Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tree Skiing in the Connaught

Up to the pass on Friday. Overnight the wind was howling. On the avalanche report the next day we read that it had reached 140kmh. I'd believe it; the snapping of the flags at the Visitor Centre sounded like rapid fire gun shots.

No permits again on Saturday morning so we decided to stay in the Connaught Drainage rather than driving back to the Bostock or Asulkan trailheads. Ideally we would have skied up towards Ursus or Bruins or something but we were wary of crossing all of the avalanche run outs. Instead the four of us (Nick, Fred, and us two) started by climbing up the Cheops ridge and then skiing down the Hour Glass. We then crossed over the creek and did a run on Grizzly Shoulder. After that it was still early so we scurried across the Grizzly slide path and had a run in the Teddy Bear Trees. When all was said and done we'd climbed over 1600 meters on the day. That's a lot for us.

The snow was good but not fantastic. Overall there was about 70cm of new snow. At higher elevations this was on top of a lurking crust that would occasionally send the unwary telemarker head-over-heels. At lower elevations the new snow was lying on top of the hoar frost layer we've been hearing so much about. On the mellow terrain below the hour glass, where it had been exposed to the wind, the snow had compressed into a slab. We saw shooting cracks that traveled for 30 or 40 meters as the snow settled with a loud "whumph". We were able to trigger small remote sloughs too. Fun stuff.

As I write this on Tuesday the forecast is again calling for freezing levels to reach mountain top this week. Man, what a weird season it's been.

Fred amongst the shooting cracks.


I like this one of Fred.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

McGill Shoulder

We had a chat with Luc at the Rogers Pass Visitors Center on Saturday morning. He had a few good stories to relate that spoke volumes about the current avalanche conditions in the area.

The first, and the most pressing as far as we were concerned, was that Saturday was the 12th day in row that no permits were to be available for backcountry travel. Another was that during mid-week the control crews had fired five successive Howitzer rounds into the same slope without generating a result. They then moved on to the next firing location when the slope released on its own and ran down to the highway.

Tree skiing for us then! And off to McGill Shoulder we headed. We skied with Nick from Revelstoke for the first time. Blue skies and warm temperatures. It seemed more like April than the middle of January. Man it was great to see the sun and to feel some warmth on our faces. A nice change from Kelowna where it has been clagged in for weeks now.

We took it easy and did a couple of laps in the small clearings on skiers left of the two main avalanche paths beginning at about 1950 meters. McGill is a good option on low visibility days and we've often skied there under those conditions. It was a real treat to be there on such a nice clear day. Almost like being there for the first time. It became seriously hot. Snow was sloughing off the trees and snowballing down the slopes.

It's been a strange winter so far. In many ways we feel like it hasn't even really begun yet. I hope things settle down soon.

Photo: Nick

And check out these photos of the CPR Mainline taken last week near Rogers Pass (thanks Steve).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Video Compilation

Just for fun.

Unfortunately there's no new footage. Just lots of older video cobbled together to make us look good. Well, sorta good anyway.

But why no new footage? Ah glad you asked.

We're in the market for a new camera. Our current camera is a Sony DSC-P92. It's just a simple point-and-shoot digital, several years old. It has served us very well but I dropped it down a scree slope last summer and it just hasn't been the same since. Actually it's a wonder the poor thing still works at all.

We've considered a video camera but we also want to shoot stills. My understanding is that most video cameras can also shoot stills but that the resolution isn't nearly as good as with a regular camera. And there's no way I'm going to carry one of each.

Any suggestions?

Here's the wish list:
- AA batteries
- video @ 30fps and 640x480 resolution
- viewfinder (or an LCD that is actually usable in bright light)
- >3x optical zoom
- zoom while shooting video (dreaming?)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ringing in the New Year at Rogers Pass

We spent five days skiing in The Pass over the holidays. 70cm of new snow fell while we were there which made for some tetchy avalanche conditions. We took it easy and stayed in the conservative terrain at McGill Shoulder, Teddy Bear Trees, Flat Creek, Grizzly Shoulder, and Ursus Trees. But we also heard of people skiing bigger stuff like Video Peak. We were mystified at that. Are they nuts for skiing it or are we nuts for avoiding it?

Two days were spent with MB on a sort of custom avalanche course which we had organized for just Brenda and myself. Time well spent. It had been a long time since either of us had brushed up on our avalanche training.

Some highlights of our trip...

The New Years's eve bash at the hotel was full-on.

Cold! The temperature one morning was -22C outside and -18 inside (that is, inside the van). It was a severe test of my sleeping bag and down duvet combination. The moisture from cooking and breathing produced a hard layer of verglas on just about everything.

The highway was closed one night for avalanche control as the military boys wheeled out their Howitzers. The boom of the guns and the roar of the avalanches echoed up and down the valley. I think they were shooting at the Herdman Couloir on Mt. MacDonald which was just east of where we were parked.

We explored two areas which were new to us. The south side of Flat Creek provided some good tree skiing. Unfortunately the lower third of the descent to the valley floor was diabolical! The snow pack is still relatively low and the forest floor was choked with fallen logs. Character building stuff. We also took what was for us a new line from Grizzly Shoulder. We went up and over the top and then skied down almost directly on top of the ridge to the valley bottom. Very tight tree skiing in super deep snow. I need to become a better tele skier for that stuff. Parallel turns ruled the day for me. Aye it's a slippery slope.

MB and Brenda on Grizzly Shoulder

Looking towards the Illecillewaet from Grizzly Shoulder