Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Line of the Week: Mt. Whymper North Glacier

Chickadee Valley is described in Chic Scott's guidebook in the "Powder Slopes Near the Road" section, specifically detailing the yo-yo potential of the menacing, south facing, slidepath runouts off of Boom Mountain that have been the scene of a fatality over the years. But the area really comes into its own when stability improves by the spring. Ignore the southwest facing slidepaths and focus on the large NE cirques and southerly morainal glacial approaches and it can be hard to believe so much great skiing and scenery can be packed into just one valley.

The north glacier run off of Mt. Whymper into Chickadee Valley is my all time favourite backcountry ski run. It presents 900m of skiing broken up into three pitches of steep-ish skiing. The first pitch is pure glory dropping into a wide open north face. The final pitch is the most interesting with morainal spines or gullies. The line can be approached either by centerpunching straight up it via the Chickadee Valley, or as a loop, best done with a bike stashed at the BC/Alberta border to blast the 3km of highway back to the car at the Stanley Glacier parking lot. These are big, open slopes with lots of mass, so you definitely want good stability before you even think about attempting them.

The upper pitch gets the thumbs up!

From the Stanley Glacier parking lot: Stash a bike at the BC/Alberta border sign. Finish the drive to the parking lot. Cross the highway, ski up through the burned trees trending towards a hanging valley. If you stay east of the gully coming out of the hanging valley, it is possible to avoid having to climb directly up the gully. Once in the hanging valley, wrap around and make your way up the steep slopes to the col. From the col, one can leave the skis behind and top out Mt. Whymper.

From Continental divide parking lot: Ski up Chickadee valley. The run is the 2nd "skiable" bowl coming off of Mt. Whymper (the first skiable bowl also offers good skiing, but on a much shorter run!). Climbing the first pitch you have 2 choices: Steep moraines, or mini couloir. Pick your poison. For the next pitch there are two more options: Climb up the main bowl, or work your way up through the rocks connecting steeper snow patches. The last pitch is obvious. You've got to find a way to the top!

Other options: As mentioned, the Chickadee Valley is home to some amazing skiing. My personal favourites are the south facing morainal runs at the end of the valley rather than the south west facing slidepaths off of Boom Mountain.

Elevation Gain: 1100m
Total Distance: 12.5km
Top Elevation: 2680m
Line Length: 900m

A photo posted by Peter Knight (@peteyknight5) on

While skiing/climbing the middle pitch, you might notice a couloir! This is an exciting option and it even tops out to the ridgetop if you push it hard enough.
A photo posted by Peter Knight (@peteyknight5) on

Hillmap route

Other "Lines of the Week"

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