Mt Cain — The Long Way Around

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, Read the report on his blog

Being focused on an objective is a great way to track progress and remember to celebrate when you achieve a goal. But sometimes, I get so focused on the objective that I forget about everything that goes into making the day a success. On January 22nd, I had a good reminder that getting to the destination can be half the fun.

I’m usually the driver for our adventures. Behind the wheel, I’m focused on the moment: making sure I don’t fall asleep, leave us sideways on a patch of ice, or take the wrong road. I try to take in as much as I can, but I often let the landscape slide past me without paying it much mind. On January 22nd, I was a passenger — Oh, the sweet passenger life! I scrunched myself into the backseat, propped my head against the window, and watched the landscape roll by. I took it all in – well, at least the right side of the highway. We were on our way to … well, I don’t even remember where. I recall that our destination was past Gold River — a long drive, for sure! But where we were headed isn’t important, because we didn’t get there. In fact, we rerouted several times and ended up far from our original destination.

Mt Cain Snowshoe in the Dream Chute
Mt Cain parking area, Genesis Range

Approaching our first destination, we were not overly surprised to find a pile of snow higher than our vehicle blocking the entrance to the spur we’d intended to use. We didn’t even consider walking, because the road stretched more than seven kilometres before the trailhead for our hike. We rerouted, continuing along the logging road toward our second objective, Mt. Alston. Again, we discovered that the road was iced in. Next up: Mt. Adam, located well beyond Sayward. Considering our position, it was no faster to turn back and take the highway than it was to continue on the backroads toward our goal.

We drove the icy roads quickly, and started climbing the road toward Mt. Cain, as the Mt. Adam turnoff is a spur off this road. At the spur, we were faced with a snow-covered road that impeded our progress. We gave up and decided to continue up the ploughed road toward the groomed runs of majestic Mt. Cain. After over four hours of driving, I nearly had to unfold myself to exit the vehicle in the Mt. Cain parking lot! I took it all in: the quaint board and battened building welcomed us in the full parking lot, while skiers, snowshoers, snowboarders, and backcountry skiers were everywhere.

Mt Cain Snowshoe in the Dream Chute

The parking lot was so windy that we all wore the best of our windproof clothing. It was late in the morning by the time we stepped out of the lot and headed up the outer groomed runs. We stayed on the outer edges and in the trees, to give skiers the right of way. The snow was in great condition for snowshoeing and mostly carried our weight. The straightforward route and good conditions gave us easy access up to the edge of the Dream Chute.

What a view! Standing at the precipice of the Dream Chute, we could see Mt. Cain and Mt. Adam across the valley. We stepped onto the steep slopes, leaving the comfort of the groomed ski runs behind us. As we traversed, we kept our eyes open for skiers. Mostly we had the slope to ourselves, but there were a few adventure-seekers who came from above us. They dropped into the chute, carving sharp turns on the crusty snow, their efforts rewarded by the loud scraping of their skis that echoed into the valley. Yet, somehow, they made it look effortless. As for our route, we made a more direct ascent of the slopes toward the ridge line, well to the left of Mt. Cain’s summit.

Mt Cain Snowshoe in the Dream Chute

On the precipice of the ridge, we stood and looked at the view beyond. We stood for only a short time, not daring to approach the edge for fear that the obvious cornices would collapse. The wind buffeted me, and I imagined myself being pushed off-balance and falling over the ledge. Soon, we moved along the ridge and back toward the ski slopes. We faced some seriously steep slopes as we started on the route, definitely steep enough for me to pull out my mountaineering axe to give me some traction. As we crossed the steepest of sections, I felt the binding on my snowshoe fail — snap! With one snowshoe off and one on, I continued on the short traverse. I’ll be honest, it was much easier to use my boots to kick steps through the rain crust than it was to place the snowshoe and keep stable. What fun is it in the mountains if you aren’t testing your limits?

It was only a short hike along the ridge before we joined back with the ski runs, which we followed back down to the car. We made the best out of what could have been a crummy day. I may not have crossed any mountains off the list, but I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the views.


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