I got my first real view of the Goodsir massif over a year ago while doing a traverse of the southern Dogtooth Range. It looked so imposing, so impenetrable. And as well it should be, being the biggest peak within 50km. Once I started populating my Google Earth with all the ridiculous snow and ice that stands out to the eye in the sky, I couldn’t help but notice a streak of white on the South Tower; just what was that? All the pictures I could find were shot from the wrong angle to show my streak of white. So last fall I went up to go see for myself, but the valley you look up to see the line, closes up before you get the right aspect for the line. Then over the winter, while skiing in the Beaverfoot I dragged some buddies up, including Ian to have a look-see. This time, the river defeated us, wetting out the skins until we desisted in our hunger to even gaze upon the fabled line. Finally, last weekend from the top of Chancellor north face, I got my answer, and wow what an incredible looking face it was.
After working a 16-hour shift till 11pm the preceding night, and with an extra day at the end of my weekend booked off, Ian Button and I drove up the Beaverfoot Valley till we hit too much snow, and then started skinning the to the park boundary. We decided to leave the sleds behind, even though we could use them outside the park. The snowline was high enough to drive very close to the park boundary, so it wasn’t worth it. We skinned down a bit of road and a horse trail into the cutblock near the Lower Ice Cabin, and kept skinning up the Ice River trail and into the park to the now-defunct Upper Ice Cabin, 7.5km from the truck along the gently-sloped valley. I knew from previous attempts that we would be skinning back out. The trail is among the most dicey in the park, delivering suffering well beyond what its length would suggest, amplified by the weight of overnight packs and mountaineering gear. After we got to the Upper Ice, the trail ends and we had to find our way across the river flats. Gorgeous area, with the Hanbury Icefield at the far end, and a little river meandering back and forth across the valley bottom. Though you can’t see them, the Goodsirs have a definite presence too.
After a couple more clicks in the Ice valley, we broke east up the valley leading to the Goodsirs. The valley had the opposite problem of the Ice, being steep and with a nasty little ravine with very steep walls that exposed rock slabs on one side and choss on the other when it carved its place into the mountain. Of course, being a nasty miserable ravine there was a short bit of WI2 waterfall in it, which thanks to the tacky snow falling I skinned up with good technique and one tool (whippet). It was kind of fun, I intend to apply my experience to Slipstream very soon. Then a bit more skinning on open terrain up the center of three creeks that split off from the head of the main ravine until we got to a patch of trees that clings to the ridge between the south and center ravine.
We woke up the next day at the leisurely hour of 7 to bright sunshine highlighting more mouthwatering lines across the Ice valley. We had our own to get after, and we decided to get Goodsir South Tower (3567m) NW face (~3450m) out of the way; the idea being that if we got unlucky with weather this day, we could make another attempt the following day. Even though it looked great from Chancellor, I was still expecting all sorts of big mountain difficulties, having to rappel some ice barely covered with snow, or a rock step, something like that. This is a very big, burly mountain after all. We made quick work skinning up the lower scree slope and got up close under an awesome wall of rock to dump some excess gear (skins, extra layers etc). I still wasn’t ready to ditch my rope or screws yet. We switched to plates and crampons and started booting up. After the lower choke, a sluff came down that Ian caught the edge of. We decided to keep going, as it wasn’t all that large of a sluff. In any case, it soon got cloudy and we didn’t see another. All the way up, I was expecting to find the monster in the closet, but it just never came. The only hard part was all the wading through deep, incohesive powder.
The run down was truly exceptional. I have yet again shattered my expectations on how good a run can be: from great steep turns at the top to riding thigh-deep sluff spines, and then fully 3D snow at the lower choke, where you’re popping out of the snow during the turns and then diving back in across the fall line, and not hitting anything at all. And then a long pow-filled fan to make a million turns down to camp. Oh yes, and I also made the first turns on my new TLT6p boots at the top of this beast. Wicked boots. I really can’t put to words just how huge runs in the rockies can be. 1400m of vertical, straight down, never relenting under 30*, 50-20cm of pow the whole way, and at the end you finish at 2050m, or about the start of alpine terrain most places, 1400m in the alpine… It’s just nutty!
Ian realized that he lost his axe somewhere on the Goodsir S Tower descent, and decided that he was going to go find it the next day. Snow and weather seemed so perfect though, that I went for the original plan, to the North/Middle Tower col (3160m) and maybe, time permitting, to the Middle Tower-AKA Rae Pk- (3364m) to check out a possible west couloir (approx. 50m below summit ~3310m). We woke up earlier, 6am to head for our objectives. The north drainage was overall steeper than the south drainage we did yesterday but it was a more consistent pitch and relatively wide so I was able to skin up the whole thing. We had decided on an exit time of 2pm, which meant getting back to camp for 1:30 to pack, and probably starting the final descent of the day at 1pm. It was already 11:30 when I stopped snapping pictures at the col and was ready to descend, either to the base of the couloir or to camp. What to do… I decided of course, to go for it. It’s only a 250m couloir, after all.
I traversed over to the base of the couloir, holding onto whatever elevation I could. Then time to bootpack. It was a great, simple little couloir at the top of the world, went clean as can be. The last 50m of ascent were pure wallowing, even with plates I had to pull down snow infront of me in order to not be hip-deep. I was close to busting out the shovel- see “Fortitude Big Lines” to understand the interesting techniques I was considering employing again. Then another great ski descent. At the bottom, though I desperately wanted to go fall line down the middle drainage, the views had just never been good enough to know it went clean. I went light and so left the rope and rock pro at the tent. So I traversed back to the right into the north drainage and had an amazing, 1300m long, pow-filled run right to camp, arriving at 1:24pm, awwright!
After camp was all packed on our weary backs, we skied some more pow down the valley. Soon it started closing in, but this time we decided to keep to the other side of the ravine, as it was mostly alders and well-filled with snow. Also, being a northerly aspect, it held… POW!! After some awkward moves and alder rappels, we made it safely to the Ice River. Then the long death slog back down the river flats to the trail to the road to the car.