May 14, 2014

Skiing the Tower and Spring Ski Lines 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.


A few days later, I came back with Ali and Pino Nico to ski another line on the face. The last time Ali and I skied together was back on the Sickle of Mt Victoria exactly three years ago.


Another perfect day with no wind and 20 cms of new snow. Nico P Photo.


Overlapping ridges to the south. In the distance you can see the upper part of a more popular line.


It always feels good to ski beautiful north facing powder in May. Nico P Photo. 


Nico making The Turn.


A great view of the two lines that Gery took from the opposite side of the drainage. Gery U Photo.


Timy Dutton in Baffin Island.


Timy D straight off the plane in Iqualuit. RIP.

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