Friday, April 16, 2010


The effort-to-reward ratio on Saturday had been a bit silly; Bruins Pass was a long way to go for some so-so north facing terrain. So after a couple of beers with the animals in the hotel...

...we decided to stay another night. Nick came back up and we went straight back into the Connaught to the north facing fans on Cheops. We first skied up into the north facing bowl seen in this photo from yesterday.

After cutting back and forth across the lower fan we worked our way up onto a moraine. Generally we avoid moraines, they're always problematic, but this seemed the wisest place to be. We had stopped for a quick bite and were just taking in the surroundings when a terrific "Craaack!" jolted us to the core. An avalanche had cut loose from the top of Cheops and was thundering down the face on the opposite side of the bowl from us. There was a brief brown-trousers moment before we realized that we were in a safe place. We snapped a few photos of the ensuing powder cloud and aftermath from our ridiculous vantage point.

Then skied the fan below a couple of times.

And worked our way over to the next fan on lookers-left and had a good long ski down here too.

Turns-to-effort ratio? Excellent. Let's go home.

Bruins Pass

Minus 12C, blue skies, and hardly a soul at the Visitors Center on Saturday morning (April 10).

We skied up behind the hotel, hoping that the fresh snow which had fallen during the week was still holding up on the north side of Bruins Pass.

Grizzly slide path had cut loose sometime during the previous week and come down well below the usual skin track.

Glad we weren't hanging around when that sucker came down. Continuing up the valley it remained quite cold, but any snow facing the sun was quickly getting wet.

We popped over Bruins Pass and took in the always stunning vista of the northern Selkirks. Skins off and down we went. Not quite the deep fluffy powder that we had hoped for; not great, but still pretty good.

Back up to the pass for a look down into 8812 bowl.

Looks stupendous, right? Sadly we were an hour too late. The sun was no longer shining directly onto this south facing slope and the surface had re-frozen into telemarker death crust. It wasn't pretty, but, it was still very pretty.

Have you ever seen "The Man Who Skied Down Everest"?

He's still skiing, albeit with a smaller chute these days:

More photos. There's even one of me!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Vista Lodge

Hut trip number eleven with these guys? Or maybe it's number twelve. Or maybe I'm deliberately losing count so as to not put too fine a point on how long we've been doing this.

The usual suspects were there - Mike L, Smiley (Mike R), Paul, Mr 10% (Martin), The Professor (Dave), Ross, Furious D (Damon), and Louis. This was Norm's first ski trip with us. I know Norm from Montreal. Our last trip together was about 10 years ago; a disastrous attempt on Mounts Haddo and Aberdeen.

Vista is a great little hut; cozy, certainly smaller than Sorcerer or Campbell, but nicely rustic, with a good sauna heated to mind bending temperatures by a giant wood stove dubbed the "hippy killer" by our custodian. The only drawback is the long, long walk to the outhouse :)

The week started with warm spring-like temperatures but it very quickly turned into winter again. We received 40 or 50cms of snow over the first couple of days, and then each day brought a few more centimeters of snow mixed with periods of mostly clear skies.

We explored our new surroundings very cautiously; you know it's time to be careful when the previous week's avalanche forecast includes a link to the Hawaii Tourism Association's webpage as a suggestion on how to manage risk. Eventually we got a handle on which slopes were holding together and which were best avoided.

Ridge on Vista

We explored the adjacent drainages, summited a few peaks, had some good long days and then some good short ones allowing more time for eating, drinking, and unwinding in the sauna. Martin's daily hour-long cycles of intense sauna heat and jubilant snow rolling were awe inspiring.

We had possibly the best name game ever. Damon's previous best performance (a "Sitting Bull" pantomime from a few years ago) was topped by his clue "Female body part. And lots of it!".

(Any ideas? Think James Bond.)

The weather took a turn for the worse on our fly-out day. We all sat around expectantly in hurry-up-and-wait mode until 4 o'clock when we finally got two flights out in a mad rush of activity. Brenda, Ross, and I stayed stayed for an extra night and had one more magical evening of fine powder skiing in silent surroundings.

Back at the hut we found that Eileen, bless her, had left fresh pizza dough for us, rising in a giant bowl in the kitchen. There was enough dough for about 6 regular sized pizzas so we created two of the biggest pizzas I've ever seen. We did our best to get them down, but combined with our ill-conceived attempt to finish off the last of the booze, it was a losing battle.

We flew out the next morning under under cold blue skies and with acres of untracked snow beneath us. It was hard to leave.


Edit on April 12:
As Martin mentions Brenda and I got engaged at the hut :)