What a great four days….with a bit of a warning at the end
Its wild how much can happen in the space of four days. I am sitting here reflecting back on them and so much happened.
The first morning I headed up the Asulkan, I assumed someone would have put the skin track up and into the alpine. You should never assume… because right away I was breaking trail through breakable crust. Slow laborious steps, skis catching on the crust on the way up, breaking through on the way down. Humbling start to the day, after an hour and a half the snow turned to powder and I knew a great day was about to happen. I busted trail to the top of the Moraine and had some great turns back to the track. Then Chris Rubens joined me and we toured up and onto the glacier. A sweet run down some of the glacial rolls brought smiles and screams to our lips. It was great skiing and sunny. I continued down 1500 more feet, fast and fun I flew off a blind roller… and found myself flying 15ft to flat. Crashing into the snow, I ploughed face first into the deep snow. More great turns and I caught back up to Chris and now Sean up on the glacier and we continued on to Castor peak. A fun summit and a sketchy descent brought us onto the glacier for more fun turns. Those guys headed home and I pounded out two more runs, finishing with the Dome glacier. The week had started well, and more sun on the way, and thirteen grand in the bank..
I was excited that I had a solo day on Tuesday. I could go out and go where I wished. I immediately headed up Ursus minor and summitted in 3.5 hours from the parking lot. Some fun south turns down the face and into the basin. Screaming with the speed and fun of the descent I couldn’t wait for the next one. No one had been up Video peak so I punched a new skin track in and up to the top of it. The turns off it were fast and fun, my big turns make the face look small but its quite a flowy descent.
I then saw some people following my track back up to the high col on Ursus and I figured I might be able to convince them to go North of Ursus. Which looked incredible, you can see the lines behind me on the leftfrom video peak. Turns out they were keen and we headed North. Within moments of meeting her I watched Marlies shred the face in wicked style and then hit a rock and cartwheel down the hill.. not to often you meet someone and within moments watch them tumble down a mountain side.
I set the track up to 8812 and skied the north side of it, back up 2000ft and down the south side of 8812, which is such a fun line. Looking down it the run I couldn’t believe that it was prime. Its so steep and rocky, but the conditions were prime and I shredded down the face with my slough following behind. What a day.. 14 g
Wednesday a group of us headed towards terminal peak, with me doing a couple of laps on the way. My morning lap was particularly nice. Which allowed Bruno to take some “banger” shots which is great. Since I do need to document this challenge and not just be some wild animal that no one ever sees. The air warmed up a lot and the snow got heavy by the end of the day but still lots of fun, ridge climbing, couloir skiing and suffering.
Yesterday looked like a great day was going to happen but instead lots of other things did. When things go wrong in the mountains and I make mistakes I always need to step back and reflect on what happened. I also really try to analyze objectively.
I headed up Grizzly mountain solo and early, with Bruno and Chris to follow. When I got up to the upper bench and looked at the alpine slope above I guaged where I was going to climb up. Usually I go to the rocks and scramble up them away from any real threat. But the last time I did that; I watched as my friend put in an uptrack up the snow slope to the west. His way appeared easier and had me wondering. So this time, knowing I would probably lap the track a few times I went up the snow slope. This slope is very scoured by winds and does not hold a lot of snow. My skis were barely breaking in the crust more than 15cm, it was a tough hard layer and I felt that my steps were not affecting deep into the snow pack. Which is where the layers of concern are. As I usually do I put my track up avoiding all rolls and using the micro terrain appropriately. But there were still moments where it felt like there was substantial slope above me. The track worked out and I skied a nice line back down to the boys and beyond them. We toured back up and I wondered what they thought of my brazen track. No comments were made.
We made it to the top and began to look around at options. Chris and I were discussing the slope we had toured up and how I felt like it was ok. Since it was scoured there was not huge snow to fall off of it. As we were discussing this we both stepped on a shallow rocky spot and felt the ground settle. And settle it did! 30 m below us on the apex of the roll the avalanche cracked off. It ran down where we had just toured up, ripping deeper on both sides and running down a 300m/1000ft to the bench below.
As with these things my immediate feeling is one of guilt. Guilt because I made a mistake that could have hurt my friends. Unsettled we climbed to the summit discussing what had happened. Standing on top of Mt-Grizzly I looked down the couloir and could not say no to it. Very different in nature to what had just slid but still similar in many ways. The over all concavity of the couloir made me more comfortable with it. So I de-skinned and shredded down the “french poodle”. Under epic powder conditions.
On the skin track back up I thought long and hard about what had happened.
Once I met back up with the boys I apologized for my decision. here is what I felt I did wrong.
– instead minimizing exposure and safely going up the ridge, out of laziness I set the track up the slope. Lazy because I knew that I could lap it way easier than the boot pack.
– I hid from all the bigger slopes on the way up the trees yet decided to challenge the biggest slope up top..
– the slope was the thinest and rockiest, so therefore had the less solid snowpack. Weakest place to be.
The fact is that a slide took out some of my skin track, enough that it would have hurt someone. I think that part of my goal was clouding my judgement, wanting to set a track that was quicker for me to get vert, vs harder and more tiring but safely in the rocks.
I must keep my eyes open for safety and not change my judgement because of my goal.
Anyhow a bunch more laps later and I was at my goal and we headed home. Another 13 thousand foot day.
Another great lesson learned. Avoid the biggest guy at the bar, if there is going to be a fight make sure its the smallest guy you are fighting.