This past season was perhaps my busiest yet, due to a necessary balance of university and skiing time. The balance of these activities led to timing restraints that meant that time on the computer was spent on my senior thesis and coursework rather than this blog. It is my hope to post more regularly now that my university studies are completed.
My ski season totaled around 70 days and a little over a quarter million vertical feet of ski touring. This season was my first year with a Suunto watch, which was really helpful in getting a better idea of my training volume and skiing time this winter. It will certainly be helpful next year in comparing the winter.
While this blog post cannot begin to describe all of the ski days from the year, I will describe three that were enjoyable outings in Southwest British Columbia, near the towns of Pemberton and Squamish.
Matier Massif Triple North Face Linkup, Solo
I spent my birthday skiing three top to bottom laps on a sunny Anniversary glacier with a close friend. During that day, I got a sense for the relatively stable conditions that were coming into shape in the Duffey Lakes area and decided to go for a linkup two days later on the north faces of the Matier massif, including Joffre, Matier, and Slalok. While the conditions were not as good as two days previous, they allowed efficient passage and still some cold snow on the northern aspects. I brought along a single axe, steel crampons (useful for some alpine ice on the North face of Joffre) and Billygoat ascent plates for solo bootpacking.
Leaving the car just after eight, I kept a bright pace up to the glacier, passing several parties on the shoulder heading for Matier. I soon began trail breaking up Joffre North face and was alone on the face. Steep snow climbing had me atop the line, and once I began descending the shaded aspect yielded good snow conditions, especially in the icefall with the cooler temperatures.
Looking back down through the short section of alpine ice on my route up Joffre North Face. The combination of petzl lynx, billygoat plates, and Spitfire boots worked well on this kind of linkup.
After regaining the Anniversary Col, I began ascending Matier North ridge. Several people had already ascended the quite moderate route over the previous days, making travel up the route smooth. I did not use either the plates or the crampons on route, but did use my axe occasionally. As I neared the summit, clouds obscured the view, and I moved quickly to descend off the summit in quickly worsening weather and increasing winds. Although a relatively easy route, being up on the summit of Matier in the weather, alone, felt adventurous and I was happy to begin skiing. The skiing went smoothly down the 250 meter north facing glacier, and I began descending Matier glacier towards my final objective, Slalok north face.
This photo looks back at Matier glacier and Matier summit (in cloud), from my vantage close to the ridgeline of Slalok Mountain.
Unlike Joffre and Matier, I had never summited Slalok, or skied its north face before, adding to the adventure at the end of the day. I was in a hurry to beat the weather, and pushed to gain the ridgeline. Once again, the summit was enveloped in cloud, and the expansive north face of the Stonecrop glacier was made more complicated by the lack of visibility. Without any tracks on the face, and low visibility, I began descending the face cautiously, knowing that I did have steel crampons if I did need to downclimb. After descending the first 500 meters of the upper glacier, I began skiing into a couloir on the skiers right side of the face, that continued in sections for the remainder of the face. In total the face is perhaps 1200 meters.
Finishing the last turns of the Stonecrop Glacier couloir before the north facing, open slopes that finish the Slalok north face route. I skied this linkup on the Voile Vector 180cm, which was a perfect ski for this extended outing. Light and stiff, but confident in deep snow for the north faces of the Matier massif.
After descending the entirety of the face down to Upper Joffre Lake, I put in the headphones and skated and skied to the road, in a little over 8 hours. The Matier Massif, while popular, really has some great skiing opportunities, and I am excited to keep exploring new lines next winter in this mountain group.
Million Dollar Couloir with Kyle and Zahan
The end of March was the height of the ski season for Southwest BC. The beginning weeks of March had dropped almost three meters of snow, and the end of the month saw generally clear days with stable avalanche conditions. For Kyle’s birthday, we decided to check out Million Dollar Couloir on Cayoosh Mountain, a summit neither of us had climbed and a route we had not skied.
Kyle punching to the ridgeline on Cayoosh East face. The trailbreaking on this section was deep!
After skinning onto the glacier and gaining the eastern col of Cayoosh, another party was ahead of us and we caught up to them. It turned out to be Zahan Billimoria, a mentor and friend from Jackson. It was a great surprise to meet him and his client up there, and we shared the rest of the ski day together.
Kyle descending the northern glacier of Cayoosh, with the East face behind her.
Together with Zahan, we dropped into the Million Dollar Couloir and enjoyed deep conditions through the choke, and enough space in the wide couloir for fresh tracks. While the terrain was not especially severe or intense, it was an enjoyable day with close friends in a beautiful area of the Duffey.
Warren Glacier Traverse via Garibaldi Summit, Solo
For most of the winter, I had been thinking about summiting Garibaldi Mountain inside a traverse of the Garibaldi area. In 2014, I had attempted to climb Garibaldi in February along with Eric Carter, Gary Robbins, and others, but we had stopped a mere 200 meters from the summit due to concerns about daylight. Ever since, I have wanted to summit this mountain, which towers over the town of Squamish on a clear day.
The route I ended up choosing was the Warren Glacier Traverse, which traverses under Atwell Peak before climbing the glacier to the base of Garibaldi. From this high col, the summit of Garibaldi is perhaps only 300 meters or so.
Before dawn, with the first sunlight on the tantalus range. It took probably another hour to gain the glacier just after sunrise.
Looking back towards the end of Howe Sound and Squamish in the early morning light. The ridge just below the water in the photo is where I climbed up to begin the traverse in the pre-dawn hours.
Early morning light over the wonderful Mamquam icefield and the Misty Icefields behind.
From the high col, I booted up to the summit in firm, chalky snow, and enjoyed the views on the summit before skiing the northwest face. By getting an early start, the refreeze was still strong on the descent to Garibaldi Lake, and Garibaldi lake was quick skating. However, due to recent warm temperatures, the snow level had risen substantially, and I walked for over an hour back to the trailhead before hitch hiking back to Squamish. Stats for the day were a bit under 8,000 ft of gain, 26 miles, in 8:10.
The tool of choice, the Voile WSP, atop Garibaldi Mountain, with Atwell Peak in the foreground. My home of Squamish can be seen below.
This winter had me feeling more comfortable in Southwest BC mountains, and while I am excited to keep skiing these mountains in the future, my mind is now fully tuned to running and climbing. I will update this site through the summer on adventures without all the heavy winter gear!