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A Moment’s Notice

Another decent looking storm, another bit of high alpine pow to chase after! All of 12 hours before leaving Golden, I got in touch with Matt to see if he was keen for Mt. Joffre in K Country, an impressive peak and fun looking ski descent, but nothing too scary since I’m over that for a bit after an ultra-sketch descent of Bryce Center Peak and attempt on Bryce north face. Joffre’s a fair bit of slog though. At 4:30 am, we were walking away from the car to do a 1-day assault on knee cartilage and Joffre.

We left from the south parking lot on Upper Kananaskis Lake and went down the very groomed trail around it. Then up the unsigned branch to Hidden Lake, finally having to step over a log. BC mountaineering, this aint! We decided to take the high route around Hidden Lake, since I knew the trail climbed steeply on the scree slopes on the left afterwards, and we didn’t want to miss the turn-off. It was pointlessly arduous though, just before starting the climb, the trail was very well-marked from the route you can take around the lake when it’s in low water. Then up a very steep rain-slick trail climbing up a side drainage before traversing scree slopes to get around Fossil Falls. A little bit more undulating terrain got us to Aster Lake four hours after leaving the car.

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After Aster Lake was gravel flats from the glacial runoff, and we finally got a teasing view of Joffre. The peaks on the divide had a light coat of snow on the scree; I had been concerned before when not seeing anything on the >3000m summit of Lyautey. We took a nice traversing line up to the Mangin Glacier, then once on the snow and skins went further north to the glacier under Joffre. Above 2800m the snow went from definitely rain-soaked to a bit crusty, here we go! At 3100, it was definitely some good fresh pow and thick cloud was continually passing over Joffre, so it had time. I decided I had time to get in a sneaky lap on the best ski pitch and still catch up to Matt, and after off some wind funk on the convex part, snow was pretty glorious. I caught up to Matt after he finished setting the skintrack to the summit and stopped, apparently I’m not as fast as I thought. Then we waited for a break in the cloud and snapped off shots of the Royal Group and all the other completely new-to-me peaks, this is the first time I’ve ever been in K-country.

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First view of Joffre. Went up a slight bench ramp between the terraces of rock on the right, down the snow further away below the rock peak (at the top of which is a very windy bivy site)
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On the polished limestone to get around a tarn at the base of the Mangin Glacier
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Joffre shows some of itself. Sluffs are from before or at the start of the storm, snow ontop of the debris
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Cruising through the white to Joffre’s summit

When the cloud break came, Matt skied down the recently re-covered scree summit mound in some good looking snow, and I followed. Then down the face in more great snow, seamlessly changing from pow to corn. We picked up the hiking boots on the way by, and went down from the glacier on a steeper bit that held its snow better. With a couple short bits of walking across rock, we only stopped after skiing 1000m of vert, not bad for July! Then all the way back down, lots of pain after the ~35km and probably around 2000m of gain/loss with all the rolling terrain on the way. There was a nasty looking storm racing across the lake when we were loading up the car at the end of the day, so we decided our 16.5 hour time was just fast enough.

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Mt. King George in the Royal Group. Ski buddies Ian and Andrew put down a line beside the seracs to the skyline ridge around cloud level years back

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6 thoughts on “A Moment’s Notice”

  1. Thanks for the post!! What an awesome summer ski adventure:) I admire the gnarly lines you ski but its all about the exploration and adventure. Posting stuff like this and possibly even cool powder days will give you more posts and more variety. I will not think you are going soft if its not all no fall skiing. Have fun!! Best regards Brad

    1. Thanks man. I usually can’t find the motivation to write about pow days. They’re their own reward. Exploring and big scary stuff, there’s a whole lot more going on mentally than just how many more laps till you can head to the car for beers. Gotta save the writing inspiration for something out-of-the-ordinary, otherwise I just plain run out of it.

    1. Shattered kneecap from my first season out west, part of what I’ve got left is just scar tissued to the rest of it. Using it hard after not much activity makes it bend back into position which hurts like hell while it’s doing its change. So while most of me can go from a week of couch mode to givin er in the mountains, the knee needs constant punishment to keep it moving right. Each year needs a little less maintenance than the last, it’s still getting incrementally better over time, that’s a really nice thing about it.

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