If you try backcountry for even a season, you can quickly find that there are few moments that really define your love for something that seems so blatantly useless. At this point it is impossible to distinguish which part of skiing nips deep chowder in jaw dropping terrain is going to further me in life, but yowza is it a breathtaking experience! This February/March I was offered an opportunity to join a group going into the Jumbo Hut along the Purcell Divide in British Columbia. Little known fact, British Columbia is REALLY pretty, and the Columbias are no exception. Starting 2,500 million years ago a magma chamber rose to the surface and cooled forming a granitic batholith of good “quality”. This batholith has since been exposed forming the current day Selkirks (Rogers Pass/Revelstoke area), but HOW it became exposed is particularly interesting. The crust on top of the batholith did not erode over time, but rather slid off to the south and west causing enough heat and energy for metamorphic rocks to form while also exposing the batholith. The Purcells are on the “stretching” end of the slide, and are subsequently at the very bottom of Columbias. The result is striking peaks with awe inspiring uplift and stratigraphy!
When going skiing it is common practice to say you’re going to church, which until recently I wasn’t clear why. Skiing is exactly like going to church; you are going into a sacred place capped by high ceilings and decorated in a brilliant display of beautify for those who seek it. You always leave with a new appreciation for life, be it a burger in town or just getting out safely on a broken binding, and those who you share your experience with become family. Amongst the high uplifted peaks of the Jumbo Valley
I saw the film Jumbo Wild this Fall when down at Smith Rocks.The film was great, similar to a “Damnation” calibur documentry but with more skiing! However, it seemed just out of reach with no sled and no partners in the area. Low and behold January rolls around and Meaghann Gaffney gives me a call to go into the hut for 3-4 days with her and her buddies. Arriving in Invermere I knew nobody except The Gaffney (whom I have only skied with once) and Peter (who I ran into at the climbing gym the week prior). Aside from those two, everyone was new to me and ended up being some of the finest shredders I have had the pleasure of skiing with.
To approach the cabin in the winter, one must first snowmobile 21 kilometers into Jumbo Valley itself. Once there, there is a short hike up to the cabin; the cabin can be reached in under two hours if you hustle. It is a bit confusing on the skin track up, as you have to keep going North from the trailhead while still in the trees. Going to high could result in being cliffed out trying to traverse. All in it took us two days to reach the hut, but can also be done in a day. Right on cue, it started to snow as we broke down camp. It never really stopped until out last day, minus a rough clear night.
Avalanche conditions prohibited any large objectives due to an increasingly touchy storm slab ranging 10-25 cm deep, with a persistent layer at ~70cm. After a touchy run on the third day, natural selection of smaller groups formed and the tree skiing to the west of the cabin was explored. There’s magic to Jumbo in that; yes, the peaks surrounding the valley are absolutely stunning, but also the tree skiing and micro-terrain surrounding the hut is fantastic. All in all we saw some great pillow and tree skiing all while inside the orb of a pingpong ball with how hard it snowed.
The hut itself is really nice, and toasty. They have taken the liberty to stud the walls with enough nails to dry out anything and everything. A wood stove, working coleman unit, lantern, and plenty of grubby dishes was sufficient to feed. Hut needs change constantly, but we noticed that there are no more tea candles, the sponges are gnarly, and there is no soap for dishes so plan accordingly!
Huge thanks to Ltd. Optics! I had my goggles on for a good portion of our time touring due to the nuking nature of our trip. Never once did they even hint at fogging, and unlike my Dynafit binding (RIP), have not a trace of wear through a winter of heavy use and abuse! Thanks fellas!
Church doesn’t have to happen on Sunday, and that next badass films you see of some far flung location doesn’t have to be out of reach! With winter winding down and the allure of corn skiing as far as the eye can see draws near, dig deep and get out there!