I headed out early this morning to try and add some more summits to my list. Part of this challenge is to try and ski 2 million feet but also try and climb and ski off 100 summits. I was at 33 till today. I honestly did not know what I was going to do.
Getting to the pass by 6:15am I decided I would head up to Mt-Abbott, a peak that is generally closed due to snow studies. Pretty wild ridge led me to the summit by 9:30, I then leaned forward and watched my new Iphone slide out of my pocket and down 600 ft. Luckily it seems to be working, but the phone is acting a little funny.
Up Mt-Afton, down its west side into the lilly and then up Swanzy before it got too hot. Summit of Swanzy, down and up Clarke, back down creamy corn skiing and then around and up the south side of Mt-Bonney.
Summit of Bonney by 3 and then down the south east and back up Swanzy. Down through some warm isothermal snow back up to the top of the Dome and home.
The look of someone who has just hiked 13 500 ft.
Since Jan 1 2010: 38 summits climbed with 797,085 feet so far.
15 years ago I walked past morraine lake on my way to climb a super cool pillar, on my way there I recall looking up the 3/5 couloir. At the time I was not a ski mountaineer and did not think about skiing it. I did enjoy the beauty of the zone but had no idea of the ski potential of this area. Last fall, Tracey and I came here to celebrate our first year of marriage, at this point I did look up and wish to explore higher up the couloir and around the mountain tops.
The area is so beautiful that it was on our Twenty dollar bill in the 80's.
Anyhow yesterday was the day that I finally explored the mountains surrounding the lake. At 1:50 am I awoke and I was driving by 2:07. I met up with the golden crew, Jon Walsh, Isaac Kaminsk and Mark Hartley. From there we drove to Lake Louise and up to Morraine Lake. By 5 am my time, or 6 am mountain time we were off.
The couloir is huge over 3300ft or 1000m from the fan to the top. We all skinned and booted quickly knowing that we had a huge day ahead for ourselves. 3 hours later and we were at the top. A quick bite to eat and we skied down and around to the south sides of Quadra and mt-Fay. We booted up a couloir to get onto the north side and then we were looking up this wicked north facing line.
I was pretty psyched to be there so I led the charge up the couloir, up and up I booted till finally I passed of the lead to Jon, he swam his way up to the sub summit. We followed and each of us progressively exposed more blue ice under the snow. The glacier was not far below the snow, 50 cm of snow lay on it. Standing on the peak we were all pretty excited to ski, it was a beautiful line and had lots of nice may powder on it. We shredded down, watching out for our sloughs; as the snow was moving quickly and would easily knock you off your feet. Great run, and then we toured back around to the south side of Mt-Fay. We skinned a little and then ended up boot packing to the summit, right up the south face. Summit of Fay was great and we heaed to the top of the north line. I knew a friend of mine had just been there so I was suprised to see that they had not skied it from the top. We wondered why, but we rappeled in and clicked into our skis. Isaac skied first and soon enough he understood why they had not skied. The glacial ice was much closer to the surface and Isaac side slipped a lot of the snow off, I followed and removed what was left and then left Jon and Mark above the blue. They deemed it "unskiable" and set up an achor and rappeled down. We all enjoyed the line and skied over to the hut.
A nice break in the CAC hut and then we skied the 3/5 couloir. Wicked steep powder turns for the first 1000, runneled hard turns for the next 1000 ft and then spring corn for the last thousand. So great to finally visit this area.
You can't quite see the Mt-Fay line in this photo, it is hidden behind that mountain. Awesome adventure. We skinned 2200 feet and boot packed 5600 feet.
My Brother ,Adrian, is a country music video producer and is in the process of making a Christmas special. Part of the special is that the singers get to do winteresque things and one of the activities is backcountry skiing. Adrian asked me if I would not mind starring in his show and of course I said I would help out. So I found myself at Sunshine "guiding" these singers. It was pretty fun and a good break from my ordinary days.
Since I was in the Rockies I did a great day tour and had some really good spring skiing. Aaron met me at West Louise and we headed up towards Popes Peak; an area neither of us had ever visited.
We had dreams of going up the couloir on the right but lots of sun had the upper slopes warming up and we headed up climbers left and ended up skiing beside our friends tracks. Cody and Isaac had been out here three days ago and we ended up repeating exactly what they had done. Two great runs up high and then we started heading out. Then instead we deemed the couloir worth trying and started skinning up towards it. As we got closer it was obvious that the slopes had sloughed enough times down the couloir and the snow was terrible. So we pulled skins and headed out. Super cool zone directly off the highway and one I had never explored. Exploration and good spring powder= no complaints.
Sir Donald is one of the most impressive mountains in the Selkirks, it's matterhorn shape and its height make it stand out. It boast one of NA best alpine routes and is a beacon to many. To us skiers, the hanging glacier on its east side screams out to be skied. There was also potential of a SE couloir that could bring a ski mountaineer really close to the summit, but no one I knew had been around and sussed it out. We decided that it was time for a recon.
Troy Jungen, Aaron C, Jaime and myself headed in on Friday to explore the other side of Sir Donald. Huge bags and lots of climbing gear made progress slow but regardless we set up camp on the East side of Sir Donald at around 6500ft. Thinking that our best option was going to be the SE couloir I toured out and checked out the potential. Getting up into the basin, all I could feel was the overhanging seracs that choked the end of the valley. I looked for a way around it but found none. So we set our sights on the hanging East face of Sir Donald.
photo by Paul wright @ http://wrightmoment.com/
We woke up at 4:30 and we were touring by 6. The first bit was great, working up through seracs and crevasses we skinned and booted up the fan and we were in the couloir by 730. Up and up we booted till we reached the first impasse. A 10 m crack that looked simple enough, luckily Troy was keen. He got geared up and worked his way up the cliff.
It took awhile with all the snow he had to clean off and the challenge of pulling over the bulge. But soon enough he had a great anchor in and was belaying me up. The climb went well, easy when you are following vs leading the pitch, and I immediately started hauling the bags/skis up. Once all four bags were up the other followed and we all got up to Troy's anchor. The next section looked easy enough and Aaron led up to it, but the 25 foot snow pitch turned out to be rock covered with rotten snow. As Aaron was cleaning the pitch he found a cave behind the snow. Immediately he and I were both in there; feeling completely safe for the first time in awhile. The cave was covered in water crystals, crystals that had grown out of the air, covered with them. It was super cool, one of the most interesting places I have ever hung out.
Jaime led up to us and decided that he would undertake the challenge of pulling over this last hurdle before the hanging snowfield. He found a great crack and started cleaning all the snow off it and climbing it. Super excruciating work, he diligently worked his way upwards, for two hours he made his way higher up the pitch and finally had a solid anchor set up.
For the two hours Jaime led the pitch Aaron and I walked in place and made hot tea with the jet boil. It was frigid but safe so we made the best of it. With the anchor in place, Troy, Aaron, and I climbed up the rope and made it onto the snowfield. The pitch was amazing, this steep snowfield hanging over huge cliffs. I followed Aaron's boot pack up, the pitch was super steep,50*, scary steep but the snow was soft and it looked like the skiing was going to be epic. It was already 7pm, somehow the challenges of the day had taken quite awhile so although we were on the hanging glacier we stopped were we were and skied down. The turns were steep and sloughing and very exposed. But so fun to finally be skiing up here on Sir Donald. We made it to the anchor and rappelled down the two pitchs and skied the rest of the couloir back to camp.
Wow, what a day and what a line. I may have to return to finish it off one day, but I learned so much about Sir Donald that I am super psyched on what we got up to. My most aggressive ski mountaineering adventure yet.