My photo
Squamish/Whistler, B.C, Canada
Experienced Freelance/commercial photographer who specialized in custom content creation, product photography, and strategy. My focus is connecting brands with their audiences, bringing life to ideas and media solutions to get noticed and hold attention. Ability to communicate and get the image for Industry/Action Sport, lifestyle Realestate and environments where good judgement and teamwork are essential. Excellent Knowledge of the West Coast of British Columbia for fresh locations to suite clients needs.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Valhalla Mountain Touring !

The season has been off to an unusually slow start on the West Coast of British Columbia. Our usual lines and current projects are yet to fill in. In the meantime this has meant finding creative ways to seek out mountain adventures. Surprisingly, with a little effort there were some great turns to be had. To fill the gaps I often found myself cross training and dreaming up future explorations. Many of which will unfold as the season progresses.

A week before Christmas I cracked an e-mail from lead guide “Evan Stevens” of Valhalla Mountain Touring (VMT), saying there was spaces available at the lodge. It was the ideal opportunity for me to get as far away as possible from the unfolding chaos during the final week of Christmas shopping. Fellow MEC Envoy, Tobin Seagel, Coast Steep Skier Trevor Hunt, and my partner Julie quickly packed our bags and headed inland in search of the great conditions we had been seeing through social network sites. As we departed Squamish, it was difficult to concede that the coastal mountains were having a subpar start to the season, especially with being exceedingly spoiled the past few years.  

After making good time to Revelstoke and heading down Hwy 6 towards the ferry at Arrow Lake, it was starting to look like the winter we are accustomed to. It was clear the central interior was experiencing normal accumulations and reporting good stability. Perhaps we were in for the pre-Christmas powder gluttony we all were daydream about…or so we hoped.  Anticipation built on the short ferry ride across Arrow Lake as we eyeballed potential ski lines high above the waters. After departing the ferry and pulling into Nakusp, we made a mandatory stop at the local bakery to fill up on the savory goods. I recalled this bakery from a visit a few years prior and stopping was an absolute must. A short drive from here brought us to the meeting place to begin the 1 hour snow cat ride to the lodge.

VMT is unique as it is one of the oldest commercial backcountry operations in BC. It was started in 1978, and Dale and Lynda Caton purchased it in 1993; it has been a family run business ever since. Daughter, Jasmin Caton, who is now a certified Ski and Rock Guide, bought VMT with her husband Evan Stevens and together they run the updated 7 bedroom Timber Frame Lodge.  The lodge boasts incredible comforts for such a remote location. Collectively Jasmin and Evan guide the clients, maintain the facilities, and manage a micro-hydro project that is designed to have no impact on the stream ecology. The land tenure has over 80km² of skiable terrain that would take a lifetime to fully explore and understand. With ambitions high, our aim for the next 4 days was to see and ski as much of that 80km² as possible. With the slow start to our Coastal touring season, fitness was a little low but we knew that this would be the perfect way to build a base for the winter. Ambition drove us as we were excited to arrive at the lodge and acquaint ourselves with the folks that were already there having fun.

In the morning we fuelled up on Bean Brackendale Roast while Evan gave the pre-trip avalanche advisory and updated conditions on what the group could expect.
Spro and Go !

The settled snow depth was amongst the deepest in the province, and with this report we were hard pressed to wipe the silly grins off of our faces.
Lead Guide Stevens..Daily routine of measuring "Faceshots"

With the amount of varied terrain at our doorstep, we thought we would head up to Ruby Ridge to start. After all we had pulled Evan and Jasmin aside for the inside scoop on where to find sheltered north facing lines. 
Smarties do Tour.. We saw them !

As we put our skins on outside the cabin we weren’t exactly giving up our secret stash to the other guests. Quietly we sauntered away downplaying any knowledge of the area so nobody would follow us. We had a good laugh when all the groups collectively merged an hour or so later on the ridge.

Ha Ha Ha.. Hooo.. what you guys doing here :)

Apparently we weren’t the only ones with a good Idea. It was awesome to hear the hooting and hollering from those we could not see. The ridge provided plenty of space for everyone to safely drop a few private lines on multiple aspects. It was the perfect day to test out the legs and dust off the early season "Pow-Webs".

Dusk arrived at 4:00pm saving us from completely burning out, and the incredible 2000-foot line back to the lodge for apr├Ęs and sauna was the feather in the cap. 

Onion Duty !

There is something special about skiing powder and being in the mountains. It brings a unique and childlike energy to a group, giving grown adults a new sense of discovery. Relived moments and experiences around the dinner table brought our different snow experience together.
Shredding pow by day, Shredded Cheese by night !

One big Powder hungry family !

Over the next few days, our confidence in the snow pack increased and we ventured out into bigger terrain. 
Good to Go !

All around us you could see an abundance of natural paths from steep summits and chutes, to low angle tree line bowls.
Views like this, it's also about the Up !

The area is as diverse as it is playful, bringing in many considerations and aspects when navigating the terrain. On my last trip to VMT I had scoped out ‘Rugged Peak’, and Evan had mentioned some of the longest unbroken lines were to be had up there. From the col, you could see as far as the Bugaboos and Howser Towers. With a 2500ft powder run on the line, there was little discussion on the day’s objective.
But I like the "Deep Down" Trevor Hunt

Once again after studying the terrain, we discovered a safe passage to the goods. All week we had been utilizing ridges and well protected forested areas to gain access to the skiing.

 The balance of tree skiing and Alpine terrain was always perfect, and this day would be no different. At our high point we were treated to a spectacular 360° view of the entire tenure including the Howser Towers off in the distance.
Tobin did his best to keep snow out of his boots !
He eventually gave up and goes in deep !
Heading home for dinner !
Evan Leading by example !

Yours Truly lost in front of the lens ! Freds Image..

Friday, January 17, 2014

Garibaldi !
A walk in the Park... No really, A walk in the park !

It's no secret the coast is in a bit of a slump this winter. I'm optimistic things will pick up and there is plenty of time to get back on track. We had a refresh this past weekend and it was great to see the storm depositing up to 100cm in some areas allowing us back into some of our favourite lines, particularly on Whistler/Blackcomb.
The flip side is that snow is sitting on a bit of a problematic base and good decision making in terrain selection is mandatory.
It's been awesome to see all the great info sharing in regards to these concerns, the temptation to take greater chances when we are powder starved is pretty tempting but just not worth it.. with Patience we will get back on those lines we day dream about.
The way I look at it is if we could hit every line on our bucket list every time we roll it would just normalize the experience. What I like about each winter is how weather patterns, snowfall and winds change features almost daily creating something new to figure out.

Today I headed up into my favourite zone with JF Plouffe ( Helly Hansen Athlete and Guide).

JF alway's takes great shots so I poached him !

Early Morning Light- Tantalus

Day time temps were at record levels so we got an early start and for the most part we would be traveling on the shady North, North East Aspect off of Brohm Ridge.
 Our plan was to head up onto the normal route on Garibaldi and see how the slots were filling in and maybe hit one of the long mellow lines off the Warren Glacier.

Dropping down behind what I refer to as the sharkfin ( not to be confused with the same name on the Neve)  to climb up to Brohm Ridge we traversed over old debris that we suspect ran shortly after the storm a few day's prior. There was some cornice debri so it's possible that is what triggered it. I've been in this area numerous times and have never seen the feature go wall to wall. The crown was approx 50cm and ran down into the drainage 500m path.. A firm reminder the potential for destructive slides even in seemingly benign terrain.
We quickly crossed the bed surface in flat light and carried on up to the Warren Glacier.
Dalton Dome pictured below, slightly different shot location..but you get the idea !


Can you spot the difference--Maybe won't go this year ! 
2012 fat fat fat

So we moved on from this location and headed across the glacier to gain the view of "Garibaldi".. Route finding was straight forward, slots were obvious.
JF Plouffe !

Old projects.... they will alway's be there !
The main face on Garibaldi was well filled, the bergshrund appeared bridged, however a large crown reaching out into the main face was a clear indicator that today was not the day.

 Similar aspect to the large path we walked across earlier in the day !

Image by JF Plouffe-- Chris Christie

Sorry, no images of the debri, or slide paths.. all hiding in flat light, in the shadow's. 
So with a little effort and heads up there is some decent skiing to be had. Use good judgement and go find adventure ! High pressure is rare on the coast and when ambitions are scaled to conditions, it's actually pretty damn good out there.
( The day flew past.. our intention was to dig a pit on the way out at the 1st slide path but I had to fly off to night shift.. stellar day !)