Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring skiing, crevasse rescue, and an attempted day trip of Mt. Joffre

Somehow, I still haven't ridden my mountain bike since I got to Canmore.

A couple of rainy days, then when it finally cleared, I went to the now closed for the season Nakiska for some turns. 15cms of wet snow on top of a hard wet base, but fun was had.

Bill is working now, but he was up for a dawn patrol mission and we went for what we thought would be a short tour to a cool line we saw while touring in the area. We had to turn back early due to time, but the consolation prize wasn't bad.

Then it was off to Bow Hut for a crevasse rescue course. Our guide was Thomas Exner and he was excellent. Highly recommended. Pretty fun learning to lift someone up with just a little muscle, and sometimes some mechanical advantage. 

Bill. Packing extraordinaire

My take on "spreading out". It is an excellent idea. Minimizing group exposure. But if you have 4 or 5 people who are strong and able to move quickly through the canyon, why not let them go ahead rather than have them more slowly so as not to bunch up. Spending less time in the canyon is minimizing exposure.

The infamous Bow Canyon terrain trap

This weekend's faction of the Edmonton skimo team.

Graeme leading the way up the glacier and into the whiteout

Bill, looking very pro!

I brought the light gear up and it felt really at home here.

Mt. Gordon: signing the summit register is lame.

Fun pitch down to Bow Hut

Album cover. We liked that above slope so much, we did it again after dinner.

Skiing the glacier under a full moon.

Who actually tells the truth in the Bow Hut register?
Really fun course. Climbed Mt. Gordon on Saturday, and Crowfoot on Sunday.

 Also a good introduction to hut living. The packs are heavy! For food, we brought up a 2kg precooked ham, some bagels, bread, lettuce, rice cheese, and other snacks. Ham for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was convenient, but definitely got old, even after only 2 days.

Then returning to Canmore after an awesome weekend, it looked like there would be a good freeze, and I was pumped to go for a day trip of Mt. Joffre. I'll admit, I have been mildly fascinated with this mountain ever since I saw this . We were thinking about it last weekend, but it is a pretty long day and you need a dedicated group. Ralph was keen (did Highwood, Cirque Peak, Mt. Field, etc. with him before).

Left the car at 4:45, skated easily across upper Kananaskis lake (oh yeah, Ralph is British and can't skate!). Getting up to Aster Lake is definitely not easy. We worked our way up old tracks through steep trees, did a little bit of extra climbing and finally, up into the alpine. I heard a few new English words from Ralph who eventually had to put on ski crampons. He is not the skinning jedi that I am! Then more perfect skating conditions, then had to pick our way up the moraines, looking for snow that was not moist. 

It was then easy to work up onto the glacier. We were switchbacking up the face, avoiding what looked to be wind affected rollovers on the right side until we would have to cross over, but eventually I found that the snow wasn't feeling right, it wasn't as supportive as I had hoped, so we bailed, about 250m below the summit. 

We were working our way to the right when we decided to bail. Maybe we should have gone right earlier?

On the way out, we found a way to eliminate some unnecessary climbing on the way in. Skiing our wasn't too bad, a little sketchy at times on steep slopes in isothermal snow. The real kick in the nuts was that the lake didn't look safe to cross, so we had to go around the shore.

Some key notes:
-Because of the large elevation range involved I would advise doing this with low freezing levels or starting even earlier. The moraines 2300-2600m were getting warm and it is hard to avoid their steep slopes. We went up and down a ridge. Also, it would be nice if the ski out isn't through isothermal snow and the lake is still frozen (and start at interlakes). But perfect skating conditions save some time and energy.
-The face is steep, 45+ degrees. Good stability is required. Afterwards, we were wondering if the steeper (?) right side may have had more consolidated snow than the main bowl.

Sometimes after a long day, it takes a couple of days to forget the suffering, but right when I got back to the parking lot, I was pumped to try it again sometime. But due to reason #1, I think I will wait until next season. 


  1. Hey Peter! Not sure if you still check this blog or not, but we are looking at a March trip into Aster to attempt Joffre. Any thoughts on access, timing?

  2. Should be able to ski across the lake, so park at Interlakes for a slightly shorter ski. Ski the normal winter ascent staying climber's right of Fossil Falls, and return to the creek above the falls to avoid any extra climbing. On the moraines, far climber's left seems to be the best way. Timing wise, it's a 40degree, steep, and high North face. You'll want good stability.