Words and photos by Robert Sim
Smoke rises from the chimney of a wall tent nearly buried in fresh overnight snowfall from the previous night. Signs of life begin to stir from within our camp tent. A head appears from the door flaps to gather intel for a snow report. The snowmobiles are buried under two feet of fresh. The report sets off a flurry of activity as morning routines are accelerated for the three stirring tent-dwellers.
Coffee. Bailey’s. Food. Pack. Get Dressed.
Find your snowmachine. Start the sled. Harass the slowest member of the group. Pound trail. All before the break of dawn, in a valley far, far away from your nearest Saturday morning ski lift and coffee lines.
This is a typical routine for the new breed of weekend warrior. The Revelstoke version, to be precise. Tradesmen bringing the same work ethic they tackle jobs with during the week now laying siege to new zones in the backside of nowhere in their own time. Hours of studying Google Earth in search of the next holy grail of pillow zones results in an expedition approach to exploration in order maximize the weekend. You won’t find the details of their exploits splashed all over social media. If you do happen to cross their paths somewhere deep in the middle of nowhere, chances are they will vanish without a trace soon after. But where you will find them is back at their jobs Monday morning, nose to grindstone with ear to ear grins on their faces as if they know something you don’t as they replay the weekend over in their minds.
The three break trail in near-zero visibility, weaving through the old growth cedars of a long forgotten era. Snow flows over the hood of their machines, burying the headlights and muffling engine noise, giving off the eerie feeling of floating through a cloud. Having never set eyes upon their destination before, the three rely upon instinct and research to find their way. Above an unnamed alpine lake, a giant wall laden with multiple stacks of giant pillow columns greets them with a foreboding silence. As daybreak begins to poke through the thickened clouds they get to work building the road up the backside in order to tandem to the top of pillow country. Before you’d have your coffee in hand at La Baguette, they stand atop of their prize with a jubilant anticipation of what comes next.
After claiming that he’s ‘just going to take it easy on this first one,’ Andrew Clarke, the mild mannered and perpetually stoked owner of Axiom Mechanical, stands above his line choice. He’s just sat out over a month due to a knee injury, and gives a feeble attempt at a stretch. Then, he points it straight through a 60-foot tower of pillows, completely disappearing out of sight for about forty-odd feet before emerging from the bottom with arms raised victoriously, goggles packed with snow and a grin that could be seen for miles. Behind him the stack of pillows crumble like the twin towers, first the left side, seconds later the right. War cries from the other two light up the valley as they hoot and holler at Andrew’s choice of ‘takin’ ‘er easy, bud’ lines.
Next up was Samuel Monette. He’s a builder by trade. If you were to ever to cross his path during the weekdays, you would never guess his weekend demeanour. He continually sets out to destroy mountainsides on the weekends with the same precision you’ll find him making cuts on the tablesaw during the week. With the bar now raised, Sam picks his warm up line and promptly points it straight through the middle of another column stack. He somehow ejects from the bottom of a neighbouring stack as suddenly as his predecessor before him — without visibly switching between the two. Always a smoke-and-mirror act and a true master of ‘now you see me, now you don’t. Now I’m over here… AND I got your wallet.’
Not to be out done, Jerome St-Pierre rubs his hands together in anticipation of his upcoming descent. A carpenter with Jordan Cochrane Construction, he’s no stranger to hitting the nail on the head. St-Pierre hammers a straight-line through a monster stack of his own before bursting out midway and airing the final 20 feet into a waist deep landing zone. After exchanging high fives with the other two, they trudge back to awaiting snow ponies in chest deep snow. Then they get to it again, systematically decimating pillow stack after pillow stack until the whole wall is left in ruins.
Below the demolition site, the boys sit back and enjoy a leisurely ‘coffee’ break while they take in their craftsmanship. Miles away the first gondola is loaded with frothing first trackers.
Coffee doesn’t last long as the boys load up and head off in search of the next zone to destroy before lunch. After a full day of precision cuts to the mountainside, the boys return to camp, dig up the now buried ‘fridge’, grab a cold beer and fire up the wood stove. They’ll hit the hay early as Sunday is the last chance to lay siege to another zone before heading back to the grindstone.
Even in Revelstoke, you can’t escape the Monday morning blues.
This article first appeared in the December issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.