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.
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.
Big thanks to Bruno Long for these blog photos. brunolongphotography.com
It’s pretty neat to leave my house on my bike and start heading towards the objective of the day. Rolling across the bridge looking up at the summit I am heading to. Nice calm morning, birds chirping and just pedalling to the trail head.
I took me an hour of biking to get to Mt-Begbie’s trailhead, here I am as dorky as ever.
My set up is pretty simple and rolls pretty well. A one wheeled Bob trailer for all my gear, boots, axe and such. Then I strap my skis on my bike. As I set up this shot Joey, Garrett and Bruno drove by with their little truck and trailer towing a snowmobile. They headed up to some logging roads and sledded up 6 km and 2000 ft, I started touring and finally caught up to them 5000 ft later. We headed directly up to the col and followed the yellow line to the summit, its pretty exposed and had a hairy but well worth the challenge.
We had some great turns down the Hanging Judge, so named because Begbie was an infamous judge in revelstoke who hung lots of people. Pretty fun line but we cut it short so that we could head back up and ski the PBD.
Soon enough we were on the summit and scoping out this direct line down to the polar bear. The previous time on the summit Joey had belayed me while I cut away at the cornice and prepared the entrance. The previous night I had sent out the next photo as a teaser, which was great since we could check it out again on our smart phones.
Bruno and Garrett worked there way down the normal entrance to the Polar Bear, and took some photos from the col. Joey and I opted for the direct line, PBD, which was a little thin at the top but worked out really well. No mandatory airs.. Then we shredded some great powder down the glacier.
A tiny boot pack back up some sledders tracks and we parted ways. I skied thousands of feet of powdery tree skiing with the final thousand being not so great. Got to my bike loaded up and 30 minutes later I rolled in to my driveway.
This was by far one of the more eerie moments of the winter. We were touring up Mt-Mackenzie; the main summit above our ski hill. The weather had been poor for days and not many people had visited the summit. We were skinning up, enjoy the day. As always I was avoiding the cornice while skinning up the ridge. My primary concern is always to not go too close to the cornice, doing whatever I can to ensure we are on the safe side, probing, walking on rocks,.. Basically always worried and playing it safe by staying in what I know is safe terrain. This day I was winding up when I stumbled upon these skis.
Very eerie, no fresh tracks, nothing but two skis slightly blown in by wind. Who leaves a pair of skis almost on the top of the summit? I looked around, no fresh activity.Looking two feet past the skis it looked like the cornice had fallen off. Alarm bells ringing I skinned to the summit and used Joey’s radio to call the ski hill. No one missing, but a week previous at 2 am a skier had hiked back into bounds with a broken ankle and no skis. The store was vague but he was OK.
So I grabbed the skis and skied Thumbs Up with them attached to my backpack.
So he had scoped the line out from the other peak and knew the cornice was not too big at this point. His friends had left him and he was all alone. He almost made it to the summit and decided to look into the line. Crawling on his stomach he worked his way out onto the cornice, hitting it with his pole he figured he was OK. Then the whole world tilted and he fell down the cliffs….around 700 ft of them. Hitting snow slopes along the way and cliffs, of course. He finally stopped tumbling and assessed his body. Luckily he had been wearing a helmet and body armour but he was really hurting and had a broken ankle. He started hiking climbers left and working his way back up to the ridge…. then he triggered an avalanche and was carried a thousand back down the mountain. Managing to stay on top he was sort of OK. then he began climbing back up the bed surface and worked his way back to the ridge, and crawled back to the lift shack… 8 hours after having fallen off the summit….
Lots of luck on his part… but the main thing he did was go into the unknown without backup. I am always so scared of cornices because you never know how far back they will pull. I have never fallen off one but I am always super cautious, making sure I am standing on rock.. or slightly snow covered but never more than a metre of snow.
OK I lied…. I have fallen off one or two before but with proper backups. Anchors and people belaying me. Whenever I venture into the unknown I try and get as much information from maps, photos, google earth, other people. If there is absolutely no way to know how to get into your line and it is cornice rimmed, then we put on ropes. Once tied to the other side of the mountain, it is far easier to probe out, and shovel until the cornice falls and you can get a nice safe look into the line. I can distinctly remember the first time I did this properly and needed the backup. We were working into this 2500 hanging iceline on Mt-Bonney and I was tied in and walking towards the edge, then moments later I was falling through space following a bus sized cornice. An instant later I was hanging with the entire line below me, safe and psyched by how great the line looked. Especially since we had just dropped the biggest slope test ever!!
The long of the short is, always know where you are going, get as much information about the line, then if there is still some unknown back yourself up.