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Squamish/Whistler, B.C, Canada
This Blogtography is not a shameless self promotion but a way to keep in touch with folks and share my experiences of what I see and do through the eye of the lens. I feel fortunate to play a part in stoking people to get out and explore and find their own experiences no matter what they are. It really inspires me to capture a moment in time and tell a visual story. Quote- "If I only scrape a living at least it's a living worth scraping for ! " ( Dark Side Of The Lens)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Strike 2 of the week !
Judgement-Fear or good Mountain Sense ! 
When to throw it down and get it done or turn heals and go home empty handed.

Last week I sat on the bench for the final lap of a 2 day mish due to a nagging shoulder issue. The crew nailed a big one while I played photographer with the safety of a long lens.
This weeks program I was determined to do something reasonably big and committing, maybe get back on that emotional high of accomplishing a project in the mountains.
We had a bit of a reset and slackcountry was pretty damn good through the week.
The long weekend gong show had me google earthing and searching for something new to attempt.
I felt the snowpack was a little touchy so a coulior was my preference to minimize risk while the snowpack tightened up.
Jimmy Martinello suggested a rad 900m line Jon Johnston and
had done a few weeks ago so that was the obvious line choice. We got the beta and the plan was in action.
Trevor Hunt also joined and my partner Julie Tennock.
The access is surprisingly fast and I had been up in this particular cirque many times but never saw this hidden line. Sometimes you have to think out of the box and the mountains open up many options of adventure.

We arrived at the base of the route and judging by the size of the avalanche debris the whole side of the mountain had cleaned itself out.

Not much to do in here ?
View from our climb,
Timing is everything !

This was both good and bad ! The route was clean but the skiing would be shite on firm bed surface. 

We decided to proceed and have a poke up the lower apron and stick our noses into the coulior.
Clearly we were slightly in the wrong spot as the initial choke contained a 30m vertical wall of ice.
Then we remembered Jon had cut left and climbed a steep face and traversed back into the coulior. Trevor took off setting a solid boot pack and Jimmy and I adjusted some gear and slowly followed.
The exposed traverse was a bit unnerving. I did a few quick hand shears on the 200m crossing and found moderate clean shears but felt ok as long as we avoided convexes or anything that wasn't supported.
The odd spot we hit shallow rotten snow but they were isolated and short lived.
More exposed than the image captures- 

Soon we were in the gut of the line climbing quickly on a firm Bed surface. Climbing was fast and as we pulled through a dog leg it was clear the entire coulior had slide a few day's prior and pulled out 2 separate aprons of snow. We were not looking at the greatest snow condition for skiing but the situation was top notch.

Then I saw a Double Greyhound cornice more or less staring down the top 3rd of the line..
This got some discussion going... How supported was it, are there safe zones we can dash between, what is sun doing, is there wind.. I started climbing again with my eyes locked on the feature and felt like it was probably ok as all the other signs were in check. No wind- The sun didn't appear to be a factor and with Jons Billygoat Plates we could move fast between safe spots.

No sooner had I convinced myself of this the winds started to pick up and it was evident the cornice was getting sun. Spindrift then weaved it's way down the buttress followed by a few small chunks of snow that whizzed passed me.  That was a enough for me to personally call it a day.

Trevor and Jimmy seemed to agree and the feeling of the conditions were unanimous.
These moments alway's make me think about personal decision making in a group.
When I make observations I generally voice them to get a consensus on risk vs reward. Group dynamics can push a group to succeed and maybe pushing risk higher. At what point do you pull the ripcord and turn around. Ski Mountaineering is dangerous, all risk cannot be eliminated but certain aspects of it can be managed.
Our 1st error was leaving Squamish way too late. Had we been a few hours earlier, the afternoon warming would have been avoided. I believe the risk associated with that cornice would have been drastically reduced in cooler temps or at least a huge equation in deciding to turn or proceed would have been off the list.
Whats the problem ?.. Get up that thing !

Despite not succeeding the company was top notch as was the experience in this amazing location.