April 28, 2011

Skiing the South Face of Cascade Banff

Gery U and Mr. McGee skiing up to the Commonwealth Chute in K-Country.
Got out for a few fun ski adventures in and around the Bow Valley this week. On Sunday, Gery and I had the pleasure of introducing Craig McGee - of Whistler fame, you've probably heard of him - to the joys of K-Country skiing. We decided to bail on our first idea, the SE Face of Nestor, and went to check out the cool looking Commonwealth Chute.
The Commonwealth Chute as seen from below The Fist.
Hmm... how are we gonna get around that? I know, we'll send Gery up it!
Sadly, not even Gery could surmount the short, steep step.
But it wasn't for a lack of effort.
We decided to ski down and climb the mountain via the standard route. We figured that this would be cool if for no other reason than because it may be the only peak in Western Canada that Raphael Slawinski has not climbed. Plus, it would give us a good look at the upper half of the chute.
Heading up the super technical summit slopes of Commonwealth.
On the top of Commonwealth at around 2900 meters. The French - Haig - Robertson Traverse is in the background. The Commonwealth Chute had a very inviting entrance right off the summit and would require at least one rap - maybe two. I think it would be a fun day out.
We skied away from Commonwealth and headed north towards the Fist. Gery had a cool looking, north-facing shot in mind that would take us down near the Tryst Chutes. It required a tight entrance underneath a baby cornice.
We bootpacked in one at a time then spent ten minutes each putting on our skis. Or maybe that was just me who took so long.
Briggs 1 + 2 below the south face of Cascade Mountain. This is the cool face that overhangs Banff and I've heard the line referred to as the Post Card. Like so many things in life, it looked much better than it was! Don't get me wrong, with good corn conditions this would rank as one of the epic 1400 meter runs in the Rockies. But we didn't find corn or anything even close. Instead, the entire run resembled 40 degree cobble stones. Still a good summit and a cool way to spend the day after just finding out that I'd become IFMGA Certified.
Briggs #1 on the way up with Mt. Rundle in the background.
Mt. Rundle.
Briggs not overly impressed with the perceived ski quality.
But like a trooper he carried on. We made a pact not to take a single photo of us skiing down for fear that it could ruin our reputations as people who know how to ski.
Briggs 1 and 2.

April 23, 2011

Skiing The Mount Patterson Couloir

Just another schuli free-heeler. Gery U Photo.

Spent another awesome spring morning skiing on the Icefields Parkway yesterday with Gery U, Ryan C and Fraser S. We left Canmore at the ungodly hour of 4:30 am in order to avoid the heat on the SE Facing Mt. Patterson Couloir. At least that's how we verbalized it the night before. As we all know, the true driving force behind every early morning wake up is not necessarily safety, but the overpowering drive to be sitting on a patio by 1 pm, intoxicated, and spraying loudly about the morning's adventure.

The obvious line splitting Mt. Patterson: 11oo+ meters of skinning and bootpacking above the Icefields Parkway. We left the car at about 6:30 am and were standing on top four hours later.

Early morning light on the couloir.

Ryan, Gery and Fraser on the way up.

Gery coming up the final section before the summit ridge. I was a little nervous at this point and wanted another opinion on the slope and the stability. "What are your main concerns?" Gery asked when he arrived at my stance. "Uggghhhh, facets, rocks, shallow terrain..." I answered. But I was not being entirely truthful. What I should have said was that my real concern was being wrong about stability and dying.

Gery continuing after the chat.

Walking the ridge below the summit of Patterson.

-12 on top. Brrrrrr.

Gery dropping in on the start of the couloir. We had another good exchange moments before he started skiing, when I asked him if he was worried about a buried suncrust. "Ya! Of course I'm worried!" he laughed as he took off down the slope as though it were a groomed super-g course.

Gery's split time at this point in the race was 4 seconds ahead of the 2 number racer.

Getting in to the main body of the line.

I used the photoshop 'powder-correction' tool to make the skiing look really good.

I used the powder-correction tool on this shot too.

Gery used the powder-correction tool as well as the 'telemark-correction' tool for this shot. This is a great feature that automatically turns a telemark turn in to a proper alpine turn. Gery U Photo.

Almost looks like corn skiing.

April 20, 2011

Skiing The Chester Lake Couloir

Half way down the 800 meter Chester Lake Couloir. Gery Unterasinger Photo

About one year back, I tried to ski the Chester Lake Couloir with Ryan C and Ross M. We got to within 200 meters of the top before turning around. Two days ago, I went back to this beautiful K-Country line with Gery U. It was my first time skiing in the area this winter and I didn't have too many expectations one way or another. The couloir is a short drive from Canmore and the minimal approach was perfect for a lazy Monday morning session.

Funny how things often turn out when you're not expecting much.

The Chester Lake Couloir is the obvious lookers' right-most line tucked up against the rocks. The shot was taken after we skied it and you can see Gery skiing down just below the sun-shadow line. The line immediately lookers' left would have been awesome too, but the big cliff at the bottom kept us away. In a big snow year like this, it would not be too hard to traverse back to the main line near the bottom and avoid the big drop.

800 meters of boot-packing above Chester Lake.

A perfect bench about half-way up.

The snow got better and better as we climbed higher.

Nearing the top of the couloir.

I forgot the memory stick for my camera so I got to play ski-model for the descent. Not even Gery's photographic prowess could make me look like a good skier. Gery U Photo.

This was my first run on a new pair of Scarpa T2 Eco's and I really liked them. Super similar to the T2X which I've been using for years. I also used a newer pair of BD Drift which are super light and a ton of fun to ski. Gery U photo.

Face shot country. Gery U Photo.

April 16, 2011

2011 ACMG Ski Exam

Ross B on the Crescent Traverse.

After seven days of ski touring in the Rockies and the Bugaboos, The 2011 ACMG Ski Exam is over. The time went so fast that if I didn't have a sore back, a depleted bank account and a handful of photos, I might think it was all a dream.

It's hard to imagine a more perfect ski mountaineering venue than the Bugs. Other than a slow nightlife, the area pretty much has it all: steep descents, exposed ridges, big glaciers, granite towers and dry, dry snow.

As fun as it was, I'm not hoping to repeat the process again next year.

Camped at Applebee in the cold shadow of Snowpatch Spire. The big, orange Space Station gave the place a distinct lunar feel.

I didn't know where I was when this picture was taken and I'm still unsure. I think it's the Rockies but it might be the Bugaboos.

Olivia S guiding Ross B across the Crescent Traverse. This is not a staged photo. Ross actually paid Olivia a great sum to to guide him safely across the exposed ridge.

Ross loves being roped up and dragged around by strong women.

Olivia hard at work under the soulful eyes of Bugaboo, Snowpatch and Pigeon.

GG following Ross to the Bugaboo - Snowpatch Col.

The first leg of the Applebee - Cobalt Lake - Northpost Couloir - Vowell Glacier - Applebee circuit. Brenta Spire looms above.

The sweet sweet Howsers.

Evening light in the Purcells.