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.