Friday, February 10, 2017

Roger's Pass

I got some time off! Amidst a whirlwind trip back and forth across Canada, I had four days home and took advantage by heading up to Roger's Pass with Kyle and the trailer. There hadn't been any snow in a few weeks and conditions were pretty stable, which allowed us to go and do some exploring beyond the typical runs on Grizzly Shoulder and Teddy Bear Trees.
Greetings from Roger's Pass - the ultimate ski bum playground
 Day one was a bit of a wake up call for me. I hadn't been skiing in a few weeks and the legs were out of shape. I had also foolishly decided to bring my big heavy "slack country" skis in hopes of amazing powder on the way down, completely forgetting that I would be spending 95% of my time lugging them up the hill. This combined with a steep, icy skin track and not very grippy skins led to much sliding backwards and frustration. It got so bad that Kyle would pull me up every switchback just so he wouldn't have to watch me struggle to use my poles to prevent myself from losing all my forward progress. It was exhausting.
This fat Stellar's Jay followed us for over an hour hoping for a snack
 We made our way up to the top of Grizzly Shoulder and dropped into Roger's Run. Up until about 200m below the top, we hadn't seen any other skiers all day. It was nice to be out on a weekday. We managed to find the run, staying skiers right of the big rock gully and avoiding dense trees farther to the right. The snow was old but better than we had expected. It was nice to ski a new run, but I much preferred Puff Daddy which we skied last year. I struggled a bit because I was so tired from the tour up, so it was a good thing that we dropped right back down to the visitor centre where the trailer was parked. Some people get sucked skiers right and end up in the creek, but we picked our way through some dense trees to access the highway and were a short walk away from our home away from home after our day out.
The exit from Roger's Run was less than desirable
 The next morning, Matt and Charlie got an early start from Calgary and met us in the parking lot as we were finishing breakfast. We set out with a goal to ski Video Peak via Connaught Creek. The avi hazard had dropped again and people were getting after it. Over on Cheops a number of snowboarders were making there way down a sweet couloir. Others were making questionable choices by setting skin tracks straight up couloirs with significant overhead hazard, which actually got called out on and by a few of the other skiers. Like I said, people were getting adventurous, for better or worse.
Pillow line that I was dying to hit. I must return
 The clouds moved in as the day went on. As we climbed up towards Video Peak on the ridge between 8812 Bowl and Hospital Bowl, we realized that we weren't going to be able to gain the peak without dropping down the back from Bruin's Pass and crossing a glacier. Next time we will have to approach from the climbers right if we want to ski the line straight from the top, or be more prepared with glacier gear. We made it to Bruin's Pass as it totally socked in. The aspect we had been hoping to ski down Hospital Bowl was wind-loaded so we opted to ski the lower angle 8812 Bowl instead. We dropped in and were soon below the clouds cleared with 1000 metres of mellow, untracked, boot-top pow to enjoy all the way down.
Stopping for lunch on the way up to Bruin's Pass
Matt ripping by
Kyle checks out our tracks as we drop back down to Connaught Creek
We celebrated a good day out with a beer in the parking lot before Matt and Charlie left for Golden, where they had the hostel booked. Kyle and I stayed in the pass and enjoyed the propane and generator heated trailer good life.
Matt's teddy bear sampling a refreshing brew after a hard day on the slopes
And the cutest couple award goes too...
 Our crew grew by two more on Thursday morning as Ken and Tyler joined Matt, Charlie, me and Kyle for a ski up Flat Creek to check out Fortitude Ridge. It involved a long, flat (shocking!) ski up the creek, before heading into the woods to gain the ridge. I was lagging, thanks to the bricks I was using on my feet. I wasn't too impressed with the snow at the lower elevations, but as we gained altitude, the snow got lighter, deeper and much more enticing. 
Flat creek access involves ducking under the railway and a lot of creek crossings!
 At the top of the ridge, I thought we were done. Boy, was I wrong. The first good line you reach actually tapers down to a narrow creek and ends up being more of a bushwhack than a fun ski lower down. Matt recommended continuing up the ridge for another few hundred metres to the second slide path. 
Matt and Charlie contemplate slide paths on the other side of the valley
The team making their way up Fortitude Ridge
It was worth the extra effort because it was a fantastic run 1200 m back to the valley, with well spaced trees. Because of the long approach, nobody else had made it out that way, and we got fresh tracks despite the last snowfall being over a week prior. Also, we never hit the crusty snow we had encountered on the way up and had light, fluffy snow all the way down!
Kyle gets stoked to drop in
Fresh pow and fresh tracks
A typical day in the life of Kyle - Brandon Epp
Back in the valley, it was a LONG ski back to the highway. It was just enough of a downhill that we didn't have to throw our skins on, but it was hard to carry any speed and we had to push along the flats with our poles. The skin track up zig-zagged back and forth over the creek crossing snow bridges. We saw an animal track that looked like it had been slip-sliding its way down the snow and creek and Kyle later identified the track as an otter! As our gaggle of skiers made our way down, many of the snow bridges started collapsing, leaving us with options like jumping over the creek, looking for creative alternative ways around, crossing logs, or falling in the creek (Kyle). It was best to be at the front of the group because by the time 4 people had crossed a snow bridge, there wasn't much snow left! 
Ken, our token telemarker. Free the heel, free the mind, man.
Charlie and I hit the road back to Calgary, leaving the boys to spend the weekend in the trailer and continue the exploration of Roger's Pass for 4 more days - lucky guys!

In the end, over my three days in Roger's, Kyle and I traveled about 40 km and 3500 m of elevation and I was dragging on my heavy setup the whole way up. After 6 seasons of touring on a frame style binding, I finally bit the bullet and bought a pin binding immediately upon returning home. I am seriously looking forward to a more enjoyable uptrack for those long days out.

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