Clive and I drove over ice plastered roads on our way to Lilooet on Saturday. The plan was to join up with 5 other intrepid souls, helicopter into a small lodge called Eldorado. Past Lake Louise we were the first car to be stopped by Highway Control. The engine off we sat wondering what was up. The taciturn man in a fluorescent yellow vest,clutched a radio in his right hand answered our question with one word. "Avalanche," tersely followed by "The road is closed for 5 hours." His buddy had placed a detour sign in front of us. Reluctantly we turned around headed back along the slick roads to Castle Junction and down to Radium. Half way down highway 93 the ice turned to dirty slush. Every car that roared passed sprayed us with the odd rock and shower of brown melted snow. In the Petrocanada station at Radium, some snowmobilers told us it was a 6 truck pile up somewhere near Field that had closed the road.
The road was dry after Radium as we headed north to Golden. I strained to see the Bugaboos and the mountains around Spillmacheen. Only tantalizing glimpses of snow laden tops hung between the clearing storm clouds. Around Rogers Pass my neck strained back to absorb the beauty of the sparkling knife edge ridges and high piercing summits. Driving through the forest I hummed the song I had learned long ago as a girl guide in Scotland. "Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver,blue lake and rocky shore silent and still...."
The drive stretched on for ever. The sky darkened as we drove wild gorges from Lilooet to Gold Bridge. This vast landscape felt Himalayan and desolate. The road hung precariously on the side of the disintegrating hillside, with long drops to the churning river. I don't want to sound racist but I remembered those old Western movies and wondered if there were Indians at the top of the cliffs rolling rocks down on unsuspecting cars. I was relieved to reach the warmth of the Morrow Cabin and our cheery group.
"The Heli guide has just been here. He said today was the worst avalanche conditions he has seen in all his 15 years of guiding. He almost refuses to fly us into the hut. He doesn't want us to die. The conditions are treacherous." Bruce told us.
"There has been a huge avalanche at Revelstoke, maybe 105 buried. We don't know how many people of died but it sounded really big. It happened at a Snowmobile competition." Mark chimed in. I sat down, my body tingling with the stress of the long journey and slowly let the news sink in. In a way I was relieved the decision was cut and dry but then I wondered why we couldn't have made it before this long 12 hour drive.
Sunday we retraced our steps back to Canmore comforted by my little motto, "Live to ski another day!"