I was blind. The wind screamed obscenities through my helmet as I tried to keep my eyes on the escaping taillight of the sled in front of me. The weather took over. We were machine-gunned by whipping snow and ice, and I fought the urge to shout out loud in fury as I rode. Twenty below zero-the throttle was pinned in my death grip-and our whining train of snowmobiles tore across the ice field. Every so often we’d stop to check the GPS. We were on course-heading off the Pemberton ice cap and back to the valley below. Back to civilization. A fierce storm was on our heels, and we got the f-k out in the nick of time. When you make it out unscathed, it’s impossible to call any backcountry trip a failure. Especially a trip like this-it had been unreal. Descending into the trees and beneath the storm, I started laughing to myself. We made it out.

The Plan
Shin Campos came up with the grand scheme to ride snowmobiles from Whistler to the ocean and began mapping it all out months in advance. It was a plan we’d follow loosely at best-the main goal being the adventure itself. The mission would require helicopter support to transport fuel and supplies to our remote base camp. Setting out from the Rutherford trailhead near Whistler, the group would ride over 120 kilometers to our Mushroom Village camp in the Thousand Lakes region. From our base there, we’d make day trips to the fringes of the coast.

The Crew
When all the trucks were parked and the sleds pointed uphill, the crew of this chaotic adventure included Kale Stephens, Jason McAlister, Shin Campos, and Jon Cartwright. On the documentation: photographer Scott Serfas, myself, and Treetop Films’ Travis Robb. Of course, a trip of this nature would be impossible without an experienced, certified backcountry guide. We employed the services of Full Circle Adventures’ Glen Kaleka to bring us beyond and back. Eight guys, eight sleds, and hundreds of miles of untouched wilderness between us and the ocean. Our trek would take us straight through logging country where the peaks are numbered, maps are crude, and there’s unbelievable snowboard terrain everywhere.

Helicopter Sleep
Black Tusk Heli in Squamish was hired to sling our gear out to the backcountry, and we used the bird-time to do some scouting of the route as well. Pilot Greg Richardson brought us up the Squamish River and northwest into the Elaho Valley. On the map the region is known as Tree Farm License Number 38. Logging here has recently been halted by environmentalists trying to protect the groves of thousand-year-old Douglas fir and cedar trees. Anyone would agree that this pristine land should be left alone-or at least just left to snowboarders.
Flying farther into the wild, we passed Elaho glacier, the Scimitar, the Devastator glacier, and other aptly named, jagged, snowy peaks. It seems impossible that we could sled out this far. Finally an opening in the landscape and below, the rolling hills of Thousand Lakes lie cheerful and sunny. Richardson set down the helicopter and we all hopped out to have a look. A perfect spot for the camp-a snowy plateau in the midst of countless frozen lakes. A snowboard and snowmobile funpark, but so far out it’s eerie.
The chopper hovered up above the trees and we headed back toward Squamish. In the front Kaleka, who has the GPS in one hand, and Richardson discuss the route, the map-the particulars. Peaks rose and fell below us, and the helicopter felt warm. A headset quiets the noise while the rhythm of the blades and the engine lulled me to sleep-but only for a few moments.
The pilot dropped down to about ten feet over the river. We cruised back at 120 miles an hour. It looked like the blades would hit the water-we banked and rolled, following the curves of the river. Everyone laughed-the pilot smirked and jammed on the joystick, throwing us into a violent turn-the weight of G-forces pulled at our guts. Oh, Canada.


I lied about my snowmobile skills to get on the trip, but learned right off the bat that sleds go pretty good in the dirt. Out of Rutherford, we rode for nearly an hour before hitting the first traces of snow. Soon we climbed onto the Appa glacier, passing the twin peaks of Semam and Sisqa.
Our pack ripped along, with Serfas, Stephens, and Campos taking turns at the lead. Hanging a wide arc around Longspur Peak, our group gained the Pemberton ice field. So this was it-remembering the location of countless photos of powder, kickers, and sunny skies, my neck craned back and forth. Gunning the throttle, I tried to absorb the immensity and beauty of the landscape at 80 miles an hour. Elaho Valley runs north to south-we rode the ridges heading west, past Overseer Mountain and up to the plateau of the Thousand Lakes region-camp. After several hours on the trail, I now had some snowmobile experience, but it was in the days that followed when I’d learn about the Canadian definition of mellow.

Mushroom Village
Just as planned, the heli had gently dropped our gear in Thousand Lakes. Snaking through the woods, our group rode right in and set up. We unfurled one giant circus-like tent that was used for cooking meals and drying clothes-this was also where I slept. The rest of the crew paired off and pitched sleeping tents around the perimeter of the campsite, in the trees for shelter. Snowmoblies, snowboard gear, fuel-it looked like we’d moved there for the winter.
We had a lot of shit, it seemed like tons-plenty of food, refreshment, and horsepower. The heli dropped one of the four barrels of fuel near our encampment, but scouting missions failed to reveal its whereabouts. As the afternoon of the first day descended, the crew rouped around looking for jumps and taking in the atmosphere. McAlister took a break from sled madness to hit a jump. Once he was up there and ready, Campos and Cartwright got hyped and went up to hit it, too. It struck me as odd that none of these guys had strapped on a snowboard all day, yet just hopped off their sleds, went up, and hucked. The shit Stephens was doing on his sled was ridiculous-I’d learn soon enough just what a maniac he really is. Back at the the campsite, which was now up and running-with heaters for boot-drying, stoves assembled, and food all accessible-we got comfortable.

Gear Up To Get Down
A lot of gear and supplies are needed for a several-day backcountry winter camping trip. But when I asked our guide, Glen Kaleka from Full Circle Adventures, to give me the breakdown, I had no idea the list would look like this. Think we forgot anything?

_Four 50-gallon drums of high-octane gasoline and a hand pump.
_32 liters of snowmobile motor oil.
_Two propane heaters and tanks.
_Two folding tables and eight chairs.
_One ten-foot by 30-foot main group tent for cooking and drying.
_Four two-man tents for sleeping.
_One two-burner stove. Pots, pans, and a wok.
_Satellite telephone.
_Crevasse rescue kit: one 60-meter rope, one 30-meter rope, various slings, carabiners, pulleys, harness, ice axe, and ice screws.
_GPS global positioning system. 6 X 1:50,000 topographical maps.
_First aid with oxygen.
_Individual avalanche kits: shovel, transceiver, and probe.
_Two-way radios, headlamp, and lanterns.
_Sleeping bag rated to minus-ten degrees.
_Water purification system.
_Approximately 30 pounds of food each.
Guide:
For more information on backcountry excursions like this, contact Glen Kaleka directly at Full Circle Adventures in Whistler, B.C. His number is (604) 935-2120. Or check him out online at elahoadventures.com.

Heli:
Black Tusk Heli in Squamish, B.C. delivered our gear intact and gave us one hell of a ride. In total we used just under four hours of fly-time (in case you care). For details on their operation check the Web site: blacktuskhelicopter.com

Plain Truth
Food always tastes ten times better when you’re camping, and we ate like champs as darkness fell-skies melting from blue to black and millions of stars glowing overhead. No wind and no sound but our talking, laughter, and the crack of the campfire.
Strung up from every possible spot, our wet gear hung drying in the big tent. We sat in a circle, each with a headlamp, bundled up in fleece and down. Cozy and relaxed with a kind of warm fatigue, I zoned out of the conversation-entranced by the firelight-it always happens.
Many riders look at snowboarding and see a puzzle that needs solving, a trick sequence to decode-another spin. But from my spot at the fire, it seemed pretty obvious why they’re missing out. “How good can I get at snowboarding?” It’s a tough question to pose to yourself, never mind the answer you may get back. This mission is shot from the other end of the spectrum. “How good can snowboarding get for me?” That’s the big, burning question we’re out here asking.
High-powered sleds, veteran shred talent, enough terrain for dozens of video parts, and the only thing anyone wanted to talk about is more food or another drink. Hundreds of miles into the wild and fumbling around in the darkness with these ideas is tiring. It was time for sleep, which comes heavily in the wilderness.

Canadian For Mellow
I should’ve just confessed that I couldn’t ride a snowmobile to save my ass. Regardless, the word “mellow” is misused by Canadians (I learned this on a “mellow” trip to Europe with Gallup, see Volume 15, Number 8). To these snowmobile rats what it really means is, “Don’t shit your pants, you’ll make it.” It applies to ridiculous ascents, blind downhills, and tighter-than-tight tree slaloms.
Amazingly, I managed to keep pace with the crew, and despite a few more digouts than the rest, my confidence was high. Allow me to insert a quick thanks here to Cartwright for digging me out several times and not telling Campos I flipped his sled and crashed it into a tree. Stephens led the scouting missions out to various zones with wheelies and air wherever he could get it. He tested all the jumps, too. At one point we spent several hours at the same cornice, sun baking, watching the boys hit it from different angles. It’s then that I realize how sweet my job really is. Laid back, with my head resting on the handlebars and Campos, Stephens, and McAlister all firing themselves off this jump, I was amused-this is work.

Clear, bluest bluebird, and we stopped on a saddle of crusty snow at the base of an enormous bowl. Above us the bright-white basin spanned a mile-wide, further up above, the peak. And we were going up it! The exposure started to play with me and mild unease grew. It was a full-throttle side-hill at a pretty steep angle, with double fall lines. McAlister and Campos gunned up the bowl, standing with both feet on the inside board-levering the sleds with their bodyweight. They shot right up it. Were they doing 60? 70? Within a few minutes it was just me and Kaleka left to go-he nodded me on.
Without hesitation, I stood and ripped off up the bowl-full bore. About a third of the way up, I start losing ground, get bucked off the sled and rag dolled. In that flash instance I managed to curse my own existence in a million ways-I suck. Dazed, I watched the sled ghost-riding down the middle of the bowl. With an amazing dismount from his own sled, Kaleka was able to save my machine and afterward never gave me any shit for it. We made the summit on a second attempt, and after regrouping with the boys, had a sandwich in the sun. The posse lined up on the peak for a group shot, and then decided we’d gone as far out as we could.
The long-distance travel part of the trip was quickly traded in for another day of roosting around looking for hits. Would we return to the step-up or hunt deeper in around Thousand Lakes? Nobody cared, we had plenty of gas and the sun was kickin’. A spTruth
Food always tastes ten times better when you’re camping, and we ate like champs as darkness fell-skies melting from blue to black and millions of stars glowing overhead. No wind and no sound but our talking, laughter, and the crack of the campfire.
Strung up from every possible spot, our wet gear hung drying in the big tent. We sat in a circle, each with a headlamp, bundled up in fleece and down. Cozy and relaxed with a kind of warm fatigue, I zoned out of the conversation-entranced by the firelight-it always happens.
Many riders look at snowboarding and see a puzzle that needs solving, a trick sequence to decode-another spin. But from my spot at the fire, it seemed pretty obvious why they’re missing out. “How good can I get at snowboarding?” It’s a tough question to pose to yourself, never mind the answer you may get back. This mission is shot from the other end of the spectrum. “How good can snowboarding get for me?” That’s the big, burning question we’re out here asking.
High-powered sleds, veteran shred talent, enough terrain for dozens of video parts, and the only thing anyone wanted to talk about is more food or another drink. Hundreds of miles into the wild and fumbling around in the darkness with these ideas is tiring. It was time for sleep, which comes heavily in the wilderness.

Canadian For Mellow
I should’ve just confessed that I couldn’t ride a snowmobile to save my ass. Regardless, the word “mellow” is misused by Canadians (I learned this on a “mellow” trip to Europe with Gallup, see Volume 15, Number 8). To these snowmobile rats what it really means is, “Don’t shit your pants, you’ll make it.” It applies to ridiculous ascents, blind downhills, and tighter-than-tight tree slaloms.
Amazingly, I managed to keep pace with the crew, and despite a few more digouts than the rest, my confidence was high. Allow me to insert a quick thanks here to Cartwright for digging me out several times and not telling Campos I flipped his sled and crashed it into a tree. Stephens led the scouting missions out to various zones with wheelies and air wherever he could get it. He tested all the jumps, too. At one point we spent several hours at the same cornice, sun baking, watching the boys hit it from different angles. It’s then that I realize how sweet my job really is. Laid back, with my head resting on the handlebars and Campos, Stephens, and McAlister all firing themselves off this jump, I was amused-this is work.

Clear, bluest bluebird, and we stopped on a saddle of crusty snow at the base of an enormous bowl. Above us the bright-white basin spanned a mile-wide, further up above, the peak. And we were going up it! The exposure started to play with me and mild unease grew. It was a full-throttle side-hill at a pretty steep angle, with double fall lines. McAlister and Campos gunned up the bowl, standing with both feet on the inside board-levering the sleds with their bodyweight. They shot right up it. Were they doing 60? 70? Within a few minutes it was just me and Kaleka left to go-he nodded me on.
Without hesitation, I stood and ripped off up the bowl-full bore. About a third of the way up, I start losing ground, get bucked off the sled and rag dolled. In that flash instance I managed to curse my own existence in a million ways-I suck. Dazed, I watched the sled ghost-riding down the middle of the bowl. With an amazing dismount from his own sled, Kaleka was able to save my machine and afterward never gave me any shit for it. We made the summit on a second attempt, and after regrouping with the boys, had a sandwich in the sun. The posse lined up on the peak for a group shot, and then decided we’d gone as far out as we could.
The long-distance travel part of the trip was quickly traded in for another day of roosting around looking for hits. Would we return to the step-up or hunt deeper in around Thousand Lakes? Nobody cared, we had plenty of gas and the sun was kickin’. A speedy descent from the summit of Elaho brought down to tree level and then back up some sketchy, I mean “mellow,” climbs. One hairy zone was about a 100-yard pitch-narrow as hell. Avoiding huge trees in an uphill wheelie, then a sharp turn and stop at the top was the only line. Campos took one look at it and scrambled up. Then he hiked down and took up my sled. I suffered no injury to my ego, either, as Serfas and Robb’s sleds sat in a tangled heap in a tree-well. Of course Kale couldn’t get enough. He ripped up it a couple times, smashing tree limbs and nearly crushing someone.

Go Time
We spent the late afternoon parked above a sun-baked cornice. Melting, it drooped down into an apron of untouched snow, which spilled into another and cascading, climbed in an endless expanse of rising and falling, rolling peaks and valleys. And it went on as far as I could see. The sunshine burned the snow, turning it all brassy and dark purple in the shadows. My mind felt too cluttered and my words too forced and finite for the enormity of this landscape. It was raw and distant, yet engulfed me. It’s vastness in my hand.

Serfas could whip the troops no more. I was done hugging the trees. The jump and the landing were beat. The last rays of sun clung to the edge of the horizon, and the tranquil beauty of the mountains darkened. Night approached carrying a cold wind. Our sleds rattled to life and we slipped quickly back down to the shelter of the forest.
The force of the gale grew steadily through the night. Lashing at our tents, the freezing wind howled and twisted just outside. I wore socks, long underwear, fleece pants, a jacket, and a toque-sleeping in a bag rated to minus-ten degrees. Somehow, the cold still crept in. After restless hours, an early morning sky brightened the tent, I crawled out for a piss. Standing there in the half-light of dawn, a bank of approaching cloud told me all I needed to know. Weather was coming in. Above the sound of the rattling branches and blowing wind, there was a vapid silence. No birdsongs, no woodpeckers tapping-just gray cold and clouds pushing dangerously fast across the sky-we had to split. There was no time to think and less time to pack up and get out.
A speedy descent from the summit of Elaho brought down to tree level and then back up some sketchy, I mean “mellow,” climbs. One hairy zone was about a 100-yard pitch-narrow as hell. Avoiding huge trees in an uphill wheelie, then a sharp turn and stop at the top was the only line. Campos took one look at it and scrambled up. Then he hiked down and took up my sled. I suffered no injury to my ego, either, as Serfas and Robb’s sleds sat in a tangled heap in a tree-well. Of course Kale couldn’t get enough. He ripped up it a couple times, smashing tree limbs and nearly crushing someone.

Go Time
We spent the late afternoon parked above a sun-baked cornice. Melting, it drooped down into an apron of untouched snow, which spilled into another and cascading, climbed in an endless expanse of rising and falling, rolling peaks and valleys. And it went on as far as I could see. The sunshine burned the snow, turning it all brassy and dark purple in the shadows. My mind felt too cluttered and my words too forced and finite for the enormity of this landscape. It was raw and distant, yet engulfed me. It’s vastness in my hand.

Serfas could whip the troops no more. I was done hugging the trees. The jump and the landing were beat. The last rays of sun clung to the edge of the horizon, and the tranquil beauty of the mountains darkened. Night approached carrying a cold wind. Our sleds rattled to life and we slipped quickly back down to the shelter of the forest.
The force of the gale grew steadily through the night. Lashing at our tents, the freezing wind howled and twisted just outside. I wore socks, long underwear, fleece pants, a jacket, and a toque-sleeping in a bag rated to minus-ten degrees. Somehow, the cold still crrept in. After restless hours, an early morning sky brightened the tent, I crawled out for a piss. Standing there in the half-light of dawn, a bank of approaching cloud told me all I needed to know. Weather was coming in. Above the sound of the rattling branches and blowing wind, there was a vapid silence. No birdsongs, no woodpeckers tapping-just gray cold and clouds pushing dangerously fast across the sky-we had to split. There was no time to think and less time to pack up and get out.