It looks like wintery conditions and powder snow are about to be done for the season. Everyone saw this warm spell a while off, and to that end I’ve been skiing as much as I could over the past six days. Here’s an account of what I’ve been getting up to:
Thursday: Mt Niles solo trip-
This is covered already here:
I just added a video of it, if you want to check it out
Friday: Narao Couloirs attempt #1
I woke up for a reasonable person’s idea of an early start for Friday, and went up with Ryan to ski one of the Narao peak couloirs. Once we got up there though, sluff was already pouring off the walls of the couloirs. We chilled out for a while, hopeful that the sun would clear off the easterly aspects and give us a window, or that the forecasted cloud would show up. Neither happened, and we went home. As Ryan said, sometimes it’s just a walk in the mountains. It was sunnier and warmer the day before, and I really expected that the solar input would’ve completed doing its thing and clear off the unstable snow, but you can’t always get what you want. Or as I was to find out, I would never get what I want on Narao.
|You will never get this, la la la la -the sun, in a Borat voice|
Sunday: Observation Peak
Shaun and I were going to attempt Narao again but there was a touch of snow overnight, and the weather just looked to be too sunny to be worthwhile. So we went up the Parkway to Observation Peak. I had been up to the col below the false summit last June, so I had an idea of the lay of the land. I set a skintrack up toward the col on beautiful, solid sun crust. Good thing it’s all for a summit, not ski quality…
After we got to the col, it was a easy but long scramble up the windblasted ridge to the false summit.
After a mostly flat skin on thin snow and scree, we reached the true summit.
|Shaun at the summit, Peyto Lake and Bow Summit behind|
Then we “descended” back and made a short bootpack to re-attain the false summit. From there, we skied along the east ridge slowly, dodging the visible and hidden rocks in the thin snow until we got far enough from the false summit that it wasn’t completely wind blasted. Then we had good dry snow on a hard crust to the bottom. After the chute was done, we skied left to a different avalanche path/ ravine that descended a bit further to have less tree skiing at the end.
|Shaun heading down toward the highway|
Monday: Bow Summit
Well, Bow Summit isn’t quite an honest description. Shaun and I met up at Ohara parking at a sane early hour, to make another attempt on Narao Couloirs. After getting our stuff on and touring a few hundred meters to somewhere with a natural snowpack we started poking around and feeling the snow. What we found was a couple centimeters of fresh snow overnight, on a very thin crust with isothermal snow below. We pulled the plug on the couloirs. Even though it had been nice and cold overnight, the un-forecasted snow fall had seriously dampened crust formation.
After a bit of talking and head scratching, we decided to head up the Parkway again to higher elevation and better freeze. At Bow Summit we found a great crust, with dry snow underneath. Awesome!
In the parking lot I found a nice looking couloir outside of the typical Flower Couloir that usually gets skied. We traversed across the typical Bow Summit skiing area and up a avy path heading to Peyto lake.
|Unnamed (?) couloir above Peyto Lake|
|Shaun heading up the slope, good reminders for using you helmet in couloirs perched on the left|
We headed up the couloir, with Shaun turning around just past the choke. I continued to the top and found a touch of wind slab, so I left the top 10ft or so alone. Putting skis on, I got back on the nice pow and opened up up for a few turns then got off to the side. The resulting sluff went quite a ways down the fan after the coolie. I regrouped with Shaun at the bottom of the coolie and we headed off toward Flower Couloir, since this one skied so nicely.
The stem and right side couloir of the petals had been skied the day before. We booted up the stem and then skinned all the way up to the midway point of the right side flower. Shaun skied down the uptrack, and later down the stem. I continued up -on skins- on a pretty exposed, thin, ballsy skintrack to the left petal. Partway up the petal itself, the guts of the coolie became just too rocky to continue skinning so I booted the rest. There was a similar wind slab at just the very top. After a very bony ski down the left petal, I skinned up toward what I’ve been calling the “twisted stem”. More great skiing and pow in there, much more filled than the petals were.
To not have a video of skiing that good would just be rude
Tuesday: Narao Attempt #4
Here we go again, the elusive Narao couloirs. Spoiler: it was another failure. After climbing the 1000m to the couloir entrance, I saw that the left couloir had been skied the day before by two skiers. It looked as though they had set off a shallow wind slab at the top, so with that much moving debris, and two sets of tracks it wouldn’t be all that good. So I went for the right one.
There is a great blog post about the Narao couloirs here: http://vertical-unlimited.blogspot.ca/2012/02/honeymoon-is-over.html
Gery talks of using a tunnel for ascending the right couloir, however I found the tunnel to be completely filled up. There is basically a massive rock that got plugged up in the choke of the couloir just 50 or so meters from the bottom of the coolie. The left side I believe was where Gery found the tunnel, but I guess it got plugged up by avalanche debris. Not sure if that happens every year late season or if this is out of the ordinary. There is a nice hollow under the rock to chill out, and then the right side was flowing big, long sluffs (one lasted a full minute) when I got in there. The right side is a 2 or 3 meter 80 or so degree scramble with lots of snow hollows. I couldn’t figure out how I would do it, and certainly not in an acceptable amount of time. Past the choke, I believe it is quite a wide couloir, with plenty of safe area out of the crosshairs of the sluff.
I turned around after changing over in my little safe hollow and skied down to the car. It was too late in the day to start on the left one, and I had also used up all my appetite for danger for the day. The left one also has a lot of NE facing extreme terrain on a face above the whole lower half of the couloir, which is a direct danger for half the way up. The right one by contrast, is quite exposed to overheads for a short bit and then good for the rest of the way up, which I like.