MOUNTAIN LIFE - Coast Mountains | Winter Spring 2017 - page 84

After our first attempt to find the infamous Stikine hot springs ended
in a beaver-dammed cesspool of mosquitoes and sulphur, we caught
a glimpse of a second, steaming creek 300metres beyond the first.
Trudging up another gnarly, sulphurous bog we discovered an oasis. Eight
volcanic springs oozed out of the earth creating a verdant microclimate
of lush plants and greenmossy carpet in amongst a wintery backdrop.
Our prayers had been answered and we quickly set to work building the
first bathing pools in this untouched environment. Stiff bodies recovered
quickly as we waited out the storm in the most relaxedmanner any of us
have ever experienced on an expedition.
When the skies cleared again, we headed out fast and light, ditching the
tents and every other non-essential item. Powering through 600metres
(2,000 feet) of steep, sustained and exposed pitches, mixed dirt, roots,
rotten isolated patches of ice and devil’s club proved a true test of our
grit. After gaining the ridgeline, we ascended the col and camped in less-
than-ideal snow conditions—we’d been hoping for blower pow, but the
storm delivered concrete. It didn’t matter, we were up high in a spectacular
setting for a second time. It was time to delve deeper into themountains.
The next morningmarked 36 hours since we’d left basecamp. The recent
snow had had time to settle, and although heavy, it had bonded well
and appeared stable. Then something quite unusual happened. Adense
cloud sitting in the valley bottom rose to our elevation, its moisture
itching for any surface to cling to. The snow acted like a giant sponge and
temperatures soared. It reached its critical mass; Armageddon was going
off all around us. The sound of cornices breaking and faces sliding echoed
throughout the mountains. We bunkered down in a safe zone, terrified
tomove. ASize 2 slide roared past us some five metres to our right. The
decision to retreat came swiftly and easily, the safe and steaming hot
springs were calling. And after that, home.
• • •
Paddling the final leg of our journey through driving rain and heavy
winds, we arrived at the height of luxury—the Garnet Creek Forest Service
cabin. A few, short miles from the ferry terminal at Wrangell, the cabin
signalled the end of our journey, so we gorged on the remaining food and
started the celebrations amidst a breathtaking display of wildlife—eagles,
seals and a giant sea lion that appeared to check out the kayaks.
The Stikine River and Boundary Range had provided us with an experience
that will be cherished forever. The energy and power of the vast and
changing landscape is utterly humbling and reminds us of how very
insignificant we are in this world. It demands the utmost of respect and
should be greatly appreciated.
The dynamics of our teamwas just as inspiring. In unpredictable,
harsh environments, attitude is the one thing you can control. A unique
expedition like this one, riddled with such high levels of uncertainty,
requires optimism, witty humour, motivation and grit. As always, the team
makes the trip. Thanks, boys!
Wemadehigh campat 5,500 feet, crushed,
sunburnt, exhaustedandoverjoyed.
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