Mount Brew

After celebrating Shaun Luong's birthday the night before, Zosia Zgolak and I took him up near Whistler, British Columbia to ski to Brew Hut on 7 January 2017.  Shaun had actually come up with the idea for us to do this ski tour the previous weekend, but since the hut had been fully booked, we ended up going elsewhere.  This time, Shaun managed to register the three of us for an overnight stay, but we would be sharing the hut with about a dozen other backcountry users.  Unlike the summer trail which runs directly to Brew Lake below the hut from the east, the winter approach follows numerous logging roads and starts further south at the Powder Mountain Catskiing base lodge at Chance Creek.  A fresh dump of snow made the short drive to the lodge from the main highway a little dicey, but I made it nonetheless in my 2015 Honda CR-V with all-season tires.

After gearing up, we proceeded up a series of logging roads winding up the south ridge of Mount Brew.  Prior to the trip, Shaun had forwarded me waypoints provided by the Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC) for accessing Brew Hut, and these proved to be invaluable for negotiating the maze of forest service roads criss-crossing the area.  We eventually left the roads behind to climb up through forest on a snow-covered ski track.  Somewhat puzzling was the fact that we were breaking trail through fresh powder which meant that no one was ahead of us.  Considering that we would be sharing the hut that night with others, I found it a bit odd that we were the first up the trail since we had not started that particularly early.  By the time we reached the open environs of Brew Lake, any traces of previous human passage had disappeared, and we relied heavily on the VOC waypoints to guide us the rest of the way to Brew Hut.

Not surprisingly, the two-storey hut was deserted and stone cold when we arrived shortly after sunset.  Zosia and Shaun immediately gathered snow for melting while I chopped up some wood in order to get the wood stove going.  After a couple of failed attempts by me to start a fire, Zosia's suggestion to use a piece of cardboard as a fire starter did the trick, and the hut eventually warmed up very nicely.  By the time we finished dinner, nobody else had showed up at the hut, and it was already dark outside.  Guessing that everyone else had bailed, we decided to make ourselves comfortable and sleep on the wide benches on the main floor rather than up in the cold loft.  This seemed like a good idea at first, but we soon found it much too warm to sleep.  Before we had a chance to rethink where we wanted to sleep, we were surprised to hear movement outside the hut.  Two skiers arrived in the dark after an epic journey following our broken trail.  They were exhausted but relieved to find the hut already warm, and they graciously accepted some of our extra water in order to cook their dinner faster.  At this point, Zosia and I both moved upstairs into the loft to give the two skiers some space and to escape the heat on the main floor.  As it turned out, no one else showed up for the rest of the night, and we all eventually got some sleep albeit to varying degrees of satisfaction.
At least we're not breaking trail for awhile... Zosia and Shaun start up the continuation of the Chance Creek Forest Service Road.
I need to get myself one of these things... Snowmobiles zoom by along the road.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Hey, this is turning out to be nice day! Cypress Peak (left) comes into view on the road along Roe Creek.
We're breaking trail through some fresh powder here...hmmm...

Zosia and Shaun climb up a side road branching off from the main road along Roe Creek.  Behind them are the eastern outliers of Tricouni Peak.

I never get tired of looking at that nutty volcano! The Garibaldi massif is visible through a clearing along the road.
Looks more like the White Tusk on this day! The Black Tusk stands out on the horizon as Zosia and Shaun descend a bit along the road.
Maybe some avi danger here... After leaving the road, Zosia and Shaun traverse below an open hillside.
Brain freeze? Sonny tempts fate by sticking his head underneath a hanging lump of snow.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

The hardest skiing was in those pesky trees! Zosia and Shaun make it out of the trees and into more open terrain.
Hmmm...I'm getting rather thirsty all of a sudden... The old tracks have largely disappeared at this point just before Brew Lake (not visible).  The bump at right is unofficially known as Malt Peak.
Can you spot the microwave tower near The Black Tusk? The Black Tusk continues to impress despite the increasing cloud cover.

I hope we find the hut before it gets dark...

Daylight is quickly fading over the vast snowy landscape.


Running on fumes here... Zosia climbs steadily up the last gentle slope before Brew Hut.

This hut would be easy to miss in a whiteout...

Mount Brew and Brew Hut are only about 400 metres apart from one another.


Yay. Now we have to get to work... Sonny, Zosia and Shaun rejoice upon arriving at Brew Hut.
I guess I don't have to worry about chopping a toe off! Sonny feels a bit odd chopping wood indoors...wearing ski boots!

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

I'm basically eating a glorified cold lunch! Sonny and Shaun dig into dinner.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

I even look like I know how to play the thing! The hut's guitar is in remarkably good shape.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Bwahahahahahaha!!! At 7:42 PM, Zosia sets her watch alarm so that she will not oversleep.
Why do I have Madonna's "Vogue" running through my head? Strike a pose! Shaun performs some stretching exercises before going to bed.
The next morning (8 January 2017), Shaun, Zosia and I awoke before dawn to eat breakfast before leaving Brew Hut to ascend its namesake mountain.  After a short ski across the intervening ridge, we skinned up the south slope of Mount Brew's summit block as far as we could before ditching our skis and boot-packing the rest of the way.  This slope is unnervingly steep, but Shaun expertly led us up by kicking steps in the surprisingly firm snow.  A little over half an hour after leaving Brew Hut, we were standing on the summit of Mount Brew.

Had the weather been a little clearer on this day, we might have considered exploring some of the surrounding ridges, but lacking motivation to ski under cloud cover in flat light, we simply returned to Brew Hut to pack up the rest of our gear and head home.  While the ski down to Brew Lake was easy on wide-open and gentle slopes, the subsequent descent through the forest was fraught with challenges both steep and narrow.  Still, we managed to muddle our way back to the forest service roads without too much grief, and the remainder of our ski back to the Powder Mountain Catskiing base lodge was quick albeit unremarkable.

Staying overnight at Brew Hut and climbing Mount Brew was a fantastic way for Zosia and me to end our extended visit over two weekends with Shaun.  We later showed our appreciation of his generous hospitality by treating him to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.  Ironically, none of us enjoyed a "brew" for dinner.
Looks deceptively simple to ascend from here... Zosia surveys the remainder of the ascent up Mount Brew.
Sigh...another cloudy day in the Coast Mountains! Shaun and Zosia ski the connecting ridge from the hut to Mount Brew.  At centre on the horizon is Cypress Peak.
I'm really enjoying this! Sonny boot-packs up the south slope of Mount Brew's summit block.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Shaun's in the Zone now! Shaun leads the way up the slope.

It took us about half an hour from the hut. So why did we have to get up so early??

Shaun, Zosia and Sonny stand atop Mount Brew (1763 metres).


Can you spot the crow? The Black Tusk and the Garibaldi massif are the most recognizable peaks to the southeast.
Both are scrambles in the summer. I'll be back... To the southwest are Tricouni Peak and Cypress Peak.
I was still up top taking photos when Zosia was descending this. After leaving the summit of Mount Brew, Zosia carefully descends a steep snow slope.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Luong

Getting a small taste of POW! After strapping his skis back on, Sonny glides down the remainder of the slope on the south side of Mount Brew's summit block.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Luong

Back to the hut for 2nd breakfast! Shaun and Sonny return from their successful ascent of Mount Brew.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Time for some downhill skiing! Sonny and Shaun prepare to leave Brew Hut for good.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Skiing was a bit tricky in this flat light. Zosia skis away from Brew Hut.

Had the weather been nicer, we may have explored more of the area. Next time...

The terrain above snow-covered Brew Lake (left) is open and gentle.


This is a piece of cake after all the tricky skiing through the trees. Zosia easily avoids a natural snow pit.
It's a shame that telemarking is not as popular as it once was. There are enough ups and downs on the way back to warrant a bit of free-heel skiing.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

I hate having to put skins back on near the end of a ski tour! During a break near the bridge over Roe Creek, Sonny prepares to put his climbing skins back on his skis.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

It might be worth returning some day to ski some of the surrounding ridges around Brew Hut. Total Distance:  28.6 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  27 hours 7 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  1332 metres

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