Monday, April 16, 2012

Observation Sub Peak - Cirque Peak Couloirs double

Okay, I know I said I wouldn't post descriptive "how rad I got" reports, but this latest feat is definitely worthy. The east side of the Icefields Parkway has not been to kind to me. Bushwacking, scree-bashing, and the fact that it is so far from Canmore has placed many tours there near the bottom of my list. I know there are some gems there, I just want to limit the amount of trips I make there. So the idea was born: Tag 2 couloirs on 2 adjacent peaks so that if I wanted to ski them at some point, I wouldn't have to make 2 trips! Topo map said that the double would be close to 2000m of vertical, about the highest I have done on skis. Craig was stupid enough to come along.

We made quick progress up to the col between the 2 "summits" of the Sub-Peak (950m gain, we did not summit, although it would have been a short addition to the ski run down the glacier).

Lazy turns down the Observation Sub-Peak glacier for about 400m.

 Which led into a fun 300m couloir ("The Coolior"). The snow was deep and not sloughing very much. Bittersweet when you know you will have to bootpack back up it. I kicked her into high gear, plunging the tails of my skis into the snow as that took some weight off my legs, making booting easier. Craig was suffering but trooped on.

Getting close to the top of the couloir, angle eased off, time to stop wallowing and start skinning

I set a perfect angled skintrack with few kickturns up the glacier to minimize the suffering

Off to Cirque! We wound around to the East side of the East-most sub peak. A couple of suspect roll-overs in unfamiliar terrain, with snow that was heating up kept us on our toes and prevented us from effectively contouring the mountain. Definitely should have taken a better look when we could see this slope on the way up. We worked our way into the Cirque north bowl and onto the glacier(Like Observation-Sub, if we didn't know that it was a glacier, we probably wouldn't have known that it was a glacier). 

We were more worried about bergshrunds so we did rope up (yeah, Craig lugged around a 60m rope all day). It was my first day on a glacier other than the ones at Blackcomb, so I thought it was pretty cool. The couloir on the backside of cirque didn't look very big and we quickly worked our way up the steep apron, ditched the rope, and booted up. This time Craig used my ski plunging technique, which worked well for him...except for dropping his poles!

 The top was steep, but I was able to open it up lower down

 The "look back". Time to GTFO! Back out the way we came, descending our uptrack from earlier in the day.

 Skier triggered wet slide on Jimmy Jr. Early starts are critical!

After a skins-on descent through thin snow, a fun descent through moist snow in the bowl and a fast rip through the trees back to the car.

Total vertical, ~2000m. GPS was going funky in the coolior, adding about an extra 3km, so approx 20km. Nutrition was key! Craig's account here

Still some stuff on the list on the east side of the parkway, but I don't think I'll double Mt. Hector with the Dolomite Circuit...

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