A Powdery Weekend on Mount Cain

The ski gear is hanging to dry waiting to be put away. It was all put through its paces this past weekend on the fantastic snow of Mount Cain. I wasn’t even supposed to go but I’m sure glad I did. A few weeks ago in a conversation with my sister, it came up that she was heading up to Mount Cain again this year with some friends. They had rented a place in Woss as they have for the past 5 years and will be spending the weekend there, trekking up the mountain Saturday and Sunday in search of some powder.

“YES!!!” was my response when she asked about adding me to the list of powder hounds. Unfortunately a few days later I received a text regarding our accommodation and the lack of space if all involved actually made it. “We don’t have room.” Maybe next time I’d be able to head up to Cain for a powder day.

I was stoked to actually be able to ski on the mountain. Just 2 weeks prior I was on that same ski hill taking the Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 course from Island Alpine Guides. The great weekend was put on by Outdoor Vanisle in hopes of attracting enough silly people to pay for a raffle of sweet, sweet gear. Silly, not for the gear, but for the terribly icey face Mount Cain greeted us with. The raffle draw was bomber and I walked away with a synthetic -7 sleeping bag from Mountain Hardwear. Well worth the $20 I spent on the tickets!

I grieved a bit for the loss of an opportunity to head up Cain during stellar conditions when the call came in. “Umm, everyone bailed.” Well that sucks, sounds like the trip isn’t going ahead then. “Nope, we’re going and we have space for you.” Wicked! Fate decided I should ski.

Fish in a Ditch

We finally got all our crap together and leave Nanaimo, stoked out of our minds that we’re heading to Cain for the weekend with over 100cm of fresh from the week just waiting to be torn to pieces the next morning. I was very much unstoked about the drive to get up there though. I naively offered my truck up for the trip. 3 others excitedly took up the offer and hopped in for the ride. Sketchy drives aren’t so sketchy when you aren’t driving!

“I heard there’s a bunch of black ice on the highway before Campbell River.”

Great. With my hands at 10 and 2 all the way to Campbell River, I let out a huge sigh of relief as we got into Campbell River. Done with the black ice! Stoked!

“Apparently there’s a semi truck in the ditch just North of here”.

I love hearing that. The truck had slid off the road just north of Campbell River. We squeaked by as they were unloading the fish and random assortment of goodies from the trailer. Any later and we would have been stuck in a line of cars for 30 minutes while they actually pulled the truck out of the ditch. Our friends were a late because of it.

Home free! Almost.

The roads north of Campbell River were much better, although much more curvaceous than the straight arrows down south.

Winding our moonlit path through the mountains, we glided past the glowing snow on the trees. We breezed along the relatively dry road under the clear sky and bright stars.Passing the turnoff to Cain, we all had a momentary fantasy of what the snow in the morning would be like. Instead of sugar plums dancing around in our heads, we had huge snowflakes and first tracks down big powdery hills.

Woss Vegas

I knew there wasn’t much to Woss but I was greeted with even less than I thought.

We rocked up to the general store and gas station to wait for our last 2. We talked to trips all around the world from climbing in Thailand to safari’s in Africa. When our other 2 showed up we meandered down the main road of Woss (read tiny lane with dirt roads off it) to our home of the next 3 days. A movie and a couple of drinks and then we were off dreaming of sugar plums… err, powdery slopes.

We drove about 25 minutes up the hill the next morning to finally get a glimpse of the Mount Cain. Only a few other cars on the road up prompted a premature giddiness that there may not be as many people on the mountain as we had though.

Only, they were already on the mountain.Driving past every car on the north island in the parking lot we finally find ourselves a snowy spot at the very end of the parking lot. One more slid in beside us and that was it, followers had to find space elsewhere. We threw our gear on and headed towards the ticket line up that went all the way down the parking lot. Well, it wasn’t quite that long but huge by Cain standards.

Time to ski!

Or wait in line. For those thinking that it’s incredibly busy on Cain all the time, I must let you know that most of the time there are a few people up there. A friend commented on how awesome of a day they had a little while ago with the 7 other people on the mountain. This weekend was particularly busy but that’s not usually the case.

We did have to wait for a while in the lift lines and by 11 we were at the top gearing up for the first run of the day. The entire morning everyone had been twitching they wanted to get on the snow so bad. It was finally time.

The sun was out, the air was warm, the snow was light and fluffy. Time to drop in for the first run of the weekend.

Epic.

Big open runs or tight treed sections, take your pick. It’s all available for awesome riding on Cain. We did lots of both. Finding what powder we could in the open sections and then heading into the trees for some cruising in and out of the covered areas.By the end of the day we were thoroughly tuckered. I highly recommend staying on the mountain so you’ve not go far to go to chill and have a beer but Woss is still close. A 25 minute drive down the mountain into Woss and we had cold brews in hand recounting the best bails of the day.

Day 2 on Cain

The forecast had called for snow Saturday night so we were a little disappointed to see there was no fresh when we woke up Sunday morning. The roads were clear as we headed up the mountain for a second day riding. Everyone was feeling good. We didn’t have an injuries or serious mishaps from the day before. We were as stoked as Saturday morning to get back on the slopes. There was also going to be half as many people as the day before.

I met up with some awesome friends also spending the weekend shredding the powder. Powder was a little harder to find Sunday. Things were a little hard and bumpy. We just had to look a little harder for the good stuff. It was in the trees and hidden in out of the way, unridden areas. We could just ride straight down the hill and hit some chunky parts but the pow was still there, waiting to be shredded.

The group started dropping just before lunch. The day and night before had taken their toll and our numbers were dwindling. I was determined to get as many runs as I could in by even my legs and knees were starting to give in to the constant weight on the t-bar and the rough snow. My sister and I were the last ones left.

We had found a great run with a few solid little kickers on it. We’d hit a few, cruise through the trees and then pop out onto a run for a few more. The last few jumps definitely did a number on me. I couldn’t get enough of them though. Soaring through the area without worrying about the landing is an amazing feeling. I hit every one almost perfect except for the last.

I had already hit the last jump a few times and was dialing in my speed and takeoff but the last time was different. I was tired, I was thinking about whether or not to do one more run and my legs just didn’t have it in them. I leaned back too far and couldn’t bring myself back up on landing. It wouldn’t have made much difference normally but one of my skis caught and then the other and I ended up in a pile at the bottom. I’ve no idea how I did it but at some point I landed on my pole, snapping it in half. I stood up, looked around and noticed 3 poles instead of 2. At least it was the end of the day.

Heading Home

Normally we’d be heading up Sunday night. Thankfully everyone had Monday off and just headed back into Woss for the night. The Wii got a lot of action that night after a delicious pasta dinner. I think everyone had plans to party hard that night but we all hit the sack early after a great weekend on the snow. Monday morning was a slack time getting ready and then an easy drive home in the lightly falling snow.A great end to a great weekend on the powdery slopes of Mount Cain.

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