Friday, 29 March 2013

Good Luck & Bad Dreams 2013

Sunday March 24th, 2013 Good Luck & Bad Dreams WI4, David Thompson Country

Synopsis: 4 stars out of 5, a great pitch of ice up top and if the column low down is in it would be fantastic!

Geoff and I got spanked the day before on Elliot Left Hand, the deep snow took us 2 hours for the approach and after climbing the first fun pitch realised that there was a lot of new snow higher up and it had avalanched in a previous cycle and covered the chains. We spent quite a bit of time digging, managed to get wet feet and struggled on the descent.

Our goal for day two was to find something with a trail into it and spend more time climbing. We heard that two parties were on Good Luck & Bad Dreams the day before, one bypassed the initial curtain and one climbed through so we thought we'd give it a try.

Given we had a bit of a party the night before at Shunda Creek Hostel the day didn't start too early and we left the climbers parking lot just before 11. Sure enough there was a beaten path in and we were standing below the curtain in a little under an hour.

The day started out -10C but there wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was definitely getting warmer. I checked out the pillar and thought it looked a little spooky, especially given it was in full on sun and detached from pretty high up. We checked out routes around this bit and settled on following Eric and Craig's trail up and to the left from the day before.

Once up in the trees it got a little sketchy with some consequences so we put on the crampons and pulled out the tools. After that it was fine and we were soon standing below the upper pitch.

Just a beautiful place to be on a blue bird day with fresh snow and great views in all directions.

The top pitch of ice was excellent, given the fiddle farting it was 1:15 pm by the time I set off and we were out of the sun. The ice wasn't plastic but it was pretty close. I was happy with the lead and focused on staying relaxed, keeping the heels down and enjoying the climbing!

Once at the top there were two fresh abalakov's already in place and Geoff gave it a crack. Rapping off was a pretty quick affair as there were bolts and rap rings set up at the bottom of this pitch.

From that anchor 60 metre ropes were just tickling the snow at the bottom so we were out in two raps.

All in all a pretty short day, we were just under 5 hours car to car. As mentioned, the top pitch was stellar and if the curtain was in it would make for an excellent day!

French/Haig/Robertson 2013

Saturday March 16th, 2013 French/Haig/Robertson Circuit

Synopsis: 3.5 stars out of 5, a great day out traversing 3 glaciers with the potential for a great ski out.

David was good enough to make room in an Edmonton ACC section trip for me and we all met at Beamer's in Canmore early on. Having said that the avalanche hazard was upside down with high, considerable, considerable something I hadn't seen before. The high below treeline and notes talking about isothermic slides didn't seem to jive with a weather forecast calling for -8 early morning however sunny and a high of +3 did cause concern. I was pretty convinced we weren't going anywhere and didn't even bring a camera, thanks to David and Paul for the photo's.

After some discussion at Beamer's in Canmore  we agreed to head to the parking lot up spray lakes road for a look, given the options in the area. En route the snow banks grew larger as we approached and the temperature stayed just below zero with heavy overcast.

All 8 of us left the cars at 9:15 am and gingerly made our way towards the French glacier. Everything was stuck together pretty solid with a hard overnight freeze which made for fast travel. The sun made a few brief appearances however it looked like we weren't going to get the solar effect that was called for and we all gradually got more comfortable with the snow pack. The group stopped for a brief snack at 11 am and as we gained elevation one could start to feel the layers of sun crust and the faceted snow beneath but things stayed stuck together. 

We took a moment to don our harnesses before gaining the French glacier itself however given the hard shell didn't bother with a rope. Frank and Marc chose to descend the French col rather than continue on which brought our group down to a more manageable half dozen. The climb up to the col was aided by the tracks from the party in front and as it neared the clouds parted and it made for a neat moment.

We reached the French col at 1:15 pm having gained roughly 800 metres of pretty easy going. However the fun was about to start. We could see the group of 5 ahead of us and caught up as we contoured around on the Haig glacier.

We caught up to the party ahead and passed them as we headed up to the col. Unfortunately about then the visibility was drastically reduced with strong wind and snow. The snow pack got pretty thin around the rocks and we decided to put the skis on the packs and kick steps upwards.

Kevin, David and Paul did most of the trail blazing and eventually the clouds parted enough for us to see we were actually a little to the climbers left and above the col. We all managed to make our way to the Robertson col at 2:15 pm and had a quick snack to celebrate.  The wind was strong enough hanging out wasn't any fun so we went over and down.

The ski quality was a lot better than I expected with the blowing snow.  No real slabs, just a little heavy in spots but nothing at all to complain about.  All 6 of us had great runs down and finally ended up in the flats.

My now it was snowing pretty heavily although still below freezing. From there we basically put our heads down and plowed through for 1 1/2 hours to the parking lot.

All in all a great day out, especially given the low expectations.  It was just over 9 hours and 1150 metres of elevation gain by my watch. Thanks to David, Paul, Kevin, Katharine, Kristina, Marc and Frank for a great day out! Needless to say we convened at the Rose and Crown to celebrate.