Monday, January 20, 2020

January Rogers Pass - Misery and Redemption

This trip didn't look like it was going to happen...

We had planned to camp and ski Roger's Pass with Connor months ago and David was driving out from Vancouver to meet us. Two days before departure however, Calgary was in a deep freeze. As we were getting the trailer ready, Kyle wondered aloud if we would blow it to pieces on the drive out of town in -25c. Frantically, we scoured weather forecasts and plotted driving distances to warmer ski areas. After a few phone calls back and forth, we decided to keep Rogers Pass as our destination but wimped out on the camping and secured a nice warm room at the Dreamcatcher Hostel in Golden. Are we getting soft?
Some alpine views from high on Grizzly Shoulder
The trip appeared to be saved, but mother nature had a few other tricks to play on us before we could put our skis to snow. Highway 1 was a snowy mess from Salmon Arm to Field. David's drive from Vancouver took about 11 hours and he was stopped in Golden for over an hour before traffic moved enough to allow him to exit the highway. At that rate, he could have walked to the hostel faster. Kyle and I encountered similar delays from Calgary, extending the usual three hour drive to five. It was a semi-truck apocalypse and we had to slowly weave through semis who hadn't thought to chain up before the big hill in Kicking Horse Canyon. After one driver didn't make it up the hill, a domino effect occurred where the other trucks couldn't get started and all needed to put on their chains. This blocked the entire highway east and westbound as people got trapped in the gridlock. Fortunately, we were only 4 vehicles from the open road and convinced one semi driver to reverse 10 metres to let us small vehicles continue on.
Traffic stopped and obstructing the entire highway at the top of the hill in Kicking Horse Canyon
After the rough start, we were looking forward to some ski touring. The plan was to ski Little Sifton Traverse and very reasonable trail was broken up the trees on Grizzly Shoulder (unusual for Rogers Pass). Unfortunately, Kyle was having a rough day and struggling with frozen feet. It was very cold and windy in the alpine so we opted to start down Puff-Daddy rather than expose ourselves to the elements for any longer. It was a good call too, I ended up with frost-bite on my toes that day!
Good Morning Rogers Pass 
Lots of snow on Grizzly Shoulder
Trying to play it safe in the considerable avalanche conditions we stayed off the open slopes but a communication error resulted in going too far off our line. Kyle and I ended up in steep terrain that we were not happy about. A few tenuous turns and some traversing got us out of the zone, but I was feeling very shaken up after that. Irrationally, I demanded we ski down the gully. I just wanted to get down so rather than try and find the good run we knew was below us. The run choked down into a creek full of small trees and pillows which was not fun to ski. Needless to say, we were pretty grumpy by the time we got to the bottom and I felt pretty sheepish.
Finding some deep pockets off Grizzly before we got choked out in the creek
Pillow zone in the creek
David making some nice turns once we escaped the creek
The next morning, we made our way up from Loop Brook to explore the trees. We found steep and deep terrain, but the aspect had been affected by big tree bombs that broke up the skiing. Not quite what we had been hoping for.
Overhead hazard at Loop Brook
Fresh lines waiting for us 
Checking out the snowpack from below
Happy to be out ski touring, a better mood than yesterday!
Picking our lines
Dropping in
Feeling a bit discouraged, we made a plan to redeem ourselves on Puff Daddy by hitting the line correctly. Connor arrived and brought his contagious stoke with him. The mood was better and we cruised up to the ridge in high spirits. We nailed our line and were rewarded with pillows and face shots.
Back up on Grizzly, a bit more cheerful this time
Making sure we get our line right
Who needs an ACL!?
Pillow hopping
Not having any fun at all!
Connor gets some face shots
Deep turns on the lower slopes
Kyle charging pow
So after almost bailing on the trip because of the cold, traffic challenges making it out to Golden and a big communication breakdown on the first ski day, the trip ended on a very high note. We had a blast skiing powder with our friends and came home safe. What's a good trip without a few hiccups right?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Tunnel Creek Day Trip

It was a slow start to the season in Fernie this year. Over Christmas, people were downloading the Timber Chair due to low snow coverage! Fortunately, after New Years, the Griz finally brought some powder and Kyle and I were lucky enough to be in town to enjoy it. We alternated 2 days skiing pow at the resort with a day in the backcountry with Chad to find some fresh tracks.
Sun dogs in the sky over Curry Bowl
Fresh tracks for me on Stag Leap
Bluebird powder day at Fernie!
  We skied up to Tunnel Creek for a day trip (5 km, 800m elevation gain to the hut). There was very little snow in the valley but just enough to cover the road. As we climbed, it got deeper and fluffier. We had planned on doing some exploring off the road past the hut turn off, but when we got to the junction with the gully that leads to the hut, we realized that would require breaking trail in knee deep snow. It was an easy decision to follow the skin track to the hut instead. It also meant we were able to hide out from the wind and eat our lunch in a warm hut with a hot coffee!
Warming up at Tunnel Creek Hut
 We lapped Sunny Side which was untracked and deep! After that, we climbed back up to the ridge and dropped into Home Run back down to the road. Again, the snow was great quality and we had fresh tracks all the way down. The trek up to the hut was totally worth it!
Heading up to the runs above the hut
Chad finds some steep and deep turns on Sunny Side
Kyle slays some pow
Aftermath of a run of face shots
Trip total
13 km
1400m elevation