The Rockies are known for surprises. Ski a scree slope mid-winter that you’ve been on all season, and you are surprised by the slab that pops from the depth hoar that developed. But spring, summer, fall, those surprises are usually a good thing. It’s been snowing -as I’m sure everyone knows- in Calgary. Well it snowed even more in the Rockies. Of particular note was a large storm I kept an eye on, that came in warm (snow level ~2800m), and kept getting colder till it was snowing down to valley bottom. So, what does this mean? Good times on glaciers that you wouldn’t normally have. How, you ask? Well, the sopping rain coats the ice and whatever snow is on it, till rain turns to slush. Slush sticks really well to ice. Then it gets colder some more and turns to snow. Now, snow usually doesn’t want to stick to well to ice, but with some transition layer of wet soggy snow, it will stick just fine. Then more snow sticks to the existing snow and all of a sudden, you’ve got banger conditions where there usually isn’t. Continue reading Surprise, Powder!
Yee haw! My first 11’er, Mt. Athabasca. Might as well wait till July to get it done, eh? After the summit, a 1000m descent via the Silverhorn. Continue reading Mt. Athabasca/ Silverhorn
Don’t know why it’s taking so long for me to get around to actually writing this, but here goes. This weekend’s objective: Anniversary Peak in the Bugaboos, spotted during last weekend’s activities from Mt. Mollison.
The day started early; after a restless sleep due to the seemingly neverending heat, I was actually relieved to get out of bed at midnight and end the charade of sleep. I got up to the Bugaboos parking lot at 2:30 and started hiking. Continue reading Anniversary Peak
After weeks of getting skunked by poor freezes, finally conditions line up perfect and a big line gets skied. Most likely a first descent.
I first noticed this while lounging about at the top of 3/3.5 couloir (commonly called 3/4) at Moraine Lake last year, waiting for the snow to soften up for descent. I didn’t wait long enough and got technical hardpack turns all the way down, but this striking line that I saw from the top stuck in my mind and got tacked onto my to-do list for this year. Continue reading Tumbling Mountain
I tried for this Haddo/Aberdeen double last year but wasn’t feeling the serac hazard at the time. I tried again for it yesterday with Shaun. The summer route ascends directly up the glacier tongue to the north, but in the winter there is a better route for skiing. It goes up from the west side, up moraine slopes and thru a couloir which spits out ontop of the lower glacier. From there, there is a bypass for the upper seracs on the left side, and then you’re on the upper glacier with an easy slope toward Haddo Peak and a gnarly ascent to Aberdeen. Continue reading Aberdeen/ Haddo
I went to ski Haddo peak’s gnarly east/north face today. The lower half is north facing, then at a cliff bypass it turns to an east aspect. Then after that there is another bypass onto a small hanging face leading to the summit. I was pretty confident about everything but the last bypass, it is pretty well impossible to see from anywhere but on the face itself. If it didn’t work out, it was just a very short section I’d be missing out on, so it should be a good ski regardless. Since the upper, sketchy part was east facing, it meant another early day to not have the sun be the reason it couldn’t be done.
|View from Saddle Pass at 5am. 1s exposure and no tripod so it’s not great detail|
Wow, what a great day. Got some glacier learnin’ from Andrew and Shaun, tagged a sweet mountain in perfect weather, skied great deep powder snow on a spectacular face, and then perfect corn snow the rest of the way to the car. It’s days like this that stick with me through the summer months and keep me going.
Up at 2am, skins on at 4am.. yeah it’s getting a bit ridiculous. We went up the standard route up the glacier tongue, instead of using a shortcut ramp with exposure below due to a hard snow crust. There was a skintrack from another party heading up the ramp as well. Once we got up onto the flat glacier we saw them halfway up the face already. Andrew slept in the parking lot and said he heard a car door slam at 1:30 am. Well, I guess they do deserve it. We met up with another group of four who used the shortcut route and caught up to us. Both groups decided to sit and wait for the early birds to ski down, then make a joint push up.
|Approaching the glacier toe|
|Photo: Kevin Annala, used with permission.|
This minor obsession with Mt Weed’s south face/ chutes started around Christmas this year. I was heading home and needed to get a gift for my parents, so I figured why not get something that might help them further understand my fascination with mountains. I can’t really take pictures all that well, so I got em a picture from my buddy Kevin Annala, a Banff based photographer (sure I get nice composures sometimes but then it’s full auto mode baby!). Check out more of his work here: http://www.kevinannalaphotography.com. As I was farting around at home, I noticed some striking lines across the valley. South facing, but still skiable looking in late June or July, despite being super solar. During my poking around around Bow Summit this season, I’ve been taking some pictures of my own to make sure it is in, and I went up today to ski it. Continue reading Mt. Weed
With this fresh blast of winter and the nice perma-overcast skies, I went to do a nice 8-ridge traverse at and around Kicking Horse. There are 8 ridges between Terminator 2 peak and Dogtooth Ridge. Seven N facing couloirs, then a East face (wanted to do the Little Tooth on Dogtooth ridge) and then ski all the way back down to the car, no skinning back across. Fresh snow, the right weather to bust trail all day long, gentle ascent slopes, gnarly descents, nobody on the mountain, makes sense right? Google Earth puts it at 2450m, so it’s probably in reality just a couple hundred meters short of 3000m (GE is way out when you go over ridges and the like). I found good dry snow just a couple hundred meters above the parking lot, things seemed up. However once in the alpine, the chutes I dropped on T2 and T1 had definitely slid pretty large prior to the fresh snow. T1 was even down to ground in spots, and the fresh snow had some goopy lubricating layer between it and the old snow that wanted to wet sluff pretty hard. Considering KH has a wicked bootpacking program that mashes down all the nasty early season layers, and I was planning on going out of the boundary where that wouldn’t be in place, I expected the rip to ground issue to become even more prevalent as I went further north. So after T1 I ripped it back to the car.
Now for the main event. Finally, redemption on the Narao couloirs! There was reportedly 45cm of fresh snow in the Lake Louise area, so they should be refreshed and ready to go. I wasn’t going to do something stupid like wake up at a sane hour and risk getting skunked again, so I woke up at 3am, on skis at 4:30. Once I got up into the bowl at 6:15, things were looking like a ski bum’s wet dream. Perfect slightly fluted pow up top, the usual sluff down the guts of the coolie, and a wallop of alpenglow for the lines to bask in.
|But one time he break cage and he “get this” and then we all laugh. High five|
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|