Greg Hill.ca

An affair with Victoria

With winter melting away from the Selkirks, it was time for an adventure in the Rockies. The Rockies are the best place to test oneself after a season of ski mountaineering in the Selkirks.
So Mark and I drove out to Lake Louise and met up with the gang around 9 pm. It was a varied crew, with Jon Walsh from Calgary, Lisa from Golden, Patrick from Bozeman, Chris from Colorado Springs and us from Revelstoke. Our objective was going to be the Sickle on Mt-Victoria
The lines off Mt-Victoria are huge and exposed, but the conditions appeared perfect. It had snowed 20 cms three days before and had some time to settle. Winds had remained light and it appeared to be stable.

At 4:45 am we all started hiking past Lake Louise and up into the death trap.

This  zone is highly dangerous, with obvious overhead seracs and hazards so we moved quickly through it. The sickle was hanging above the cliffs and tantalizing in the morning light. We toured upwards and soon enough Mark was skinning over the cliffs and towards our line. The further his skin track went the larger the cliffs were below us. Skinning across 40+ degree slopes with the cliffs below us getting larger and larger, I was almost paralyzed with fear.  If I started slipping there would be now way to arrest my momentum and I would go tumbling off the cliffs.  If I was to go flying off the cliff my plan was to starfish in the air, fully stretch out and  try and land on my face.  Perhaps falling from 300+ feet that this would be the best way to land, maximize the surface area and maybe the two feet of soft snow would cushion the impact.. In reality there is no surviving such a fall.

So I went through all the different reasons we were justifying this as being safe, the amount of snow, the sun just hitting the 20000 ft of snow above us,  the lack of crown lines in the mountains, lack of winds, present temperature. It all added up to  good stability and worthy of accepting the inherent risk of the line. Soon enough we couldn’t skin anymore and it was boot packing time. The security of having my boots plunging deeper into the snowpack helped my confidence increase. I shelved all the fears, and realities of a mistake and felt lighter and free as we moved up the face.

The snow was soft and great for booting and we moved up higher and higher. It was deep in pockets, up to 40 cms and tough to walk up, as the steepness increased it lessened to 25 cms and was ideal. The snow was remaining cold and we were on the ridge in no time.Here is Mark and Lisa, with the true summit in the background.

A few great moments on the ridge and then it was shred time. Jon went first and we noticed that the slough was moving fast and furious so we would need to pay attention and ski away from our last turns. Such a perfect run lay below us that I could not contain myself and I skied fast and hard, slough following. Skiing away from my slough I was able to let it catch up and ski beside a wall of flowing snow, so much fun.

Jon’s footage of me heading down, thanks for the shot Jon, if you want some real alpine radness check out his Blog YouTube Preview Image
And here is Mark enjoying some of the same playful slough management.

We all had epic turns down the face and regrouped where it mellowed out. Then some fun turns lower down with huge drops below us. Good group management and we were all safely back



What an incredible day, such a super position.   With such a great start to our Rockies trip we couldn’t decide on what to do next. Most of the group was leaving and it was only Mark, Patrick and myself. After having experienced such a perfect day we could not help but go back and see if we could ski off the summit of Mt-Victoria, At 3464m (11365ft) it is a pretty high mountain and very worthy of an attempt. So in the style we ride in I set up my bivy, stove ready and went to sleep.
Early the next morning, 4:15 am, we were off and touring. The day was going to get hot and we wanted to be off the face by 11. So with barely a break we skinned the 3 thousand feet to the base of the face.

It hung over us for hours as we worked our way to its base.

Such a dramatic place. Mark took this great picture of Patrick and I heading towards  the line.

We neared the line pulled out our axes and put on our crampons. I began booting up the snow, finding the easiest line it trended left and soon enough we were fully exposed and heading up the steep face. Again conditions felt perfect and we booted higher. Soon enough I was done and ready to follow Mark to the summit. 
He took over and in his quiet confident manner lead the boot pack upwards. It was steep 50+ and  continuous, unrelenting. I kept expecting it to lessen but it seemed to have a sting in its tail as we wallowed up the final pitches to the summit.

Mark had honors since he brought us up there and he snowboarded off. Second turn in a small slab popped and he skied away from it as it thundered down the thousands of feet and the cloud cascaded off the thousand foot cliffs below.

Adrenalized from the slab Marked went for it snowboarding the whole line and I followed. Amazing turns in a wild environment.

You can just see Patrick , he is the little dot on the left. Such impressive terrain, and so nice to ski away and look back at what we had just accomplished.
Having had two such epic days we couldn’t decide on what we could follow that with. I saw a few photos of the sky ladder on Mt-Andromeda and I thought we should shoot for gold. Regardless of our success I needed to look up and see the potential of this line.

We got there late at night and it looked intimidating. A large section of the line was blue ice with a small ribbon of snow meandering around it. Although I wanted to get closer and take a look it only made sense to try and climb Mt-Athabasca and wait another day for sky ladder.
We headed up early and made our way upwards but high winds and some fresh slides tumbling off the seracs had us questioning our decision. So we turned and headed home. Could be our last turns of the year. I wonder?

What is so great about the world today is that we all run blogs or trip reports. So if you want Mark’s Perspective or Patrick’s check em out. they are both different views and great angles on our experience.

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..

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