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Sunday
May092010

Sir Donald hanging glacier visited

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.