Avalanches and Amateurs – 20/03/06
It had to happen â€“ it was all going far too smoothly.
There we were smugly driving home through the Rocky mountains last night congratulating each other on the choice we had made with our lives and waffling on about the beauty of our new surroundings.
We got to Revelstoke on the Trans Canada turned south and speeding through the last light of the day made the ferry that takes us across Arrow Lake. The crossing was beautiful, as ever.
The road along Trout Lake was muddy and snowy but passable and we were about half an hour from home whenâ€¦ suddenlyâ€¦ an avalanche.
Iâ€™ve seen these things before on television â€“ huge great roaring things that bury people and cars and villages. This one, by contrast, was small, even pathetic. More of a little slide than a proper avalanche. Wet snow and mud.
But, by evil chance, it had fallen on one of the stretches of the road (Highway 31 is itâ€™s official and inappropriate title) where it narrows to little more than a dirt track than clings to the rocks.
On the left snow and rocks going up as far as the eye could see. On the right a sheer drop of several hundred feet into the frigid depths of Trout Lake.
It was dark, there was no traffic and, like the neophytes that we are we had forgotten to bring a spade, an axe and even a torch. All we had were the fruits of our mega-shop from Ikea in Calgary.
To begin with I sat there a little dazed. Turning the pick-up around was no easy proposition and, in any case going round the other way meant a four or five hour detour on pretty terrible roads.
Trying to impress I leapt from the car manfully and swore at the snowy obstacle blocking our way. I peaked over the edge and that made my legs wobble.
â€œDonâ€™t worry,â€ Kristin said. â€œWeâ€™ll use the Ikea rubbish bins to scoop the snow away.â€
So there it was â€“ for the next 20 minutes we hacked away at the snow and mud with the latest incarnations of Ikeaâ€™s recyclable garbage modules.
Every few seconds we glanced nervously upwards to see if the mountain was going to try and dump another load.
Eventually we carved out a small channel for the left wheels of the truck. We calculated the right wheel would have six inches or so to spare.
Kristin got out and, inch by stupefying inch, hand-guided me across the slippery mess. I kept the driverâ€™s door open and silently prayed to the God of the Mountains and the shamans and the Druids that the truck wouldnâ€™t slip off its precarious perch.
We made it. Kristin: calm, Scandinavian and matter-of-fact. Me: sweaty and giggly. Our first avalanche.
Anyway â€“ the good news at the ranch is that Jim Bailey, a veteran fly-fisherman, our west Kootenay neighbour and a really nice guy has agreed to arrange our fly-fishing tours. We sealed the deal over lunch last week in Nelson.
Meanwhile this morning the sun is shining and the river is bubbling. And the huge snow columns that frame our driveway like ancient Gods of winter are only half the size they were a week ago.