Saturday, December 28, 2013

Big White

With family visiting over the holidays there wasn't much time for skiing. We did manage to sneak in a quick return trip to Big White one sunny morning. Following the same route from Gem Lake as last time we came out of the trees into the sun and had some great views.

This time we had enough daylight left to actually explore a bit. The run down off the ridge is short but fun and there are loads of options. We looped back around the base of the ridge to find our uptrack and then veered skiers left and found some more flagging tape that lead into some reasonable tree skiing.

It's not an awesome destination (so far) but being within an hours drive of home makes it pretty good in our books.

On a side note here's the new camping rig we got this fall. Yes we bought a truck and we're this close to buying Truck Nutz. Little ones.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Compared to some years there still isn't a whole lot of snow in Rogers Pass. We made a quick trip up a very brushy NRC Gully and skied the adjacent slide path. It was a bit of a thrash on some tricky upside down snow but we tried our best and came away smiling.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Big White

After a lazy Sunday morning we dragged ourselves up to Big White for some exercise. We knew that there was some backcountry skiing on the Gem Lake side but didn't have any real information. Parking below the unopened chairlift at the crack of noon we followed our noses up the cat track on climber's left. Eventually we came across a flagged track and followed it up through a cut block and into mature timber.

The guys who cut the trail have a good sense of humour. We came across ski poles hoisted high into the trees, old advertising displays for K2, and hand crafted wooden signs. The best was "Fischer" Camp where some 'emergency' supplies were stored in plastic buckets hoisted up into a tree. Thanks Rick!

When we emerged onto the ridge adjacent to the ski area boundary it was blowing hard and the light was starting to go. Discretion won the day and we elected to return via the uptrack rather than dropping off the ridge into the unknown.

Good enough. We got some exercise close to home which is mainly what we were after. We'll go back another day and explore some more.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


A quick trip to Rogers Pass. We skied behind the hotel with about 4000 other people who were also taking advantage of the great early season conditions. Most people headed up towards Ursus Trees or 8812 Bowl so we went straight to Balu Pass where it was quieter.

We climbed up towards Balu Peak and then dropped off the ridge into 8812. Good run.

Steve told us that this year he will be trying to extend the life of his skis by only using the back half until mid season, at which point he'll switch to the front half.

We also checked out the gullies left and right of the pass.

And again found some good skiing despite the poor visibility.

It's always surprising how good the skiing is in November.

Saturday, November 09, 2013


The first ski trip of the season has developed into a recurring them.

First a bit of shrubbery.

Then some open water.

Followed by a spot of propane bother.

And finally some excellent skiing punctuated by the occasional "clang!" of ski on rock.

There were more and bigger crevasses than we remember seeing on previous years.

Otherwise we huffed and puffed on early-season legs, drank too much wine in the evening, introduced the game of Resistance to mixed reviews, and thoroughly enjoyed a great start to the season. Thanks to all who made the effort!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Shuswap River

We broke out the canoe for our sort-of-annual Shuswap River paddle. Unable to find anyone to join us on short notice we brought bikes for the shuttle.

After dropping the bikes at the Trinity Valley Road bridge we continued up to Dale's Hand Launch at 14.5k up river.

After putting in, and being the veteran paddler that I am, I carefully assessed the river for any downstream hazards.

Satisfied that all was well downriver I then made a good long assessment of the upriver hazards.

Before someone politely suggested that paddling would be a good idea if I didn't want to be cycling back by headlamp.

Some years the river is packed with spawning salmon. This year there were fewer sockeye than normal. Instead in some places the river was thick with big coho(?). The coho aren't as spectacular as the bright red sockeye but they certainly make up for it with their sheer size. Enormous fish. It's hard to take any decent photos but we did get one or two of some smaller sockeye on a narrow side channel.

We stopped here for lunch and were munching away on sandwiches...

When just to left of this photo a bear eased itself into the river and began swimming across to a small island. Best part? We had two pairs of binoculars ready to go and so were both able to watch at the same time without resorting to fisticuffs. He (or she) slowly climbed up the opposite bank and ambled wetly along the shoreline before disappearing into the trees. It was very cool to see. Shortly afterwards we drifted downstream and by chance saw him swimming across again behind us.

What else? Kokanee, sockeye, coho. Loads of bald eagles. A few kingfishers. Brenda got stung by a wasp. After 4 hours of paddling and just as it seemed to be getting a bit tedious Trinity Bridge came into view around a corner.

Where we swapped the canoe for bikes.

Phase 2 went off without a hitch and we were back at the car in less than an hour. A great way to paddle a section of the Shuswap.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Mount Assiniboine North Ridge

Update April 2017:
Google nuked Picasa Web Albums so these photos no longer click through to full size versions. Thanks Google. Here's the full album on Google Photos.

Mount Assiniboine was fresh on my mind after climbing Lunette Peak just a few weeks ago. I first tried to climb the north ridge 13 years ago. It was a trip best forgotten as I spent a cold and lonely night retching my guts up outside the hut. It was a crowded and noisy place and let's just say that hygiene wasn't the first thing on people's minds.

Dave suggested having another go over the long weekend. I agreed with the idea that we should hike in a day late in order to be out of synch with the Labour Day crowds. Also to bring a tent. This turned out to be just about the best decision I've ever made.

The hike in took us 8 hours which was fully 2 more than the guidebook suggests. We suck. But Assiniboine Lake was a real highlight.

The scree much less so.

Crossing old moraines I almost tripped over this ptarmigan who stood there blinking at me long enough to get a photo.

The final scree slope up to the Alberta-BC border was agonizing but once at the col we got our first look at the Hind Hut and Magog Lake far below.

At the hut we met two guys sitting outside watching the route through binoculars.

Carl and Roger told us that there had been 27 people that night in a hut designed to sleep 14. It was now 4:00PM and not a single party had returned from the climb. Through binoculars we could see people spread all over the mountain, kicking rocks down on each other, rappelling, pulling ropes. Shouts of "ROCK!" rang out every few minutes. There was so much rock fall it seemed a miracle that no one got smoked. What a gong show. We were so happy not be on that mountain.

After dinner people began returning from the climb in ones and twos. As the light faded it became clear that several people would spending the night out. We set a 5:00AM start time with R&C and turned in.

The next morning we toiled up the rubble of the lower half of the route by headlamp. What a pile of choss. At daybreak we came across a party of three on their way down. They had spent a long and cold night out and looked a little haggard but otherwise non the worse for wear. We offered them food and water which they declined and then wished them well as we parted in opposite directions.

We negotiated our way through the Red Band without needing the rope and found ourselves on solid rock for the first time just as the sun came out in earnest.

From here the route is delightful: good rock, albeit a bit slippery with the fresh snow, terrific exposure, and fun climbing.

We were on top before 9:00AM.

On the descent we made 5 or 6 rappels along the ridge.

After this we put the rope away and reversed our steps through the Red Band before skittering back down over the endless scree. Have I mentioned the scree? Gawd the amount of rubble on this peak just blew my mind.

In the end we were 4 hours up and 4 hours down and didn't use the rope at all on the way up. I wouldn't class the north ridge among the most aesthetic of climbs but it's a great setting and combined with the lovely approach hike it makes for a memorable trip.

Check out Roger's superb photos on Flickr.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Buchan Bay (Okanagan Mountain Park)

Crappy weather in Rogers Pass kept us closer to home this weekend. Eager to get some exercise we made a short overnight trip to Okanagan Mountain Park. We did a similar trip last June except that this time we stayed at Buchan Bay rather than Commando Bay.

Wild Horse Canyon aka The Fire Swamp was much drier and less buggy than last year. There's some great potential for rock climbing along the canyon walls although the approach would be a little gruelling.

We must have seen about 20 grouse. They would explode out of the undergrowth and scare the life out of us every time. If they just stayed still we would never see them. It took about 4 hours to get through the canyon and onto the open plateau above the lake.

Alpine umbrellas were occasionally called into action.

Dinner was enjoyed under the tarp as we watched the sun go down on the opposite side of the lake. The next morning dawned clear and warm.

We had a nice swim, chatted with the neighbours, packed up, and returned home by late afternoon.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Lunette Peak

A couple of weeks have passed since we climbed Lunette Peak. With my rose-tinted glasses at the ready I can finally begin writing this one up.

Calling Lunette a 'peak' is pretty generous since it's really just bump on the south ridge of Mount Assiniboine. However it is listed as an official 11,000er so some amongst us must needs climb the darn thing. That being said I'm very glad it is on The List because it's worth climbing this peak just to visit such a beautiful place.

Our trip began with a lovely hike along Assiniboine Creek that included a groovy log crossing complete with hand rail.

After a few hours we reached Lunette Lake and had the first views of our ultimate objective. The lake is a worthy destination in it's own right.

From the lake we made our way through steep brush, across a couple of avalanche paths, ground our way upwards over nasty scree, and finally arrived at this superb bivy site perched on a mossy plateau 6 hours after leaving the car.

The next morning we ascended from the bivy site over more awesome scree before donning crampons for this long and thankfully snow filled gully.

Exiting from the gully the expansive west face opened up above us.

It was here that we first encountered cairns marked with prodigious quantities of flagging tape. Initially we were grateful for the help, but soonthere were so many cairns festooned in bright pink tape that we became dismissive of them. We joked about what type of climber would place flagging tape every 20 metres. Little did we know...

Up we went, winding our way along rubble strewn ledges, until reaching the snowfield that lead up to the Assiniboine-Lunette cCol.

Here the threatening weather finally took a turn for the worse. At the col the wind was howling and the light rain turned into a driving snow that quickly soaked through our pants and gloves. This was definitely a low point. We knew we were close to the summit but the dripping wet rock and swirling snow confounded us. We wandered back and forth for quite a while trying to find an easy way up.

After a good hour of this the wind began tugging at the mist. It lifted just a little bit before settling back thick and heavy. Then in a matter of minutes the clouds lifted completely, giving us just long enough to find the now obvious way to the top.

We didn't dawdle. A few quick photos before rapping off the summit block back down into the mist and the rain. Once off the snow it was amazing how quickly we lost our way in the featureless wet scree. Now we begged to find more of the flagged cairns which we had rejected with disdain on the way up.

Well, it wasn't quite that dramatic I guess, but we had our moments.

Each cairn we stumbled across was treated like a long lost friend before we eventually got below the clouds.

That's about it except that SWINE MARMOTS ATE MY PACK!

Cresting the final rise before the bivy site we looked up just in time to see two enormous marmots beating a hasty retreat. Pots and pans were strewn about and my pack had been dragged out from the vestibule into the pouring rain. The buggers had just about severed one shoulder strap and generally had a good gnaw on the rest of it. This sorely tested 20 years of vegetarianism! But with the tarp up, soup in our bellies, and with a good dent made in the wine (Ross you are a hero) all was eventually forgiven.

To sum up, Lunette Peak itself is somewhat of a chore, but if that's the excuse one needs to visit this beautiful area, it's well worth the effort.