Sunday, February 20, 2011


A couple of years ago we went up Flat Creek on a day with good stability and skied the right slide path in this photo from about two thirds of the way up.

Directly across on the other side of the valley that day we saw this line on Mt. Fortitude.

It's been in the back of our mind as a potential destination ever since. This weekend with the stable conditions we went in to have a look with Nick, Neil, and Gerald.

This is the upper part of the route as seen from the Bostock parking lot.

The first order of business was to negotiate the trestle bridge.

Under, not over. You must follow ze rules! It's a beautiful climb up the northeast ridge of Fortitude through old growth forest that somehow survived the age of railway building in the pass.

Once on the ridge there are great views north to the avalanche paths which run across the highway.

And onto the snow sheds which protect the highway (scene of that whopper size 4.5 which came down in January).

(Photo: Nick)

At our high point we basked in the warm sun and enjoyed a unique perspective on the peaks in the area.

The first half of the descent was obvious. We pointed the skis downhill and enjoyed the effortless turns.

There were a couple of points on the lower third where we needed to scope things out to avoid some cliffs but this just added to the sense of adventure. If you come this way yourself, basically stay left to avoid any difficulties, and there are many variations. A great day out.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Little Sifton Traverse

Brenda lead a group from the Alpine Club to Little Sifton this weekend, which is one of the reasons we did this route just a few weeks ago.

We've participated in lots of ACC trips over the years and many of the folks we've met through the club have become our closest friends,so occasionally we try to repay the favour by leading a trip ourselves to a location that we're familiar with.

Leading trips is a funny business. As "leader" you inform people about the difficulty and the length of the day, about how you would like things to proceed, where to regroup, where the areas of concern are, and so on. You also try to learn about those coming on the trip; skill level appropriate for the day, physical fitness, etc. But despite these efforts, and maybe as a result of being amateur trip leaders, we can never quite be sure how the day will play out. Sometimes people drastically overrate their own abilities and they end up suffering all day, or they travel so slowly that they couldn't possibly reach the day's objective before nightfall. Conversely we sometimes get highly experienced people with very strong personalities who basically have come on the trip with their own agenda.

On Saturday it was the first scenario. In fact there were warning signs right at the trailhead, but we had to let things play out. Two hours into the trip it was clear that we would need to break the group up. Brenda formed a sub-group at a place where there were plenty of descent options available. It actually worked out really well. They made a detour to Puff Daddy, found the route without any shenanigans for a change, skied untracked powder back down to the road, and pronounced themselves to have had a fine day.

I continued with the rest of the group up and over Sifton under amazing blue skies and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

South face of Sifton anyone?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Asulkan Cabin

But, skier, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy.
Closed highways wreaked havoc with the arrangements. 80cm of high density snow in 24 hours severely limited the skiing.

Worth the trip? When the outhouse looks like this?

Yeah. Life is short. It's always worth getting out. Even when it gets a little weird.

Asulkan Hut February 11/12/13 2011 from Andrew Parker on Vimeo.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Teddy Bear Trees

The plan was to explore the Christiana Ridge area across from Bostock but the van wouldn't start at the Visitors Center on Sunday morning. Bollocks! Non of us being mechanics we quickly exhausted our list of amateur obvious solutions. It seemed like a starter or solenoid type problem; the battery was fine but at each turn of the key the only noise heard was a single disappointing 'click' from under the hood.

Nick suggested we try to bump start it. Now I consider myself a bit of a bump start aficionado, a true connoisseur of the art, but this looked pretty dubious. The van weighs well over 2 tonnes, the parking lot was almost level and covered in compact snow, and there was hardly any space to get a good run at it. The only thing worse than a dead VW van in the middle of nowhere is a dead VW van in the middle of nowhere in a really inconvenient place. But Nick was confident so he and and Brenda (all 100lbs of her) got behind and gave it everything they had.

The van hesitated for a moment, then began to slowly, ponderously, painfully roll across the lot. After 20 meters we were moving at no more than a leisurely walking pace with no signs of an imminent increase in speed. From my place in the driver's seat I watched the snowbank at the opposide end of the lot get bigger and bigger through the windshield. I jumped out and added my own weight for 10 steps or so and then quickly hopped back in again as we ran out space. It looked hopeless. I got 'er in 2nd, popped the clutch and....


No bother at all. I was amazed.

Confident in our ability to do it all again we lined the van up for a repeat performance at the end of the day and went for a couple of runs in Teddy Bear Trees.

That's the best photo I can come up with, taken from across the valley on Grizzly Shoulder. We'd been up there a couple of times before but always in poor light and we'd stayed completely in the trees. This time we were able to climb further along the ridge and drop in on the cleaner lines that begin higher up.

We had a couple of really good long runs that left the tele skiers in our group gasping for air. No photos of the skiing; it's one of those runs that doesn't really have a safe place to stop on the way down. Teddy Bear Trees must have one of the best effort-to-reward ratios in the pass.

We bump started the van again and got her home without incident, which is when I realized that Kelowna is actually a really, really flat place.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Ursus Trees and Little Sifton Traverse

The season to date in a single image. Very little snow in November and December followed by near continuous snowfall through much of January that pushed the avalanche hazard into the extreme zone. Things settled down last week and we were lured back to Rogers Pass.

We met Ross, Marni, and Deanna on Saturday morning. Most permit areas were closed (again) so we headed up behind the hotel to Ursus Trees and found some of the best skiing of the season. Marni and Deanna are long time Canmore residents and kept running into people they knew; especially Marni who has history of climbing and skiing that spans decades. Brenda and I recognized Heather from our Selkirk Lodge trip several years ago and had a good laugh over The Great Sandwich Bag Incident. Crikey we learned some colorful language that day courtesy of the hideous Grania.

Sunday dawned clear and cold. We again skied behind the hotel and ground our way up Grizzly Shoulder towards the Little Sifton Col.

No matter how many times we come this way it always takes our breath away to pop out onto Grizzly Ridge after toiling in the trees and take in the magnificent 360 degree views.



Rogers, Swiss Peaks, Hermit

At the col we decided to climb the extra hundred meters or so to the top of Little Sifton. Oh man this sucked! The tiny bit of extra elevation put us right into the teeth of the wind (just listen to it in the video) and we were frozen to the core in moments. Both Nick and Ross got minor frostbite patches on their faces. Sorry guys, bad idea. We skied off the summit as quickly as possible with our skins tied into knots from the howling wind and quickly dropped behind the col into the Hermit side.

This took us out of the wind and into the late afternoon sun which made all the difference. Thankful to be warm again we whooped our way down through the fluffy snow.