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Sorcerer Lodge

A few weeks ago, I was approached with an incredible deal on a week up at Sorcerer Lodge, so good that I couldn’t refuse. I was so stoked I hadn’t even cleared it with work before I committed to it! Anyways, things ended up working out, and before I knew it, I was on a heli ride into the heart of the Selkirks.

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The way things work at Sorcerer, you get to the lodge pretty early on the 1st day.  So we dropped our stuff at the lodge and went exploring across the way, up the Perfect Valley. We arrived at the tail end of a storm, and conditions were great everywhere.

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With the storm puttering out, we went exploring a bit further the next day. We dropped into Lee’s Trees and then up the other side of Ventego Creek on our way to Swiss Col to check out Iconoclast Mountain.

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The wind was blowing pretty strong and the vis wasn’t amazing, but we wanted to get up closer to Iconoclast and hopefully get a view of the “unskiable” main south couloir. We never really got a good view at anything that day unfortunately. On my way back down a steep moraine I popped out a good sized slab, only barely arresting myself on the bed surface. It wasn’t all that big, but getting tumbled in it probably would’ve resulted in lost gear, worked or torn ligaments, all sorts of not good things. We had noted before that it was too steep to want to ascend, and after some caution at the top while skiing down I stupidly expected too much from the recently loaded slope.

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Iconoclast S face, from later in the trip

The next day, we decided to check out the Nordic Glacier. We went up Broadway, an easy ramp up the ice with relatively little crevasse hazard. The hut custodian had been up prior to the storm and said there were more crevasses than he was used to, so I prodded all of the more obvious parts. It wasn’t that bad, but I might have a different perspective with all the summer and early season rockies ice I ski. I continually probed 200-320+ cm of snow on the ice. We dug pits at one steeper, windloaded part of the glacier to check how the hoar prior to the storm was preserved up on the ice, and probing the bottom of my 150cm deep pit, I still couldn’t find bottom (or crevasse) at the end of my 320 probe. Really not bad coverage at all.

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Photo credit: Matt Ruta

Once at the top of Broadway, we decided to check out Nordic Peak West Skiers Summit. Yeah, it’s a mouthful. It’s an icecapped peak with an easy ascent route, and a nice steep but short ice face back down to Broadway. So we went up and skied it. Perfect trustworthy dust on crust conditions. After that, it was starting to get later in the day, but we decided to grab Wedding Bells on Escargot Peak, which turns out to be a perfect cap to the route we were on. After a short 10 min skin, we were ontop of Wedding Bells, and it was looking fat. There was a great stack of rocks to set up a belay on, and Ian went out to cut the crap out of the slope. After that, Matt went down as well while I wrapped up the rope. Then I enjoyed great steep n deep pow on Wedding Bells, followed by flat n deep pow on the way back down Broadway.

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The next morning we woke up bright and early to get up to the top of Broadway quickly, and nab a bunch of the Nordic Peaks. Finally, a mission! I was able to follow our old trail for quite a while, and we moved quickly unroped. Then it became a bit harder to see the trail from overnight wind transport, and I dragged a trailing rope. After a bit the guys caught up and we tied in proper.

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We were all pretty stunned by how gorgeous Nordic West true peak looked on its NE face, but the snow was just so deep and unconsolidated we were too afraid to ride it. Still, I hung back and dug a pit while Matt and Ian ascended to the col between Centre and West peak. There was a full meter of that pow, quite a lot…

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West Peak in profile

Upon topping out on the col, we were greeted with a blast of wind, seeming to become a staple for any alpine endeavour on this trip. We plodded on to the summit of the Centre. Then a short ski down the wind pressed snow on the SW ridge to the Centre-East col. From here, it is great ridgetop skinning to spitting distance of East peak. The final step is a rocky scramble to the upper N face that leads to the summit.

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Once on the summit, the wind actually abated slightly. It was almost a nice place to stand around. We got the same awesome 360 views we’d had all day, with a bit more sunlight. For the way off this perch, we decided to ski the NNW face instead of the NE because of the deep wind transport we had noticed for the west peak. An awesome face in wind-scraped condition is still pretty good. The NE is definitely steeper, and with its hungry scrund is definitely the more badass of the two. Alas, it ain’t spring yet. So on wind crust, sculpt, sastrugi and other delicacies, we descended. Nice and engaging.

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Weather days can be so much cooler than full bluebird. Dawson Group

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From there, we played in some ice to descend to the outrun from the Black Russian Col and traversed up and onto a lower section of Critical Thursday, a run off Merlin Peak. The Black Russian is always a pretty sporty bit of ice, even later in the season and with more snow. On the plus side, the slots are larger, but less numerous so you’re relying on snow bridges less. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

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The next few days were a series of weather uncertainty and no-starts on Iconoclast, which was higher on my list of priorities than everyone else’s. Fair enough, we just skied pow instead. For the final day the snow came in force and we skied more pow in the awesome pillow runs just below the lodge.

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Photo credit: Matt Ruta

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Steve Marten

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On the final day, after 30cm of fresh and with warming temps, finally things go blue over Iconoclast…NNNOOOOOO!!!

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