Monday, September 8, 2014

Bourgeau-Healy-Sunshine Traverse

Type: Traverse (ditch a bike at the base of Sunshine)
Distance: 30km (28.67km on my watch)
Elevation Gain: 1850m

Sometimes it's Friday night, you're drinking beer at some local, awesome event and you realize you don't have plans for the weekend. That's where good buddies come in. Because probably, you're hanging out at this cool event with just those good buddies and they're in the same spot. So what do you do?

Well, Charlie and I had both done bigger days recently, so we were looking for something that would let us stretch our legs without completely murdering ourselves. Matt and Murray seemed more or less happy to do anything that involved being outside. They're sort of easy to please.

Matt and Charlie had been looking at the Bourgeau-Healy-Sunshine traverse for a while and it sort of seemed to fit the bill. At 30ish kilometres and 1800m of elevation gain, it wouldn't be a monster day, but would still feel like we accomplished something. We decided to start at the Bourgeau parking lot and traverse over to Sunshine ski resort and stashed a bike at Sunshine to get one of us back to the car..

Originally we were planning on hitting it pretty hard and trying to really blitz the trail but neither Charlie nor I were feeling 100%. I had a lot more joint pain going on than I expected - I don't think I'd given enough of a break since the Rockwall day trip, and Charlie's in med school and had done a few big days recently. The result was a day that was a little more mellow than planned but still fantastic.

The climb up to Bourgeau was  pretty straightforward. It's a super accessible mountain, no real technical skill required and while it's not a trivial day it isn't a big one either. I think it's called a scamble some places but I literally never touched a hand down on the way up or down so I'm calling it a hike. Also, the summit with its coms station makes for an awesome napping spot.

We had a pretty solid technical nap on the summit, but it was beautiful, the sun was shining and our ideas of trying to move super quickly were long, long gone. Not every trip needs to be a murder fest - pushing yourself to complete something quickly is rewarding, but spending time chatting with friends, dozing in the sun is just a different kind of rewarding.

When we were done with our nap, we headed off. The game plan from the summit of Bourgeau was to make our way to Healy Pass before dropping down to Sunshine. There was some great terrain that was technically a ridge but really it was like a meadow that breaks to either side of you. A little bit of scree or rock punctuated the otherwise alpine-meadow-y route.

While we weren't moving super quickly the terrain is definitely suitable for for a faster pace. Super mellow ridges, shallow descents into meadows; for all that there isn't a defined trail in places, it's a very friendly route. It's also a route I'd like to do again when I'm 100%, and a route that I think would be super nice on those days where the avi danger is keeping you from doing any real skiing. I think that our route would go as a relatively low exposure tour.

We wandered over to Healy Pass which is really pretty mellow and on our way hit some amazing bear gardens. The bears had clearly been through and really torn up the ground level veg looking for food. It was like someone had taken a rototiller through there.

From Healy Pass down, you're following marked, wide open trails. It's only from Bourgeau to Healy pass that you are on a route, not a trail, but as long as you stay on or near the ridge, you'll be fine.

From Healy it's ~8-10km out to the base of Sunshine on groomed trails. We ran the majority of it and then Charlie grabbed a bike we'd stashed earlier and rode back to the far trailhead to grab my car. She's sort of awesome that way. I like getting myself tired in the mountains, but I'm always looking to cheat on the bike ride when I'm doing a traverse. When I did the Rockwall I had stashed a bike but ended up just hitch hiking across since I still had light. It was super nice of Charlie to wrap up her day with a 10km bike ride through the mountains.

Not a super in depth TR, but honestly, this is a loop worth doing. It's beautiful and if you make it to Sunshine early enough, there's cold beer at the end (we didn't get there early enough). All in it's in the neighbourhood of 30km and like I said, I think it would go pretty comfortably as a ski tour for higher avi days. There's certainly areas to be careful on skis, but if you are confident in your avi skills, it doesn't have a ton of exposure.

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