How we got so lucky I don’t know. The weather reports were not conducive to summitting mountains nor flying in with helicopters. But since this was the allotted time for our mini traverse we went for it anyways. Driving two hours north of Revelstoke we flew in with a helicopter. The clouds were in and out so we were not sure where he would be able to land us. Some how we were able to land exactly were we had hoped to start our traverse and the sun shone through for the two heli flights. And there we were in the middle of nowhere, aiming to go towards Sir Sandford with perhaps Adamant on the way by.
When I was skiing Begbie two days previously, the snow quality was not as great as I like. This made me a little apprehensive on how good the skiing was going to be on this trip. Once the helicopter landed I was no longer apprehensive I was down right excited. 25 cm of fresh powder lay carpeted across everything. The five of us; Dave, Chris,James, Aaron and myself began skinning up and then eventually boot packing up to the high col. We didn’t realise it at the time but boot packing or Gulo Gulo was going to be a daily requirement.
We had a fantastic descent full of face shots and real deep winter skiing. There was up to 40 cms of fresh snow loaded into the north slopes of the Adamants. We were blown away! We dropped our gear, and started up towards Adamant. It was an in and out sort off day, one moment you could see and the next it was gone. We had a few views up the north face of Adamant which scared us and made us question the possibility of climbing this face. Since the weather was not great we toured up towards Austerity and toured up to 10 000 feet and then skied back to camp. The snow seemed to get deeper as we got higher. Here is Chris enjoying some Selkirk powder
We set up our camp, which consisted of digging a hole with 5 catacombs that radiated from it and then to pitch a mega mid over top. That way the five of us were camping in the same space and we could cook from our sleeping bags.
The clouds were obscuring the summits when we awoke the next morning. Regardless of the weather we ventured towards Adamant mountain. Its glacier loomed above us, cascading down 3000 feet from its summit. Since Adamant is the third highest mountain in the Selkirks we promised ourselves we would give it "an honest effort".
We have realised over time that quite often a challenge is more threatening from a distance then when actually encountered. So giving it an "honest effort", I began boot packing up the glacier. The first bergshrund was so steep and deep that I had to shovel out the snow to allow us to step over and continue climbing upwards. The boot packing was exceptional, mid thigh to waist deep and not wind affected at all. I was so excited about being where I was that I kept stepping up and plowing a path upwards. Soon enough I was 800 feet up and getting past the immediate crux. The snow continued to feel very stable and our confidence continued. Soon Dave took over and began skinning and boot packing up to the summit. It seemed to lay itself out for us and within 2.5 hours we were on the summit of Adamant mountain. The sun was breaking through and we had a perfect descent lined up before us.
Here is Dave finding out what powder is like at 11 000 feet! The powder was fantastic, chest deep the whole way down. We were so ecstatic at the bottom, all of us feeling like we had skied the run of our lives!
Then we packed up our camp and started moving towards the Great Cairn Hut and Sir Sandford. Passing underneath Pioneer peak we couldn’t resist and soon enough we found ourselves hiking up to its summit. It is the 14 highest mountain in the Selkirks and was well worth the climb. Another fun descent led us to a col and some interesting route finding through some cliff bands. Looking down onto the glacier we spotted tracks and a "skier" but when we got down to them we realised that we had seen the elusive Wolverine, which is our mascot and team name.
Sitting a valley away from Sir Sandford we had two options, tour up to the low col and get a direct ski down to the cabin or summit Azimuth mountain and ski an east facing shot that takes us down and into the unknown. Obviously we chose the summit and a great ski brought us to valley bottom. An hour tour through the dark brought us to the Great Cairn Hut. A long day but with three new summits and an epic descent off Adamant.
The next morning we awoke to clear skies with Sir Sandford towering over us. Today was the day that we would attempt to climb and ski the highest peak in the Selkirks!
The first four thousand feet was ideal, 20 cm of light snow and easy trail breaking. We skinned till the bottom of the hour glass. At this point I handed off the lead to Dave (thank god!) and he began boot packing up the hourglass. We got up several hundred feet till the tightest point of the hourglass were we all hid in the bergshrund while Super Dave ice climbed up the glacier ice. Somehow through overconfidence, or lack of foresight we had brought only one pair of crampons and a 40 m rope. So Dave had to set up an anchor in the snow and belayed each of us up the pitch. To make it even more time consuming he had to tie the crampons to the rope and throw them down to the next person. It was gripping on top rope much less on lead, thank goodness that Dave led this pitch for us.
From there we continued to boot up the glacial ice, somehow there was no seasonal snow here and only a thin layer on top of ice. But we were now within 1500 feet of the summit and nothing was stopping us. Up and up we went, and soon we were following the ridge to the summit. Almost skinning right to it. We peered down the south face but didn’t have the time nor the inclination to descend it. So we enjoyed some summit moments on the highest point of our range and then skied off.
Skied off with knowledge that we had some hazards to overcome during the 6000 foot descent. The upper glacial pitch was a bit like my old ski hill in Quebec icy with a bit of dust on top. We quickly arrived at the top of the belayed pitch and had to figure out our way down. Somehow we were also lacking an ice screw so we couldn’t set up an abalokov, a V thread anchor. Only having a 40 m rope meant we could
rappel down the rope but needed a solid anchor to get us down. Again Super Dave went down and spent twenty minutes preparing an ice bollard. Which is an anchor that is cut out of the ice, a sort of wide horn/hook made of ice that you loop your cord around and pull down on. Dave chopped us a fantastic bollard that we all rappelled off. Chris volunteered himself to rappel half way and set up another time consuming anchor half way down so he could rappel the last bit and keep the rope. We all waited patiently for him to get to safety and the moment he was we all watched the sun set. Then Chris led us down the 4300 feet of great skiing down to the valley floor.
We were all elated to have finally stood on the summit of Sir Sandford, and were rewarded by the challenges of the day. I was psyched knowing that Sir Sandford was my most challenging ski mountaineering objective yet. It is the pinnacle of the range I call home and the pinnacle of my skiing career.
I knew the group was going to be a bit slow going on the last day of this mini traverse and I was still needing to summit the Footstool. So I left an hour and a half earlier than the group and set my skins towards its summit. This was the perfect alpine tour, 4800 feet of gain throughout alpine terrain, gorgeous snow lay across the glacier and I pounded up it. I didn’t think I had time to go to the summit but I kept skinning till I watched the group leave the hut and then I gave them a half hour lead.
With just enough time I skinned up through the glacier on to the ridge and up to the summit. The footstool sits at 10 400 feet and is overshadowed by Sir Sandford, which makes the tour that much more impressive. Sir Sandford’s steep walls tower above you the whole time. Such an impressive area! I must have been feeling great because the 4800 foot lap took me under two hours.
I then hoisted my big bag ont9 my shoulders and hiked quickly to catch up to the group. I caught up to them as they crested onto the flat glacier and we toured the flat kilometers together. Mt-Citadel loomed above us and we could not resist a tour to its summit. A summit was needed to distract us from the flat glacier we were crossing.
Aaron, Dave and I skinned to its summit, following its sharp NE shoulder. Aaron set one of the coolest stretch of skin track I have followed, a skin track into the heavens.
Standing on its summit we couldn’t see down its north side, claiming that I wouldn’t ski down without better visibility I began skiing down the ridge, but the great snow drew me in and soon enough I was sloughing snow down the North chute. Steep snowy turns led us down the mountain and over the bergshrund to our bags and a well earned snack.
From there we again hoisted our packs and headed up a smallish peak and skied a 2000 foot north shot down to a bench. We skinned back onto the Goldstream Glacier and towards our final summit.
Ecstatic about our whole traverse we couldn’t help ourselves from skiing off a final summit. Goldstream mountain had a great boot pack and ridge skin to its summit. From there we looked back at the small yet amazing traverse we had just done and all the wild summits we had skied. It was a dream that we had turned into an amazing reality. Seven new summits for me, The 1,3 and 14 highest peaks in the Selkirks, fantastic skiing off all of them and great friends to share it all with.
The last descent was an amazing finish to it all, steep and deep with some crevasses to ski around and a few really steep pitches, and some deep, deep powder to finish the trip off with.