Monday, December 31, 2012

Stanley Mitchell Hut

They say that a legitimate adventure has no predetermined outcome. To look at it from a slightly different angle, perhaps the idea of a true "adventure" has more to do with the nature of the participants than the actual objective itself. That's why our own humble definition of an adventure includes a visit to the Stanley Mitchell Hut during the short, dark, and cold days of late December. I mean it's not exactly hard core in the grand scheme of things right? But for us the promise of toasting our hands in front of a warm fire at the end of the day was never a sure thing until we actually laid eyes on the hut.

We did this trip a couple of years ago. I had never been so cold in my entire life. This time it was -18C for our 5:45AM departure from the parking lot. Not exactly balmy but considerably warmer than the -33C of last time.

Even so Brenda still had to break out the Backcountry Burka to keep her schnoz from getting frostbitten.

It took us over four hours to reach the shelter at Takakkaw Falls where we made some hot tea and refilled our thermoses.

There were a couple of pieces of firewood so we sparked up the ancient woodstove. It produced more smoke than heat but it did warm us up a little as we reapplied wax to the skis. We didn't see any sign of a larger wood supply. It would be a cold place to spend the night.

From the shelter we enjoyed the sun for a few kilometres before reaching the trees and beginning the true climb up into the Little Yoho Valley.

Finally reaching the hut at 3:30 we were pretty cold and tired but very happy to be there.

The next day we toured up towards Emerald Pass with Kevin, Brendan, and Jeremy from Calgary who we had met at the hut the previous night.

We even found some decent skiing in a steep little gully that had filled in with blowing snow.

This being New Year's Eve we celebrated in fine fashion with the Calgary Crew. As usual our own supply of booze was overshadowed by the massive quantities that everyone else had managed to haul in. There were even some fireworks to light up the midnight sky. Okay it wasn't quite midnight. We were all tired.

We closed up the hut the next morning.

And headed back home.

An adventure? Sure it was.

Monday, December 24, 2012


NRC is probably the most accessible bit of skiing real estate in Rogers Pass; straight up from the car and straight back down again. However we don't ski here very often. It gives us the heebie-jeebies. I really don't know if this feeling is justified or not since the place certainly gets skied regularly by a lot of other people. But whenever we're at NRC all I can think of is the several hours we'll spend skiing up and down a giant avalanche path. Anyway, with the good and stable conditions we decided that it would be a good day to visit NRC.

It was freezing cold and blustery and just plain nasty as we geared up in the parking lot just below the Rogers Pass summit. It didn't fill us with much hope for the day. But as we climbed the wind died and slowly but surely we began to leave the clouds below us.

A leisurely lunch was called for. We soaked up the sun and marvelled at the vista unfolding around us.


After lunch we climbed up to around 2300m before finally pulling the plug as the snow become scoured and decidedly slabby. Some day I'd love to get to the top of this feature to look over towards the south side of McDonald. Skins off for the straight run back down to the car.

Brenda (Nick's photo)

Andrew (Nick's photo)

Nick on telemark gear. Who knew?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cheops North 5

Stability, visibility, powder: the rule is generally to pick any two. Magically, mystically, all three conditions aligned a couple of days before Christmas.

The north side of Mount Cheops sports a number of gullies dropping down into the Connaught Drainage. I think the lowest (The Hourglass) is #1 and the highest is #6 (not sure about that). Occasionally we've seen lines of tracks dropping down the higher numbered gullies. To us these 1000m descents have always looked really impressive and so intimidating.

Upper Cheops Gullies

But by now we had run out of excuses, so with the almost perfect conditions we finally had a go at what we think was Cheops #5.

Descent route

Up to Balu Pass we went, hung a left and struggled up the shallow faceted snow of the lower ridge before topping out on a broad plateau. There seemed to be at least two entrances. We took the first available and found our way easily into the upper bowl.

Nick just above the entrance

Having a good look at the entrance to #6 we decided instead to explore the less intimidating options further right.

Entrance to Cheops #6

The terrain opened up below us and we had a great look at the upper reaches of the descent.

Brenda with the descent route behind her

Wow! A fabulous leg-burning descent in a truly spectacular setting.


We were so happy to finally ski this line and felt privileged to have done it under conditions that didn't give us the heebie-jeebies. Okay there were a few heebie-jeebies but it wouldn't be a real adventure otherwise. That's the great thing about being average weekend warriors, we're easily thrilled!

Putting the skins back on after the run, a couple skied past on their way out. We overheard one of them exclaim "Holy cow! Look what those guys skied!". Whoever you were, thanks, you made our day!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

8812 Bowl

Brenda and I skied up Bruins Ridge and over into 8812 bowl on Saturday.

Balu Peak (Peak 8812)

It was a glorious winters day with a cold wind blowing across the ridge that chilled us to the bone. Is it this cold in January? I think the Okanagan climate is turning us soft. There were a few distinct narrow points along the ridge. I think it broadens out a bit later in the season. That or my memory is going.

Bruins Ridge

There were already several sets of tracks in the bowl. No one had gone all the way up to the pass yet so we made the extra effort to get up there and have a look over onto Bruins North.

Just below Bruins Pass

Four hours up and 15 minutes back down to the valley floor. Crazy.


The fantastic light fluffy powder that billowed into our faces helped us to forget the time up to time down ratio. Not quite content with our day (okay one of us was content and the other one was already thinking about poutine in Revelstoke) we climbed back up to Balu Pass and up the other side of 8812 bowl for another run.

Another early season trip where the conditions were just as good as any that we find in midwinter.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Malakwa Gorge

Up to The Gorge on Saturday with Dan, Neal, and a friend of Neal's. We all piled into Dan's truck for the drive up. At about 12k we hit a minor traffic jam caused by a very apologetic couple trying to get up in an AWD Acura with all season tires. She seemed a little spooked and said something about walking back down. We didn't pay much attention at the time but sure enough on the drive down we saw her tracks along the side the of the road for kilometre after kilometre.

In the process of shuffling vehicles around to get passed them, the cable for the release mechanism on Dan's emergency brake snapped with the brakes fully engaged. We all swarmed around under the truck trying to finesse a solution until Dan got bored, grabbed a tire iron, and twisted it around the break cable until it snapped with a loud ka-thunk! Problem solved. Almost. The truck thought that the emergency was still on and we had to tune out the incessant "ding-ding-ding-ding" of the warning chime for the rest of the drive.

It was an odd start to an odd day. The pull-out was packed with cars at 15km and it was very warm. Upon reaching the treeline we saw recent avalanche activity everywhere. There were 60cm crown lines all over the place. There was a buried surface hoar layer that was ridiculously reactive. Digging a quick hasty pit the layer popped out as we cut the back of the column with a ski pole.

Unwilling to venture higher we made a run back down to the road to find the parking lot half empty. After a leisurely lunch we took another short run and called it a day with pints back at The Burner.