This was a quick trip up to the Brew Hut for Christmas, which definitely doesn't have a quick approach. Adam and Agi wanted to go somewhere for Christmas, and I had to be back on the evening on the 25th for a family dinner, so my schedule was not the greatest. I figured though, that we could ski up to the Brew Hut on the 24th, ski some moonlight powder laps, wake up early, ski a few laps and then ski out to the car in time for me to get home. This might have sounded like slave-driving to Agi at some point during the trip, but we did enjoy some nice snow conditions!
Mid-winter, parking is normally at the Powder Mountain Cat skiing base, 1.6km up the Chance Creek FSR. We had to park below that though, close to the highway turnoff due to a sledder truck that was having issues on the snowy-not-yet-plowed road. This is within the Rubble Creek landslide zone, and I think you can get towed away for parking here in the restricted zone. The approach along the logging roads are well detailed in the Varsity Outdoor Club Brew Hut wikipage, following the Chance Creek FSR, then along Roe Creek FSR, across the bridge to the east side, and up the R200 branch. In the fall of 2015, Roe FSR was deactivated beyond the R200 branch. There are rumours that R200 may also be deactivated next summer once they complete the last block of logging, and this may result in pulling out the bridge over Roe Creek. Stay tuned! I think the main point here is to use those Coast Mountain logging roads while they are still good!
The slog up the logging roads was fairly uneventful, following the cat track, then snowmobile track and eventually breaking trail up the R200 branch. It took us 3 to 3.5 hours to cover the 10km's on the logging road. The trailhead is not obvious due to the extensive clear-cutting up here, but you're aiming for the upper right part of the cutblock, just to the right of a cliff face, and you should see red trail markers in the tree. Be sure to bring a GPS with the trailhead and trail and hut marked in. This route is notorious for people getting lost and not finding the hut in poor weather.
There were old tracks here, barely visible after the past 48hr of snowfall. There were three other guys that we passed on the way up and nobody else around. I went ahead of Agi and Adam, getting to Brew Lake at 2:30pm, where I had some extra time to get in two short laps. The slope was small, but the snow quality was excellent and I could see my friends crossing the meadows towards the lake. We reached the hut at 3:30pm and of course there was nobody home on Christmas eve. We quickly dropped our stuff, and then headed south to ski two short runs from the ridge above the hut, down into Brew Hut. Daylight was fading fast, and we headed back to the hut. By this point, the three guys just crossed the lake, and agreed that the approach to the the hut is further than it seems.
Christmas dinner was pretty simple. Spinach goat cheese salad, followed by gnocchi and spinach. It was Christmas though, so I baked a batch of chocolate cookies over my backcountry oven for dessert. The Christmas full moon was rising to the east, illuminating the snowy landscape outside the hut. Headlamps were not needed at all to walk around outside. We had two friends, Dave and Kacie, who were also planning to show up. They planned to leave Vancouver at mid-day, so we weren't sure when they would arrive. I knew they would have a spectacular skin in under the moonlight though.
Powered by the chocolate cookies, Adam and I went off for a moonlight ski. I was curious about the snow conditions on the big run on the north side of the hut, so we skied part way down. The snow conditions felt good, and I couldn't wait to unwrap the rest of that powder present the next morning. We skinned back up, along the ridge west of the hut, and then dropped back down towards Brew Lake, and then back to the hut. Kacie and Dave showed up at 11pm, and we were already upstairs sleeping.
So I had a tight schedule for Christmas day, and there was no sleeping-in on the agenda. We started off the morning with a breakfast of champions, pie and chocolate croissant baked in my backcountry oven. Agi's co-worker had given her a whole pie just before Christmas. Agi thought that bringing an entire pie for an overnight trip was excessive (I disagree), so we only ate half a pie that Christmas morning. Of course, there were more freshly baked chocolate cookies to follow since the oven was warm anyways!
The best part about the Brew Hut is that its on a high ridge and you can ski straight from the front door of the hut. There's a 325m run that drops northwest down to a small lake in Brandywine Creek. It's an awesome run, a great Christmas present. You need to be careful as there are some steeper slopes to skiers left that can slide from above. From the lake, I set a skintrack around to the west, which follows a forested bench into the bowl west of the cabin. This area, Brandywine Bowl, has lots of good sking on N, NE and E aspects. We skied two laps west of Keg Peak, and another lap north of Hops Peak, 200-300m long runs. We skipped the upper parts, just below the ridge tops, which can be quite wind-loaded. There were no signs of avalanches, and only small cornice failures.
We were back at hut by noon, after a very efficient morning of ski-touring. When the weather is good, it's hard to beat the views from the Brew Hut. And with the amazing snow conditions, it was pretty hard to leave the hut to ski out and back to Vancouver. I wasn't sure how long the ski out would take. I was expecting three hours, but we made it out in just under 2 hours. From the hut, it's a long glide down, across Brew Lake, some minor side-stepping in the forest, and then a long glide out to the Roe Creek bridge. There is a small hill climbing back up from the creek that you might want to put skins on, but can do without. And then it's just quick snowplow down snowmobile/cat tracks to the base area. Because we parked lower down, we walked the last kilometre of the road, which was now plowed.
If you're planning to visit this area, don't forget to post of the VOC hut registration wiki page to let others know. And don't forget to leave a donation, there's even a lock box up there for your convenience.
A frozen Lucille Lake
Adam and Agi on the logging roads.
Agi breaking trail on the R200 branch
Crossing Brew meadows. The days are too short! Good thing there's a full moon =)
Gorgeous evening light, with Agi and Tricouni Peak behind.
Getting closer to the hut
Is anybody home?
Adam skiing above Brew Lake
Agi skiing down in the last light on Christmas eve
Spinach-goat cheese salad
More goat cheese on top of the gnocchi
I'm pretty stoked about the cookies and milk. I'm not sure if Santa will fit down the Brew Hut chimney though.
The VOC Brew Hut
Christmas eve. Yes, those are LED christmas lights behind me.
Looking west at Mount Brew
Skiing with Adam under the full moon
Our tracks from earlier that afternoon
Pie and croissant!
Moonset at the head of Roe Creek
The big spine-wall next to Tricouni Peak. It's been skied!
Warm chocolate cookies, ten minutes before dropping into our run.
Bottom of the run.
Adam climbing up Brandywine Bowl. The hut is on the ridgeline on the left.
Snow textures on the Hops Peak ridge
And there's the hut
Agi skiing Brandywine Bowl
Good snow quality
Dropping through the sparse trees towards the unnamed lake at the head of Brandywine Creek south
Looking back at the 1100ft run in better light now. You can't see the hut yet, but you can see our tracks. I thought we might see the others at this point, but they were still hanging out at the hut. They had all day!
Agi cruising through the nice Brew powder
More snow textures. We stayed off these wind-loaded convex slopes today.
One last run in Brandywine bowl, north of Hops Peak.
Adam climbing back towards the hut, with the ridgeline behind him that leads to Keg Peak
Our tracks from the front step of the hut
Ok, one more descent.
It's just a winter wonderland up here.
Another shot of that steep spiny wall.
We skinned up to the ridge again, to ski down to Brew Lake.
Adam and the Barrier
Cruising along the gentle downhill towards Brew Lake
Back on the logging road, with a view of the steep and complex terrain on the east side of Tricouni Peak