Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bombtram Mountain Coquihalla

Older or wiser? Another big storm put us off the drive to Rogers Pass this weekend. Instead we met Dave and Keith at the Bombtram Mountain trailhead west of the Coquihalla summit. Great name for a mountain; there is a tramway here that was once used to hoist up explosives for avalanche control.

We were surprised to discover that Dave, a stalwart proponent of all things telemark who practically taught me how to telemark ski in the backwoods of the Adirondacks, had chucked it all in and converted to a Dynafit setup. Is there a word that means "feeling a combination of condescension and envy"?

The route followed a steep and often narrow ridge bounded by a box canyon on it's north side. Deep loose snow over a hard rain crust made for slow travel on the steeper sections. We exited from the trees into a wide expanse of open terrain with loads of potential for skiing. However it was blowing like made and we couldn't see much so chose to simply ski straight down through the trees from a point on the ridge well below the summit.

Really good skiing. So good that we were tempted into dropping further and further down from the ridge towards the rim of the canyon. Marked on the map is a narrow gully that provides the only way through the steep cliff bands. With the map and GPS we made our way to what we hoped would be an obvious entrance. Instead we found several options all of which looked possible but highly committing.

We hunted around for a while but it was too late to make the wrong choice and then have to climb back out again. Instead we put the skins on, climbed up to the ridge, and skied out the way we had come. It was almost a headlamp job but not quite.

In retrospect I think we had been in right place but just didn't have enough time to properly explore. Here's a good trip report from a group that did find the gully.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Zupjok Peak Coquihalla

Was it a day for exploring? Or a day to just go somewhere familiar and do laps? There were about 25 cars at Falls Lake so Steve and I chose the explore option. We continued down the road to the Needle Peak pull off, slapped on the skis, and headed west along a logging road towards Zupjok Peak.

The road loses quite a bit of elevation before beginning to climb upwards but this sad fact is more than made up for by the beautiful old growth forest it passes through. There were at least 2 to 3 metres of snow on the ground topped with several inches of nice light powder. We hoped for great things.

After a few map and GPS checks we got ourselves onto the thickly treed south ridge of Zupjok and began climbing in earnest. Our rough idea was to climb up the south ridge of Zupjok and then descend the east ridge to a col and then find our uptrack on the way down.

It started to snow heavily and as we got higher and the wind really picked up. By the time we neared the summit the snow was blowing horizontally; it stung our faces and reduced the visibility to just about zero.

Our mini traverse wasn't going to happen in these conditions. With regrets we turned around and headed back the way we had come. The snow was amazing but the trees were too tight for us to make the most of the great conditions.

At some point I broke a heel lift on one of my 7tm bindings. Freakin' tele bindings, there's always something. Half the reliability of an AT binding at twice the weight. Another step on the dark and inevitable descent to Dynafit.

Oh well. Some days you win and and some days you lose. Always nice to be out. As consolation on the drive home we saw one of these amazing double-width snow plows.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Illecillewaet and the Practise Slopes

Last weekend Brenda lead a trip for the ACC based out of the Wheeler Hut in Rogers Pass. The trip was for beginners who hadn't done much backcountry skiing before. It made for a very diverse group and some challenging group management throughout the two days of skiing. Brenda did a commendable job of making sure everyone had a safe and enjoyable couple of days, not to mention an awesome group meal on Saturday night. I think this photo sums up the evening pretty well.

About 25cm of light fluffy snow overnight made for a picturesque setting. We made forays up towards the Illecillewaet, near Lookout Col, and onto the Practise Slopes slightly down valley. It's simple terrain in terms of avalanche hazard but was a little bit intimidating for a few of the beginner skiers, especially with the so-so visibility, but I think everyone enjoyed their weekend.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thar and Nak Peak Coquihalla

We made an exploratory trip to the Coquihalla last weekend and did some skiing between Thar and Nak Peaks in the wide basin that faces the highway. The plan was to get to the col and check out the slope on the other side with the idea of doing a traverse down to Falls Lake one day. Unfortunately the visibility got really bad some 150 meters below the col and we gave it up, not too keen on wandering around blind in the unfamiliar terrain.

There's quite an expanse of open terrain up here just above tree line. We did a couple of laps on the road side and found some nice turns. There was a hard crust down about 20 to 30cm with fresh storm snow on top which made for some effortless skiing.

Conditions along the Coquihalla have been pretty hit or miss for us over the years but this was a good day.

Later on this week we learned that Loic was up in that area on the weekend too. He mentioned that he has skied off the other side towards Falls Lake before so we'll have to go back and give that a go one day.