The coast has experienced a wild variety of weather patterns this season.
The Pineapple express came within a degree or 2 of really doing some damage but in reality it layered a thick cohesive layer of schmoo in the high alpine and filled in many lines that we have been waiting to hit.
Often a storm was followed by some high pressure and blue sky’s which is definitely an anomaly in these parts.
|Photo- Julie Tennock|
|High winds left behind my week old tracks|
Talking with many skiers there was a mix of feelings on the overall snowpack and conditions. There were those who felt that it’s been a less
than stellar season and others that are fully stoked on how their year has unfolded.
The snowpack is approximately half of average ( that may have changed in the past couple of weeks) With that in mind features tend to stand out more although a shallow snowpack can create terrain management issues.
There have been some down day’s waiting for a storm to pass or temps to fall to a reasonable elevation but what I personally found was the season has been outstanding. Often it took a little more effort or searching a little further into the high alpine farming the snow.
My best days have often been where I’ve had low expectation, often armchair forecasting is inaccurate and you truly don't know until you go !
If I’m not skiing or working I’m thinking about the next mission and checking in on the social networks/blogs/professional forecasters to see how conditions and advisories in regions are lining up.
Shortly after the “Deep Winter Photo challenge” @ Whistler/Blackcomb I experienced a pinched nerve in C5 of my neck and it caused heavy numbness and weakness in my right arm. I couldn’t feel a pole plant. It worked but was an unnerving sensation to say the least. I scaled back some of my ambitions for a while and spent many day’s in therapy hoping to retain my strength and be ready for some planned trips in March, April and May.
This gave me some time to make some plans for the longer day's of spring. Those involved the backyard and also heading north for a trip to Kitimat and Bella Coola.
As the temps dropped back to seasonal averages so did the moisture in the snow.
During the high hazard day's its tough to beat Whistler-Blackcomb.
Storm day's are spent following the Avalanche control openings and subsequent day's are spent pushing into the near country. After that some confidence is gained to explore the more remote lines.
Early March Tobin Seagel, David Gheriani and Penny Buswell headed on the long journey up to Kitimat and Terrace ! We went up there to gain a perspective on the possible impact on the Enbridge Pipeline and the mountains/oceans interface.
Part of the proposal is to tunnel through Nimbus Mountain near Kitimat. This seemed like the obvious choice to visit and possibly ski. As it turns out this peak has an amazing North Face that has never been skied.
The idea of a oil pipeline through this remote peak is absurd. The area has many drainages and slide-paths that the line would pass through.
Unfortunately on our week long visit the avalanche hazard was much too high to consider accessing this area.
The entire coast line is at risk for possible pipelines and oil tankers. Many of the
rarely visited fjords are prime habitat for a huge variety of wildlife/sealife. It has the potential to be a massive environmental disaster to allow the movement of oil through these pristine areas.
Next we headed down to Bella Coola, another small town deep in the Fjord of "Inside Passage". This area is known for having wild mountains within view of the Pacific ocean.
Bella Coola Heli Sport was kind enough to have us visit their tenure in a ski touring format. We arrived shortly after a large storm and it looked like our timing was perfect. We met with the guides and discussed location and objectives. I was stoked, I finally meet "The Swede" I 1st saw him in my all time favorite "Matchstick Productions" Global Storming".. Not to mention Beat Steiner, Christian Begin, these guy's have layed down some amazing lines in the coast mountains for years- huge respect !
The avalanche advisory meant we had to ease into our 10 day's and carefully gain confidence in objectives. The chosen zone would be ideal for this. There were a number of couloirs where we could manage the risk we would be exposing ourselves to.
Soon West Coast Heli had us at the col where we chose to camp and we got to work at building a fortress incase we did experience inclement weather.
Strangely enough as we were building walls I noticed a North Wind was starting to build up. Before long winds were steady 40 km and gusting 80km.
Next day we woke to limited visiblity and gusty winds.
The next few day's we had challenging weather with some breaks but the wind had created a slab that was variable but disconcerning enough to keep us at bay.
We got 1 large couloir off and 3/4 of the way up another line on some amazine Spires before the spidey senses turned us around.
|Spot Tobin Seagel and David Gheriani climbing !|
We left that area with a great experience but a little frustrated at how close we were to getting some incredible couloir skiing. I can't help but be jealous when I see the Sherpas in that zone filming for their fall 2013 release of " Into the Mind" That crew will certain kill it in there.
So back from our Northern Gateway Mission we started to get back on some of our favorite local lines. The past week has given up some great weather and improving stability.
|Cornice Control Crew !|
The high pressure locked in on the coast has been legendary lately ! Sandals in the valley bottoms and deep stable pow on the North Facing gems has been the order of the week.
It is getting spooky on some aspects and respect of afternoon warming has to be on everyones mind.
With those considerations we have been getting some early starts to have projects complete or choose exits that limit exposure to overhead hazards.
The other day Trevor Hunt and myself went up into the zone next to his burly spine.
I was amazed at how big this line felt.
Trevor climbed the short boot pack to the summit while I chose to shoot from the ridge ( I also felt that only exposing 1 person on the last 200 ft was best )
Trevor snapped a few as I dropped into the guts !
The line is about 1800 ft and the exit was straightforward back up to the ridge.
I'm not sure what changed my mind. I've got some good miles in the legs and being on the snow many days in a row gave me some good confidence that the timing was right.
|Even the industrial machinery is big in these parts !|
Jon and I headed in early to scope the line and then meet Trevor Hunt and Tobin Seagel later in the day.
|Old Mining Shelter !|
On our recon we ran into Dave Basterrchea, Delaney Zayac, Joe Lax and company, they were on their way back.
They gave us the beta and warned us of some difficulties on the approach.
We set the alarm for 4am to beat the daytime heat and quickly fired through the challenges of getting to the base of the south side.
A firm climb put us on the summit by 9am and I could feel my apprehension growing but I was relieved it was within reason and everything felt "Good To Go!"
We all had a quick word for "Jack Hannan" who passed away March 31, 2010 on Mt Currie.
We slid into the N.East face one at a time and it was stunning how much exposure this line gave us.
|GoPro Screen Capture !|
There were numerous 2000 ft spines 50-60 deg to a traverse to the True North aspect and more steep spines and chokes.
|Tobin Seagel coming at ya !|
|Trevor Hunt in the driver seat !|
|Tobin looking on while Jon goes in for the kill !|
|The upper 1/3rd spines.|
I doubt you could wipe the grin off our faces. For me that line was the pinnacle of my achievements skiing biglines.
Bigline Hunting !
This stuff works !
In the back of my mind my 6th trip into the Waddington is coming up fast and we are considering a recon mission by fixed wing to see if
4 day's after I return from Waddington I am heading to the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia and Russia with
Tobin Seagel - http://www.mec.ca/AST/ContentPrimary/Community/MECEnvoys/TobinSeagel.jsp
and Peter Schon who has done extensive travelling/work and photography in the region-
We will spend close to a month in some regions that Peter has explored and has noted some possible 1st descents.
In the meantime, hopefully more missions to get ready for the upcoming adventures !
I've been super fortunate to be part of the MEC Envoy program ! Mec has been a great inspiration to me since I was a kid buying my 1st harness and hopefully through my travels, photography and writing I can inspire others to go out and find adventure at any level they can achieve.
I've also been involved with RydersEyewear since the beginning and it's been awesome working with them over the years and see the brand evolve. The latest action sport glasses and Gogs are dialled !
@MEC @Ryderseyewear @Intuition @GoPro @DPS