Sunday, May 24, 2015

Royal River Valley Rumble

Kurt and Geoff put on a great race. The course featured some steep climbing and I found that I had to spend the flatter sections recovering. Just getting over an illness, but the legs felt good for 7th place.

Got the drone out

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Casual Skiing

It has been game-on in the rockies since the last weekend of February. Sure, the lack of snowfall frustrated powder skiers, but for any ski mountaineer worth his/her weight in snow, it was a glimpse outside of the typical continental snowpack. As long as the weather was good, and fresh snow was given some time to settle, good days in the mountains were pretty much a given. It was hard to avoid the call of the mountains with the conditions .

The windslab was breakable, but the terrain was impressive. (chick-a-boom)

I think most skiers in the rockies don't get onto steep terrain as much as they would like. The mind has nothing else to think about but making the next turn.

There were weekends where the weather didn't cooperate. Thick clouds would build to the west brought on by strong winds. Progress was made possible by occassional emergence of landmarks. (popes)

Steep terrain, or slogging it out. Early spring stability made both options work out. (pumpkin traverse)
And slog we did. (Kicking Horse pass to Lake Louise via Opabin and Wenkchemna passes)
Spirits were high upon cresting the final col of the day, but were soon shattered by the long road slog on the exit.

Putting a skintrack into the alpine is the essence of ski touring. Until the clouds roll in obscuring any landmarks.

Where to go skiing? I usually have plenty of options rolling around inside my head. Sometimes I just want to return to a spot that I've been to before, but not recently. (Black prince to Sawmill highline)

We were often reminded of the thin snow year and high winds earlier in the season. An early season snowpack on a large slope is not a good thing and we had to pull the plug on this one.
Hitting ice while turning does not inspire the same confidence that a deep snowpack does.

Cloudy again. Well we tried to make the most of that weekend.

High winds here brought in a storm that deposited 30cm of low density blower.

It sure felt good to stand on top of something steep and aesthetic after getting thwarted by weather and shallow snow.

It is always relieving to find myself back on a flat glacier after a couple of minutes making calculated turns on a steep, aesthetic slope. (Mt. Maude).

Still, the mountains never make it too easy. (wind slab on Athabasca).

Except when enjoying mellow turns down the glacier.

Plus there are many more objectives to ski, so why risk it all for one?

My last ski day of the season could not have been more pleasant. We were late on our desired objective, but we ended up spending the morning chasing corn snow on multiple aspects before descending back to the road with minimal struggle.
From March to May long weekend, I skied every weekend but one. My legs are tired and in hindsight I wish I would have stayed home instead of battling the storms on some weekends. While no one day really stands out as a major accomplishment for me: most of these days felt casual, I think that the past couple of months have been my best period of skiing ever. I have made it happen in the storms, the glacier rope has become a staple of my backpack, I backed off of lines that I didn't feel good about, I have explored many areas that I have always had in the back of my mind, and I have found inspiration for future objectives.

Nothing good comes from going east

Head west, young man.

To the west lie the mountains, to the east lies flat plains, ice storms, salted roads, corrupt construction companies, and cities with too many people trying to get to the same place at the same time.

The further west you go into the mountains, the deeper the snowpack. On the east side of the mountains, the wind and the cold leave little quality snow to be skied.

On the west side of the road. glaciers have carved the mountains into bowls that catch the snow. On the opposite side of the road, flat, featureless piles of rock are scoured by prevailing south westerly flows.

The best skiing is often found to the west.

This is the general rules, but as with most rules, there are exceptions. For one, variety and curiosity are forces pushing one to explore unfamiliar areas. And sometimes, it does snow more to the east.

Skiing on the west side of the road the previous day, we struggled through breakable windslab. The next day, we explored east of the road and found soft snow after some tough trailbreaking through facets. 

After skiing what could be the worst snow that I skied all season (sastrugi), we spent the next day on the east side of the road and found untouched snow even a week after the previous snowfall.

Head far enough east and the mountain starts to have features found on the west side of the road. 

Glaciers have left their mark east of the road, but they still struggle to hold snow.

Smoother mountains on the east side of the road allow for skiing on all aspects. Helpful for chasing corn snow as the sun moves across the sky.

It is possible to get surprised by unfamiliar terrain. This run was longer than it looked from the top!