Winter on Highway 99

River Runs Through

We could feel the temperature shifting as we got closer to Lillooet. The air was crisper, and our breath left a fog in the morning. Though we had some notice for what was coming, we weren’t clever enough to pick up on it.

We headed out of town through the one lane bridge, and started our journey past Goat Mountain and Birkenhead Peak.

One Lane Ranchland

Very quickly the temperature dropped. From about +24 celsius a few kilometres ago, to temperatures that were clearly dropping rapidly into the minus’.

We worried a bit about whether or not we had warm enough clothes to manage the region – we simply were not expecting to encounter winter. A bit short sighted perhaps!

Snowy Road

I have a great respect (and fear) of this area. I lost a childhood friend to these winding roads one winter night a few years ago. He was returning home after time with friends, when he lost control on the icy narrows. His truck careened off the side, and barreled down the steep cliff.

It is assumed he died instantly. His dog (who was always with him), climbed the cliff to sit on the roadside – waiting for help.

Thin Ice

When the authorities found Birken (the dog) on the side of the road, his throat was bleeding and raw from howling, and his rear was frozen to the ground.

The authorities said that the faithful dog was the only reason the body was recovered 100’s of feet below the cliffs edge. It had been snowing, and his vehicle was covered by the morning when the search teams headed out – and so were his tire tracks.

If it hadn’t been for Birken, the family would have had to wait until at least late Spring when the snow thawed, to find and reclaim their sons body, and get some closure – if they were lucky enough to find him at all.

Runaway Lane Road Closed

Many people head out into the wild here, never to be found again. I have a close friend who is a rescue worker – he has spent a lot of time in this area saving backcountry skiers and hikers from nature, and themselves.

After the stories I have heard, I do NOT EVER head out into the wilderness – for any reason. Call me paranoid, but with the hungry bears and freezing temperatures, avalanches, dangerous landscape, high probability of getting lost, dropping off a crag or falling into a crevasse – I say no thanks. I will take my adventure in other ways.

Hiking into Avalanche Area

Regardless, on this sunny day, we saw many vehicles parked at the few pullouts available. Scads of people getting on their ski gear, with plans to risk their own lives (and the lives of those who may have to save them later), and head out into the unmarked wild – during perfect avalanche conditions.

Some parked right in front of ‘No Stopping, Avalanche Area’ signs, strapping on their boots, grabbing their poles. It is this type of suicidal, adventure seeking, nature lover that makes my rescue working friend very upset.

Avalanche Slow

We have lots of double black diamond danger runs and hiking areas, at the plethora of maintained and monitored ski hills and parks in the area – lots of places you could potentially kill yourself accidentally – without heading into un-monitored backcountry.

Mountain Avalanche

Here in BC, there is really no reason to head out off of the beaten path – there are so many ‘paths’ in this province, that many of them are isolated and almost un-touched.

Heading into ‘backcountry’ here, often means putting some one else’s life at risk – namely that of my friend (and his colleagues), the rescue worker.

Snow Covered Lake

Personally, I can’t imagine what internal force pushes someone toward that direction. Though I know from my months spent crying after watching the true stories; ‘Into the Wild‘ and ‘Grizzly Man‘, that some people are just compelled.

Not me!

Additional photos in the slideshow.

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Follow this trip by heading to the ‘Summer to Winter Tour‘ section. Many more photos at the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


6 responses to “Winter on Highway 99

    • It still breaks my heart too. Birken was nursed back to life, though he did not make a full recovery. He was around for a short time after the incident, and lived like a local celebrity for the time he had left.


  1. oh that is so very sad. My heart goes out to all and thank you very much for reminding us to use extreme caution every which way to Sunday while in the back country. Yet it looks as though dangerous and harrowing roads comes upon you very quickly and with surprise. Your article does reminds us to always research before heading out into unknown parts. Many, many thanks.


    • It is quite dangerous – especially if you don’t know the roads. Being overly cautious in this manner, we never drive the roads in this locate at night – too scary and VERY DARK! & You are welcome 🙂


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