Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bonney Moraines

Saturday morning at the Visitor Centre and we were hemming and hawing with indecision. The morning forecast had changed significantly from the day before; increasing cloudiness and flurries rather than blue skies. What to do? Go up into the alpine but risk getting stuck in flat light, or ski the trees where visibility wasn't going to be an issue but possibly miss out on the chance to get up really high? We chose the trees and headed for Loop Brook.

In the end there was a mixed bag of weather and human nature being what it is we questioned our decision all day! The valley fog lifted, returned again, and then burned off completely to leave some patches of blue sky peaking out from behind the clouds.

Ross Peak


Oh man it took forever to get up into the moraines. I haven't been cycling to work for a few weeks and I'm sure I felt it in my legs breaking trail. Thankfully Nick did most of the hard work.

We spent quite a while doing some compression tests and a Rutschblock. Not that we had reason to suspect the slope but the snowpack has certainly become more complex over the last couple of weeks and we wanted to get a handle on things (btw we were getting moderate results in the 40-55cm range which seems to confirm what the professionals are seeing).

The skiing was really good; wind-effected powder that exploded in chunks all around us. We did a couple of runs and then thrashed around a bit in the trees getting back to the "Elephants Trunk". I think descending via the Lily Glacier moraines on far skiers right is definitely the better option. It was nearly dark by the time we got back to the cars. Not a spectacular day by most measures but any day out in the mountains with friends is always a good one. A veggie burger at the Nomad and we all headed home. Some photos here.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Malakwa

Malakwa on Saturday with a group from the Alpine Club.

Er, yeah, that's about it really. I'm completely devoid of content material. No witty anecdotes. No little tidbits of information. Nothing. I haven't even got my own photos. Here's one from Nick:



Worst post ever...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ursus Trees and Puff Daddy

Ursus Trees on Saturday with Steve and Nick. We left the parking lot at the same time as several large groups and there must have been 25 people strung out along the track. It was crazy. Thankfully for everyone a lot of folks went up Grizzly Shoulder and others peeled off to various destinations along the way until eventually we were breaking trail up Ursus Minor Ridge. Coming down it was the same story as it has been all season -- great skiing. We headed back early in order to be at the Visitor Centre in time for a "Winter Permit Orientation Session".

Ah yes, the bureaucracy of skiing in Roger Pass. There have been many changes to the permit system since last winter. One is that there is now an Annual Winter Permit that allows entry into the Winter Restricted Areas without having to obtain a daily permit. To get the pass you need to attend one of the orientation sessions. The permit is associated to your vehicle by license plate and has two parts: one with your photo on it that you carry on your person, and the other that you leave in your car.

It's hard to say at this point whether or not this is an actual improvement for skiers or if it's just a sop to the powers-that-be. On the one hand it will be convenient to not have to line up for a daily permit when intending to ski in a permit area (now officially called a "Winter Restricted Access" area). But that will only be the case when every member of the party has an Annual Winter Permit since those without an Annual Permit still require a daily permit. As well, the Winter Restricted Access areas will only be pronounced open or closed at around 7:30 each morning. Since there is limited cell phone coverage in the area (depends on your carrier) you pretty much have to be at the Visitors Centre to get the information anyway.

Dystopian nightmare? Remains to be seen. At least they're not charging us for any of these additional permits yet.

On Sunday Brenda and I went up Grizzly Shoulder with the idea of skiing Puff Daddy back down to the highway. We'd been there twice before; one time was great and the other time it was a fiasco. This time it was a little of both!

At first we recognized the terrain and enjoyed some nice skiing, but soon we were drawn into a steep gnarly gully and we realized that all was not well with the world. We were pretty committed at that point but the fear of a repeat fiasco drove us to put our skins on and thrash back up through some cliffs in the hope of finding a better way.

To make a long story short...

Yay! We found the twin slide paths that provide excellent skiing and popped out on the highway between the Visitors Centre and the Hermit trailhead.



I think the moral of the story is that it's pretty hard to go too far to skiers left on Puff Daddy.

Last thing of note. The hotel is much improved again this year (not that we stayed there, but we will). The buffet is cheaper, there's a well thought out dinner menu, and the pub fare looks great.

Alas there's much less weirdness. I kinda miss the weirdness.

Moe: "Nobody wants to hang out in a dank pit no more."
Carl: "You ain't thinkin' of gettin' rid of the dank are you Moe?"
Moe: "Ah maybe I am."
Carl: "Oh but Moe! The dank, the dank!?"

Monday, November 23, 2009

Malakwa

Harsh 6:00am alarms ringing in the darkness. A freezing cold house since the heat hasn't come on yet. Groans from underneath the covers. Severe misgivings about about going skiing today.

Day trips to Malakwa start with a real...whimper.

This was our first trip to Malakwa since January 2008. Access is dependent upon the logging company plowing the access road and it wasn't maintained last year. The kilometer 15 pullout was jammed with a dozen vehicles by 9:30 so we continued on to around kilometer 16 and had the place to ourselves. There isn't as much open skiing as there is around 15k, but the tree skiing is excellent.

It's been an incredible start to the season. Two meters of snow at treeline in mid-November? Wow.

Apr├Ęs-ski drinkies at The Burner featured Mount Begbie's Attila the Honey. I'm no expert (Pat?) put this is a good beer.

No pictures (of beer or skiing). Camera on the fritz. Again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Asulkan Cabin

The most uneventful start to the season ever?

No mud. No sticks or rocks. No cow patties. No goofing around on daft patches of machine-made snow. No doubting the sanity of trying to push in some early skiing.

We simply drove to the pass, climbed to the hut, skied in midseason-like snow, and went home. What could be easier? I don't get it. No complaints though. A terrific start.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ESE Ridge Mount Lady MacDonald

"Car died in Red Deer. Pick me up in Calgary?"
I was in Golden en route to Canmore when I received this text message from Ross. The extra driving between Canmore and Calgary and then back again, plus the delays in getting through the road construction between Golden and Banff, meant that it was getting late by the time we arrived at the Canmore Castle. We set our sights on the ESE Ridge of Lady MacDonald since it wouldn't require an alpine start. Something I'm always keen on anyway!

The approach begins on the edge of town and passes though the Cougar Canyon climbing area. The route has a few technical spots (5.5ish) and lots of exposed knife edge ridge scrambling. It generally follows the right skyline in this (admittedly poor) photo:



It's a fun route but it did seem a little tedious at times as the ridge scrambling is interrupted by loads of classic Rockies rubble, but it's definitely worth a go, even if only to climb a local Canmore landmark by a route other than the hiking trail.





We planned to do a climb the next day also. Sadly the fickle weather toyed with us. First we gave up on Mothers Day Buttress, then Kid Goat crag, and then were left thoroughly soaked by a hailstorm as we stood below the sport climbs in Cougar Canyon.

Miffed, we messed around with Ross's mountain bike at the town's little terrain park instead. This was quite successful actually. First, we managed not to hurt ourselves. Second, we managed to impress some local mountain bike gurus* by riding a hair-raising narrow wooden beam** from end to end.

*Local gurus were 10 years old (I asked)

**The track was a foot off the ground.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Balu Peak

We spent the weekend in Rogers Pass with the Okanagan section of the Alpine Club. The entire event was organized by Brenda with the idea being to get people out on some scrambles and hikes in the area and to have a potluck dinner on Saturday night. There were some familiar faces and many new faces too. It went really well.

On Saturday we took a small group up Balu Peak. Our original plan had been to climb Mount Avalanche but we discovered midweek that the Avalanche Crest trail had been closed because of damage from a big storm the previous week. In fact the entire Illecillewaet campground is closed at the moment. It's an impressive scene; there are dozens and dozens of huge trees down, their root systems, including giant boulders, thrust up into the air at crazy angles. We saw a concrete picnic table that had been smashed to smithereens under a 200 year old tree (yup, we counted the rings).

The route from Balu Pass is really just a scramble. Nevertheless it often feels a leap of faith to take on the role of a "leader" for something like this. Despite all precautions you can never quite know what you're getting into with people you've never met before! In the end it was a great group and a lot of fun. I think the route was what people expected and that everyone enjoyed themselves. Hopefully no one resents the 7:00am start :)

Balu Peak


Brian on the way up


Fresh snow on the summit


Brenda on the descent

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cathedral Park

The weather forecast over the Labour Day weekend called for rain on Saturday, rain on Sunday, and then just for a change, rain on Monday.

But we were planning to head further south, deep into the hot, dry, fruit growing region south of Keremeos. It's a desert down there, I mean how wet could it be? If it rained at all it would probably just sprinkle a bit at worst; an Okanagan rain that makes you consider a light sweater rather than a raincoat. So we decided to follow through with our plan and we hiked into the Wall Creek area of Cathedral Park to attempt the Grimface-Macabre-Matriarch Traverse.

And in the end the forecast was absolutely completely wrong.

It snowed instead.

Sigh.

Here I am at home now on a Tuesday evening, warm and dry, tapping away at the keyboard. Already the process of selective memory is taking hold.

So rather than having a good whinge about heavy packs, soaked feet, and freezing temperatures, I'll just say that we had a great trip. The weather swung wildly from warm and fall-like (however briefly) to full-on snow squalls and then back again seemingly within minutes. It made for a real study in contrasts; warm and cold, wet and dry, pleasant and grim, smiles and frowns.

I think the contrast between this video and just the one photo sums up our trip pretty well.



Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Canoeing on Okanagan Lake

We followed in the footsteps of our fellow local bloggers at Tread Lightly this weekend and made a short overnight canoe trip down Okanagan Lake. (We're not stalking you guys, honestly! It's just that great minds really do think alike.)

We put in near Okanagan Mountain Park, a 20 minute drive south from our place. The lake was crowded with noisy power boats and even noisier power boat occupants. They gawked in amazement at our incredible craft which moved silently through the water. "No engine?" they exclaimed. "But how do you tow inflatable water-weenies up and down the lake?".

Okay Brenda says this exchange didn't actually take place. Fine fine.

We enjoyed the paddle and found a nice spot to spend the night. As the evening progressed the number of boats dwindled and watched the sun set behind the hills on the western shore in peace and quiet. A great way to spend the weekend close to home.



Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mount Sir Donald Northwest Ridge

Update July 2017:
Google killed the Picasaweb photo service so the photos in this post no longer click through to larger versions. Suck it Google. Here's an album containing the photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/NssTA3vKczyUGcm43


Ross and I have been hoping to climb Sir Donald for years. Schedules, weather, and motivation have all played a part in preventing us from ever setting foot on the mountain. This weekend the stars finally aligned and we climbed the northwest ridge on Saturday.

The NW Ridge of Sir Donald is one of those climbs that you hear a lot about, often for all the wrong reasons. Tales abound of unplanned overnights and epic descents. In fact we witnessed examples of both unfold on this very same weekend last year during one of our previous pseudo-attempts. The climb is listed in Steck and Roper's "Fifty Classic Climbs of North America" and attracts people from all over the world.

To make a long story short we reached the top in 5.5 hours. It was mainly 4th class exposed climbing with short pitches of 5th class. We simulclimbed with about 15m of rope between us and placed the odd piece of gear. You don't really need a rope for most of the climb but it seemed easier to just leave the rope on rather than switching back-and-forth when it was needed for a short section. There was a surprising amount of micro-route finding on the way up. This sounds a funny thing to say about a ridge climb (just follow the freakin' ridge!) but the features are so big that were constantly peaking around corners and checking out ledges to find the path of least resistance.





We topped out at around 11:00am and sat down for a minute to have a snack. Clouds were boiling up in the Beaver Valley on the east side of Sir Donald while the west side was completely clear. We headed south over the summit to find the west face bypass. This would lead us all the way back across the west face to a point on the NW ridge about 1/3 of the way below summit. The ridge is festooned (a great word!) with slings and back-off anchors all over the place and we used them liberally to make short rappels in between sections of frightening down climbing. We each had a few "yeash!" moments at the down climbing bits but eventually we found our way to the first of 12 bolted rap stations and from here we knew we had it made.





It was a loooong 6.5 hours down from the summit. At last we made the final rappel and hit terra firma. Still in good spirits we decided to spend another night at the picturesque bivy site rather than packing up and heading out right away. It's not like we needed an excuse though; look at this place, it's amazing.



In fact staying another night was doubly entertaining for me. It meant that Ross, who had somehow lost all of his cutlery on the hike in, had to eat another meal of soup and pasta using nothing but a pointy stick.

That's the great thing about climbing with Ross; it's usually not the climb itself that you remember the most afterwards.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Terminal Traverse

On Saturday, your guest blogger (Brenda) accompanied Andrew on the Terminal Traverse.

We left after work on Friday and slept at the Illecillewaet parking lot (yay van!). Saturday morning began portentously; the alarm did not go off as planned, and we got up at 4:40 instead of 4:00. Our bleary-eyed cereal consumption was marred by the fact that we had accidentally brought whipping cream, not milk. Undaunted, we set off at 5am.

The trip began with the hike to Perley Rock. It's a tiring 3-hour uphill grind, but Perley Rock itself is a scenic spot beside the glacier. A perfect place for a snack.



From Perley Rock, we continued up the snow and crossed a corner of the glacier to get to the base of the south ridge of South Terminal Peak. Here, Andrew leads your guest blogger jauntily up the glacier. Our route up is the right skyline.



At the base of the ridge, we stopped for a snack and got ourselves ready to climb. The route itself was not always obvious - there was a good deal of poking around, wondering where to go next. The rock was good, however, and the climbing generally fun.



It took longer than we expected, so we stopped for a snack half-way up.



We finally made it to the top of the South peak, and took a well-deserved snack break. We enjoyed ourselves until we realized that we had to get down somehow. This did not come as a surprise, but it did cause some concern, as the way down was not obvious. We weren't sure whether we wanted to go for the traverse to the north peak, so we descended the ledges of the West face in the general direction of the North peak. The way down, much like the way up, was not obvious. Maybe descending more directly from the peak would have been easier, it's hard to know.

Eventually we determined that it would be easier and simpler to just go over the North peak, so we started in that direction. At last, the route was easy to find, and having found our way we stopped for a snack.

The trip up and down North Terminal peak was mercifully straightforward. We took the fast exit down the snow slope, easily over the bergschrund and off the glacier in good time. It was a relief to get off the glacier and stop for a much-needed snack just as a few raindrops started to fall.



All that remained was the bone-jarring hike back down the Perley Rock trail. Judging by the summit register, South Terminal doesn't get climbed very often. It was a long day, but a fun climb. At 8pm we made it back to the van. We found a place to camp, had dinner, and went to sleep.

Total ascent/descent - 2100m
Guidebook time - 12-14 hours
Brenda & Andrew time - 15 hours
Snacks consumed - 2 PB&J sandwiches, 2 cheese sandwiches, 2 pastries, several granola bars
Photos: https://goo.gl/photos/2atHHySuQF1QQpcE7

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

West Ridge Mount Tupper

Update June 2017:
Google killed the Picasaweb photo service and the photos in this post no longer click through to larger versions. Here's the album containing the photos: https://goo.gl/photos/GGrx3D6o41gU6mbw7


Craig, Brenda and I hiked up to Hermit Meadows on Saturday afternoon.



Much less snow this year and we didn't even need to dig out a tent platform.



The next morning we got an early start and made our way across snow and braided streams to the start of the ridge. The snow was still quite supportive and there were only a few occasions when one of us would disappear up to the waist with a startled "oomph!".



The route wanders up and down across easy terrain until you reach the first steep part. It looks quite imposing at first but the rock is solid (for a change) and the holds are all there. We were tentative for the first few meters but eventually got into a rhythm as the Tupper glacier began to drop away beneath our feet.



We got the rope out for a little traverse, and then for the 5.6 corner pitch, and before we knew it we were on the final pitch to the summit. We'd been worried about the weather all the way up, but it had held for us and we had great views from the top.



We were 5 1/2 hours up and we spent another 4 hours rappelling, down climbing, and slip-sliding back to the tents. The snow had softened considerably and there were quite a few more "oomphs!" on the way down than there had been on the way up.

We packed up, shouldered our heavy sacks, and trudged down the trail back to the highway. A great trip. More photos here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Skyladder, Mount Andromeda


Update May 2017:
Google killed Picasa. So the photos in the text won't click through. Eat a dick Google. Here are the photos on Google Photos: https://goo.gl/photos/aiHusVSDSCZbYEyu6

Skyladder on Mount Andromeda has developed into a bit of a bugbear for me over the years. When we lived back east Skyladder was always on our todo list during the annual summer climbing pilgrimage; but our trips always took place in late summer and inevitably the route was out of shape with bare ice and nasty rockfall. Eventually we'd been in several times to look at Skyladder. Yeah, I know, "look at" is a euphemism for "we went to climb it but got scared and ran away in a comical Monty Pythonesque fashion". It's probably the reason I've climbed Mount Athabasca so many times; it's right next door to Andromeda.

The solution? Climb it in June. Brilliant. Apparently we're a bit late with this revelation since I don't think anyone climbs the route in summer any more. But still, we can be taught!

Ross and I left a bleary-eyed Brenda in the van at the climber's bivy at 3:30am. She had a full day of studying ahead of her, but that wouldn't start until after several more hours of sleep. It was dark, cold, sleeting, and miserable. Egad how I envied her! I don't think we really expected to get very far but nevertheless we turned on our headlamps and began trudging along the road and up the moraines. We found our way through the icefall (not without incident), dodged crevasses across the glacier, made an end run around the bergschrund, and began kicking steps upwards.



The usual A common method of climbing Skyladder is to top out on the route and to then make a long traverse over to the Andromeda-Athabasca col. A number of raps gets you back down to the glacier. However it's notorious for getting people lost, especially in poor visibility, and visibility was decidedly lacking.

We'd resolved to kick really good steps just in case we needed to descend the same way we came up. This seemed like a great idea when I was in the lead making the steps. Unfortunately the frailty of our plan was revealed when I was later following Ross's steps; by the time I'd placed my feet in twenty of his steps the rest had disappeared. The blowing snow simply filled them in within minutes. I was mildly alarmed when I realized this but by then the weather was showing signs of improvement so we continued on up.



We'd set a turnaround time of 1:00PM. By 12:40 we'd basically completed the route but still hadn't actually topped out. The weather was still pretty dodgy so, much to Ross's dismay, we began heading down. Of course after we'd descended a few hundred meters the weather began to clear out in earnest and we were left agonizing over our decision. Oh well. The sunny skies made the descent seem easy despite not having any steps to follow down. We were back on the glacier in an hour and a half.



Almost without us noticing it had turned into a beautiful day; the sun was blazing and the fresh snow was dazzling. It was only at this point that I stupidly remembered to put on sunscreen and sunglasses. Alas, it was far too late and I already had the sunburn of my life. I'd even managed to burn my eyelids. The next couple of days were agony as my eyelids and face swelled up painfully.

Anyway, we trundled across the glacier, Ross fell into a couple of crevasses up to his waist, and we generally enjoyed our walk back to the van. Brenda, bless her, met us part way up the moraine with fresh water and snacks.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jimmy Lake

Bit late with this one...

Two weekends ago we loaded the old canoe onto the van and headed to Jimmy Lake to meet Fred. Ostensibly we were going there to do some fishing, but since Brenda and I only have one fishing road between the two of us, and one of us is a vegetarian, let's just say that the fish needn't have been overly worried.

On the first part of the drive, on paved road, we traveled 157kms in about an hour and a half. On the second part of the drive, on a logging road, we traveled a whopping 20kms in one hour. 16-year old VW vans don't like logging roads.

Some highlights of the trip were two loons tearing madly around the lake chasing each other, a baby deer with it's mother, and studying a bald eagle on its nest as we casually floated by in the canoe.

We also noticed loads of bright blue damselflies congregating on lily pads. Looking closely we realized that (what we assume to be) female damselflies were hatching in the water and clinging to the underside of the lily pads. The males were patiently waiting for them to come to the surface. As soon as a female got too close to the edge of a lily pad, a male would grab her and haul her to the surface and try to mate. There was a lot happening on those lily pads and we spent quite a while watching, enthralled.

That's about it. Fred claims to have caught a good sized rainbow trout, but since it was already cleaned and in the freezer when we arrived, we're a bit dubious.





Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bruins Ridge

We were hoping to get over to the north side of Bruins Pass again on Saturday. The weather forecast was pretty grim as we started up the Connaught on a wet and grey morning. We knew that we were pushing our luck with the weather but you "need to give the mountain a chance" as they say.

There were about 5cms of moist new snow over a hard surface. As we plodded upwards, and the terrain became steeper, our skins seemed to delight in randomly losing their purchase and skidding out from underneath us. Comical at first, but it got old in a hurry. The skins were balling up with frustrating regularity too.

But we fought the good fight and struggled on upwards. At first it looked as though we would be rewarded for our efforts too; a fleeting patch of blue sky appeared providing us with a view back towards Cheops.



The wind changed direction, the clouds churned up, and we actually had a reasonable window of good weather. After half an hour this was our view to Bruins Pass.



But even in this photo it already looked as though our window was beginning to shut. A few minutes later this was Steve pointing to the same rocky outcrop.



We hunkered down for a while under the tarp to wait-and-see. Snacks were eaten. The tarp layout was "improved" fifty times. More snacks were eaten. Chunks of snow were cut off the cornice and rolled down the slope to disappear in the mist. Old Easter candy was discovered in the bottom of a lunch bag and passed around to much acclaim.



But, reluctantly, we admitted defeat and carried our skis part way down the ridge until it was wide enough to begin skiing down.



Ah well, you win some and you lose some. Between yard work and family visits I'm sure we'll be out again this spring.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Forever Young

Wow. Wow!

We skied Forever Young on Saturday, and today, two days later, we're still basking in the glow of good memories.

Forever Young is a steep couloir that drops off the north edge of Young's Peak. It's about 500m high and 40+ degrees for much of it's length. It's also extremely narrow in places, or at least it seems really narrow to weekend warriors like ourselves. And so yes I feel that we can legitimately use the term "couloir" rather than "gully" :)




(Photo from 2008)

The day started clear and warm as we skied up the Illecillewaet Glacier. The four of us were sweating buckets, but the great morning weather had turned foul and cold by midday. The visibility deteriorated so badly that we double-checked the GPS to make sure it was properly tracking our route, just in case. It's pretty easy to get turned around on the Illecillewaet in bad light.

We made our way over the rolling snow towards Youngs Peak. Along the way we met up with another party that were heading for the Young's Peak traverse; they were hunkered down to wait for the weather to improve. We said our hello's and continued over to the top of Forever Young where, admittedly, I could feel the butterflies beginning to form in my stomach.

It's just so bloody intimidating! The first turns are steep, but the real kicker is that the slope is convex; as you look down the gully it kind of rolls away and gets even steeper, hiding most of the run from view. The walls loom ominously above and pinch off part way down too for good measure. It's quite a sight.



It was simply an awesome ski; steep, exhilarating, thrilling, kinda nerve wracking, but most of all, exhausting!



We'd make 4 or 5 turns and then quickly scoot to the side to catch our breath and let our sloughs run past. Eventually, after what seemed like forever, the walls opened up a bit and the angle let up just a little, and we were left with a fantastic run down the lower third of the slope.

Best ski of the season, bar none. More photos here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bruins North and 8812 Bowl

We expected that the only place we were going to find good snow this weekend was on north facing terrain at high elevations. Having never skied the north side of Bruins Pass before, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to go up and have a look. Nick and Steve joined us at the Visitor's Centre and we were away.

It sure gets quiet this time of year in Rogers Pass; I think people are just tired of skiing by now. After six months of it I was kind of feeling the same way as we trudged up the Connaught Drainage and started up Bruins Ridge. It's hard to get motivated when it's hot and the snow is beginning to melt away.

Spring seems to have arrived early and we were reminded again of how much less snow there is this year. Here's a photo of Bruins Ridge from March of last year (first photo) and another from the same spot this weekend (second photo).





It's a month later, and the ridge is pretty wind-blasted, but it still seems like a big difference.

Anyway enough about that. Our enthusiasm was quickly restored when we dropped over Bruins Pass. It was cold and wintry, the snow was powdery and untouched, and the skiing was fantastic. After one run down we were all smiles. We skinned back up and on a lark boot packed to the top of 8812.



We had another run down and it was even better. By the time we had skinned back up to Bruins we'd logged almost 2000 meters of climbing on the day. I think that's the biggest ski day we've ever had. The return ski down the east facing 8812 bowl was...er, marginal to put it charitably, so we won't talk about that. But overall certainly one of our best days this season.



Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sorcerer Lake Lodge

Another annual hut trip has come and gone. It's hard to believe that 12 months have passed since I wrote about our last hut trip. Where does the time go?

We have already been to Sorcerer twice. It's such an amazing place that when we last flew out from the lodge back in 2007 we booked a week in 2009 as we stepped off the helicopter. Of all of the huts we've been to, Sorcerer has the most impressive and varied terrain, the best accommodations, the nicest owner, and is the most professionally operated of them all. You've got a special place Tannis. Thanks!

The trip got off to a good start in Golden where we stayed at the Ponderosa Motel. When the proprietor learned that we were repeat customers he was barely able to restrain his enthusiasm. As we organized gear in the parking lot he chatted and joked with us. At one point he ducked into the office and returned with Ponderosa Motel ball caps for each of us!

This time of year you can get full-on spring or full-on winter conditions. Thankfully we had conditions that were more like winter with cold temperatures, generally clear skies and just a hint of spring in the air. The March 1st layer was still reactive at tree line. Although the avalanche conditions generally improved throughout the week we still avoided some of the steeper lines that we've skied in past years. There was also less snow in general, a common story in the Selkirks this year. There were many holes and fractures showing on the glaciers that we'd never seen before. We often wore harnesses and probed for crevasses whenever we stopped for lunch or something.



There were a couple of pine martens around the hut this year. They were incredibly bold. One only very reluctantly gave way to let me through to the sauna; he growled and hissed at me as I passed. Having left a pair sandals on the deck I returned to find one of them missing. Thief! I was miffed. From then on, after returning from a day of skiing I would wander around the hut with a shovel and dig up random marten holes looking for the stolen booty. It seemed a hopeless endeavor but I persevered.

On the fourth day I followed a particularly well worn marten path away from the hut towards the lake. It led to series of deep rocky nooks. As I approached actually saw the little bugger clambering up the cliff side away from me. I scrambled down to the lake and lowered myself head first between the rocks to peer into the darkness. As my eyes slowly adjusted I slowly discerned the outline of...a sandal! There it was far back in the deepest nook. Aha you little bugger, victory is mine. Well, victory of a sort anyway since there wasn't much sandal left. Still...screw you marten.

Here's the link to a schwack of photos and a video starring one of the infamous martens.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Asulkan Cabin

Our trip to the Asulkan Hut this weekend seemed to mark the transition from winter to spring skiing. It began in the customary manner; clagged in and misty. We wondered if we would even be able to venture above the hut. We shouldn't have worried. An incredible overnight gale had the hut shuddering on it's foundations and made the simple task of collecting snow for water a major ordeal. But the wind blew away the clouds and we awoke the next morning to blue skies and the sight of an impressive avalanche that had crashed down off Mount Leda and continued down towards the mouse trap.



And thus began a remarkable two days of skiing. Blue skies, warm temperatures, great snow. It couldn't have been any better. Even when we had completely exhausted ourselves we didn't want to call it a day and just kept going up for more. A few in the group put in something over 2000m of vertical on Saturday. The place looked like heli-ski terrain by Sunday.



We had some visitors on Saturday afternoon.



Avalanche control was on-going in the valley and the helicopter had been dispatched to prevent a group from dropping into Loop Brook from Sapphire Col without a permit. You'd think the prospect of getting a Howitzer shell in the head would be enough of a deterrent?

Anyway they stopped in at the hut to do some repairs and to grace us with their presence.

How does that joke go...What's the difference between God and Mountain Guide? God doesn't think he's a Mountain Guide.

Okay not quite relevant but the idea is there. I guess they meant well.

Oh one last thing. We met a guy named Grog Still. He reminded us of someone but we couldn't quite place the name. He was shooting video with someone he kept referring to as "The Slough Monkey". Anyway he said he'd send us some footage. If he does we'll post it here.

In the meantime here's our own little video.