Date: February 18-19, 2017
Location: Mt. Brew
Partners: ET, Jan, Greg, Christian
Distance: ~14 km, 1300 m gained one-way from parking lot at PMC
Time: six hours up, relaxed paced
Resources: VOC wiki
Photos: Jan Laesecke
This was a simple, quick jaunt up Mt. Brew to stay at the Varsity Outdoor Club’s hut just below the summit. In winter with lots of snow low down the parking lot is located just outside the locked gate of the Powder Mountain Catskiing operation just 1.6 km up the Chance Creek FSR.
At one point this weekend was expected to see up to 18 people sleeping in a hut that bills itself as comfortably sleeping 12. Well my party of 10 dwindled to 5, a party of 6 cancelled the day before, and a group of two never appeared. On our descent on Sunday we saw a couple of ski tracks that were not from our party in an area unlikely to see traffic other than for the hut, but we did not see their owners.
The parking situation seems a bit peculiar as of late. There has been a guard sitting at the turnoff from the highway enforcing a rule that prohibits people from parking within something I’ve heard called the “barrier exclusion zone”. If you’ve been up to Garibaldi Lake you’ve seen the loose volcanic rock that plugs the outflow (it does drain into a smaller lake called Barrier Lake next to the Barrier viewpoint). If this barrier blows, as it certainly will someday, a huge amount of water is going to torrent down into the valley and blow away a lot of infrastructure and possibly large portions of the town of Squamish. The guard was also looking to collect $20 from snowmobilers (per person per day), I believe on behalf of PMC, who administer the provincial government-recognized recreational site. The peculiar part was mostly that the guard asked us if we were going snowmobiling. We checked the back of my station wagon for any sign of a sled before assuring him we would be on foot.
More interestingly, the second car arrived a few minutes after Eric and I drove up to the parking lot. He seemed to insist that they pay $20 each even though it was clear they weren’t snowmobiling and despite the fact he didn’t try it on us. He also said he was instructed to limit the number of cars in the lot to 20 when they asked if they could drive up and park. Understandably they were concerned that the limit was reached so they asked, “How many are up there now?”. He answered truthfully with, “Two.”. Probably shaking their heads, the second car left the guard to join us in the lot and make it three.
The ascent is long and barely uphill with roughly 10 km on logging roads and 5 km in a forest. The hut itself doesn’t appear until you’re within 50 m or so of the front door so if you haven’t been there before you can start to wonder how much longer the slog is.
It had rained the previous week up to about 1800 m in the area and since the hut is at 1686 m and the summit is barely higher, the prospects for skiing were poor. Coupled with the fact that visibility was constantly deteriorating (it wouldn’t be a trip to Brew without a whiteout) we didn’t leave the hut again after we arrived around 2:30. Despite my impression from previous trips suggesting otherwise, I now think the skiing potential around the hut is quite good in years cold enough to have snow lower. There are some very steep pitches with pleasant looking ski runs of perhaps up to 500 feet from the summit of Mt. Brew. The traverse over to Cypress Mountain (the real one, not the resort) also looks like a great future weekend trip which includes the summit of a much more impressive mountain with a good pitch of fall line skiing back to the FSR.
In the morning we shot up to the summit for non-existent views and then sidehilled as aggressively as possible to avoid losing elevation in the forest before skiing the road in a mixture of rain and wet snow.
The warm weather and rain have also obliterated a lot of snow, allowing parties on the weekend of February 25/26 to drive to 4 km from the R200 turnoff which cuts a good chunk of the slog off.