and crossing it perpendicular most of the time anyways. She explained that the backcountry pass was part of a liability issue, and that it would also helped to cover the cost of building the road, plowing it, and building the parking lot. In addition, the $6.50 per person was the same as the snowshoeing cost. She seem quite interested that we were going touring up to Hanging Lake, but insisted that we go to the Nordic centre and pay. She mentioned that when we get the backcountry pass, we would get a note for our dashboard so the staff knows if we’re gone for a day or more.
After a long contemplation at the truck, we decided to do Scott Nelson’s option 4, which was to buy one backcountry pass, and split it. Pete went into the office to inquire about it, and it turns out that you get one of those lift ticket things to stick on your jacket (which Pete never did), and you don’t actually get a note for your dashboard. The gate to the Nordic centre closes at 5:30pm, but there is a security guard who has keys, but it’s best not to rely on it.
From the parking lot, we mostly cut across the maze of cross country trails, until we got to an old road which took us up to the cutblock that you can see from the parking lot. Just over an hour later, we reached Hanging Lake, after doing a slighty detour when we realized we were too far north of the creek. The trees here are steep, but would be amazing in powder conditions. There are one or two open sections which could get sketchy though. While skinning up through the trees, we thought about our worst ski descents.It was quite cloudy at the lake, so we only saw sled tracks, but no sledders. To quote Pete, What do you do when a sledder with half a head is coming at you? Stop laughing and reload. From the lake, we skied up the north facing slopes towards a bump at 5800ft. It wasn’t a “summit or die” day, so we didn’t bother going all the way to the bump. While skinning up, Pete wondered why we kept going up to only ski down the mashed potato snow. I was hoping the snow got better. The lighting today wasn't exactly photo inspiring today, so the cameras rarely came out.
Pete doing a quick ski wax with the pink lady.
A Matt Gunn inspired photo.
Anyways we did one run down to the lake, made some decent turns, but it was quite tracked out and heavy. The snow on Seymour on Monday was even better. At this point the weather got a little better, and the snowmobilers showed up. Too bad we forgot to bring a kilo of sugar and a handgun. They were going towards the north facing slope, so in hopes of getting some more exercise and fresh air, we skinned up 5300ft bump northwest of the lake. It was “summit or die” time, so we skied to the top of the bump. I don’t really know why we skied up this, since it was either dicey crust or breakable crust all the way back to the lake. Pete described it as “landmine snow,” where you sink through with one foot but not two foot.
There was still a long ways of survival skiing down the trees from the lake outlet to the Nordic centre. We had some unexpected turns when in patches of good snow, but most of it was survival skiing on a typical ice crust, about 1500ft of it. It only took us 40 minutes to go from the bump to the cutblock at the bottom, so I guess it wasn’t that bad, but think about how fast you could go down if you actually skied it. We found corn snow on cutblock. I don’t know how many people have skied powder and corn on the same day.
Pete showing what he thinks of the snow quality in the trees.
Anyways it was a good destination to explore, with potential for good skiing, and the whole trip only took five hours. Maybe the snow will be better next weekend.