Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Hourglass

After skiing yesterday we stopped at the hotel for a congratulatory pint. This time of year Granville Island Brewery makes a fine Winter Ale which just so happens to be available at the hotel. Combined with some greasy fries and...well, needless to say I didn't feel much like driving back home to Kelowna on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning we wandered over to the visitor center in falling snow. We learned that all of the permit areas would be closed for the day but this was fine because we only wanted to get out for a few hours.

The Hourglass is a gully on the north side of Cheops which descends into the Connaught drainage just a short distance from the hotel. We'd never been there before and it's a short trip so we skied up Cheops to check it out.

There had been a lot of skier traffic and it was pretty chewed up. Still it was really good just to be out and it always adds a little something extra to the day when you can visit an area you've never been to before.

I hope it stays cold in the pass for just a few weeks longer. Come on old man winter hang in there.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tupper Traverse

After three previous attempts we finally got up and over the west ridge of Mount Tupper. This time we started early, had plenty of daylight available (hooray for daylight savings time), found the best route through Hermit Meadows, and then got lucky with the weather too.

Fred, Steve, and Junko met us at the visitor center at 7:00. We got our permits, dropped off a car 8K down the road at Stone Arch, and were tromping up towards Hermit Meadows by 8:00.

On our previous trips we had always been too far to climber's left and lost time and elevation traversing back right over the rolling terrain to get below the big slope leading up towards Tupper. This time we forced ourselves to stay to the right at all costs and it worked out well. It helped that we could actually see for a change too!

This is Steve below the Swiss Peaks Mount Rogers. Up and right leads to the west ridge of Tupper.

With a haughty cheer (not really) we crossed over the west ridge at around 12:30 and started down the other side of Tupper. Our first reward for perseverance was this great little slope. It was so nice that when Brenda reached the bottom she claimed that here smile muscles were sore

We traversed across some flats until right up against Tupper. From this point there is a long and very steep gully that leads down to two lakes. In this first photo we're heading towards the top of the gully. The second photo was taken later in the day and is looking back up at the gully which is just left of center.

Helluva run. One where you need to ski the whole thing in one fell swoop and then get the heck out of the way. We were all happy but knackered at end of it. From here with a mixture of contouring and then dropping down the fall line we eventually arrived back at tree line.

At this point there were two options available. The first is to continue descending down the same side of the ridge and to then contour around the end of the ridge and bushwack out to the highway. The second option is to ascend to the top of the ridge and to then cut across to the Connaught slide path which leads down to the railway and eventually to the car.

After checking the map and altimeter to make sure that we were in the right place we decided on the second option and started climbing up the ridge.

Oh man it took ages. The snow was riddled with depth hoar which sometimes made it seem more like swimming than climbing. Anyway we struggled to the top and back into the sunshine.

Steve points out roughly where the car is. Still a long way down.

We cut across to the slide path and spent a good long while assessing it's stability. Eventually we decided that all was well and, one at a time, down we went...

And down. And down. And then down some more. It was a long run. The snow, which began as really nice dense powder, first became slightly crusty, then diabolically crusty, and then at some point changed to full on wet spring-like snow. It was hard work.

After what seemed a really long time we hit the CPR rail line which was our guide back to the highway. In the second photo you can just make out the entrance to the famous tunnel which goes through Mount MacDonald. When talking with Luc at the visitor center he'd said "if it gets dark you'll know that you've hiked too far along the tracks".

Edit March 2013:
This post is getting a few views lately. Where do you people come from? Anyway I should note that our route along and across the rail tracks back in 2008 was acceptable (sort of) at the time but is strictly forbidden now. Here is a more recent post on the Tupper Traverse and proper exit instructions on the Parks Canada web site.

1550 meters of climbing and 9 hours car to car. Not too bad for a bunch of weekend warriors.

More photies here Update 2017: Google killed Picasa. Thanks Google. New link:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

8812 Bowl

Steve joined us on Sunday morning and we once again skied up into the Ursus Minor area. After much hemming and hawing we veered away from our previous day's route, which had taken us into the Ursus Minor bowl, and instead headed left and up onto Bruins Ridge.

It was a stellar day with mostly blue skies but the wind was howling across the ridge. The 8812 Bowl is just before Bruins Pass and is accessed from the col in this photo. You can just make out some old tracks.

It was a terrific run that went went on and on until we were forced to stop and give our aching legs a rest. The bowl doesn't look overly steep in this photo but as you make those first few turns from the top it's enough to make that little voice in your head say "gee I hope this all holds together".

A great day in the mountains. Brenda and I were each sporting a good sunburn on Monday morning. More photos here and maybe some video later. And happy birthday to my Dad and my brother Ian.

Oh and edited to add that we ran into Diana and Al, who we know from Ottawa, and their friends Carole and Ray. In the pub they regaled us with epic tales of some of the long ski traverses they've done over the years. Good luck on the Churchill traverse you guys.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Video Peak

We finally went skiing this weekend after spending the last two weekends at home. A good thing too otherwise I may have started another "little" reno project. (How can one small bathroom consume so much time and money?)

We weren't sure what the weather would do so we toured up into Ursus Minor Bowl where there are some options available depending on the visibility. From a distance we spotted an up track on Video Peak and headed in that direction. The light changed from clear to murky and back again and we weren't sure which way it would go. We were lucky and found ourselves at the top of the peak and ready to ski down just as some blue sky appeared.

Wow what a great run. It was that type of dense powder snow that makes skiing absolutely effortless as you simply bounce from one turn into the next with a ridiculous grin on your face!

Video Peak

Ursus Minor Bowl

Just below the summit of Video Peak

Brenda dropping in

Our tracks seen from Hospital Bowl