May 18, 2011

Skiing Mt. Joffre - Kananaskis Country


Steve and Rafael working up towards K-Country's Mt. Joffre.

I've heard it said that true wisdom can be be defined as knowing without having to experience. Of course, being typical action-oriented Westerners, most of us place doing and experience above all else. This paradigm is great for getting stuff done, but sometimes you gotta wonder...

Take yesterday for example. Steve H, Raphael S and I decided it would be cool to ski Mt. Joffre in a day. Gery was gonna join in on the fun but had to bail at the last minute. In hindsight, Gery's unanticipated issue ended up being like having a car break down on the way to the airport and missing a flight that ends up crashing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows.

We embarked on the 28 km, 1700 meter (classic slog ratio) endeavor at 4:30 am and didn't get back until about 6 pm that evening. The weather was in and out for most of the day making for some atmospheric photos and careful skiing off the summit.

Oh well, a fun day out and good training for those long spring missions.


One of many rests on the way up.


Good times.


Classic handrail on the way up Joffre's North Face.


The weather opened up for some of the climb.


Steve's IPOD was set on the Motivational Playlist that included the following phrase repeated over and over: "You can never quit. Winners never quit, and quitters never win.
It seemed to work well.


The last clearing for a while.


Raf looking for the summit. "Here summit... here boy."


We were afraid of falling off the mountain so we roped up with 20+ meters of cordalette. This was a classic case of everyone thinking that someone else had the real rope.


Really happy to have made the top.


The brutal reality of the long trip back to the car.


Cool lines on the way to Aster Lake.


The end.

May 14, 2011

Return to the NE Face of Mt. Victoria


The Berglar on top of the South Summit of Mt. Victoria. True to his name, the Berglar crept in to town and snaked a classic ski line that takes most of us numerous attempts.

After trying to ski this line twice in as many years, fate was kind yesterday and allowed Gery, Ross and I to climb and ski the NE Face of Victoria. The face itself was in perfect condition with firm, boot-top steps on the way up and semi-soft, consistent and predictable turns on the way down. I'd say that this was one of the more engaging descents of the season.

We left the car at 3:30 and fought our way through the drunken revelers who were milling about the lake. They asked us where we were going and we told them that we were looking for the Lake Louise Ski Area. They laughed at us, called us names, and told us that the ski area was on the other side of the valley. We thanked them for their input and made our way across an eerily
wet and unfrozen lake.

Instead of just following the valley until below the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, we made the brutal mistake of taking the hikers trail and traversing huge debris piles for what felt like hours. Despite the light freeze, conditions improved as we climbed. At 9am, we crested the ridge and emerged on to the summit under a perfectly blue sky. A light wind was blowing and we spent thirty minutes hanging out on top and taking in one of the best mountain landscapes on the planet.

Eventually the cool temps forced us to move and Ross volunteered to make the first turns down the steep, exposed face. Or maybe we volunteered Ross to make the first turns - I can't remember. Unlike the Sickle line on Victoria, the NE Face is a big, bulging prow / rib feature that doesn't let up until you are back on the flat glacier below.

After numerous hi-fives, fist-bumps and ogling of our tracks on the face, we were treated to a perfect creamy corn run back to the lake.


The Sickle is located on the lookers left side of the peak and the NE Face comes down from the highest point on the lookers right.


Gery and Ross on the way up. The West Face of Lefroy is in the background.


Skiing up below the face.


Still approaching the face.


Gery crossing the schrund which was easy to get across but really deep.


Gery punching up the lower face.


Still on the lower face after passing through a steep, shallow section.


You mean you want me to break trail???


Heading up the middle part of the route.


The upper face. This was Gery's view for most of the climb since Ross and I struggled to keep up. Gery U Photo.


Gery on the summit with Hungabee, Neptuak and Deltaform showing prominently in the background.


The Coasty.


Getting ready to start down.


Ross hop-turning it up!


Shadowy jaws on the glacier below.


Coming down the middle part of the face. I had to steal some of Gery's skiing shots since I didn't have the wherewithal to grab my camera on the way down. Gery U Photo.


Rossta on the lower slopes. Gery U Photo.


The first time I tried the face, I brought my tele gear and ended up boot-packing down. I opted for the fixed heels / skiing option on this attempt. Gery U Photo.


Nice snow on the lower face. Lefroy in the background. Gery U Photo.


Too bad there wasn't a patio right here so we could sit around and point at our tracks.


Done like dinner.

May 10, 2011

Skiing the Sickle - Mt. Victoria



The Chief making his return to the Rockies on the summit ridge of Victoria.

It's hard to imagine a better day in the mountains than what Ali and I just experienced. Our goal was the Sickle on Mt. Victoria - a line we tried and failed on last July and swore never to return to unless we could ski the entire way up and down from Lake Louise.

After a painfully early start from Canmore, we left the Lake Louise parking area at just past 3am and skated across the lake. Travel conditions were firm and fast and we were soon at the mouth of the Death Trap. We hustled through this section and didn't take a break until we were at the exposed ramp leading out right to the base of the route. On the way up, I took a good look at the huge cliffs we would be traversing above, and struggled to come up with a positive mental strategy to deal with the hazard. Of course, nothing I tried made me feel any better about launching in to space, and despite the good travel conditions, I found myself gripped for most of the traverse.

The rest of the climb was straight forward and mellow compared to the entrance. The last pitch to the summit probably touched around 55 degrees but the snow was perfect and had us stoked for the ride down.


Looking over at Victoria from the slopes of Mt. Lefroy last July.


Getting ready to start the traverse over the cliffs in the background.


This is a photo of Eammon and I retreating from the traverse last year. For a good and scary account of getting avalanched on this feature, check out chris b's story . Ali Haeri Photo.


Still traversing.


It was a big relief to be done with the traverse and heading straight for the summit chains.


Compared to the NE Face of the South Summit, the Sickle looks small. But once you're on it, it seems to go on forever.


Still going...


The steepest section comes just below the top.


Almost there... Ali Haeri Photo.


Boom! Ali on the summit ridge at around 3300 meters.


The snow had just started to soften up and made for pretty good skiing.


Ali changed outfits for this photo. Ali Haeri Photo.


The middle part of the face.


Ali really stepped on the gas once he started thinking about coffee in Lake Louise.


The ski out was awesome and the traverse above the cliffs felt mellow on the way down. We were also treated to perfect corn skiing from the Death Trap all the way to the lake.