By Evan Wishloff
Okay, more like coffee at 9,500 feet, but close enough, right?
My legs were screaming, but I was too preoccupied with the scenery to care. We had just finished climbing up alongside Robson Glacier on the Snowbird Pass trail. The reward after a long, steep, sometimes-scree climb? A beautiful mountain meadow, with a stream and waterfall cutting through the landscape before dropping off dramatically to the chasm between us and Mount Robson.
Worth it, I thought to myself. I figured the climbing would be mostly done, but wow, was I ever wrong!
Mount Robson towers over the meadows partway through Snowbird Pass.
After a nice break for lunch in the meadows, we continued on a meandering path, surrounded by towering peaks on all sides. The goal? The Alberta-border, where we were promised stupendous views of the Coleman Glacier and Reef Icefield.
In the distance, I saw a trail, snaking up another steep slope. I did some highly scientific calculations in my head before deciding we had only done about half of the elevation on the day at best…
It’s not like we have anywhere else to be, I thought. We still had two nights at Berg Lake during this backcountry escape, so with plenty of daylight left, we kept trodding forward, even as my quads ached in protest.
As we crested the pass, we were greeted with an icefield stretching as far as the eye could see, but, forever in search of something more, decided it wasn’t enough. We veered right and started scrambling up the scree beside us, looking for a more elevated view.
We made it to around 9,500 feet above sea level before it started to get too loose and sketchy to safely continue. Not a bad place for a break! And as we all know, no break is complete without coffee, even if you’re taking a break on a windy, cold mountain ridge.
Out came my friend’s MSR Windburner Stove, coffee grinder, and pour-over. Coffee time! The MSR Windburner was made for this! It was light enough that my friend only complained a few times about the extra weight in his pack on the way up (and to be fair, he would have complained with an empty pack, it was a tough day...)
Only fresh-ground beans found here. Coffee snob level: expert?
The unsheltered ridge felt like a wind tunnel, and I worried about the potential for coffee. Melting snow in this wind is going to be an ordeal, I thought to myself.
Frozen to boiling in no time!
We scooped some snow into the 1 litre Windburner pot, lit the stove, and watched as, almost like a miracle, the snow quickly turned into a pot of water at a rolling boil. The stove was seemingly unfazed by the wind whipping around us. It shouldn’t have surprised me really - the Windburner’s enclosed heat-exchanger does offer unmatched wind protection.
So with a little help from MSR, we were quickly enjoying some delicious caffeine at 10,000 feet. I don’t know that any cup of coffee will ever match it!