Ski Touring

Southern Chilcotin Ski Trip - Eldorado Basin - April 2012

Southern Chilcotin Ski Trip - Eldorado Basin - April 2012

Four of us headed up past Whistler in Jordon's Prius. We traveled the Duffy Lake Rd in the dark and stopped for the night at Lillouet. The next morning we headed west along Carpenter Lake, turning off toward Tyaughton Lake about 15km before Gold Bridge. We stopped off at Tyax Lodge, home of TLH HeliSkiing, to pick up a cabin key, then parked the car at the south end of lake.

Skis and packs on, we started our way skinning up the Chilcotin High Trail. A mish-mash of fresh logging confused us a bit at the start, but a quick cut through a log slash, and we were on track. The trail headed west for a short way, before quickly climbing 800m along side a creek. Just before we gained the east-west ridge above Taylor meadows, we left the High Trail at a Heli pick-up point, and traversed west through trees into the alpine. A short climb over a ridge, and we were able to drop down into the Eldorado Basin to our home for the next few days, the Eldorado Cabin.

The Eldorado Cabin is a true luxury for backcountry dirt bags. It's equipped with a gas stove and oven, gas lighting, a huge pot belly, sleeping mats, and a fully equipped kitchen. It's even got a wood fired sauna a few yards away. All we had to bring in was our sleeping bags, clothes and food. We fired up the sauna while we made dinner, then kicked back, throwing a bit of water on the hot rocks whenever the sweat threatened to dry.

The next morning we woke to blue bird skies, and more powder than even a serious hound could sink its teeth into. None of us had skied in the region before, so we set out SW of the cabin to explore. We climbed up a to a pass, then headed up to some kind of a tower to check out the view. Not sure what that thing was , could have been a telecom tower, or a weather station, but it looked like we'd just landed in our weird-ass green pointy spaceship on powder land, and we were coming out to play. After convincing Sandy that it wasn't wise to drop off a cornice onto a 60 degree slope as our first run, we settled on a cruiser back the way we'd come. We'd dug an avi pit earlier, and things seemed pretty stable on those fluffy north faces, but better to play it at least a little safe.

From there we put up a new skin track up to a steeper little saddle. Sandy dropped a 20 foot cliff on the way down, the rest of us took the more sane line down. We then headed for the top of some unnamed 2220m peak. The skin up was along a section of beautiful exposed ridge line that made us feel a lot more hard core than it probably looked. Once again, Sandy opted for a steep line from the summit, while the rest of us skied a face off the shoulder. The snow was effortless, and Leigha hooted her way the whole way down. We made our way back to the cabin in time for cocktail hour, cranked up the sauna, and settled in for another evening of good food, great company and incredibly witty banter.

Our second day of exploring we headed up towards Camel Pass. A bit of woomfing on a west facing slope on the way us had us scurrying back onto the ridges, but we decided it was probably just a very thin freeze crust settling, and everything stayed in place. From Camel Pass we dropped down halfway to Taylor Meadows before climbing back up an open shoulder of Taylor Peak to gain the summit. The northern face of Taylor rolled over below us, and we couldn't see if it simply steepened, or dropped off a cornice or to cliffs, so we skied a little down the north ridge before dropping onto the face. Looking back up it was clearly convex, but completely skiable. The face turned into a powder filled gully, so we stayed above this and skied the glades down to Taylor Creek. From here we had plans to ski all sorts of lines, but the ski back up Taylor Creek to the pass was a little longer than we'd imagined. Taylor Cabin and the old Eldorado Mine head must have been well buried, because we saw no sign of them as we skied past. We dropped back down into Eldorado Basin on a thick breakable and not very friendly crust, and were all feeling well worked by the time we reached the cabin.

The final day we skinned backup up the tracks we'd laid the day before, then traversed below Taylor Ridge back down to the Chilcotin High trail. Riders had brought a pack of horsed up the trail the day before making the ski down a little more interesting. Can't say I've ever had to snow plow through horse S*@! before. The spring weather had melted out the lower section of the trail, so we shipped our skis and boot packed the final way to the car.

Photos and maps for the trip can be found here.

Mt.Baker Ski Mountaineering Trip - Heliotrope Ridge and Coleman Glacier - June 2011

Mt.Baker Ski Mountaineering Trip - Heliotrope Ridge and Coleman Glacier - June 2011

Dave and I loaded his truck, caught the first ferry from Vancouver Island, and drove down to Washington State. There was a one day weather window tomorrow morning, and we planned to spend it on the top of Mt. Baker.

We drove through the small mountain town of Glacier, stopping in at the Park Ranger Station there to post a trip plan, and hear what the Park Rangers had to say about local conditions on the mountain. All seemed pretty good. The road was clear to within a mile of the Heliotrope Ridge trail head. It had been a bumper snow year this winter, so the crevasses were still pretty well filled in. There had been a huge avalanche run pretty much the full length of Grouse Creek, taking out the new footbridge at the trail head, but this provided for plenty of spring snow for us to climb up the valley. This made for minimal bush-wacking.

Skinning up Grouse Creek to the start of the ridge was quite the slog. Between the mist and the rain, saturated snow, and heavy packs, we were both very happy to gain the ridge. There were a few tents set up on the north side of the start of the ridge, and a mixed group of skiers, snow-shoers and climbers practicing ice-axe arrests and crevasse rescue techniques in the gully north of the camp.

From this camp we followed Heliotrope Ridge, with more traversing than climbing, to get to Ridge Camp. We set up our tent and dug a snow kitchen. There are spectacular views from here looking south through a key hole slot in the rocky ridge across the Thunder Glacier to Lincoln Peak and the Black Buttes. We cooked up some dinner as the sun went down below us, and hit the hay early.

Up at 2am! Cooked up a quick brew and breakfast, geared and roped up, and started up the ridge. The drop down to Alt Camp was a little interesting. Skiing on bullet proof ice while roped up will never feel particularly natural to me. It was still a little dark, and we couldn't see exactly what was below us, so we skirted the slopes to a key hole in the ridge above Alt Camp, before traversing around to the slopes just east of the camp. There was quite the little tent village in the Alt Camp hollow, and head lamps were just starting to emerge.

From Alt Camp, it's a series of steep ramps leading to benches, one after the other. We stayed a fair way climber's-left of Heliotrope Ridge. There had been a number of small wet avalanches the day before coming off the ridge, and there were still plenty of slumped over cornices above us. They were probably OK for now, but who knows what would happen when the sun hit the ridge.

Reaching the the top of Heliotrope Ridge and looking down over the Easton Glacier was a great place for a break. We could see teams of climbers navigating the well crevassed glacier on their way up. It's amazing how much more open the slots were on that side. I guess Heliotrope Ridge protects the Coleman Glacier from the worst of the sun, whereas the Easton Glacier is sun kissed almost from sun up until sun down.

The Roman Headwall is always a lot steeper than you'd think it would be, especially on tired legs. I cramponned up as fast as I could. There were a few climbers skinning up, but this looked like the hard way to do it, and I soon left them behind. There were a surprising number of people without skis or crampons, which seemed a little foolhardy. They didn't look like they were having much fun of it on the way up, and I hate to think how they went on the way back down - not to be recommended!

A quick crossing of the summit plateau got me to the Mt Baker summit. It's always a little disappointing how small the summit cone is. It would be a lot more spectacular if it were immediately above the Roman Wall, instead of on the far side of such a large flat area.

The ski back down to camp was fantastic. There was about three inches of soft "hero snow" on top of a firm base, and the skiing was effortless. We passed numerous avalanches that had slid while we had been still climbing in the morning. There had also been an impressive serac fall from Baker's north ridge during the morning, and we didn't need much persuasion to keep the speed up. We quickly broke camp, had a quick coffee and some food, and headed back down Grouse Creek through increasingly wetter snow. Legs tired, but happy to have made it back, we heading back down the mountain roads, back to Vancouver, and caught the last ferry back to the island.

Photos and maps for the trip can be found here.

Skiing the Joffre Group and Climbing Mt Matier - March 2010

Skiing the Joffre Group and Climbing Mt Matier - March 2010

Rowan, Chris and I took the ferry across to the mainland, and drove up past Whistler and Pemberton to a high point on the Duffy Lake Road. After walking down to Cayoosh Creek, we put our skis on and inched across the new snow covered log bridge. The trail climbed gently along the edge of Cerise Creek, through forest, log cuts and alpine meadows until the land opened to the spectacular alpine views of the Joffre Group. Skirting the moraine wall of the Anniversary Glacier, we climbed up to a small lake and the Keith Flavelle Hut. After a couple of runs off the NE ridge of Mt Joffre, we cooked up a meal and got some shut-eye.

A Nelson couple, Anita and Jason, planned to climb Mount Matier, and we'd decided to tag along. Conditions were perfect, clear sky, stable snow pack, no wind, so we all skinned up towards Joffre, and moved up to the Joffre-Matier Col on the Anniversary Glacier. We were able to skin up to a small saddle high on Matier's NE ridge. We moved onto the northern face, then packed our skis and proceeded to kick steps to the summit ridge. Skirting a thin line between the cornice on our left, and the steep drop to our right, we all attained the summit.

Jason had plans to ski descend the broad western face of Matier, but to do this we had to somehow get down a step or two to the southern ridge. With careful probing, some excellent route finding, and a degree of brave down climbing on questionable and exposed snow, he found an achievable route. We all followed tentatively, each having to boot their own near-vertical ladder down the hoar frosted rocky arrĂȘte to a narrow ridge that led to easier ground. From there we skied one at a time down the 1100 powder filled vertical foot of the western face. Ski traversing back to the Anniversary Glacier, we descended the mellower slopes back to the cabin.

The final day, the three of us climbed to the second and third col of Vantage Mountain's western ridge. Run after run of buttery untracked powder kept smiles on our faces well after we headed back to the cabin. An additional quick run behind the cabin before dinner earned me a solid night's sleep. The cabin had filled during the day, with 25 friendly skiers and all their gear leaving little space to move.

Sunday morning, after a leisurely two coffee breakfast, we took the luge track of a trail back down to the car, and after a couple of drinks at the pub, loaded ourselves back on the ferry to Vancouver Island.

Photos and maps for the trip can be found here.

Wapta Icefields Ski Traverse - The Rockies - March 2009

Wapta ski Traverse

Shannon, Trevor and I set off in mid March for a 5 day, 4 hut traverse of the Wapta Icefields in the Alberta and B.C.'s Waputik Range in the Central Rockies. We headed into the mountains at Peyto Lake near the top of the Icefields Parkway in the Rockies, climbing to Peyto Hut via the Peyto Glacier. From there we climbed over a rise to drop down to the popular Bow Hut. After passing between St.Nicholas Peak and Mount Olive we ploughed our way down the Vulture Glacier to Balfour Hut. Balfour Pass then provided some challenges before we skied down the Waputik Glacier to Duncan Scott Hut in near white out conditions. Finally, we headed down the Niles Glacier Past Mt.Niles into the Sherbrooke drainage to a car we'd dropped on Hwy 1 just west of Lake Louise.

Difficult conditions made for arduous travel, with deep snow, strong winds and poor visibility for most of the trip. Route finding was tricky when the light was good, and "interesting" when your ski pole disappeared into the blizzard and fog. None-the-less, each night saw us safely ensconced in warm dry cabins. We met plenty of interesting people on the trip, many with helpful pointers for the route ahead. Balfour Pass, Mt.Niles and the steep trees above Sherbrooke Creek put our skills to the test. The beers back at Lake Louise Alpine Hostel were well deserved.

Photos and maps for the trip can be found here.

Trevor's report on the trip can be found here:
http://trevorhelwig.blogspot.com/2009/03/wapta-traverse-march-2009.html

Fairy Meadows Ski Trip - Adamant Range, Selkirks - February 2009

Wapta ski Traverse

Ten of us from Vancouver drove out to Golden, BC, a little west of The Rockies, to catch a Helicopter into a "luxury" Alpine Club of Canada Cabin in Fairy Meadows, a high alpine meadow in the Selkirks surrounded by the Granite and Gothics Glacier. This area is a powder paradise, stretching north and south as far as your skis could take you.

Typical Selkirks/Rockies flat light and fog forced us to ski the deep powder in the trees for most of the trip. We managed to venture up into higher terrain, one day boot packing up to Friendship Col to the Gargoyles Glacier, between Mounts Pythius and Damon at the top of the Echo Glacier. Another day we roped up and ventured out onto the Granite Glacier, up towards Pioneer Col. Pioneer Col had a huge bergschrund and overhanging seracs making access to the pass a little more technical than we'd planned for the day, so we instead headed over the NE ridge of Mt.Colossal to a keyhole pass just south of Enterprise Peak.

Each night we headed back to the cabin, where a fire had been started in the wet sauna, and cooked up a voluminous gourmet multi course meal. There are some definite advantages to helicopter travel and cabins in the winter.

Photos and maps for the trip can be found here.

Cerise Creek - October 9, 2008

Jason, Sam and I headed up for an early season ski trip to Cerise Creek to ski the NE snow patch off Joffre. It was the start of October, I know, but there'd been a big storm front come through, and we were pretty sure the summer snow patch off Mt Joffre was going to have something skiable on it.

We parked the car on the Duffy Lake Road, and hiked up towards the summer route halfway up the steep eastern slopes of Mount Chief Pascall. The road bridge had just been taken out, but some local had dragged one of the old support logs from the bridge to create a slippery log walk across the steep river. They'd also put in a slack line to give something to hold onto. Even so, it was still a tricky walk. (on an aside, someone complained publicly about how slippery this log was, forcing the logging company to come back in and remove the log. Now there's no way across. Some people, eh!)

We post holed our way up to the cabin, Sam and Jason taking an "alternate" route on the far side of the avalanche boulder field, making it safely to the cabin. We were pretty amazed at the quality of the snow coverage after just a single dump. The next day we skinned up the NE ridge along side the Anniversary Glacier above the cabin. The skiing was truly amazing, and considering the time of year, much more than to be expected! A couple of days of awesome skiing on untracked powder, and we post holed our way back to the car for the drive back to Vancouver.

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