May 14, 2014

Skiing The Tower in K-Country

Gery U sent me this photo of The Tower late one night in hopes that it would motivate me to go skiing early the next morning. It worked! On day one, Gery and I did the main line that is looker's left (and mostly obscured) of the central buttress. When I returned a few days later, we skied a line looker's right of the buttress. Gery U Photo.

Just outside of Canmore lies one of the great, backyard, steep-skiing venues of North America. The approaches are typically short, the lines are aesthetic, and the crowds are often elsewhere. The only problem is that you have to be motivated to go skiing in May! If you try to go before the Spring snowpack is well set-up, things might not end well. But if the stoke is high and the timing right, steep skiing in Kananaskis is as good as it gets.

This season, one of my priorities has been to keep things civilized. In other words, I've been trying to minimize driving time and ridiculously early starts (anything before 4 am), and maximize time on the slope. Following this criteria, the past two outings have been quite successful. 

But the real story for me on this day was the reminder of how important it is to have strong and motivated partners. I've been struggling this spring to push out of my comfort zone and I can attribute this to a few things: 1) last season's mini-wing crash and 2) the recent deaths of some young friends  - specifically Timy Dutton. Timy was a super talented and positive guy who died doing a relatively simple skydive.  Our trip to Baffin Island in 2012 was a highlight for me and it's hard not to think of one's own mortality after something like this happens. So, with these thoughts in my head, I've been content not to push too hard this spring. When Gery and I topped out the face and emerged on the summit ridge, I was more than happy to stop there, pull the skins and ski down. But the wolverine wasn't listening to my whining and pushed on towards the summit. In the end, that motivation was just what I needed.

Gery heading up the endless slope to the summit ridge. Conditions were about as good as they get with boot-top to waist deep snow and minimal sluffing.

A rare sighting of me breaking trail. Gery U Photo.

Going through one of the chokes. Gery U Photo.

Gery on the summit ridge.

A great perch.

Next up is the face in the background! Gery U Photo.

Last time I did this was on the SE Ridge of Mt. Victoria. Gery U Photo.

Gery on the 3000 meter+ summit.

Descending the summit ridge.

Getting ready to ski.

Gery on the upper face.

Skiing the lower half of the 800 meter face.

Not the cheapest day out.

You know the objective is worthy when you have to crane your neck to see the top.

Timy D straight off the plane in Iqualuit. RIP.

May 03, 2014

Skiing The Mt. Bell Couloir

Gery U having no fun on a line skier's right of the Mt. Bell Couloir.

It's been over 2 years since I did a spring ski mission. The last time I got out for something similar was Feb 2012 when we skied Mt Narao during a period of good mid-winter stability. I did go to Baffin Island in May of 2012 and skied The Polar Star Couloir, The Cobra and a few other things, but that was all work related. And then last spring rolled around and the closest I got to any skiing was listening to other people's adventures over beers on the patio. 

So for a re-introduction to the medium, we decided on frying a smallish fish and going for the classic Mt. Bell Couloir. Jason Kruk - the Alpine Artiste - was galavanting through the Rockies in a micro car packed with 2 dogs, skis, paragliders, climbing gear, vegan cooking ware and a sweet girlfriend, and joined Gery U and myself for the outing. Of course, the plan changed slightly when we got to the route and noticed a more engaging line sneaking down from the summit ridge. I was really looking forward to a meat and potatoes first-day-back-in-the-arena, and would have been fine to shred the standard couloir. But the Artiste and Wolverine were feeling froggy and wanted to jump on the more obscure terrain. Of course, knowing the ridicule associated with opting out, I chose to follow my friends. 

Only a fool would not go skiing with this forecast! Then again, it's been a funny year in the Rockies with size 3.5 avalanches pulling out when hazard was 3 x low... 

Approaching the Couloir above Taylor Lake. We went up the big line and down the smaller line just looker's left of center. Jason Kruk Photo.

The Spirit Bear pauses to communicate with the mountain. Our descent line is more obvious in this shot, looker's left of the main goulotte.

Following Jason is not easy! Gery U Photo.

Gery looking for the hamster that escaped his house last year.

The Alpine Artiste chose an excellent jacket for photos.

Union break with a view. Mt. Stanley North Face in the distance. Gery U Photo.

Descending from the summit. How many people would be in this shot if we were in Europe? Gery U Photo.

Jason took a fair-means descent of an alternative couloir.

Gery going in from the ridge. Jason Kruk Photo.

The goulotte widens up in the middle before pinching down at the end.

Rolling on the throttle!

Jason on his line of fair- means. Gery U Photo.

During the ascent. Gery U Photo.