March 17 to 24, 2012 w/ Alpine Club of Canada Calgary Section
The Fairy Meadow (Bill Putnam) Hut, owned by the Alpine Club, offers a spectacular location for ski/snowboard mountaineering with glacier upon glacier and jagged granite peaks. As we found out, it also had a surprising amount of good tree skiing below the hut.
Despite my sales pitch to my fellow members of the Calgary Splitboard facebook group, I was the only splitter on this trip (hopefully this TR is the necessary kick in the ass for next year!)
We were amazed to actually be able to fly in on the day scheduled, since it was almost a complete white out on the highway from Golden to the staging area. Fortunately, the snow let up just enough and a small window opened up right at the hut that we were able to fly in all 19 people + gear by about 3:30.
There's lots of info about the hut and the surrounding runs, so I won't repeat it here.
We were amazed to find much more stable conditions than we were expecting, with the Valentine's Surface hoar layer causing havoc throughout the Rockies and Selkirks. Fortunatley it had been puking snow on the area (the previous group never even saw the mountains across the valley until the day we flew in), so the surface hoar was down low enough (about 170 to 190 cm down) that it was unlikely to be triggered by skiers, but we were all too aware that a smaller avalanche could step down to this layer.
We started out quite cautiously, heading across the Granite Glacier with 9 of heading to the Unicorn Mtn./Mt. Colossal Col (Unicol) and 5 to the Unicorn Horn/Unnamed Col (Horny col):
-fun first pitch from Unicol, then some meadow skipping down the glacier, then skinned up to the glacier access point, then split skied a small pitch, more skinning up a short pitch, then a fun ride down the practice slopes to the hut to finish the day.
Next day, I joined 6 others to cautiously explore the approach to Friendship Col - the most popular destination in the area, both on its own merit and because it serves as access to a new expanse of terrain. We ended up taking 2.5 hrs to gain the 200 m that comprised the crux, as we dug two deep pits and even put a trail breaker on belay as he crossed the most suspect slopes.
Friendship col later in the week:
The weather closed in on us at Friendship col and we descended in low visibiltiy. We spent the next 3 days in the trees below the hut, but we weren't complaining.
At the end of the 3rd day in the trees, the weather started to improve, so we did some exploring and found a nice little line starting at an obscure col. We cut a small section of cornice and the dropped into the line.
(skip to 5:00 in the video below)
Our last ski day dawned as a perfect bluebird, so anyone that was still healthy stampeded up and over Friendship col. There was 15 of us in all - those pillows and cliffs look really benign, but 3 guys managed to injure their knees enough to miss a combined 8 to 10 ski days. It took a lot of coordination to manage that size of group safely through such big terrain, but we were all having lunch at the col before noon.
We split into 5 ropes of 3 across the Gothics Glacier, 4 ropes heading to Mt. Fria, 1 to Pioneer Peak.
The 3 other ropes decided to continue on to Pioneer Peak; I led my rope straight over to Pioneer Col, then back down over Friendship Col, and we finished off by repeating the new line we found the day before.
Although not directly sun affected, the warm weather had a dramatic effect on the snow - it wasn't the cold smoke we had earlier, which combined with tired legs and heavy packs made for some sloppy riding, but it was a great way to finish the week. Again, skip to 5:00 in the video below for our first run down the line.
A final bluebird day on our fly out day treated us to a spectacular flight out, including stops at Golden Alpine's Vista and Meadow Lodges to shuttle a mis-delivered box:
Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 11:08 am Posts: 94 Location: Calgary
email me next time. I'm down for trips like this for sure. what an awesome time you had!
Also, we need to get out once the snow pack settles. I toured K-Country Monday with a friend new to the bc and it was a scary woomph and shooting crack fest. Even the low angle stuff was producing easy CT4 shears below treeline so we basically just took the gear for a walk. Still awesome to be outside though
Jealous of your trip for sure dude. Awesome stuff.