Thursday, December 22, 2016

Line of the Week: Mt. Chester Couloir

Chester Lake, a good place to stretch the legs, get comfortable with your gear and ... oh my what's that? Follow the trail up to the lake then work your way up the fan to the line. The line has many features, mini cornices, chokes, and multiple options in some points. Because of the multiple features, snow can vary from powder to windslab to ice so be prepared for a bit of everything.

Top elevation: 2950m
Total vertical: 1050m
Line length: 700m
Round Trip Distance: 9km

A couple of similar, but shorter lines further up the valley from Chester Lake provide alternatives if there is a group going up the main couloir. As these lines are similar, they do not really provide a great alternative if you are not certain about conditions. Do a couple of mellow tree laps and call it a day.

Hillmap route

Other Lines of the Week .
Other Kananaskis lines.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Line of the Week: Grand Daddy Couloir

With a prominent rock pinnacle at the base, this line is instantly recognized in any Instagram post. Its popularity (high probability of a group being above you. Don't climb under other groups. Go find another line) and a large cornice at the top are the two main hazards.

Parking: Mosquito Creek Hostel Trailhead on Icefields Parkway XXkm North of Lake Louise
Elevation Gain: 800m
Line length: 200m
Approximate round trip distance: 8.5km
Top elevation: 2650m
Aspect: NE! Watch out for the cornice!

Cross the river, work your way up through the trees. Ski up the fan to the base of the line. Bootpack up the line. Depending on the snow depth, it might be wise not to push all of the way to the cornice but to the base of a big rock. Enjoy!

Hillmap map

Not feeling it? West Nile zone offering tight tree skiing is below this line.

Other lines of the Week
Icefields Parkway

Line of the week: Introduction

Going to get the ball rolling on a little online guidebook of some steeper ski lines in the Canadian Rockies. Stuff that isn't in Selected Alpine, 11,000ers, Ski Trails, or Summits and Icefields.

So you've got a season or two or touring under your belt. Maybe you've skied Surprise Pass or Hero Knob and are wondering where do you go from here? The Rockies are a young, steep and imposing mountain range, but the crumbly rock has revealed many weaknesses that are able to hold snow. The cold, fickle Rockies snowpack takes time to stabilize. Great, aesthetic ski lines await, they just require patience to tame them properly.

Highway 40 (Highwood)
Smith-Dorrien (Highway 742)
Trans-Canada Highway
Highway 93S
Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N)

Safety and Etiquette:
It goes without saying that serious lines should be saved for times of good stability. In general a clear, calm day is best, but be weary of the effect that the sun and temperature can have on the line. Start early to avoid a strong midday sun shining on unstable snow or cornices that funnels into your line. Cornices drop like bombs onto the start zones at the top of lines. Deep persistent slabs might not be able to form on steeper features, but can exist on fans, aprons, and at the top of the line if the slope angle slackens.

Sluffing: New snow, wind, sun exposure, and temperature (whether high temperatures or cold weather faceting) all increase the risk of a sluff washing you off the line.

Never climb underneath another group. Go find another line. You are at risk of the group above you sending sluffs, dropped gear, or falling on you. You are also forcing the group above to wait at the top for you to top out. They don't want to be stuck up there. They might want to ski another line after, they might want to get off the line before the weather changes, they might need to get home by a certain time. Just don't. Careful when you are climbing a line that can be accessed from the top via another route. A group topping out this way might send sluff or a cornice down.

Aside from having the experience to judge if the snow is safe to ski, it is important to have the fitness, technique, and knowledge of your gear to move as fast as possible on these lines to minimize your exposure to objective hazards such as sluffing, cornice, or rock falls. Dial in those skin to bootpack and bootpack to ski transitions so that you aren't waiting around in the bowling alley for too long. As these lines are in the alpine, the fitness to climb 1000m+ with some bootpack is a pre-requisite. Work your way up.

Have confidence in your skills to ski the line. It's not hard to climb up something that you might not have the guts to ski down. You should feel comfortable skiing ANYTHING at the ski hill before stepping onto one of these lines.

Carry the right gear. Ice axe and crampons if there's a chance of hard snow. Helmet provides some protection against stuff above you.

GPS: I carry a simple GPS to track my day, but these lines are typically "if you can see it, you can ski it" sort of deal.

Disclaimer: I am not a guide and I am not liable for the accuracy of the information I have provided. Ski and climb these lines at your own risk. If in doubt, hire a guide!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

vert 180 report

The 7th Vert180 took place last weekend with perfect weather conditions. While there was not enough snow coverage to ski from the top of the nipple, we were still able to top our via a bootpack and then run down to a transition area on the groomed snow.

The usual suspects were there, while Matt, Caroline, and Lori Anne made the trip from the interior to collect some SMCC points and shake out the dust from the off season with the rest of us. While I lament the slow growth of ski mountaineering racing in Canada, there were more race skis and race backpacks popping up on both new and familiar faces.

3 laps in, it was just me, Joel, and Travis left in the front group. I was able to ski off the front with clean transitions. Unfortunately Travis had some stomach issues. Joel lurked behind me the whole race forcing me to have to hammer hard to maintain my 1-1.5minute advantage. I suffered hard in the last hour as I always do and was able to fend him off in the end. Strong performances by Matt Reid to take the final podium spot, Kylee , who didn't let me lap her until the 2nd last lap, Michelle, who battled hard to keep Kylee from lapping her, and of course great performance by 14 year old Tom who raced neck and neck with Kylee for 1.5hrs. Sounds like the battle for the final women's podium spot was also exciting with Marg taking it in her comeback.

I was pretty shattered after the race and was glad to get a burger and some chili in me to revive me. Looking forward to Castle Mountain in January!