Puntzi Mountain may be the coldest place in B.C. this week at -48.8C according to Environment Canada, but if you were to ask a handful of off-the-grid homesteaders living in the Chilcotin’s remote northwest wilderness, they have a different opinion.
Jennifer and Arön Toland and their neighbours say their nighttime temperatures have literally ‘bottomed out the Mercury,’ with temperatures going far beyond what they can read on their thermometers.
“Last night was the coldest anyone can remember. Pipes froze, log cabins logs cracked, but miraculously the chickens survived in an unheated coop,” Toland said of Tuesday night’s record-breaking temperatures.
The residents are located along the famous Alexander Mackenzie Grease Trail, at 3,600 feet near the base of the Itcha Ilgatchuz mountain range, west of Williams Lake.
“We all communicate through solar-powered satellite, and check on each other.”
Toland said despite the extreme weather this week, they wouldn’t change their lives at all living remotely and operating a wilderness lodge, Eliguk Lake Lodge Outfitters.
“We love the off-grid-life and it’s even part of our business. Arön was out packing down the runway on Eliguk Lake for bush planes last night for three hours in the dark just before we hit -40C,” she said.
Toland said their lodge is a wilderness destination open all year round and while it’s currently a little too cold to ice fish, it doesn’t stop them from enjoying the sunshine.
Matt MacDonald, Environment Canada warning preparedness meteorologist, told the Tribune the closest weather station to Eliguk Lake is a forestry station at Moose Lake about 13.2 kilometres northeast.
It was, however, out of service when he checked on Wednesday afternoon.
“Because it’s a forestry station they make sure it is running through the spring, summer and fall months, but a lot of them get capped or what we call winterized in the winter months because they don’t need the data as it is used for calculating fire risk and drought codes.”
When MacDonald heard the Tolands and their neighbours had seen their thermometers go beyond -50C this week, he said it was the first he’d heard of since the present arctic outbreak.
“Usually those temperatures are confined to the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It is completely possible. There is quite a bit of variability in temperature from one spot to the other.”
Typically valleys where the cold air drains down into, like close to a lake, tend to be the absolute cold spots, he added.
One weather stations costs about $10,000 to install and more goes into annual maintenance, especially if technicians have to be flown into remote locations.
Environment Canada has an agreement to pool observations from the BC Wildfire and B.C. ministries of forests and transportation weather stations.
“We have a relatively dense network, but there are some gaps in the lesser populated regions and out toward the Chilcotin region and southwestern Cariboo is definitely one of those holes,” MacDonald said.