Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sorcerer Lodge

At the end of March we had a fine week of spring skiing at Sorcerer Lodge. Some of the crew couldn't make it this year, and we missed them, but most of the usual suspects managed to be there: Louis, Martin, Damon, Ross, and the others. We were joined this year for the first time by the lovely Deanna. No word yet on whether she'll be back :)

Throughout the week we had a combination of warm spring skiing under blue skies mixed with a few days of new snow and wintry conditions. We're already looking forward to next year. Any new takers in the...oh I dunno...Connecticut area?

The crew

Sorcerer Lodge

Heinous Traverse

North side of Mount Iconoclast

Hut Moraine aka The Heinous Moraine

Good turns

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tupper Traverse

The only other time we have skied the Tupper Traverse was exactly five years ago to the day. Weird. Since then there have been significant changes made to the Winter Permit System particularly in regards to avoiding the CP Rail tracks. Five years ago it was accepted if not entirely legal to cross the tracks at the end of the day. Today the exit involves a big loop along the old rail grade until the rail tracks disappear into the Connaught Tunnel at which point skiers can cross and double back to the Stone Arch parking area along an access road and trail.

The new route is a bit of an ordeal at the end of the day and forces you to cross some fairly major avalanche paths. I understand that CP Rail needs to mitigate liability issues but it still irks me that a huge and profitable company can effectively dictate where people can and cannot go within a national park.

Despite these terrible first world problems that we must endure (?) we had a very fine day indeed. Up through Hermit Meadows easily enough and onto the west ridge of Tupper under beautiful weather.

The temperature changed dramatically on the other side of the ridge. We went from baking hot to frozen fingers with just a couple of minutes. This is the first little run down on to the Tupper Glacier.

From here we made our way over to the top of the big 40 degree drop behind Tupper expecting great things.

Sadly the snow was completely wind hammered and the run we'd come all this way for (centre left in this photo) was a bit of a damp squib.

The first world problems were like totally piling up at this point. Nevertheless we continued on under these trying conditions.

Arriving at treeline there were a couple of options. Last time we booted up the steep slope on skiers right to get an early entrance into the Connaught slide path on the other side. This time we continued down to the "sink hole" described in the guide book and contoured around through thick trees until popping out at a lower point on the slide path. The long, long, long descent down the east facing slide path gave us the expected combination of truly excellent and truly awful snow conditions.

The trek along the old rail grade gave us the chance to see the historic stone arch bridge over Cascade Creek which dates back to the late 1800s.

The final leg along the access road is much less inspiring.

This time it took us 8 hours with 1600m of climbing including much faffing about scrambling over avalanche debris on the old rail grade. An adventure with a bit of history.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bonney Moraines

Things were looking pretty marginal at the Loop Brook trailhead. Wet snow, drizzle, mist swirling about. We collectively lamented the arrival of an early spring. Still, there was hope as we skied past the picturesque old railway columns.

It began snowing heavily as we made our way past the slot canyon and up through the trees. The higher we got the dryer the snow become until eventually we were grinning at the prospect of finding some really good skiing. Even the clouds started to break up for us.

Here's Brenda looking surprised at how well the day turned out.

We had a few fabulous runs on the upper moraine on some of the best snow we've seen this season.

These moraines have a really good effort to reward ratio under the right conditions ie: when you can see! I mean look at this, the place is stunning.

Nick shot some video. Sniper at 1:33!

Bonney Moraines 17 March 2013 from Nick Thomas on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Mount Hector

Ross has finally "come out" and mentioned his ambition to climb all of the 11,000ers. Could be a busy summer. Mount Hector was the next piece of low hanging fruit and number 21'ish on his list. Brenda and I made the trek to Field on Friday night and met Ross the next morning at 6AM at a very dark and very closed Laggan's in Lake Louise. Update your website you tools! Sorry, sorry. Caffeine is a powerful drug.

Trips across the divide typically make two immediate impressions on me: cold (lots of it) and snow (not so much). The former had me dancing up and down beside the car in the semi-darkness trying to warm up before the day had even begun. The latter became obvious as we climbed above a sketchy waterfall onto the lower moraines and into the warm morning sunshine.

Scratchy. But it made for great travel conditions. On the way up anyway.

We toiled away at it for a few hours, marvelling at the ever expanding vista, before getting our first look at a very distant Hector.

Roping up at the toe of the glacier it didn't really seem necessary but every single account we had read mentioned using a rope so we followed suit. You'd hate to be *that* party.

We plodded along under a magnificent blue sky and slowly, ever so slowly, Hector grew larger before us. As we ground our way up the steep headwall the wind grew stronger and stronger. By the time we reached the notch between the two summits of Hector it was a full-on gale. These picture don't do it justice.

After ditching our skis and fumbling with our crampons we scrambled up the final rocky step, feeling a little desperate to get it done so we could get back down out of the wind!

Here's me on the summit trying to convince Brenda that she's still having fun.

A quick "well done" and a few hastily taken photos all around before carefully reversing our steps. That figure bravely skootching along on his butt is the 11,000er aspirant.

Skiing down steep wind-blasted sastrugi on tele gear is a character building activity at the best of times but we gave it the old college try. Ross, as ever, resorted to the "speed is your friend" technique but it seemed to work.

All in it took us 10.5 hours car to car with one long leisurely post-summit snack and lots of futzing at the col. A spectaculat day out and well worth the long drive. Thanks Ross.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Coquihalla Lakes

Jason booked a couple of nights at Coquihalla Lakes Lodge and kindly invited us for a couple of days of skiing. We drove up with Tabea on Friday night. Pulling into the parking lot after dark we weren't sure if we were in the right place. The two girls walked off towards a distant light while I bravely waited at the car. Ten minutes later Tabea reappeared on the back of a skidoo accompanied by Eddie, our chauffeur for the evening! We loaded the sled and trailer with all of our crap and headed back down the road. I demonstrated my sledder credentials to Eddie by only falling off once. We settled into the cozy cabin and were soon joined by the others.

It was the weekend that the big Pineapple Express came through which meant a ton of snow followed by freezing levels well above 1800m. Anticipating poor conditions wherever we went we saved ourselves a drive and simply skied across the lake and headed straight up the low peak right behind the cabin.

The ski down wasn't all that bad. The snow was wet and sticky and we had our fair share of yard sales but we had fun. Although rather than heading back up for another run (it wan't that fun) we instead built a kicker just like the cool kids. Jason and Tabea got the hang of it. The rest of us, not so much. Thankfully it was a forgiving landing.

We retired to the cabin by mid-afternoon just as a series of snow squalls began dumping a few centimetres of wet snow. We sat in front of the warm fire with beers in our hands and watched the snow as it swirled across the frozen lake. Dinner. Wine. More wine. Bed.

Sadly, wolves prevented us from getting an early start the next morning.

Eventually we escaped and after navigating a fence behind the old toll both area we skied up onto Coquihalla Lakes Ridge in the bright sunshine.

This would be a great place for some easy laps in good conditions. But today, not so much, with wet challenging snow again. But all in all a fun and novel weekend. It's all about novelty.