Greg Hill.ca

Ahhhh Albert

It’s been a fairly terrible April in and around Revelstoke; especially tough with me skiing locally and blogging globally. So many days have had rain to the top or if not rain than clouds covering all the summits. Typically April is an amazing time to ski off the higher mountains and have some amazing adventures. But when its raining to the tops it kinda makes it hard to do anything that would be fun. So I have been waiting for the right times to get after it.

Part of my goal this spring is to double my garden. So while its been raining I have built two elevated garden boxes, adding 140 square feet of growing space. I really like the elevated boxes, because you simply cover the grass with cardboard, wet it down, add leaves on top, and wet those down. This creates a happy dark and wet area for the worms. Then I put well decomposed horse manure on top and some top soil and voila warm, super fertilized gardens.

Anyways back to a serious adventure. After Frenchman’s last weekend it rained, or was super cloudy all week. But finally it broke yesterday and we went for it. Albert Peak is the thirtieth highest mountain in the Selkirks and has likely never seen a ski descent. Or maybe it is the 57th highest peak, its kinda confusing when some mountains have 4 peaks and one mt-name.. Anyways it is one of the highest mountains visible from town and is 26 km away as the crow flies and seemed feasible to do in a day from Revy.

So at 2:25 am I started biking, 12 km of road and 4 km of logging road and I met up with Dave and Aaron. They drove in and we started hiking up the logging road, 4km of walking and we started skinning. But first we had to cross a small creek.

Its a rare morning when its 5 am and you are thigh deep in freezing cold water! We crashed through alders on the road for a few more km and then the road skinned a little easier. Another river crossing blocked our way. A rotten old bridge, lay crumpled across the river, huge rusty nails eyeing up our soft bodies, one sketchy log our only way across. So we ventured slowly across, possibly the most scared moments of the day.

From there we continue our slog up the logging road finally spotting the summit for our first time. From this vantage it looked pretty terrifying up there.

Then more hours of hiking, I assumed we would be doing a bunch of boot packing but somehow we kept skinning. By 10 am we were within 2500 ft of the summit and looking back it was obvious how far we had come.

By this point we are all completely punched but we knew that the end is near.

Looking at the route description in the Selkirks guide book it described the route as 3rd class, with lots of loose rocks. So we decided that it would probably be safer and more fun to climb it in winter conditions. This route was first ascended in 1909 and we were hoping for its first ski descent a hundred plus years later.

Things were super intimidating at this point, so we continued upwards. Like most things in life our imaginations make them larger and scarier than they are. Obviously this was scary but really it should be manageable, small steps forward, slowly breaking everything down into manageable little hurdles.

Luckily there had been a lot of convective clouds that had obscured the summit and kept it cooler. It was noon by now and the snow was getting warm but not warm enough to be concerned. If I could get us up past the first couloir and onto the ridge we would not be worried about the snow getting warm as we would be safe from overhead hazards. We were very lucky that it was not warm and soon we were on the ridge getting closer to the summit.

The ridge was very exposed but very much within our skill range and with axe in hand we booted higher. By now I was so excited I could hardly contain myself, Aaron was laughing at my enthusiasm. But I can’t hold it back, after 11 hours of focus the feeling of almost succeeding is amazing.

Finally succeeding….ahhh so worth it. Seven years ago when we summited North Albert I looked up this ridge and did not believe I would go up it. At the time the other boys all talked tough like we could manage it, I wondered though. Finally 7 years of progression later and it was fairly easy, and we were going to ski right off the summit.

Ski or side slip depending on the exposure. There were some pretty exposed turns, but mostly side slips. Here are the boys syncro side slipping off the summit.

It was tempting to ski the direct line off the summit and down the couloir, but since things were warming up it was safer to follow our line back down. I often look at avalanche terrain like a fight in a bar, it is often easier and safer to fight the smallest guy.(not that I have ever been in a fight but I assume it is better to go for the smallest guy than the huge UFC brawler) So our line down the ridge approached the smaller terrain. By then it was warm and the new snow was warm and slab like and would avalanche down ahead of us. Not worrisome since we were working our way down from the top and moving all the snow ahead of us.

So nice to stand on terra firma, or at least be out of the terrain with serious consequences.Thousands of feet of skiing ahead, some decent spring skiing, some really warm with huge wet slides following every turn. The skiing back down the road, the river crossings in reverse, alder bashing and road walking all had us back at the truck by 6pm. I loaded up my bike and biked her home by 7, 16.5 hours after leaving.

65+ kms, around 10 000 ft of gain, a new summit, a new line. So worth it….sound asleep by 8:15

Here is a little go pro video, funny to think that each second is worth almost ten minutes of activity, or that 16.5 hours can be compressed into 1m,45sec…

The Matterhorn of the Monashees

I have yet to really explain my lower carbon month. For the month of April all my travel is done sans gas. For years I have skied and adventured, but every one of those adventures was powered by gas. Initially I thought it was a good statement, and that I would learn a lot through the action. We should all do a little bit more for old MN (Mother Nature), and I like most people can do more.  The more I thought about it the more I recognized that I would barely offset the construction of my bicycle. That is probably true but I am realizing that its the change in thought pattern that is important. Recognizing that I can be eat more locally, grow a bigger garden, bike in to town, or to my local mountains. I am not going to change the world but I can help.

 So far I have biked over 300km around town and to my mountain adventures. Two days ago I biked north of town, 48 km up highway 23 to a boat launch. I was there quite early and I enjoyed some time in the sun looking up at our objective. 

I have attempted Frenchman’s Cap two times and both times we had an awesome run but we never stood on the summit. This peak is the 11th highest mountains in the Monashees and very imposing. For this attempt I had more information on the summit ridge and I wanted to make sure we had enough time to attempt it.

Eventually the boys drove in, canoes in tow. Somehow lots of boys were psyched on the adventure and we had a party of nine, 4 canoes and one kayak. I lost a few demerit points because I did not tow my own boat up, ahh well… we all have to make some concessions.

Frank,Joey,Aaron,Mark,Bruno,Sean,Chris,Darek and myself drank a few beers, roasted some sausages and slept out under the stars. At 7 am Saturday morning we canoed across and into the mist.

From there we hiked a little in our boots and soon enough we were touring up Park creek. The first 6 km wasn’t the smoothest with lots of river crossings and frustrating moments.

Eventually it was time to start hiking up the run, and finally we could see what we would be skiing down.

It always feels so big and remote in this part of the range. Which always makes me feel so small.

In the past we always turned around at the ridge, since it is rocky and steep.Today we gained the ridge and started to break it down into smaller manageable pieces. A knife like ridge here, small cliffs over there, all easily bypassed or surmountable.

Aaron stepping it out onto the south face for a brief moment of exposure.

After years of wanting to stand on this amazing peak, seven of us were there.. So cool, after a few minutes on the summit it was time to get cruising. Since the first 50 feet were scree filled and unskiable, we walked down to the snow and started shredding.

So great to finally leave some turns on this hanging summit. As we made our way down the ridge I kept my skis on but there were still some hazards to manage.

Eventually we were all shredding our way down.Some of us enjoying the last turns of the season. Pretty epic.

A long tiring slog out to the canoes, a paddle across and then mission completed… well for everyone else as they loaded up and drove home. I meanwhile had dinner, slept under the stars and woke up to rain. Then 48 km of road riding and home by 9:20..

Last day at RMR..

I love watching my children progress through the ski season. To watch their skills and confidences grow. At times it is excasperating to feel that I am forcing them to go skiing, but once we are on the slopes they are usually all smiles. But yesterday was the perfect season finisher at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Warm calm spring day, soft corn snow, just perfect. As a family we did one run off the Stoke and then we went to climb the sub-peak. I have brought both kids up here before but this was the first time that they each climbed the 400 ft to the top. It was fantastic to watch them, determined and happy they both struggled up the boot pack, finally we reached the top.

Obviously as a father I would hope that my kids follow my passion in the mountains, and to watch them both excited and driven by the challenge was all I need.

Anyhow enough sentimental father stuff what about ski missions?

Around seven years ago I went on this huge solo day around Mulvahill massif. It was an amazing day that I have always wanted to share with people but knew that most people do not want to suffer the approach. It makes sense, 5000 ft up Begbie, down and through some undulating annoying suncrusted terrain, back up and along a long ridge and finally after 8000 ft of touring you are standing on the first peak. The first of five…

Yesterday I started biking at 4 am and biked to the Begbie parking lot, I left my bike in the ditch and started up Begbie. While I climbed and worked my way around to the first peak Joey and Dave shuttled their vehicle to Mulvahill creek, while passing my bike they picked it up and brought it with them. Then they drove back to the Baguette coffee shop and enjoyed some coffee. A round 9 am they got to Arrow helicopters hanger and boarded the helicopter. Five of them where flown to the summit of Mulvahill, Joey, Danyelle, Bruno, Dave and Kelsey.

By then I was a few km away and watched them land, I managed to get to the top of the first peak to watch Joey snowboard down. I then skied down a narrow ridge connecting the peaks and climbed to the highest summit. Finally after 8000 ft of touring I got some great powder skiing down to the group. Then for the next 6 hours we skied together, summitting 3 other peaks and finishing off with a wild 5000 foot tongue to the valley. The terrain in this area is so glaciated that every zone we toured through was gorgeous and tantalizing to ski through.I could not remember the exit and as we skied out it slowly dawned on me. It was six km of arduous up and down, around, across, back up and over and finally boot packing up and out.
Finally back at the car….ooops bike…by 6:30 and biking home. 20 odd kms later I was home..wow… I am still recovering… I estimate it to be around 35 km of biking, 35 km of touring, total of over 13 000 ft of touring and five summits…and 16 hrs of action.

Here is an approximate line of my adventures that day.

Big thanks to Bruno Long for these blog photos. brunolongphotography.com

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