March 13-16, 2015 my friends and I stayed at the Alpine Club of Canada’s Stanley Mitchell Hut in the Little Yoho Valley of Yoho National Park, a true gem of the Canadian Rockies.
tl;dr here is a quick video edit of the skiing that weekend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpEi9Qmo8EM
“Because you know I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass, no treble…”
“Brendan, seriously you HAVE to stop singing that song.” – Nikki and I to Brendan after 8.5 hours of skinning and having Meghan Trainor stuck in our heads thanks to him. Being on trail for that long with limited stops and 50 pounds of weight on your back can make you a little crazy.
Thursday night March 12th the crew and I shacked up at the Fireweed Hostel in Field, BC (HIGHLY recommended hostel!). That evening we discussed entry routes and compared ideas. We decided that Jeremy and Chelsea would attempt the “iceline exit” as an entry to the hut instead of the traditional Yoho Valley Road route that Brendan, Nikki and I opted to take. The Yoho road promised to be a ~23km fairly uninteresting slog along a road at valley bottom with most of the elevation gain near to the end of the ski in. The iceline trail was supposedly only going to be ~15km (short cuts…always a great idea…) with most of the elevation gain near the beginning of the route, but would mean a lot more route finding and a lot more exposure to avalanche hazard. Note that it is called the iceline “exit” not the iceline “entry”. More on this later.
Friday March 13th we awoke before sunrise, cooked some breakfast, packed our bags, and hopped in the vehicles to our respective trailheads. Both groups were on trail by ~8am. The Yoho Valley Road was everything we expected it to be – long and fairly uninteresting. On the positive side, as fit young people we were able to skin very quickly thanks to the gorgeous weather and quick skin-track (no trail breaking – woo-hoo!). However, if you are carrying 50 pounds of gear on your back and wearing clunky awkward gear on your feet, “a good pace” is still pretty slow. Toward hour #7 the three of us were feeling somewhat exhausted and eager to arrive at the destination. The last 1.5 hours were truly gruelling, made worse by the fact that every time we thought we were close, a sign would appear to crush all our hopes and dreams.
The most rewarding sight in the world was finally seeing the hut upon arrival at 4:30pm.
Unfortunately for Chelsea and Jeremy, the iceline route was not nearly as much of a short cut as they were hoping it would be. They rolled into the around ~8pm, 12 hours after starting. Note to all future Stanley Mitchell Hut users – do not attempt to take the “iceline exit” as an entry! The way up the Yoho Pass is steep and unforgiving, then the iceline “trail” itself is exposed to overhead hazards and is difficult to navigate, with unexpected cliff bands and far more vertical than expected. Anyway, needless to say those two were even more exhausted than we were when we got in.
That night and the next we shared the hut with another group – five awesome guys who had come in from Bow Hut. Hut buddies are the best buddies. Our groups really hit it off, and had a lot of fun playing games and joking around all weekend, including some seriously vicious games of Asshole and Spoons.
Saturday morning we were all sore but stoked to ski. Lucky for us it had started snowing on Friday evening – and it hadn’t stopped and wasn’t showing signs of stopping. This gave us the perfect excuse to yoyo powder laps in the trees nearby that day instead of seeking bigger alpine lines we didn’t have the energy for anyway.
By Sunday the snow had stopped and we had the opportunity that morning to shoot for the most famous line in the Little Yoho Valley – The Vice President & President via The President Glacier. This is what we were most excited for. We roped up, grabbed our axes, and started making our way up the glacier, which turned out to be pretty mellow. If there were any crevasses, they were all filled in and the route was very easy to navigate. Unfortunately near the top the winds picked up and more snow began falling. We were forced to make the call to turn back, feeling uncomfortable with how conditions were deteriorating. Nevertheless, skiing down was very pleasant, despite the poor visibility. We then had plenty of time left in the day to play in the glades some more.
Monday we had to go home, sadly. This time we all skied out along the Yoho Road as a group. Skiing out was much quicker and easier than skiing in, taking only 5 hours.
Thanks to the ACC for maintaining such a fantastic hut. We will be back!