Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sorcerer Lake Lodge

Just back from Sorcerer Lake Lodge where Brenda and I spent a week with the old crew from back east. It was simply a wonderful trip -- the weather was perfect, the snow was plentiful, and the company second to none. It was so good to see all of our old friends again and it was really hard to leave them when it came time to say goodbye at the end. We're already looking forward to next year's trip in 2008 and are hoping to return to Sorcerer again in 2009.

The following four photos are panoramas made by taking several photos and stitching them together using software called Autostitch.

An evening view from the back deck of Sorcerer Lodge

Martin at the Swiss Col

Dave at the White Russian Col (the peaks in the far distance are in the Rogers Pass area)

Escargot Glacier

A run dubbed "Critical Thursday" on the Nordic Glacier

Some hippy chick

Peter on his splitboard

Damon on the Escargot Glacier

Swiss Col with Iconoclast forming the backdrop. Back row (l-r): Peter, Mike, Louis, Martin, Dave. Front row (l-r): Celine (our cook extraordinaire), me

Cheap Scotch area

Martin at the Swiss Col

Swiss Col again

Martin near the White Russian Col

Damon on the Nordic Glacier

Mike below Wizard Peak


Nordic Glacier near Nordic Peak

Nordic Glacier

A map of the area with some of the place names mentioned above

More photos at

Friday, March 16, 2007

Asulkan Cabin

This week a trip to the Asulkan cabin and a brand new feature on the blog.

Our first trip into the Asulkan drainage since November. By this time last year we'd been here 3 or 4 times.

An intrepid group of four slogged their way towards the hut on Friday morning. A series of midweek storms had dumped a ton of precipitation. Unfortunately the freezing levels had fluctuated wildly. Rain had been reported as high as 2300m in some areas and it was still far too warm as we skied up the valley in the deep wet snow. There had been a big avalanche cycle and all of the major runouts were piled high with debris. Unnerving, but probably a good thing.

After the final lung busting climb we arrived at the hut in the late afternoon. Past tradition has dictated that we drop our heavy packs and make at least one run before dinner but not today -- it was snowing heavily and the howling wind was blowing the snow horizontally outside the cabin. We settled in for the night.

Fred was planning to join us but had been unable to leave work early enough to meet us in the morning. Instead he planned to start from the trailhead in the early evening and make his way to the hut alone by headlamp. This sounds bold but Fred had been up the route a dozen times previously and there was a good uptrack for him to follow. As long as he had his headlamp he would be fine.

Right, the headlamp.

So picture Fred halfway to the hut, the entire contents of his pack dumped out on the snow, and a mild panic rising up inside him as he wildly searches for his headlamp in the rapidly failing light. Then picture him slowly picking his way upwards in the pitch black, delicately feeling for the firm snow of the half buried uptrack underfoot, occasionally losing the track and being forced to double back in a wide circle to find the track again. In a blizzard.

This was his story as he sat before us late on Friday night after arriving at the hut. We stared at him in amazement. Anyway, happy that he'd made it, we all sat around drinking tea, swapped more stories, and soon went to bed.

But this was not the end of the headlamp story. Oh no.

As we were crawling into our sleeping bags we heard an exclamation of disbelief from Fred's direction.

", found my headlamp".

It had been in his jacket pocket the whole time.

We were speechless.

The next morning we had a late start since the wind was howling as usual. The hut is normally heaving with a dozen or so wet skiers and it seemed palatial with just the five of us. Eventually we got ourselves out the door for some skiing.

But later that day after returning to the cabin...

"We're going to have to change the outhouse barrel".

Steve made this announcement with the air of someone informing you that a close relative has just passed away. In fact our reaction would have been similar -- shock, dismay, wide eyed horror and disbelief.

The outhouse uses a barrel system for waste collection. Of course it behooves any responsible hut user to remove a full barrel and replace it with one of the empty barrels provided. But it's a nasty procedure that forces one to get up close and personal with some really horrible stuff. So of course it's avoided at all costs. Inevitably, in what Brenda termed a classic example of the tragedy of the commons, the situation becomes rather dire.

And our situation was dire. A column had developed -- not a cone but an actual column -- that extended well above the top of the barrel. In fact "contact" was imminent. Yup, that barrel had to be changed.

Steve seized the initiative by shoveling the snow from the back entrance.

Peeyoo what a stench. Enough to make you wretch. I claimed that the event had to be captured on film and so managed to avoid too much nastiness. (In my defense Brenda and I had changed the barrel in this very outhouse last November).

Anyway it was foul. Steve was a real hero and got the job done. Here he is post poop barrel, starfished and rolling about on the snow. He claims that he learned this from his dog.

So this brings us to a brand new interactive feature here on the 'ole teleblog...a caption contest!

Look at the horror on Steve's face in this photo! Let me know what you think was on his mind. Leave a comment below. You can click the photo for a larger view.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Malakwa Gorge

The season is short!

This is the mantra repeated throughout the winter whenever Brenda and I need a little extra motivation -- to climb up for one more run, to force ourselves out of bed at some ungodly hour on a Saturday morning, or to convince ourselves that it's worth getting out of town for both days on the weekend rather than for just one easy day trip.

So I mention that for a couple of reasons...

One is that the freezing level in Rogers Pass is starting to creep higher up the mountain sides and we're beginning to feel the first real strength in the sun's rays. With 4 months of skiing already behind us it's hard to think of the season as being in any way short -- but oh man I am so not ready for spring! I much prefer the cold snowy weather of December and January to the warm days of spring. It's a mixed blessing of course because the longer days give skiers the chance to try some bigger traverses and stuff where one needs all of the daylight they can get. But still...I already miss the cold deep snow that makes midwinter skiing so effortless and magical.

The other reason is that the "mantra" didn't work this weekend. We were seduced by pleasant thoughts of 10 hours of sleep and a long leisurely Sunday morning breakfast. Doh.

So off to Malakwa for the day on Saturday morning with Fred. We met Steve and started up the logging road. We'd heard reports that the logging company had finally stopped plowing up to 12K and that they were taking out trees lower down on the road. We soon came across a new cut block and some of the tools of the trade.

Witnessing the results of logging inevitably leaves me feeling hollow inside. I find it difficult to reconcile all of the conflicting elements. I mean here we are driving up a road to go skiing for fun yet we owe the existence of the road to all of the destruction that we see around us. It just seems to me that clear cut logging is overly brutal and unnecessarily vicious.

We motored our way upwards in Brenda's little CRV as far as we could. We tried first one set of chains, then a second set on the rear wheels, but eventually admitted defeat and simply parked on the side of the road.

Nevertheless we did manage to get in a nice day of skiing despite the low elevation at which we started. We climbed up from the car through old cut blocks and thin trees. As we got higher the snow changed from sloppy, to wet, to slightly crusty, and eventually into dense powdery snow -- at which point we ran out of mountain.

Down we went. Hilarity ensued when we eventually reached the gloppy wet snow. Sadly no crashes were caught on film.

Afterwards we stopped at The Burner again for a pint. We were served by a delightfully rotund and rather hirsute woman who had the deepest huskiest voice of anyone I know, male or female. It was perfect.

This time I sampled another Crannog beer called "Gael's Blood". The beer is noted for its bitterness. I was somewhat taken aback when the waitress cringed as I placed the order saying that she found it extremely bitter. Coming from a woman of such obviously strong character I was mildly alarmed.

I think I'll stick with "The Backhand of God" next time.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Swiss Glacier

Brenda here, today's guest blogger. Our regular host forgot his camera this Sunday, but I remembered mine.

We met up on Saturday night with DS, J, and some other folks from Kelowna, at the hotel at Rogers Pass. The meeting was due partly to planning and partly to good fortune, and it was fun to set off with a small group on Sunday morning - Steve, Fred, Andrew and myself, along with the new group. We all trooped up the Hermit Meadows trail, with thoughts of an aesthetic run down the Swiss glacier.

Andrew is a much better photographer than I am, and my camera cost twenty dollars. My twenty dollar camera has one setting switch, set to either close-up (denoted by a flower) or far-away (denoted by a mountain). Before I progress to owning a more expensive camera, with more settings, I must learn to use this one setting properly. Due to all the reasons above, some of the photos may be inferior to the usual high standards to which Andrew's readers have become accustomed.

We pulled out of the trees and into fog.

A bit put out, we went for a run, and miraculously no-one fell off a cliff anywhere. It was still quite foggy, and time for a decision - do we push on to our goal of the glacier, or do we call it a day? Half the group decided to call it a day - they had had a big day yesterday. Fred, Andrew, Steve and Brenda (your guest today) chose to point our skis upwards once again for a long and blind ascent into the clouds, hoping that luck would be with us and we would get a clearing.

Up and up we went, without seeing a thing. We later realized that our uptrack fell short of direct, but it was probably the safest option considering that we couldn't see much. We stopped for lunch after an hour or two, and decided that we were done. And lo and behold, the clouds began to clear, flowing down into the valley in a whirl.

So up again for another twenty minutes, putting us just around the toe of the glacier, for a beautiful, sunny ski down.

Smiles all around for a great ski

The ski out became a bit crusty, and the last couple hundred metres above the car were crusty like a casserole that had been left in the oven for eight hours. It was a struggle to get down to the car injury free, but we made it, for a great day.