I have spent over 25 years in the mountains, and many of them I was blind to the rules I had developed. Luckily I had unconsciously developed them and they ended up keeping me safe… except when I would break them and then if shit went wrong it was obvious that I had not followed them. These 5 rules are super simple, but they are the building blocks of backcountry travel. It all starts here. afterwards there are all sort of terrain tricks and other rules to follow; but for me it all begins with these 5
rules I hope you enjoy em…
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance
an old adage I learned on my first construction job. It makes sense when you apply it to lots of different life experiences.
It is definitely what I have always tried to do with ski lines and mountain tops. Lots of information, guide books, photos, beta from friends….etc…anything to make the day safer and smoother.
After we finished our day on Carnes, Andrew and I wondered what to do next. He mentioned the NE face of Boulder peak and I got excited. I remember seeing it for the first time and going wow looking at the top pitch. I couldn’t remember much about it except awe and excitement. I did remember (or so I thought!!) that my friend Douggy, Troy, Rob and I can’t remember who else, had climbed and skied it. I remembered them mentioning a bit of gnarly ridge, a wild traverse and then a wicked ski. Thats all I knew about the line.
When we drove in we got a look at the top pitch, which looked incredible and then we couldn’t see any lower. I figured we would have all our mountain tools so whatever was lower we would be able to work our way through the challenges that came our way.
So we slept on the logging road, got woken up by logging trucks at 3:30 and left camp around 4:30. This tour had very little approach and within an hour we were going up and up the 5500 ft to ridge top. It was a head down sort of crusher but easy skinning in nice snow.
This was cool, touring by Boulder 4 and looking at the steep little line Aaron and I skied in 2010.
We couldn’t see an easy way to the North East Face. All approaches were either exposed to cornices, bergshrunds and steep ascents, or a wild ridge that was beyond my skill set. But looking far left we spotted a small little couloir that led out of the cirque and onto the Northridge. It had the least consequences out of all the options, so we chose it.
A super steep skin on a 45 degree face, over two smaller bergshrunds… led to this wicked little couloir, steep and great boot packing.
This little coolie brought us the top of our line, with a little boot packing to get us into position. We stared down the line, it looked incredibly tempting.
And soon enough Andrew was shredding down. As typical canadians he wanted me to go first since I had booted up the couloir, but the line was his idea so i got him to go first.
Wicked turns down the face…. but what we didn’t know is that the face has no” real exit. If you look down onto the bench it all ends there….. no gullies leading off, no ramps nothing.
So we skied down, awesome turns and onto a ridge where i thought from my maps that we would be able to exit. Nothing looked good from where we were, steep cliffs and no escape. I pulled out my map and studied it a bit more. It looked like if we skied lower down the face that there was a ramp that we could pull out on and get to safer ground.
It was warm and only getting warmer and I wanted to get away before the temps got any higher. It was somewhere around 11 am so we were ok, but looking around I didn’t like all the south and east slopes warming in the sun.
Andrew sleuthed out a bit of a snow climb, ramp link up. The cliffs above were getting warm as was the snow we were hiking up and around on. Throwing on the rope and finding any anchor we could we eked our way around the cliffs and found a way through..
It wasn’t pleasant but we were fast and managed it and got away from all the slopes. It felt so good to be out of harms way of any warming slopes.
Then I realized that we were about to ski down past Downie peak. This super impressive North ridge was something Dave and I climbed years ago, it was one of the more wild lines I have ever climbed and now we were going to be skiing under its face.
Skiing past Downie ridge was incredible and the snow stayed decent right to the bottom.
In recap we should have researched the line a lot more, I knew that we had the tools and skills to get us through but we had to push the conditions on those snow ramps. If we had done our research properly we would have known that there was no real exit off the bottom and maybe have found this hidden little couloir a little higher up.
We were lucky that we had moved quickly and the temps were still low and the mountains were not completely falling apart yet. But climbing across those snow ledges was sketchy and would only worsen with the heat of the day…
Funnily enough when I mentioned the route to Douggy, he claimed that they had never skied it and I had somehow invented all the beta for the route… so perhaps we were the first to lay turns down those slopes..
I don’t really know how somebody gets it, whether we are born with it or through experiences we develop it. All I know is that I have it.
I believe the gene is essential to human development and evolution, without the adventure gene we would never progress in any shape or form. It doesn’t have to be adventure in the mountains, it could be adventuring into new fields of science or philosophy. In the end it is the desire to push and to risk to achieve things that have not been done before.
Carnes peak is an impressive mountain massive that is very obvious from Revelstoke while driving down home from Macpherson. I have wanted to stand on this summit for years now. 7 years ago we attempted from the North side and had an amazing day but no way of getting to the summit. Last year we went from the west side and got to within 800 ft of the summit and had no time.
Looking up I thought that maybe; if things were feeling super stable, we could boot pack up the face directly above Aaron and get to the summit from there, since it is reported to be a small 9 m easy rock to climb over.
Convincing Andrew Mcnab, Christina Lusti and my sister Jesse that we could have a great adventure, we went for it last monday. It felt so amazing to be going deep on an adventure, sledding in 30 km down the Downie logging road felt so good. Adventure and exploration awaited.
I had thought we would sled to the bottom of the climb but it turned out the road was out and the sledding beyond us. So we camped and woke up at 4 am and were off touring by 4:30. An extra 4 km on the road brought us to a good old fashioned burl fest through the trees and up into the alpine. It was crusty, steep, pilloowed,treed, creaked out and everything we needed to challenge ourselves before the sun was up.
Eventually we were up and into the alpine on Phogg Glacier, such a great spot to be hiking through.
We made it up to the high col by 9 am and were looking into the basin I wanted to get to. Except there appeared to be tonnes of avalanche debris. It had gotten quite warm the afternoon before, and either then or late in the night when it got stiff the whole face had ripped out. This was the face where I thought maybe we would try and climb.
It didn’t look remotely friendly, the crown lines looked to be 15-20ft tall in some places. Obviously this made us wonder about the safety of everything. But it was 10 am things were still frozen and nothing appeared to be moving. So we found a nice little boot pack up to the ridge.
From here the ridge looked doable and we hoped that the summit would not evade us once again. Wanting to give it an honest effort we continued upwards. It was hard to tell where the cornices began so we stayed on the climbers left near the rocks. Popping in small deadman anchors and body belays to make us feel a little safer.
Eventually the ridge got really steep for the last 20 m, exposed on both sides, cornice on one with a 1000ft drop, steep rock on the other with a 1000ft drop. There was a thin line that maybe; if you were crazy, you could climb up, but it was beyond our risk tolerance. Barely 100ft from the summit and no success, damn another way and another day.
From there we had a decent ski down the ridge and tun rolling into the north side, the Abyss glacier. Which is by far the most amazing place in the Selkirks.
We had fantastic turns the whole way down, through blue ice and convoluted terrain. Super fun.
To me this adventure satisfied my gene in so many ways. I had deep untracked exploration, new phogg glacier ascent, lots of unknown and questions, skill testing moments and then a great ski with friends. I know that i need moments like this in my life and I hope for many more. The next day also proved as awesome but I have yet to write about it..