Saturday, December 20, 2008

Knox Mountain

We didn't stray too far from home this weekend. Our get-up-and-go deserted us. Short days, really cold weather, you get the picture. In four winters of living in Kelowna we've never seen such consistently low temperatures. Lots of snow too. Except for revealing how poorly insulated a 96-year old house can be, it's been great!

We managed to pull ourselves away from the wood stove for just long enough to trek up Knox Mountain. I had high hopes that some of the grassy slopes might be holding just enough snow for a few decent turns. Alas, not quite. There was no base at all underneath the powdery snow and the tufts of long brown grass seemed perfectly designed for catching ski tips. After two cartwheeling crashes I called it a day.

We ran into David who was out snowshoeing with his dog. We know him from a trip to the Asulkan Hut last year. We also saw a couple of other folks out there skiing too. We didn't have time to say hello. Any of you guys?

December 20th 2008

December 23rd 2007

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Apex Backcountry

We spent Sunday skiing with Ron and Sid near Apex Resort. Ron knows the area really well and was tour guide for us throughout the day. We made a few turns but mainly just wanted to connect some of the dots from our previous visits to Apex. The snow pack is still marginal so it's just as well that we were out for a tour.

It was a seriously cold day. I don't think it got any warmer than -19C. Okay Pat you're laughing at us. I guess three years in the Okanagan has thinned my blood.

We saw loads of moose tracks, enjoyed a bit of sun, and basically just kept moving to stay warm!

Ron shows us his shortcut

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ursus Trees

Finally we got out skiing again this weekend. Just for one day on Sunday. A big system came through and dumped 50cm of snow in the Rogers Pass area. The driving was nasty. Vehicles were stuck all over the place in the Visitor's Center parking lot. It was a bit of a zoo.

Despite all of the new snow and the attendant avalanches roaring down off of Cheops it's still looking shrubby in the Connaught Drainage. The Grizzly slide path is choked with alder. But as usual once into the alpine the skiing is fine.

My camera crapped out again so we have few photos from our day out -- just one from Fred and another taken last year showing our runs. I wonder if Santa Claus reads blogs?

But despair not, dear reader, at this meager fair! At this scanty validation of our day of toil! A boring Friday night, some very fine Scotch, and lots of old video have together conspired to bring you the first and only Fast-Freddy Fanboy video for your viewing pleasure.

Sorry Fred.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Asulkan Cabin

The fourth annual November long weekend trip to the Asulkan Hut. Brenda couldn't make it this year because she was speaking at a conference in Toronto (how grown up!) so it was Fred, Steve, and myself who made the long trudge on Saturday morning. It seemed like a long trudge anyway. We were knackered when we arrived. Why doesn't this get any easier?

The upstairs door had blown open and the 2nd floor was covered in a snow drift that was rapidly melting through onto everything downstairs. We cleaned that up and called it a day. Just as darkness was falling we noticed another group climbing up towards the hut. We idly wondered if it was anyone we knew. Turned out that we knew all of them; Jeff and Dustin, Jeff and Julie, Ryan, and Kaylie. (Thanks for the marzipan Dustin!)

So we skied, we ate, we slept in. We did some beacon searches. I'm not so bad at searching for multiple beacons after all. Fred had a good crash at one point - this alone was pretty entertaining since he hardly ever crashes - but his ski released and took off as if determined to make it all the way back to the highway. Oh man that sucker went for miles. Leashes? I dunno. Generally we don't use them but sometimes you gotta wonder.

The ski out was great at first but as we descended the temperature rose and it became pretty grim. The snow turned to rain and the trail turned to muck. I admitted defeat and put my skins on for most of the way down. We were soaked to the skin when we reached the car.

A fun start to the season but we need more snow. Please?

BTW (for anyone heading up the Asulkan Hut) one of the stoves is missing. I assume Parks removed it for repair but I sent them an email anyway just in case they don't know about it. It might be worth bringing up your own stove if the hut is busy.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Canmore over the long weekend. Originally to do a bit of late season climbing with Ross. However, in a word, it was c-c-cold. Snowing when we arrived on Friday night and a low of -9 or something. So we did a couple of snowy scrambles and enjoyed the sound of snow crunching underfoot again.

Ross got delayed on a business trip so Brenda and I strolled around chilly Canmore on Saturday morning. After meeting Ross around midday we started up Fairview in the early afternoon. It only takes a few hours to hike up Fairview and we were quickly rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of the area for very little effort.

I had my first view of the Aberdeen glacier since trying to climb Aberdeen about 10 years ago. We were pummeled by rock fall that day and were very lucky to walk away. Ross had a similar experience just this summer.

Aberdeen Glacier

Ross and Brenda on Fairview

Caution, rant below. Sorry Brenda.

Did you know that you can rent a canoe on the beautiful shores of Lake Louise in Banff National Park? That's right. You give the nice man forty-five dollars and you can paddle about for thirty minutes.

Wait a minute. Forty-five dollars? Forty-five dollars!? For 30 stinkin' minutes!?

That is mental. Banff is (supposedly) a national park, not some tacky tourist trap designed to fleece people of their money. It's undignified. It's pathetic.

Anyway, back to the weekend. On Sunday we tried to scramble up to the south summit of Mount Indefatigable in Kananaskis. First we got up late. Then we drove to a trailhead, thought we were in the wrong place, and then doubled back many kilometers only to find out that we had in fact been in the right place. Then after starting from the car we immediately missed the turn off to the trail and hiked for an hour in the wrong direction. Again we doubled back. A couple of hours later we blithely trudged past a trail junction for the south summit and instead headed up towards the north summit! It was comical.

Still, we had a nice day slogging around in the snow and mud. We didn't quite make the summit since it was plastered with wet snow and getting late.

Mount Indefatigable

On the way up I encountered a gentleman wearing an English football jersey but I couldn't tell which club it was. Upon inquiry he pulled a pack strap aside to reveal the word "Forest".

"Ah, Nottingham", I said, which left him pretty chuffed. He of course asked where my allegiances lay. At first he seemed dead suspicious when I told him Liverpool.

"What's your connection with 'em?", he asked.

"I'm from Liverpool", I replied.

"Oh". His expression softened. "That's all right then. I hoped you weren't like one of them prawn eating Manchester United fans is all."

It's the little things in life :)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shuswap River

We had a nice day paddling a short section of the Shuswap River on Saturday. We were with Brenda's parents who have been visiting from Sarnia. Started at Trinity Bridge east of Enderby and finished up in Enderby. We're not white water paddlers by any measure. This part of the river is very gentle, but it does move along at a good clip in a few places which keeps it interesting. No salmon yet but we did see a black bear along the shore.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pinnacle Lake

We were at a loose end as to what to do with ourselves last weekend. Having both been away the previous week we hadn't put much thought into the upcoming long weekend. It had been cold and rainy in Kelowna which probably meant that the snow level in Rogers Pass would be low enough to hinder the climbing aspirations of mere mortals like ourselves.

So, for a change, we headed to Pinnacle Lake in the Monashees. One hour north, one hour east, 22k on a logging road, and we began the short hike up to the lake. On the way up we ran into Henry who was hiking with his family and friends. We met Henry in February on a trip to the Asulkan Hut.

We spent two nights camping near the edge of the lake. It was a beautiful setting with the lake nestled in a little amphitheater and The Pinnacles rising above the far end. When the sun disappeared behind the peaks in the early evening the temperature quickly dropped and we retired to the tent to cook an early dinner. This seemed like a good idea at the time but one morning a couple of guys told us they had been forced to frighten away a young bear that had been making its way around the lake shore towards us.

On the middle day we scrambled up to the ridge line and looked over at Monashee Lake. We had tried to get into Monashee Lake last spring but didn't make it. Which reminds me, still need to get a buck saw to keep in the car for trips like this.

We continued scrambling along the ridge under the indifferent weather. We were rained on, snowed, hailed, and sunshined on at various times throughout the day. Eventually we scrambled to the top of the Middle Pinnacle (according to the summit register) and called it a day.

We explored an ice cave, foraged for blueberries, and sang daft songs to let the bears know we were coming. A relaxing weekend quite close to home.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Uto Peak SW to NW Traverse

Took a few days off last week to join Ross for some climbing. We had grand ambitions with the NW Ridge of Sir Donald topping our list. Sadly the weather turned foul and put a crimp in our plans. The third week of August is notorious for bad weather.

So, instead of meeting in Rogers Pass as originally planned I drove straight through to Canmore and met up with Ross at the Canmore Castle. We had a good fester, did some long-boarding, visited Banff where Ross bought some new boots (he needed 'em), and had a swim in the hot springs under the cold pouring rain. I hadn't been there since I was a kid.

The forecast for the weekend improved and we eventually made our way back to Rogers Pass and up to the Sir Donald bivy site. When the clouds parted we had our first worrying look at Sir Donald.


We set up camp and climbed up to the Donald-Uto col to look around. The NW Ridge was soaked and covered in snow. To our surprise there was a party on the route. We watched them for quite a while but they hardly moved an inch. We returned to camp. As we cooked and ate dinner we could see them rappelling down the west face racing against the encroaching darkness. Eventually they got down and came through the bivy site where Ross exchanged a few words with them. They were soaked to the core, freezing, and had basically had a very, very bad day. Ross said their eyes were as big as saucers.

With that in mind the next day we decided to give Sir Donald another day to dry out. Instead we opted to traverse Uto by climbing up the SW ridge and descending by the NW ridge. The weather improved throughout the day and we enjoyed ourselves. It wasn't Sir Donald but it was still good route in a much less threatening sort of way!

That's Sir Donald behind us in the last photo.

Another group that had arrived the previous night had decided to go for the NW ridge. We saw glimpses of them throughout the day but they too were moving agonizingly slowly. We lost sight of them and thought that they must have given up and rapped off.

When we got back to camp we debated going for it the next day, Sunday, but for me the momentum was lost and we decided against it. We planned to spend the night and head out the next morning.

We again had entertainment of sorts while eating dinner. The party which we assumed had bailed was still trying to get down off Sir Donald. However it was pretty obvious that they weren't going to be as lucky as the previous night's group and that they were doomed to a cold night out. We felt for them as we watched their headlights bobbing up and down along the distant ridge.

We still felt for them the next morning as we packed up and could still see them up there making their slow way down the ridge.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Cheops SE Ridge

We tried the SE Ridge on the holiday Monday with Fred and Joanne. To make a long story short...much bushwhacking, took longer than expected, and we bailed short of the summit. The worst part is that now we have to go back and do that bushwhack again!

It's quite a nice route once you gain the ridge. The final summit headwall looks a bit dodgy when you view it straight on but I'm sure it would have gone easily enough if we had had enough time to poke around a bit.

Thankfully the descent wasn't too bad. We scrambled across onto the east face and boot skied down snow patches for hundred of meters.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Over the long weekend Martin payed us a visit and we spent most of our time in Rogers Pass. Martin, who now lives in Dundas Ontario, was on his we into the Bugaboos but had come out a few days early to see us. We had hoped to do one of the Rogers Pass classics such as the West Ridge of Tupper or Uto. Unfortunately the weather didn't really co-operate and we spent a lot of time hanging out in the campsite (which was still pretty entertaining).

We did manage to scramble up Abbott and Afton one day. This is fast becoming the iffy weather route of choice for us. Joanne and Fred joined us and we had a good time.

The most interesting part of the day was this owl that was perched low in a tree just a couple of meters from the trail.

We'd never seen an owl up close like this before. It just sat there staring at us seemingly unconcerned with our oohing and ahhing just few feet away. He craned his head around and blinked in an owly manner until we got bored. It was really cool.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Eagle Peak Traverse

We were back in Rogers Pass again this weekend to try Eagle Peak. Most of the fresh snow has melted off and it's beginning to look more summer-like in the alpine, although I think there is still more snow remaining than in previous years.

The plan was to gain the col between Avalanche and Eagle, climb the N Ridge and then descend by the SW Ridge.

We really enjoyed the route up. There was plenty of snow below the col which really helped. Under the snow is a steep scree slope which I suspect becomes more character building as the summer wears on. From the col the route is part ridge walk, part scramble, and part low 5th class climbing. We did get the rope out at one point as the ridge became steeper and less blocky near the top. Probably wasn't necessary in the end but hey, we had a rope, might as well use it.

All went well and we were on the summit by 2 o'clock. The guidebook suggested 6 hours up and we took 7. What!? Slower than guidebook time? Us? We'll have to have a word with David P. Jones about this!

So, the descent down the SW ridge...

Here's some advice: if there's someone in your life that you really, really don't like, tell them that the SW ridge is a good way to descend from Eagle Peak. 'Nuff said.

Six hours(!) after leaving the summit we arrived, very footsore, at the Illecillewaet campground. We didn't even look for the friends that we knew were camping somewhere nearby. Food. Bed.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Balu Peak SE Ridge

We planned to try the north ridge of Eagle Mountain in Rogers Pass this weekend. It was to be our first alpine climbing weekend of the summer and the route seemed like a good low-key way to start. We were already familiar with the descent route since we had checked it out last summer. However when we arrived at the pass on Friday night the mountains were looking very white from the storms which had come through the region on Thursday.

In the photo Eagle is the peak at middle right. Uto is peaking out from behind and Sir Donald looms high above from the far right. The north ridge of Eagle climbs up and right from the col in the center of the photo.

So enough about what we didn't do.

A post on the ACC Okanagan forum made us think of the SE Ridge of Balu Peak. A quick check of the guidebook and we were on our way.

We've been up Connaught Creek many times in the winter but this was our first summer trip. What a fine hike. Great trail, great views. From Balu Pass our route followed the left skyline in this photo. The col on the right is the start of the 8812 bowl.

A fine day out as they say. 3rd class scrambling over mostly solid rock.

It took us 9 hours including a short nap at Balu Pass. There were a couple of guys skiing up there and it looked pretty good. Only 4 months to go until the season starts again :)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Glacier Circle Hut

Brenda hasn't written for the blog since the Little Sifton Traverse. Take it away Brenda...

The Glacier Circle Hut is an historic and seldom-visited hut. It was built in the early 1900's, and sits in a hanging valley beside the Dawson Range, a stunning group of 11,000' peaks.

The fastest access to the hut is over the Illecillewaet Glacier. The guidebook gives 10-12 hours to get to the hut, so we started off at 6:30 on Saturday morning. We hiked for three hours with skis on our packs in order to get to the snow - a heavy three hours, tottering top-heavy over first the trail, then rocks, then finally snow. We were moving slowly, and concerned about making it to the hut in reasonable time. We got to the toe of the glacier, had lunch, and put our skis on for the 10km slog across the flat nevé.

There is a magical window of time during which the hut is accessible to average mortals such as ourselves. In the winter, the days are so short that we would have to leave well before breakfast in order to arrive at the hut in daylight. And with fresh winter snow on the neve, breaking trail for that long distance would be hard. In midsummer and fall, the melting snow reveals the crevasses on the glacier, and walking roped across the whole glacier would be exhausting and long. In the spring, the consolidated snow makes for fast travel on skis, days are long, and the hut moves several hours closer to the highway.

We made quick time across the glacier, and the ski was thoroughly enjoyable. We ran across the tracks of a bear who had loped across the neve from the Asulkan side across to the Beaver Valley. I bet he made good time.

At its south end, the Illecillewaet drops off into the Glacier Circle. We were able to make a few turns on the last tongue of snow before abandoning our skis and staggering down the rocks into the valley floor.

The hut itself is notoriously difficult to find. Stories abound of people spending the night out because they couldn't find the hut, then waking up to discover they were sleeping not 100 feet away. I had programmed the location into my GPS to avoid such a fate.

Fred decided that he wanted the experience of discovering the hut by himself, so he took off ahead. Andrew and I were more interested in the experience of boot-removal, so I took the GPS and forged straight at the co-ordinates. We were so tired that we didn't bother to find a trail through the woods - we bashed forward through ponds, rivers, over logs, and through brush, anxious only to arrive. Which we did, a full half hour before Fred, and a half hour within the 12 hour time limit given by the guidebook.

The hut itself is beautiful, and the surroundings nothing short of spectacular. The Deville Glacier, two kilometers away, spills over a cliff and spends the afternoon hurling school-bus-sized chunks of ice off into the valley, and the thunder echoes all around the Cirque.

Sunday was spent relaxing and exploring our new surroundings. We planned to go for a short stroll after breakfast. Then we discovered a family of mice, and our stroll started late. We walked to the top of a small hill. We had a swim in the lake at the end of the valley. Then we realized that we had almost missed lunchtime, so we walked back to the cabin. We had lunch, and met the porcupine who lives next-door to the hut. Then it was naptime, then glacier-watching time, then suppertime, then bedtime. It was a great day.

On Monday we got up early, tidied the hut, and started back to Rogers Pass. The trip was uneventful, and four hours faster than the trip in - downhill most of the way, and we were glad to have skis. We had the increasingly familiar surreal feeling of getting back to the hiking trail wearing our huge packs with skis strapped on, amongst the hikers wearing summer clothes and tiny fashionable day-packs. We were quite pleased with ourselves when we got back to the car.

distance: 16 km each way
elevation at Rogers Pass: 1350m
elevation at Glacier Circle: 1850m
elevation at high point on Neve: 2700m
species spied: grizzly bear*, porcupine, nuthatch, common butterwort (carnivorous!), herd of unidentified ungulates, frog, deer mice
*Do not worry, the grizzly bear was very far away. Good eyes Fred.

Lots more photos here of the porcupine, the mice, and Fred's sun burned knees.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Dome Glacier

Perhaps the last outing of the season? We'll see. We've been skiing for seven months now. There wasn't much snow in the Asulkan parking lot on Saturday morning. There still is lots of snow of course. But it's getting to that stage where you wonder if the 200 meters of good skiing you find at the end of five hours of slogging is really worth the effort. Still, as always, it's just good to be out.

Our destination for the day was the Dome Glacier. It's on the opposite side of the Asulkan Valley from that pitch on Young's Peak that we skied last weekend. It also faces mostly north so we hoped there would still be some dry snow once we got high enough. The Dome Glacier is on the sky line straight above Brenda here.

Fred suggested a short cut. We followed like lambs to the slaughter. 752 million groin-busting kick turns later we broke out of the trees and onto the open slopes beneath the dome.

We came across a small tree in the middle of nowhere that had been adorned with prayer flags. It was really strange. Strange that the prayer flags were there in the first place of course but also that of all the possible routes which we could have taken in this vast expanse of snow and trees we happened upon this one little tree that someone else had already chosen to adorn with prayer flags. It was nice.

A rare photo of me! Free-pivot tele bindings rule. Mount Castor in the background.

We topped out on a feature called The Cleaver which is a rocky rib that separates the remnants of the Asulkan Glacier from the Dome Glacier. It was tempting to scope out the Dome-Rampart col for a future trip but the motivation wasn't quite there for another 20 minutes of climbing. It was hot.

The skins came off and down we went. The snow was really nice for about 300 meters. Just on the edge of soft. Then all of a sudden it transitioned into sloppy wet goo and wham! The faceplants were thick and furious. I captured Steve on video hitting the deck as though he'd been shot.

The farther down we descended the nastier the snow became. Where it was steep we could deliberately set off small sluffs that slowly oozed downhill. Occasionally one would gather enough momentum to develop into a full blown wet snow avalanche. We'd hear it crash down noisily down into the valley a few minutes later.

At the end of the day we were visited by a curious pine marten. He was darn cute. I'd only ever seen martens before in huts where they are much less cute and much more noisy. This fella entertained us for a few minutes by climbing around in a tree and peering at us from only a few meters away. He then nonchalantly bounded away.

If this was indeed the end of the season then it was a nice way to end it.