“Look a bear!” Mum shouts. Turning, I see the rear end of a big black bear rapidly disappear into the bushes across from one of the houses. “Oh him! He’s my friend I talk to him all the time” says Alice. I laugh, Alice is awesome. We grew to love Alice very quickly over the short time we got to spend with her in the strange and beautiful little ghost town of Kitsault BC. Over oatmeal cranberry cookies straight from the oven and freshly brewed organic coffee we listened to her stories of the old Alice Arm and Kitsault townsites of the 70’s and 80’s. Nowadays she weathers both the fierce storms and peace this beautiful and isolated land bring her as the year-round caretaker of the village. She’s led an amazing life and we found her to be the embodiment of a beautiful, strong, and independent woman with boundless appreciation for the good and simple things in life.
It may be winter in the alpine but it’s springtime in the valleys! Alice and Tania pick fresh daffodils for Alice’s kitchen.
One of several bears spotted on this last leg of the trip.
Kitsault is comprised of dozens of houses and apartments, a hospital, rec center and various other town buildings built and abandoned decades ago, yet still preserved with electricity and running water. We felt very blessed to have been granted permission to visit, as it’s privately owned and due to vandalism and other issues, visitors can only enter with prior invitation from the manager.
A sketch of Kitsault from the glory days
A step into the past?? Or the future…?
Enjoying low tide on the shores of Kitsault
Tania gazes across Alice Arm toward the next section of our route
Upon leaving Kitsault I was expecting more hardship and struggle. More epics. And certainly, more crap weather. We were in no way prepared for what actually happened; Fun! Those of you expecting more tales of struggle and woe while surviving in the wild, I’m sorry to disappoint – we are just as surprised and confused as you are. Absolutely nothing went wrong! Our gear didn’t break, the weather was perfectly gorgeous, the bears didn’t attack, and we actually found some decent skiing occasionally! Baffling.
Navigating the crevasse maze of the lower Cambria Icefield
Circumventing Kitsault Lake – due to thin ice we didn’t dare take the shortcut across!
We certainly did not regret our decision to skip over the section from Terrace to the Nass River valley. With snowlines creeping up as high as 700m and the grizzlies starting to stumble sleepily out of their dens and follow ski tourers around in hopes of breakfast, we thought it best to stick to the alpine as much as possible. We lucked out when we heard Summit Heli was going to be flying in our area and managed to coordinate a ride back to the alpine by Mt.McGuire from sea level in Kitsault. For several days we then cruised through gorgeous country ranging from broken glaciers and smooth ridgelines to old growth forests and partially frozen lakes.
Making tracks toward Lavender Mountain
Tania enjoys a lunch break with the iconic Mt.McGuire in the background
Adding a Moringa boost from Salome Naturals for those long endurance days!
Dramatic light over Mt.Lavender
A peaceful moment on the Cambria Icefield
On day 7 just after setting out from our camp on the Cambria Icefield I look into the distance and see what appears to be an exceptionally large bird winging our way. This quickly materializes into a Yellowhead Heli Astar which after a few circles suddenly sets down beside us! The door opens and a smiling man jumps out and shakes our hands – “Hi! Im Rob from IDM Mining!” Over the thump of the heli blades he offers a ride to the Red Mountain Mine about 15km away. Normally we would never turn down such an offer, (who turns down a free scenic heli ride in the mountains?!) but the weather is perfect, travel is smooth and easy and we know we can make the distance by suppertime. So we thank Rob, who is CEO of of IDM and highly enjoy our brief chat before he climbs back into the heli. Just as suddenly as it appeared the Astar is gone and there is nothing but the slightly muddy imprint of the skids in the snow to mark it was ever there. I turn to mum who has a slightly wistful look in her eyes – “I wish he’d brought coffee she says” “I laugh “And muffins!” I add . That evening we arc turns down perfect corn snow into the mining camp which resembles a sci fi mars settlement of domed tents. Camp manager Natalie and Avalanche forecaster Steve hustle us into the dining tent for a delicious feast where startled miners shake their heads at us and with rueful smiles call us and our stories crazy.
Our luxury accommodations at Red Mountain Mine!
One of the greatest parts of this journey has been the wonderful people we have met along the way. Often complete strangers going out of their way to help us: Alice with her prayers for our safety and tour of Kitsault. Tom driving us all the way from Terrace to the Nass Valley. Andy at Summit Helicopters giving us a wicked deal and saving us an epic bushwhack. Rob and his staff at Red Mountain treating us like royalty and giving us a free heli shuttle from the snowline down to Stewart the next day. The list of people that have contributed to our expedition seems to be miles long by now and still growing every day – we are so grateful and appreciative to everyone that has helped us on our way.
A huge thank you to the generous people who contributed personal donations through our website as well!