Canada: Snowstorms and Avalanche-slopes – CAN Expedition 1, Day 1

The day had come for our first expedition up into the mountains of British Columbia. With our packed bags, we got aboard a greyhound bus from Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station, and got off roughly an hour later in the town of Squamish. The weather wasn’t ideal; it was overcast and drizzly, but we would have to make do with it. After a short trip in 4wd vehicles, we arrived at the trail head (which coincided with the beginning of a snow cover), put on our snow shoes and headed off.

Carrying backpacks of roughly 20kg, out of which we would be living for the next three days, made learning to walk with snow shoes a seriously exhausting experience, and led us to stopping every couple minutes. The route of only roughly 5km, all uphill, took several hours for our group to complete (as a comparison: the way back down took only three-quarters of an hour).

At first, the snow shoes seemed a bit unnecessary. But the higher we got, the more snow there was. The last winter had been especially snow-rich, and even now in May there were still three to four meters of snow left on the mountain.

The snow masses also meant that there was a risk of avalanches. One part of our hike was below an especially exposed and at-risk slope, meaning that we had to pass one-by-one to be able to take appropriate measures should the snow have started slipping. Luckily, it didn’t.

Reaching our “campsite” – at this time really not much more than a roughly level field of snow with less trees than surrounding it – it was time for setting up tents, rolling out sleeping bags, and starting a fire in the cabin next door. Especially that last bit proved to be quite difficult, but eventually we got a fire going which everybody was keen to dry their shoes and socks over.

Bit by bit, after setting up their tents, people started gathering in the cabin, which was very convenient because it gave those of us who were ready to brave the cold to take photos that we could have the outside completely to ourselves.

Even the fact that it started snowing quite strongly and it was uncomfortably cold didn’t stop me and my friend from getting those shots that we wanted.

The weather kept deteriorating, and with thick clouds starting to roll over the mountain also came wind.

One positive thing about being caught in a snow storm, from a photography standpoint, is that the lighting is quite smooth and uniform.

After a long day, we went to sleep. I think until that night, I didn’t fully appreciate the concept of tents and warm sleeping bags.


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