October 2011 with Jen, Kate, Bill N, Daphne, Nellie, Ming, Bev & Bill R, Pat & Pierce. We decided that Pierce would also be called Bill to avoid confusion.
A Marriott weekend that didn’t involve staying in a posh overpriced hotel. This was the charter voyage of the Nature Vancouver Backpacking Club. A recent activity survey had indicated an interest in more overnight trips, and with a good group of keen and strong hikers we reckoned that some backpacks were in order. So we decided that a “light backpack” to the Wendy Thompson Hut in Marriott Basin would be a good way to start – a hut meaning that we could do it without the weight of tents, and would be protected from the threat of cold and wet weather on a Thanksgiving weekend in the mountains. For some of us this was the first backpacking trip in several years (realising that we’re not getting any younger and this is the time to carpe some diems), some were raw rookies, and some were seasoned veterans. One or two of the rookies showed up with all the gear required but a bit unclear as to how it should be packed, but a couple of the veterans managed to set them straight.
Our three vehicles rendezvoused at the McDonald’s in Pemberton and then proceeded up the Duffey Lake Road and past the Joffre Lakes trailhead. Directions to the Marriott trailhead are a bit sketchy and the road in is practically invisible from the highway, but a good rule is that if you get to the highway maintenance shed you’ve gone too far. We went too far and backtracked to the access road, drove in and found the parking spot just out of sight of the highway. You can go a kilometre or two on the road if you really want to, it being flat and open, but the ruts are pretty deep and muddy and there isn’t a lot of parking at the end, so it’s easier just to hike it.
This is the junction of the trail to Rohr Lake, which we weren’t going to on this trip. I have no idea what Aspen refers to but that’s the way we were going.
The trail is pretty good, although I think it gets more use by skiers than by hikers. A couple of the creek crossings were a bit dodgy but you get across however you can. One of many luxuries you give up pretty quickly on any backpacking trip is dignity.
The trail emerges into meadows below Marriott Lake, which was universally agreed to be a good place for a photo.
You cross through a mostly easy boulder field to reach the head of the lake. Here we ran into Mitch who was on his way out from doing some maintenance work on the hut, the only other person we saw all weekend. The trail then has a short climb through woods up to the rocky basin where the hut is located. The hut was built in 2000 and named for Wendy Thompson, a Whistler resident who was killed in a plane crash on a rescue mission in the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1995 (it seems you have to die young to get a hut named for you in the Coast Mountains).
The outhouse is a two-holer, a Number One hole and a Number Two hole. Number One just goes through rocks and I presume into the ground. Number Two goes into a rather large bucket which gets helicoptered out twice a year and disposed of. Full instructions are included, though probably not up to Parks standard.
For an eleven year old hut, it seemed to have seen better days, but being situated in high alpine area with extra high snowpack tends to take its toll on buildings. But it was cozy and comfortable if chilly. There’s no insulation and it just has a fairly inefficient kerosene heater (which Bill R packed in the fuel for).
Pat, Bev and Nellie may thank me for them not being in this photo.
There is cooking gear but in places like this it’s better to bring your own. Some of the pots and cups were, shall we say, disgusting. If they ever built a hut on the top of Mount Everest it would still probably be infested with mouse turds.
This is NOT your grandmother’s rocking chair (photo by Nellie).
Bev and Bill had their tent and set it up in the meadows near the hut, but the rest of us stayed in the hut. After we got established, a few of us just hung out in the hut while a few others went out to explore. The exploration didn’t last too long as the flurries which were starting when we got there turned into a whiteout.
We spent the next day wandering the basin above the hut and around to a side valley with a few tarns that were still mostly free of ice. There was a fair bit of snow which looked and felt like it had been there for some time – pretty hard and consolidated – which felt odd for this early in the autumn. But it was mostly easy making our way through it.
I call these Snowhead Babies.
In the tarns we found a family of harlequin ducks, and there were more harlequin and a dipper in the lower Marriott Lake.
On Monday morning, Bev came in at 7am and woke us up with a four-letter word: SNOW. Yes, that was a bit of a (literal) rude awakening, as we were all instantly aroused from our sleep and bolt upright in our sleeping bags. We still took our time to get going, taking pictures of the snow and all, and it was a steady wet flurry for the hike out, gradually turning to rain by the time we got through the boulder field and into the woods.
Group photo by Bev – I think we must have done this one on the Sunday because Saturday or Monday would have been in snow.
And these are by Nellie