Saturday, January 27, 2007

Needle Peak

All good things must come to an end and this weekend for the first time since moving to Kelowna almost 2 years ago we skied on snow that was -- how to put this? -- not above reproach.

Needle is located west of Kelowna on the Coquihalla Highway, close to Zoa Peak but on the other side of the road. We knew that the conditions probably weren't going to be that great since weather forecasts during the week had called for freezing levels to reach as high as 2400m. It may even have rained in the Needle Peak area judging by the sheets of ice. But despite knowing this I was still keen to visit Needle because we hadn't hadn't skied here before (Brenda was a bit less keen!)

It was a nice sunny day and this helped make up for the challenging snow. Well, kind of. A bit. Okay not really. Anyway the warm sun softened the south facing aspects just enough for some reasonable skiing. However if you do watch the video below turn on your speakers because the sound of the skis on the icy snow gives a good idea of what the skiing was like.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Loop Brook / Bonney Trees

Brenda and I explored Loop Brook late last season but we didn't travel very far up the drainage. It was good to visit here again and have a better look around with Steve, Cat, and Fred.

You can see where we were today in relation to last week's traverse...

There are a couple of interesting geological features up here. On the south ridge of Ross Peak which is the left sky line in this photo.... a natural arch near the summit where you can see right through from one side to the other. The other feature is a slot canyon that joins Loop Brook part way up the drainage. The canyon is so steep sided and narrow that it looks like the earth was simply wrenched apart for several hundred meters.

We came across this groovy barber pole tree which was twisted along it's entire height.

We schlogged along the drainage and up through trees to about 2000m where we got above tree line and found some nice mellow slopes and made 3 or 4 runs. We were just below the Bonney Glacier which is quite expansive and covers most of the north facing slopes of Bonney. The visibility wasn't all that great but we could see just enough blue ice looming out of the mist to know that there was something big above us.

There's a skier named Greg Hill out of Revelstoke who is blogging his attempt to ski 100 days of 10,000' this winter. To put this in some perspective 5000' is a pretty big day for Brenda and I. We've been checking out his blog lately because it's a fabulous source of information for skiing in the area.

As we were doing our runs today another group appeared. They had climbed most of the way up the final slope when one guy dropped his pack and straight lined it right back down again. He then promptly turned around and climbed back up past us at a tremendous clip. "Getting a lot in today?" asked Fred. "Yup. Gotta." came the reply. He picked up his pack and quickly caught up with his buddies as they disappeared over the next ridge where we later saw another set of tracks straight lining right down the slope.

Sure enough we checked Greg Hill's blog the next day and he had been up Loop Brook. In fact he had already skied from the summit of Mount Afton by the time we saw him. Mental.

I'm sure we could have done 10,000' today today too (ahem) but we spent too much time trying to send enormous snow bombs crashing down from the tree tops.

On another note I'm finding it challenging to keep this blog up to date. The date of the posts is drifting so far from the date of the trips that it's difficult to tell what trip we did when. For example I'm writing this on a Thursday and we did the trip on Sunday. I think from now on I'll modify the date of the post to match the date of the trip regardless of when the actual post is made.

McGill Shoulder

Another Revelstoke weekend at Cat's place (we may need to start paying rent soon). It seems like it hasn't stopped snowing in Revelstoke since December. Each weekend we gawk at the amount of snow that has accumulated since the last time we were here. Houses are nearly buried, snowbanks hide full sized cars. Then the next weekend there is even more snow. It's astonishing.

I think we should buy a little place here. I really like it. Hopefully the proposed mega ski resort doesn't change the character of the town.

We drove up on Friday night with Fred through some pretty dodgy road conditions. On Saturday morning we met Don. Don had spent the night in his truck camper. Coolest thing about Don's camper is that it's equipped with a tiny little woodstove. He keeps the fire stoked even when he's driving so that when he pulls over the camper will be nice and toasty warm. You can imagine the number of times that people have passed Don on the highway frantically waving their arms trying to tell him that his truck's on fire.

We were at McGill Shoulder today. Here's a post from last month if you want to see a map. As usual when we stay at Cat's we got a late start -- when we arrived in Don's truck there had to be 20 cars at the trail head. We headed off with the smell of wood smoke hanging in the air...

An uneventful day for the most part; the snow was fantastic, the skiing was great.

Gawd we're spoiled.

First Tracks?...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Little Sifton Traverse

Hello, this is Brenda, the special guest blogger of today.
As your regular host, Andrew, pointed out, on Saturday we had a good look at the Little Sifton Traverse from the Hermit Meadows side. Sunday was another cold and clear day, so we decided to get up an extra bit early and do the whole traverse. The traverse starts from the busy parking lot at Rogers Pass, up Grizzly Shoulder, over Little Sifton Col, and out via Hermit Meadows.
If you don't quite follow, have a look at the track below, taken with my gee-pee-ess.

Here we are climbing up Grizzly Shoulder, looking across at Grizzly Mtn and the Grizzly bowl.

I didn't think we were moving particularly slowly, but a few groups flew passed us as though we were standing still. I guess I'll have to get better gear, or something, to keep up with the crowds.

And here is me, your guest blogger, coming out onto the ridge above the Grizzly trees.

As we moved along the ridge towards Little Sifton, we saw where all those fast people were going - to ski Little Sifton. It looks like some great runs up here, for those who can climb fast enough to get them. We didn't have enough time to make the side-trip up Little Sifton, so we headed straight to the col and down the other side.

The run down was great. This is me.

It was a treat to have such a great day in mid-winter. On Monday morning I went to the dentist, which was not so great, but the skiing made up for it.

Hermit Meadows

On Friday night Brenda and I drove to Revelstoke for a "Revy Weekend" at Cat's place. On arrival we found Fred, Ken, and Janice already nicely settled in and well on their way through a fourth bottle of wine. It was Ken's fiftieth and he was celebrating in fine style.

The Canadian Avalanche Center had issued a special advisory for the weekend...
"... the combination of the winter's near record snowfalls combined with extraordinary winds creating unprecedented conditions. The result is isolated but exceptionally large avalanches, involving the entire winter snowpack."
We saw evidence of this on the drive to the pass. A huge avalanche had come down on the east side of the highway, run across the valley bottom for several hundred meters, and then climbed up the west side, burying the highway. It had been cleared away for the most part but the giant snowbanks on either side filled with trees and debris were an obvious reminder.

With this in mind our objective for the day was Hermit Meadows. Generally the terrain here is mellow and consequently the avalanche hazard quite low. Well, it's hard to make generalizations like that I suppose. Suffice it to say that if you choose an intelligent line then you don't expose yourself to any giant slopes above.

It was a stunning day -- freezing cold but with clear blue skies from one horizon to the other. I had only been here in the summer and I was very happy to make a winter visit. We had a great day of skiing but I don't think it would have mattered if we hadn't made a single turn today. It was just so nice to be out under blue skies with unlimited views in every direction.

I'll admit to an ulterior motive in choosing Hermit. The Little Sifton traverse, which begins in the Connaught drainage and crosses over Little Sifton, then decends via Hermit Meadows. The key to the traverse is to descend a steep north facing slope from the Little Sifton col down to Hermit Meadows. I had wanted to do this trip since last year and was keen to check out this part of route.

As luck would have it we ran into another group that was descending from the traverse. To use phrases that I am far too uncool to use we "pumped them for beta" and were "stoked" to try the traverse the next day.

(The word "stoked" should be banned from any usage associated with skiing. Who's with me here?)

Very few photos of actual skiing today but I did shoot a bunch of video. Hopefully I'll find some time to stitch the footage together later this week. However I noticed that Picasaweb allows you to upload video now. Here's an album from today with some raw video footage.

And finally here's Fred dealing with the last challenge of the day...surmounting the snowbank the separates us from Brenda's car parked on the other side!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Little White and Big White

Brenda and I were both in eastern Canada over the holidays visiting family (And I'll take this opportunity to mention that Air Canada sucks. The sooner those bozos go out of business the better). I was able to see everyone except for my brother Ian who lives in Whitehorse. As luck would have it Ian was at Big White this week. He is an organizer for this year's Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse and he was at Big White as a technical observer of the snowboard competition that took place over the weekend. It was great to catch up with him.

Lately we've been on a quest to find good backcountry skiing that is closer to Kelowna than our usual weekend haunts. It's been an unsuccessful quest thus far. Anyway to this end Saturday morning found us driving towards a mountain east of Kelowna called Little White...


For the third time actually. have yet to actually set foot on the peak.

By way of an explanation, or perhaps a defense, it should be noted that as usual access is via logging roads which may or may not be plowed during the winter.

On the first attempt last February we only managed to drive within 10km of the peak and then spent the better part of an entire day slogging up logging roads before chucking it in. The second time we again found the key road unplowed but this time we didn't even put our skis on and simply turned around and went home (we can be taught!).

Alas, this, our third try, was the most lame attempt yet. A storm the previous night had blown heavy wet snow drifts across the main access road. Although a Honda CRV is a great little vehicle it's not a real 4x4 by any means, so we bailed before getting ourselves stranded a very long way from home.

Ah well. We did have a fleeting view of a bobcat from the car.

To rescue something from the day we drove up to the Big White ski resort. The Gem Lake lift which serves one side of the mountain was closed so we parked in the empty lot and skinned up to the top of the Sun Rype bowl and had a couple of runs.

Resort skiing is boring. I can't believe the price of a lift ticket these days. $70? That - is - un - believable.

Brenda said I shouldn't post this photo because she looks bald, so here it is...