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August 18, 2020 3 min read

Princess Louisa Sea to Ski

It’s the start of summer: the days are long, the mountain bike trails are in mint shape, and the lake close to home is begging for evening paddleboard & beer-drinking sessions. With all this warm weather fun at my doorstep, what do I do? I join a band of like-minded dummies and go skiing.

At least the warmer weather is conducive to boating, so we decide to embark on a mission we’ve had our eyes on for a while, a Sea to Ski trip up Princess Louisa Inlet. This incredible fjord is a destination in its own right (as evidenced by the hundreds of superyachts that visit every summer), but our objective is beyond the end of the Inlet, up into the alpine that looms impressively over Princess Louisa.

Sea to Ski Boating In

We make our way up the broad Jervis Inlet in a torrential rainstorm. The winds are calm at least, providing for quick ocean travel, but visibility is limited through the fog and rain. Approaching the mouth of Princess Louisa, we take in the sights of the Malibu Club, a wild resort built in the ’40s that hosted the likes of John Wayne, JFK, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope. Passing through the narrows that guard the entrance into the fjord, we’re greeted by countless waterfalls cascading down the 2,000-foot walls that define Princess Louisa. Pretty awe-inspiring, and concerning at the same time, considering we have to somehow surmount said walls in order to get to the snowline, which at the moment is not even within view.

Arriving at the Provincial Park at the head of the Inlet, we sort out gear, chat to the friendly full-time ranger who resides in the park, and quickly get to setting up camp, sculling beers, getting a raging fire going to dry gear off, and prepping for the next couple days. 

In the morning we pack up our alpine kit, load skis and boots onto packs, and start plodding up into the misty rainforest. It’s pretty bizarre to be sorting out skis and ice axes while seals bark out front of the campsite. Pretty quickly the plodding turns to scrambling which turns to clawing at vertical root systems while hauling unwieldy bags up through the never-ending forest. Four thousand vertical feet of old-growth trees and waterfalls later we pop out in the alpine, as dark clouds hide the lofty Coastal peaks and rain begins to fall again. We set up camp as quick as we can, which consists of lightweight tarps and bivvy bags, offering minimal protection against the driving rain and dropping temps. The rest of the evening is spent trying to stay warm and dry, while refueling on an array of boil in a bag dinners. A brief window of clearing gets us out on our skis and looking at possible ascent & descent routes for the next day. As quick as it clears up though, the rain returns, and we retreat to the relative comfort of our sleeping bags, hoping the forecast of clear skies for the next day holds true.

After a surprisingly good sleep, we poke our heads out of bivvy bags to the sun touching down on the peaks across the valley. Spirits buoyed, we shovel down some oatmeal, and head out. Climbing up the ridgeline above camp, the world around us comes into sharp relief. The Coast Range stretches off to the north, south and east, and to the west, we look far, far down at Princess Louisa inlet, which just mere hours ago we were on the shores of, and in mere hours would return to once again. The hardships of the rainforest death slog and the rainy camp melt away as we’re energized by the sun and the climb up the mountain. The ski down is mindless and fun, our group shredding party turns through the soft suncups back to camp. We relax on sun-warmed granite slabs, drying out gear and mentally preparing for the march back to sea level.

Midway through the descent back to the ocean, mosquitos incessantly buzzing in my ears and quads slowly losing any semblance of stability, I laugh to myself; this is what we do for fun! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.