Thursday, 29 November 2012

November Kananaskis Country Ice 2013

November 24-25, Kananaskis

Synopsis: Definitely early season, pretty thin but great just to get back behind the tools!

Geoff, Kim and I headed to Canmore Friday evening.  Meeting friends at the Griz resulted in a few beers, a few games of pool and a late start Saturday morning.

We heard conditions were thin and debated where to try our luck. In the end we settled on the Opal Ridge area in Southern K-Country.  We drove back and forth a couple of times checking the climbs out and the only one we could see definitely in from the road was Solid Cold.  

You can see it high in the gully to Geoff's left, a fair ways in but we needed some exercise.  We left the car about 11:30 without really reading the route description or taking it with us and plunged straight up the gully.  It got pretty entertaining pretty quickly with bush and deep snow with wind slabs.

After a fair bit of thrashing we climbed up to the left to gain the ridge and climbed further on much easier terrain.

We didn't really trust the ridge, or the summer trail, enough to stay on the ridge all the way along so after we came in even with the band of trees on the right we plunged back down.  Ah the joys of climbing and descending frozen scree!

The real heinous part was getting up the last 50 metres to the ice; steep, deep and crusted - a great work out.  Definitely much more like winter mountaineering than ice climbing!  We finally arrived at the ice after 4 hours taken to gain 650 metres.  The ice was great but we had a good laugh at the effort for 20 metres of ice!

It was thin on the bottom and top and pretty funky in between but it felt good to be on the ice.  Once down it was 4:40pm and definitely getting dark, we hammered down in an hour through more fun and games to the best tasting beer I can remember having.

The conditions weren't really the kind to make you consider cutting the night time activities short so we didn't and had an even later start the next day.  We had heard the ice wasn't bad at King Creek further south so headed in.  25 minutes on a packed trail felt pretty luxurious.  It was crowded however we found a nice pitch of soft WI3 to play on.

As I say, great to swing the tools!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Early Season Skiing in Rogers Pass 2012

November 10-11, Asulkan Hut

Synopsis: How do you rate early season pow? Good hut, great friends and enough sun to get into the Alpine. It doesn't get much better!

A group of 6 of us met at the Asulkan parking lot Saturday morning at 9.  I don't think I've ever seen such little snow in the parking lot and was wondering about the conditions, especially given the most snow I had seen on the drive was in Edmonton.

Sure enough, we had to boot pack from the parking lot up to the old road however once there put on the skis and started to skin up. Once we started the climb out of the road things got a little bony with rocks and vegetation showing under the larger trees.  The creek was running and there were lots of vegetation sticking out of the snow pack but hey, you can't complain when it's only 5 below.

Due to the conditions, the tracks pretty much followed the summer trail up to the tree triangle.  I don't think I've ever felt so relaxed climbing up through the mousetrap as the slopes above were certainly not loaded.

However, once we were up in the tree triangle things improved immensely.  Obviously a fair amount of snow had blow in and the rain crust that was evident lower down because less obvious as we started to climb.  It did take us a little over 5 hours to climb the 990 metres to the hut.  Partly due to the bony conditions and partly due to my lack of fitness, however there is no better way to work on it!

Once at the hut we claimed a bunk and headed on out at a little after 3 pm.  Viz was good and the snow soft, we had a great run down the tree triangle.  It was a little tracked from the Vancouver group that had been there a day before but we found some untracked on skiers left.  We were down just before 4 pm and it was definitely starting to get dusk, an hour climb to regain the 375 metres and it was miller time!

The next day dawned cool at -15c but not a whole lot of wind. The sky was pretty clear so we left the hut at 9 am and went up high. Spectacular views and boot top powder, much of it wind slabby. But we found a line down the steps to the skiers right of the pterodactyl and it was boot top hero snow.  We stopped short as crevasses were starting to loom and set a track up.

Once up we noticed that others had set a track up the Young's peak headwall and just as we started up it the Vancouver gang started down.  Stability was good and we climbed Young's peak before starting down the headwall.  

Great turns with a little wind slab from time to time to keep you on your toes.  Afterwards another climb and run down the steps, by this time in the day the sun coming and going and we were a few less than the start of the day.  On the last climb the wind picked up, I actually got the first frost nip of the season on the nose and with it getting later in the day we headed in.  It turned out to be a 1400 metre day, not a bad way to start the season!  

The next morning was a little more socked in with some snow overnight and windy.  Fred and Steve headed out as Fred had a flight to catch to Japan.  We headed down to the toilet bowl for the first run of the day at about 9 am with the Vancouver gang.  They soon left us in the dust, however we got in three runs before heading back to the hut for lunch.  After a great lunch and quick clean up headed down the ski out.  It was a lot better than I expected and we were out in 1:45 hrs with a few nicks in the skis but nothing major.

Thanks to Andrew, Brenda, Nick, Steve and Fred for a fantastic weekend!