Werd! hate ta have ta say it here, but the Canadian Rockies have been havin their best ever spring season, with snow levels higher than any in the last 85 years!! I hopped in with G Hill to get some. we hooked up some G/side sliders and Nomad made a special cameo. Jonny Red was home from Baffin and keen to ride the Sickle on the east side of Victoria, so we headed up the Death Trap Nomad
there was just a brief respite from skinnin up under the hand of Gad, then we had to cut hard right and traverse the snowslope hanging over the abyss... we tried not to think about the near death experiece that Chris, Cody and Troy had at the spot, luckily conditions were perfect for us. No pictures tho, i was on pickle factor 2.5 A group effort put the bootpack in and we were shred ready... G Hills always keen to go the extra 40 feet
ladies.... ummm... third? how rude of us, i dunno how LisaJenni puts up with our sh!t...
Nomad, kickin up some dust
and Jonny Red made 5
JR had hoped to double up with the W face of Mt. Lefroy, right next door, but i'd been a bit sick over the last week so i reined him in a bit... Jonny had to go to work the next day but the rest of us potentially had 2 more days of the weather and i didnt want to blow it, goin too hot rite out of the gate... sorry Jon!! so we skiied out, back down to the Lake
That afternoon we had a tuff time deciding how to follow up... Greg didnt want to tuck into any of the couloirs on the table, he likes a nice open face on a bright sunny day... fair enuf. The other options included Mt Stanley, which Nomad shredded a couple years ago, Victorias N face, i rode that a few years ago, Cathedrals E face, which LJ had skiied a couple weeks ago..... Lisa ended up ditching outta man camp and Patrick, Greg and i settled on the run next door, the east face from the summit of Victoria, the Sickle is over to the left in the picture
i scored the first line down and cut a slab out of a small pocket with my second turn. we had planned on tucking in under some rocks to regroup en route but after that slab got me fired up i just charged it to the bench, where there was really a safe zone to stop in. Greg followed
and Nomad is the lil speck up there.
here he is
there he goes
Tuesday was looking potentially marginal, depending on the liar (wx forecast) you asked... Greg got us all syked with some gay pep talk about 'goin fer gold' so we cashed in the carbon credits he built up last month, spent em on deisel, and drove up to the Icefields. We had mixed feelings, looking up at the Skyladder on Andromeda, it looked like there was potentially some navigable snow around the big patch of ice, exposed and consequential, sure, but it was the wind pouring clouds off the icefields, and over the ridge of the mountain, that really cured us of gold fever.
We settled on the Silverhorn and Athabasca as consolation options. The night was good for sleepin, it didnt get (?too) cold (enuf?) and we headed up to Athabasca at dawn. The wind was still rippin from the west tho, and altho the sun had baked for a couple daze, there was still snow being transported onto the lee slopes above us... we were reasonably determined until a natural slab ran right in front of us, to almost size 2, on the aspect we were considering riding... we're pretty thick but we did get the picture, stuck a fork in it, called it good, and survived the tuff shreddin back down to the car.
Thanks for comin up Patrick, nice shreddin with ya! love ta see your version on here, and shoot me your email, i'll send ya these photos. hi5s all round!
Damn that was fast karkis! It will probably be tomorrow before I get some pics/words up here, but on first look there's some good ones! Nice write-up and documentation --- I'm certainly content with my double gold .
Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2005 10:05 am Posts: 1182 Location: Colorado
Nice work all. Thanks for checking in with this. Skyladder someday... perhaps. If I get my hands on a scanner I will post some pics I have of it back in the old days, it is sad to see how the ice/snow on it has receded over the years. Always nice to see great lines being ridden in the Canadian Rockies!
Well, karkis pretty much nailed it with his succinct (karkis-style) recounting of the trip, but I'll add my own version.
It probably was a combination of factors, but I was a bit nervous at the beginning of this trip. The gale-force winds and sideways snow that I endured from the border through to Calgary probably didn't help, nor did the angular evening shafts of light accentuating the steep rocky peaks on my drive through the Bow valley. Yam, Ha ling, Rundle, Castle, Temple and other peaks were forbidding in their stature, standing as a warning against outside intruders. Why was I going to ride some steep, exposed lines with some people that I had never been out with before? I'm generally pretty fit, but having not been out splitboarding much in the last month, I was also a bit unsure of whether I could keep up with the natives who get out for big tours on a regular basis.
So when g. hill and Mark (karkis) arrived in the LL parking lot in g's big diesel truck, I was probably a bit reserved. Undoubtedly they were also wondering whether this random splitboarder could survive a journey on one of the big rockies faces. So credit is due to all of them for taking a chance on an internet date (as greg would later joke about my rendezvous with karkis).
Needless to say, everything ended up working out just dandy. Mark and Greg have perhaps the most totally opposite personalities – Mark is very quiet and discreet, although you can tell that he’s thinking a lot more than he lets on. Greg, on the other hand, is extremely effusive and talkative, but the exterior hides a more contemplative core. Combined, they probably make a good match for the mountains, and I fit somewhere in between the two poles of personality.
That evening, we also met up with Jonny Red (aka John Walsh, a serious climber who’s even been up most of the NF of the north twin), Chris Alstrin (a filmer from CO), and LJ (a rad female splitboarder from Golden, and a softbooter no less). Together, we all set out from the chateau at 4:30 the next morning with the aim of shredding the sickle on Mt. Victoria.
The sickle is an incredible pow line, but with a serious sting in its tail and a potentially deadly approach. To get up there, you first have to pass through the death trap, a huge terrain trap beneath the east face and its ominous hanging glacier. Next, an exposed traverse above some gigantic cliffs is in order, followed by a long bootpack above the glacial bench then up to the summit. Not the kind of place to take a tumble. Once up top, the line seems much more benign, but you must constantly remember to avoid letting the sluff sweep you down and to your demise. Luckily for me (and all of us), my timing was about as perfect as could be – the line was in pow conditions and fat, the snowpack was super stable, and there hadn’t been too much warming yet.
Cliffs on the way up
Karkis heading into the death trap, the line approximately above the frozen waterfall
Coming up from the valley with the early morning light starting to warm the south faces.
Karkis could potentially belong in Miami with the flower shirt and bared chest. Style!
Jonny Red, psyched to shred his third line on the peak (after the E. and NW faces)
View towards the chateau
Karkis with a serac looming in the background
Greg et al through the legs
Jonny at the top
Greg getting ready to shred
Jonny goes to set up his photo spot. I wasn’t as motivated to find the best position.
Greg digs in
Our tracks from the plain of the six glaciers
Chilling at the lunch spot after shredding
That afternoon, we had some serious indecisiveness when deciding what to do the next day. We eventually decided on Bident, only to be shut down with the Moraine lake road being closed. Chilling in the sunshine, it was just so easy to put off the choice until later in the day, even though we eventually had to settle on something. Finally, we decided to go back to where we knew it was really good, and shred an even more spectacular line on Victoria – the east face.
Another 3:30 wakeup and 4:30 start, and we were off up the valley for the second time. Along the way, we skinned up an extremely crusted slope, which was probably my physical crux for the day (not being in hard boots), and then gradually eased into still powdery conditions on the upper glacier.
I don’t have any photos of the way up since I was more focused on the steep bootpack than wrangling my camera, but it was perfect booting conditions and exhilarating to be in such a cool position. I was unusually content to let the others put in the steps on the way up, and was thankful to have two solid partners with me.
Endless mountains on top. Many more lines to shred!
Mark charging into it. I wasn’t in a great position for photos but didn’t want to get out on the face, and was glad I didn’t because Mark released a small pocket of windloaded snow (expected) that could’ve been an issue.
Our turns from the base of the run
And from afar. It was quite entertaining walking back out along the lake and explaining to the hordes of tourists what we were doing, no – there aren’t any ski lifts there, yes-we woke up very early, etc. Rather surreal, and really neat to check out our lines from the chateau/
Afternoon napping and dry-out back at the cars
The next day we had the idea to go for triple gold and shred skyladder on Andromeda. We packed up, and headed up the parkway.
Cooking dinner on the side of the road.
Unfortunately, once we got there, skyladder wasn’t looking so hot. It was possible that one could sneak through the choke between the ice patch and the rock, but that was far from certain and was extremely exposed. Sitting in our cars in the blowing cold wind, I was thinking that I might back down even if they were enthusiastic. Looking over at greg’s face, however, I could see from his expression that probably none of us would be riding skyladder the next day, which brought a sense of relief. Even though we have all had wildly different experiences, it was cool to see that we all were in agreement about drawing the line.
Skyladder, looking gnarly
So we opted for a “wind-down” day of heading up and shredding off either Athabasca or maybe the north aspect of silverhorn. Even there, however, significant windloading was evident once we got up high, which gave us plenty of warning signs that we were better off backing down.
Heading up Athabasca
Views on the way back out the parkway. It never gets old.
Once arriving back at LL, the upcoming weather forecast wasn’t looking so good for me to stick around. Nearly every slope had been baked, the next day was supposed to be a bit less pleasant, and then it was going to take a few days after that to warm up. I decided to take the cue, and readied my messy car to leave while karkis packed his stuff up to hitch-hike home. Greg had a ski-modeling mission in Banff the next day, so we were all heading in different directions.
Despite getting shut down on the final day, I couldn’t have asked for better conditions, better lines or better ski partners. I knew that I wanted to come up north for the terrain, and knew that riding with Mark and the revy crew would not disappoint. Extra cheers for the good company and good times.
aw yeh sweeeet nice one Patrick, thanks for adding that. just read on the MCR that Skyladder had been all covered in snow up until last sunday, the ice was exposed by a slab avalanche, suspected to have been triggered by climbers. by the time we saw it the wind had buffed over the crown and flanks, it just looked like the patch of ice had always been there... it has been every time ive looked. interesting... makes me not sure if i want to ride it all covered in snow (i tend to be a bit of a trigger!), or if it might be safer to go in the condition its in now and just work around the ice...