Easter at Elizabeth Parker hut

This was a trip that came about in a more unusual way than most. I met Tanya through Instagram, where she posts as @mountainmomyyc. And we started chatting, in an online kind of way, and she said “Hey, we should go on an adventure together some time” – and I agreed. So when one of the families had to drop out of the Elizabeth Parker hut trip she had planned for Easter, I was among the families she shouted out the invitation to. And as we’d just had a fantastic fun trip up there, we jumped at the chance.

And so, in one of those moments where the internet shines and demonstrates that it’s not just a cesspit of the awfulness of humanity, we set off for a trip to a hut with a bunch of other families we’d never met before. And hoped none of them were axe murderers (spoilers: they weren’t).

At the trailhead we parked next to Andrea and David and their three kids – introducing ourselves and starting the process of getting to know folks.

As we skied up the 11 kilometres to the hut we skied with different people, and chatted, and got to know each other, and I ended up losing my own family entirely and skied along having interesting conversations with other peoples kids.

One of the interesting things was the variety of towing mechanisms everyone was using. We were just working with an old inner tube with a couple of slings attached, based on the system I’d used a few times up at Jackrabbits. But there was one very nice carabiner/bungee/rope/tow bar setup that I think we’ll try and copy for next time.

One family was just hiking in with a sled, and towards the end of the trip quite a few of the kids had switched from skis to snowshoes or boots. It’s a long uphill slog when you’re only five years old.

And then we settled into the huts. There were nine adults, eight kids (aged five to nine), and another two people who’d booked into the hut before Tanya had been able to book it out entirely. We were a little worried they’d be horrified, but they were lovely, and played Settlers of Catan with the kids (and one of them played guitar! and the other was Australian! Lovely I tell you!)

The benefit of having older kids along, is that they can sit and read to the other kids. And so the bunks were covered first with wrestling kids, then with kids playing lego and reading to each other, and then it was time for dinner.

Bedtime went about as smoothly as could be expected with all that excitement, but I managed to sleep fairly well that night, and didn’t have to get out of my sleeping bag until 7.30am, so I shall declare it a success.

After breakfast and some inside play, we decided to play near the hut for the first part of the morning. Which meant it was snow maze time!

Alex and I started digging out the snow maze we’d created last time we were up here, and soon recruited lots of helpers, and expanded the maze even further. David began digging out a quinzee in the middle of the maze, and it turned into an amazing nest of amazingness.

The kids had a ball running about, climbing up and down and jumping from wall to wall.

But then it was time to leave the maze, and go for a wander out towards Mary Lake. There was a delightful mix of snowshoes and skis, and we all wandered along together.

Including the unicorn, who had great difficulty keeping on track for some reason.

After skiing out halfway across the lake, we turned about and had lunch/snacks on the lake shore. Well, nearly the lake shore. I was wandering around at one point and punched straight through into slush. I don’t recommend that, although it definitely woke me up.

Meanwhile the unicorn got smaller, more fluorescent and significantly more dejected.

From there we wandered around to Lake O’Hara proper. Some of the crew headed back to the hut, some kept going to the far side of the lake to check out the waterfall, and some of us just opted to laze about in the sun.

You can see below which of those three camps we fell into.

The kids built a kicker to ski off, and dug a hole; the dads napped in the sun; the mums chatted, and were there to witness brave and fearless launches off the not very big or structurally sound kicker.

The afternoon brought the completion of the quinzee, and more snow maze time. And then tobogganing – which I have so many photos of that it’s going to get its own post.

Cupcakes were baked, and the kids got to decorate them, Easter style. And thanks to an eyeliner pencil that someone had thoughtfully (?) left behind in the hut, a lot of the kids developed rabbit whiskers.

And so the day started to draw to a close, and we retreated to the hut for dinner. Meanwhile the Easter Bunnies laid plans about an Easter Egg hunt.

The kids were exhausted, and so were supposed to fall asleep easily. However, mine was so overexcited that I had to crawl into my sleeping bag next to him in an attempt to get him to lie down and actually fall asleep. I assume it must have been successful, because the next thing I remember is waking up close to a midnight to a hut that was dark and quiet.

The next morning was Easter Sunday, and the Easter Bunny had been! He had conveniently left eggs around in groups of eight, so each of the kids could find one at each location – in and out of the huts, in the trees, in the snow maze, and all about.

The kids retreated to the bunks to assess their stashes. Some opened everything, eating the ones they liked as they went, and then handing all the ones they didn’t like back to their parents (that would be Finn). Others opened everything and then categorised their spoils according to size, type and colour. Needless to say, there was much excitement.

But then it was time to start packing up, and a few of our party left and started the journey back down to the trailhead.

Those of us who were left…. went tobogganing again!

Our luge track had set up firm and icy overnight, and we decided that a half-way launch point was probably the best option if we wanted to escape the weekend without major injuries. There were many more laps, but then it was time to go…

A toboggan train was dragged back to the huts, final checks were made, and the crew set off along the long road home.

The initial twisty turny section proved as interesting as ever, but we made it through unscathed and grouped together to begin the assault on the epic ‘downhill’ back to the cars.

With the warm weather, the trail had set fast… maybe tooo fast. We were flying down the hills, and some of us were terrified on occasions. We regrouped and re-jellybeaned at every kilometre marker, then stopped for lunch at the half-way picnic table. There we ran into a huge crew from Banff who were skiing in to the hut – our kids intermingled, and there was snowy mayhem in the sun, and the whisky jacks swarmed around us with delight.

Then the final stretch – with less downhill, and small legs getting tired, this took a little longer. But we made it! (Thanks to a combination of food-based bribery, conversation and songs)

Two of the coolest five year olds around, posing with victory at the bottom of the trail… then we packed up our cars, said our goodbyes, and drove home. New friends, fun weekend, more family trips must happen soon!

Note – Tanya’s write up of the trip can be found here.

Distance: 11.5km one way
Elevation gain: About 470m on the way in
Time to ski in: 6 hours in (we’ve done this in less time previously, and I took longer than my menfolk)
Time to ski out: 3.5 hours

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