Saturday, February 28, 2009

Zoa Peak

We skied at Zoa Peak on Saturday. Previous visits here have left us a bit underwhelmed but maybe we've just been unlucky. This time we really enjoyed ourselves and have a new found appreciation for the place. Good visibility too so we were able to look around a bit. There's plenty of scope for exploration here.

The theme for the day was surface hoar; it was everywhere, glinting in the sun, tinkling noisily, and shooting ahead of us in ethereal fast-moving surface sloughs as we skied.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ice Climbing at Trout Creek

Ice climbing in the Okanagan? Yup.

I used to do a fair bit of ice climbing when I lived in Quebec, before I discovered backcountry skiing anyway. Skiing has a much more agreeable fear-to-fun ratio. But I was never any good at it really and I've only been out a handful of times in the past several years. War has been described as "long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror", and this, too, can be applied to ice climbing..."long periods of freezing-to-death punctuated by moments of sheer terror".

So I scraped the rust and cobwebs off my now dated looking ice tools, packed a thermos of hot tea, a down jacket, enormous thick gloves, a balaclava; everything I could think of to keep warm. Sean had been somewhat vague about our destination, so despite the warm temperatures in Kelowna I was prepared for the worst.

I needn't have worried. We had a fun and easy day of top roping and the greater hazard lay in overheating rather than freezing to death. One of the bigger challenges was in trying to avoid the cactii as we set up a top rope. Those buggers are not to be trifled with.

So yeah, ice climbing in the Okanagan. Not like the old days at Lake Willoughby in Vermont.

Trout Creek with our climb on the right

Me (and a much appreciated top-rope)

Sean's nemesis

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Asulkan Cabin

A memorable trip to the Asulkan Cabin this weekend. Snow stability in the alpine is really good right now and people are skiing big, bold lines all over the place. As we climbed up to the hut on Friday we saw a conga line of people dropping down Forever Young, a steep and narrow couloir that lines the north side of Youngs Peak. That one is on our to do list but not for this weekend. However over the course of this trip we did get up Youngs Peak from the Asulkan side (we had previously been up from the Illecillewaet side) and also had a great time skiing below Mount Jupiter on the west side of the Asulkan Valley.

Steve and Claude were originally to start skiing at 3:00PM on Friday afternoon, planning to arrive at the hut slightly after dark. But they didn't get 10 steps from the trailhead before Steve had a catastrophic binding failure. After a desperate run to Revelstoke to rent gear they eventually arrived at the hut at 11:30PM to find us all, somewhat guiltily, ensconced in our sleeping bags. "If you think I'm going to be quiet you can forget it!" announced Steve as they stomped around in the dark cabin.

We met Katie, Mark, Sean, and Yann and also caught up with Dave who we last saw on Know Mountain in December. Thanks for organizing a great weekend Steve.

Forever Young

Asulkan Cabin

Youngs Peak Headwall

Yann, Andrew, Brenda, Katie, Henry, Dave, Steve, Fred on Youngs Peak

More photos

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Little Sifton Col and Puff Daddy

Permits were finally available this weekend. We grabbed one for Hermit and headed up Grizzly Shoulder towards Little Sifton Col with Nick. Visibility was reasonable and our plan was to drop over the col and return to the highway via Hermit Meadows.

We dug a couple of pits on the ridge above Grizzly Shoulder, the logic being that we would be descending a similar aspect in Hermit. We got some poor compression test results on an ESE aspect @ 2250 meters on yet another sun crust over facet layer about 15cm down. Higher up the wind had wreaked havoc and it was basically dust over crust from here on up.

By the time we reached the col at around 1:30 the weather was changing and the visibility was deteriorating a bit. The north facing descent from the col is really steep. We negotiated our way around the cornice and had a good long examination of the snow. The top 20-30cm was a rock hard crust sitting on a 5cm layer of crappy facets. It was a tough call. It seemed like it would take a lot to release the slope, but if it did go that it would go in a big way. We had one vote for skiing it, one vote for bailing, and one abstention. We bailed.

But all was not lost! Armed with the permit we could detour into Puff Daddy and save the day. We had never skied this line before. Wow it was fantastic. Steep lines and plenty of space between the trees. We whooped and hollered our way down to the highway and wondered why we had never skied here before.

The next day we met with Tim, an old friend, roommate, and climbing buddy of mine from Montreal. Years ago we had scared ourselves silly together on some of our first alpine climbs. Sometimes I wonder how we survived. He now lives in Lethbridge and was on his way to a locum in Nelson.

Tim had never skied in Rogers Pass before so we were keen to show him a good day. The weather was awesome with blue sky from horizon to horizon. With memories of Puff Daddy fresh in our heads we decided to go back again. After climbing up Grizzly Shoulder for the umpteenth time this season we popped up onto the ridge. It was a stunning view and Tim was all smiles.

The day was young and we decided to do a couple of laps higher up before dropping into Puff Daddy proper. The skiing was great and thank goodness it was because the descent down Puff Daddy was a complete fiasco!

Oh man I don't know where we went wrong. We thrashed through trees, skidded down dodgy gullies, and crashed in the crusty snow. It basically just sucked. We were desperately trying to find the brilliant line that we had skied only 24 hours before. The smile was long gone from Tim's face.

I was convinced that we were too far left so we kept traversing to the right thinking we'd eventually find the good skiing, but it eluded us.

Eventually we came across a creek and heard some voices. Peering through the trees we saw several people descending a well worn path. We were completely bewildered. Where the heck were all these people coming from in the middle of nowhere?

Then the truth dawned on us. We had traversed so far to the right that we had reached the main uptrack leading into the Connaught Drainage. We couldn't believe it. Even now, sitting at home typing this, I'm not sure how we screwed it up so badly.

I'm sure it'll all seem pretty funny...eventually. Thankfully we have a GPS track from the first run. This is how Puff Daddy is supposed to be skied...

More photos.