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Still Got The Touch

June came and went really fast, it seems. Foster Peak took all the weather windows I had for the month. I wanted one more gnarly line to finish off the spring before firn snow skipping for the rest of the summer. The West Face of Foster beckoned and I was powerless to resist. At 3200m and change it is the biggest peak on the Rockwall, a worthy adversary.

A couple weekends ago, things were starting to look right. Inclement weather had kept me away, but a fresh dusting up high had me stoked. I headed out, directions in hand to drive to the end of the logging road and ski it the next day. I ended up getting lost, as there were a ton of new cutblocks and roads that weren’t on Google Earth. Then it started raining lightly so I thought it pointless anyways, no freeze = no go on a steep face. I still hadn’t had a good look at it by this point, there is a sub peak and ridge in the way that obscures the lower face from most angles. So I went out again the next day (June 21) to do it all over, this time with better notes. I continued on past my road purposely, to another road which accesses a ridge with a view via a short bushwhacking hike. There I finally got a sense of Foster’s true nature.

What I understood from the beta I gathered before going, was that the upper west face went to both the lower west face (left of the little ridge dividing the face) and the lower south-west face (right). Seeing the whole thing with my own eyes though, the SW face was only accessible from the summit with a long, steep, exposed traverse, neutering the best part of the whole thing: the steep turns high on the face. The lower west face obviously isn’t in, still hopeful it can go with the right snow. So I had to choose, go for it anyways or go home. I decided to go for it since I was here anyways, and went to sleep in the car. At 3am the following morning, I got all the usual junk together to start hiking up the few clicks of bushwhacking up the ravine to snowline below the face , but then a few seconds after turning my headlamp, the beam wavered and died. No replacement batteries, gutted. I had two decisions, either wait for a couple more hours to have enough light to navigate by (hiking up a steep ravine in the dark is a great way to break a leg), and by doing so be a couple hours later and a couple hours hotter on a face which was already pushing my boundaries of acceptable sketch; or go home. I went home and licked my wounds, worried that I was losing my ability to concoct new, exciting lines and pull it off.

July 5- Mt Mollison

I can see this sucker plain as day from work when driving in the Kootenay valley north-bound. It’s a long ways off, but just last week I saw a boatload of snow in the bowls still, and a snowy couloir heading up to the summit ridge. I headed in yesterday with no objective in mind, just going loose. No point getting all worked up when I had never been there before, lots of things could go wrong. There is an old mining road heading up to 2200m that can be seen in Google Earth, that’s what I planned on heading up on. I expected that 6km/ 800 vertical meters away from the end of the road I’d be forced to stop and do the rest on foot, so I brought the bike just in case it would be decent riding for the way back down. I’m not using a truck (yet..) or ATV to access this stuff after all so finding the limits of my car’s off-roading ability is always possible. To my surprise and delight the road was great driving. Probably the steepest continuous hill I’ve driven up, it was nice to see a really well built road that doesn’t wash off the mountain easily.

Mt Mollison and its three south facing bowls

Ontop of the great access, the snowline was actually before the end of the road. I was able to ski back to within 200m of the car, it’s like Rogers Pass is in mid-winter! Like the start of any good ski day, there were grizzly tracks in the snow. I walked a bit and before long was skinning up toward the couloir on my new skis. What better way to break them in? Or find the limits of skimo race bindings? Unfortunately, as I got closer, it was apparent the couloir wasn’t skiable despite being snowy still. There was a nasty unavoidable runnel with no work-around so I kept going up to another ridge until the Beaverfoot valley opened up below me.

Then it was time to ski down. There wasn’t much of a freeze the night before, but after the snow has been cooked down for so long it doesn’t really matter, it will still provide support. The cloud that nixed the overnight freeze stuck around to keep the sun from changing things quickly. I decided to go up the lookers right bowl for the next run, as the steep flanks of the left bowl left avy debris which wasn’t as nice to ski as virgin snow. From the other bowl I got some looks toward the Goodsirs (obscured by cloud) and the Washmawapta icefield. There were wolverine tracks on the ridge, those crazy little buggers get around! Then ski back down to the car, feelin good to scratch the itch. 1000m of shredding, not bad! This makes for 22 months straight of skiing around Golden. That’s what the name of the blog is all about. Trying to keep the exploration going though, instead of just lapping old favourites to get my month.

Bugaboos 5/7/2014

July 6- Eos pk. couloirs

Ah, Eos peak, an old favourite from last year. I actually skied the same couloir under the summit last year too, but since there was going to be a posse of us out skiing, I thought it best to stick with what I know. Something not 50-some clicks up a logging road too, unlike the previous two missions. Most of the posse bailed (their loss) but Ryan came with. We probably moved faster for it anyways.

Starting up toward corny heaven
Ryan’s stoked!

After topping out on the snow at the summit ridge, we switched back to shoes to scramble the last hundred meters to the summit. After taking it all in, time to go down (vid at the end). Skiing was great, I hauled up a full resort setup so I could punish the suncups instead of the other way around. Light skis would’ve still been good, but it’s hard to argue with the smashing power of full metal downhill race bindings. As the suncups soon learned. It was a bit tight at first, then a bit of slalom around rockfall strewn on the snow, then a perfect pitch to the end to the cheering of hikers at the lake. Ryan finished the run with a 360, just because.

After such a great run, we headed a little further from the road toward a patch that looked long and wide and with as perfect a surface you could ask for. Once we got there, we followed the patch up into a couloir that went to the ridgeline. It looked as though the forecasted rain would start any minute, but we decided to at least go up till it started. The bootpack was deceptively long, but deception keeps boots plodding upward.

Once at the top, I got my best view yet of the biggest of the big Dogs, Dogtooth Peak (2838m) and Moonraker Peak (2836m). Not all that big, but I love this range. I’m around 30% into a quest to ski the most bad assed line off each and every named peak in the range (DG## peaks included, ~30 peaks total). Sometime this summer I’m going to put together a hit list tracking my progress with trip reports of the descents.

Dogtooth pk left, Moonraker pk. right
SFD to the lake on a carpet of corn

It was another great ski, steep couloir then an interesting runnel crossing to maching GS turns to the water’s edge. As we got to the lake it started to rain softly and we headed down the trail back home. Two couloirs, 450m each. Hell yeah

Avalanche debris bridges rainy lake

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