Forums Trip Reports 5 days at the Kootenay Pass, 23K up
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  • #572829
    treepilot
    352 Posts

    Day One – Tenacity
    Kootenay Pass rarely disappoints and today was no exception. Blair and I met Dave H., Rich and their friend Adam up top at 8:30ish. We were skinning by 9:00. Blair just doubled his number of children before Christmas and hadn’t been out yet this year. Dave is still in the process of getting over a broken collar bone from the summer, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have this silly goal of achieving a certain amount of vertical, but sometimes it’s nice just to enjoy the snow and camaraderie, so I went into the day with no real vertical goals. Whatever happened was fine with me.

    We headed up towards the drop for twin lakes and I was surprised at how much smaller things seemed this year. I’m not sure why, but somehow the scale of things seemed to decrease for me. We gained the ridge in no time and shortly after that we were up top looking down a chute Dave has called the Gauntlet. It’s a steep entry onto a northerly aspect followed quickly by a thin tree band which then gives way to a bit of a rock walled chute before opening right up into a large clearing which then transitions to a traditional slide path complete with some christmas trees. The turns were phenomenal – classic Kootenay Blower. It was also my first run on the demo Venture Storm. It’s the rocker flavoured version – other than that it’s largely the same shape as my Khyber. I can’t say I really noticed too much difference on the descent – perhaps a bit more float on the nose, but nothing too significant. I did find myself up on the tail more though. I attribute this more to the upturned tail rather than the nose.

    For the second lap we toured up the other side of twin lakes to the ridge, with plans to summit the “muffin”. Upon reaching the tree line though, it didn’t look so hot so Dave, Blair and I took a chute called LSD, while Rich and Adam jumped into the trees. Dave has never bagged this one, so he got honours. It’s got a lot of south in it and Dave’s cut into it didn’t yield any results. Way less powder than the Gauntlet, but still a very fun shot back down to the same spot.

    We stopped for lunch at the bottom and opted to make another lap through the trees that Rich and Adam had taken. I hopped off the established skin track on the climb back up and tested my theory about rockered boards on the up. My fears seem to be confirmed – I couldn’t seem to punch in as steep of an up on the Venture. I also noticed that it often slipped on the established skin track. We were soon enough up at the top and I offered up a demo ride. Rich jumped at it, which put me on his 165 Prior Backcountry, which is actually Peter’s old board. It’s traditional non-tapered shape means you have to plan your turns a little ahead of time, but with increased physical exertion you can still make an elephant dance if you need to. I had a blast charging through the trees. Lots of pillows and cliffs to play on.

    For the last climb, I let Rich complete the demo. His experience on the up was the same as mine. Slippage on the established and by now, very well packed up and also while test breaking. Dave broke another up beside Rich’s on his cambered board and experienced virtually no slipping. Rich was super stoked on the descent, but coming from the traditional shape, I chalk his stoke up to the shape more so than the rocker.

    This time at the top of the climb, we hung a right and went looking for a chute Dave was calling the Banana. He’d never ridden it and wasn’t 100% sure where the entrance was. Another group had exited before us and sure enough their tracks more or less lead us to it. We (and they) missed the top entrance, but we still caught the bottom 3/4 of it. A great final descent with daylight fading. One final changeover, followed by a creek crossing and few hundred feet of climbing back up to the highway. 15 minutes of attempted hitchhiking eventually landed Adam a ride in the snowplow.

    Total today was 5,030 feet up, which was my 21st 5,000+ footer of the year, but more importantly it was Blair’s first ever. I believe his previous biggest was 3,870 last year at Teton Pass. First day of the year and he digs way down deep to crank out a day of this size. Everyone in the group including me was very impressed with his tenacity. Without a doubt the snow conditions provided him with motivation, but good snow or bad, you still walk up the same mountain.

    Blair coming down the Gauntlet

    Blower!

    LSD Chute

    Blair and I in the LSD Chute.

    Sweet! I can’t believe Dave’s looked at this thing for 4 years and never hit it.

    No shot of the brand spanking new Venture, but I couldn’t resist a shot of Peter’s old Prior.

    Day Two – Solo
    The problem with hitting a new area solo is that it takes 3 laps to pack down the freshly broken up. The area I went to today isn’t new to me, but it’s been a couple of years since I was in there. Blair and I talked about going there yesterday but ended up elsewhere. It’s a fun zone with lots of cliffs and pillows. It’s also a northerly aspect too so the powder was sweet today.

    After the third lap, I headed up to the top of the ridge, tried to find the “Old Faithful” chute, but missed it and instead found trees to pilot. No complaints there! Down to twin lakes where I jetboiled some lunch then headed up the other side. I spotted quite a few extra tracks beyond what we’d done yesterday, so I dropped from a different spot near where the up gains the ridge. I had a blast until I found myself cliffed out. It was a big one, probably 30 feet or so. I went with the gut instinct and took a peek to the left – there was a exit available – 10 feet or so to a steep landing, quick couple of turns then off a pillow to the bottom.

    Once down I followed a couple days old exit around the bottom of the ridge, then opted to break a bit higher to pick up my up from the 3 laps in the morning. Fourth climb was perfect – finally a well packed up! At the join, I pointed it downhill and was soon back at the vehicle. Total up today was 5,310 feet, which puts me over 150,000 feet for the year meaning I’m 50% to target. Today was also the 22nd 5,000+ footer, so I’m close to halfway to the target as well. Despite some challenges, it’s been a fantastic winter so far.

    Day two on the demo board. I’m getting more used to it, but I should adjust the stance centering forward a bit I think.

    Blair’s cliff hasn’t grown any icicles yet this year. Here’s what it looked like 2 years ago

    Lots of pillows to play on in this zone.

    Try as I might, I couldn’t track them all out.

    Cliffed out on the far side of twin lakes. I went left, got lucky and avoided hiking back up hill

    This is the Banana Chute we tried to hit yesterday. We missed the top of it and came in via the lower entrance. There’s quite a bit of vertical beneath where the photo cuts off.

    This is the next ridge to the west from the Banana Chute. There’s one obvious one from the top of the trees and maybe another that has a slot near the bottom.

    Day Three – Exploring the Crags
    I met up with Adam today and we opted to head to an area neither of us had been to before. The Crags is east of Baldy Rocks and looks intimidating from the highway. There are likely some lines in there, but we opted to ride the backside of what you see in the link.

    The tour starts by following the standard climb up Baldy Rocks – I was amazed again at how much smaller it felt today – I must be getting stronger as we were nearing the summit in no time flat. We stopped just shy of the true summit and started the traverse to the east. Getting to the Crags involves some up and down – there are two high points along the way which are only 200 feet or so up from the low points. This meant some split ski descents, which obviously meant some spectacular crashes. Along the way we found a couple of chutes which I bookmarked in the gps for later.

    The summit of Crags was fairly wind affected, but lower down we found some great turns in the bowl that drops away from the road. We put in the up for the second lap along the other ridge – the snow was softer on this side and it made for easier climbing compared to the more pressed ridge. After the second lap, we put in a another new up that skirted the one high point to gain the saddle. From there we climbed up to the first high point to the east of Baldy Rocks where the chute was. By now the visibility we had earlier in the day had disappeared. Still enough to bag it but it would have been more fun with the views we had earlier in the day. It was a nice rock walled entrance that flared out after it turned to the left. Short but sweet.

    One final climb up from the bottom of the bowl gained us the ridge over looking the department of highways sheds. We were soon on the summit of Baldy Rocks and tried to find some fresh lines. This is probably the most highly trafficked spot at the pass, so completely fresh didn’t happen, but we did find some pockets in the trees. A solid day with some new views. Total up was 5,160 which I learned was Adam’s second 5,000+ (his first was a couple of days ago)

    There was too much visibility when I took the picture of the chute, so we opted to wait until the clouds rolled in. Adam was first down and we could barely see the trees at the kink.

    This one isn’t far from the chute we took. If we’d had have visibility I would have given it consideration.

    Classic split ski tracks – dragging poles to scrub speed!

    View from the summit of Crags with the two high points before the summit of Baldy Rocks.

    For one climb, Adam and I traded skis to compare the rocker vs. camber for uphill traction.

    The surprising result was that we couldn’t notice a difference?

    Day Four – It goes blue and I go home early?

    I was solo again today but an old friend decided to join me. He didn’t make his appearance until after I decided to head north from the parking lot. It’s about 400 feet up to gain a view into the bowl and with my lack of corrected vision, I thought it looked pretty good. Part way up the climb along the ridge to the top of Cornice Ridge, my old friend made his appearance. I’d guesstimate he was 80 gusting 100 but he blew in from the north east. It seems he must have been lurking over night as well because the slopes that previously looked pretty good now were showing obvious signs of wind affect. I debated turning around and heading to the trees on the other side of the road, but mostly blue skies and a desire to see what was off the north side of Buzz’s ridge kept my face buried behind a toque, collar, hood and goggles.

    I’d previously only spent two days north of the parking lot and didn’t have very good visibility the day I went to Buzz’s ridge. There’s definitely some terrain available, but with the reverse loading (and scouring) it looked to be best left for another day. I tour without corrective glasses and have a contact lens phobia so my evaluation of distant slopes is suspect at best. When in doubt, I generally assume the worst. Maybe they were fine, but I thought the bowl between Cornice and Buzz was good too.

    I kept wrapping around the ridge until I got over top of some trees. They snow would be better due to the shelter, but the aspect was now pretty much pure south and my other old friend – that big yellow ball in the sky – was doing his stuff. The turns were good but getting heavy. At the bottom I considered another lap – the only way up I knew was around the ridge and back to wind hell. The slope I’d just descended was quite steep and breaking switchback hell for average turns wasn’t that appealing.

    I made the walk out and up to the ridge above the lake, got some below average turns back to the vehicle and looked at my watch. It was past noon – leaving about 4 hours of daylight. With the lack of snow lately, it’d be a bit of a walk to find something fresh – the return on investment for walk in/out vs laps didn’t appeal to me, so I drove down to the Creston side parking lot. I’d heard that some people tour by where the power lines cross the road – it turned out to be the same spot where I sat and waited for a tow truck when my transmission blew up a few years ago.

    This parking lot is about a thousand feet lower than the top of the pass, which due to the precarious state of winter this year meant that you’d need to climb quite a bit before getting into good snow, but with this aspect being south facing, you might run out of mountain before finding the goods. It’s a place I will return to when the snow is good down low – with about 2,000 feet of relief, it looks to be some of the longer vertical available here.

    I decided to go for a drive and see what the local touring book had talked about for touring around Red Mountain. On the way through Trail, I nearly cried when I saw the famous covered staircase that Blair and I had ridden a few years ago. It was crusty when we hit it, but in the snowboard movies that made it famous, they had blower powder. Today is was dry. I bookmarked the gps locations of the touring parking spots by Red and will investigate options on the maps. For what it’s worth, there weren’t many locals touring, which might tell me all I need to know.

    An abbreviated day and an embarrassing 2,170 feet .

    Just out of the trees on the way up to Cornice Ridge and here’s my old friend.

    Here’s a much better photo of the wind. I was still toughing it out here and hadn’t put the goggles on yet.

    Pretty much a complete 180 from the prevailing winds.

    A couple of triangle chutes with a common entry on the ridge from the muffin.

    The wind was so strong, those cornices couldn’t fall if they wanted to!

    Looking north east from the high point on Buzz’s Ridge. The treed ridge with the cut block on the bottom facing south is just above the Creston side parking lot.

    The next photos are panning to the left or west.


    Another split ski descent.

    If you squint you might be able to see my tracks from about 1/4 of the way in from the left edge of the photo.

    Driving down towards Creston, the treed ridge is called “Windy Ridge” (uh-oh) on my maps and offers up about 2,000 feet down to the parking lot.

    The turns on the covered staircase at the smelter wouldn’t be very good today.

    Day Five – Waldie Lake and Wolf Peak
    I met Dave H. and Rich in town early and we were the first group to leave the parking lot up high at 7:30am. We were headed north to explore a new zone around Wolf Peak. There was supposedly a cabin somewhere up there too.

    From the parking lot, we gained Cornice Ridge, then Buzz’s ridge, then followed it around until we hit the high spot that I’d split skied from yesterday. We descended north from here through a nice chute with some decent snow, then toured straight north along a ridge that tees into a bowl above Waldie Lake. Google Earth and the topo maps suggested this might have a few entry points. We pretty much stumbled on a very promising one as soon as we gained the top. Dave took a few cautious steps down into the bowl and dug a pit. CTE(2) down 30 sudden planar followed by a few pretty clean CTM’s down 60 and 80 or so fueled the retreat. It was a short shot, but had exposure on the fall line. We poked around a bit more and found a protected entrance via some trees. Nothing ended up moving and we enjoyed playing on the natural gullies down to the bottom of the bowl.

    We toured north following the creek to Waldie Lake. There’s no flat terrain beside the east and west edges of the lake as the mountain meets the lake, so any cabin would have to be at the north end – a half mile walk. We headed across the lake and soon found no cabin. Looking at the maps, we think it’s closer to the end of the logging road, which is another mile and about 500 feet lower than the north end of the lake. Since we weren’t planning on spending the night, the search for the cabin was abandoned and we stopped for lunch. This area offered up lines everywhere we looked – several big chutes and one large un-kootenay looking rock feature that would be more at home in Roger’s Pass.

    We headed east up to the smaller un-named lake under Wolf Peak and set our sites on the summit of Wolf. Yet more lines revealed themselves and we soon were nearing the summit. Once gaining the final ridge we saw that the summit is split into two pieces by a small channel. We opted for the northern summit and after picking our way through a few rocky bits descended down the north face and wrapped around to the east towards Pristine Pass. From there we toured up to the high point on the ridge between Pristine Pass and Windy Ridge. Several very appealing lines were encountered on the north face of this ridge, but we were running short on daylight. We dropped south towards the power lines and enjoyed some wide open old growth trees. Soon we ran out of usable down hill and switched to ski mode sans skins. Under the buzzing power lines and then out via someone’s up track. 10 minutes of poling and we were at the Creston side parking lot. Thumbs illuminated by headlamp and the three of us were quickly given a ride back to the vehicle on the top of the pass. Total up today was 5,310 feet, we covered 11.3 miles, and found so many new things to go back and bag on another day.

    Dave took this from where we dropped off the north side of Buzz’s ridge. The prominent diagonal ridge is the one we followed up to Waldie Bowl. Wolf Peak is near the middle of the picture and the cut block from the exit is visible on the right edge of the photo.

    Dave enjoys some turns in the small chute off the north side of Buzz’s.

    Switching over at the bottom of the first drop.

    Top of the ridge looking down onto Waldie Lake

    Room for a ton of turns in this large couloir.

    Dave and Rich scoping out potential entrances to the bowl.

    Dave took one for the team and dug this pit without a rope or harness.

    This one looked enticing, but appeared to have a mandatory on the exit.

    While skinning to the lake, we found this gem.

    Dave snapped this picture of Rich and I on Waldie Lake heading north.

    This shot reminds me of my park, but it’s Wolf Peak far left, what we’re calling Waldie Bowl (our entrance pretty much dead centre, and that huge rock feature on the right.

    It doesn’t look like the Kootenays does it?

    I break trail while Dave takes photos of me and Wolf Peak.

    With more time to scope it out, I would have liked to ride the dog leg chute on the looker’s left. We ended up taking the treed slope above the rocks on the looker’s right.

    Looking down on Waldie Lake from just below the ridge just below the summit of Wolf Peak.

    Dave’s got the summit grin a few minutes early.

    So close I can taste it. A good shot of the channel that divides the summits of Wolf Peak. We picked the left or North one.

    A very short scramble gave us the summit. It turned out there was a slope to the east that we could have skinned up.

    Summit of Wolf Peak.

    Dave and my track on the right, Rich making tracks in the middle, up track on the right.

    This is that dogleg chute from the bottom. Next time!

    One of several appealing lines that dropped the wrong direction at the end of the day.

    The tour.

    #624903
    nickstayner
    700 Posts

    As always- great, inspiring photos!

    #624904
    powderjunkie
    1669 Posts

    looks like some killer days :drool:
    lots of effort on the TR too.

    You’re putting in some mileage, but we all know it isn’t just about the vert, eh. :thatrocks:

    #624905
    TEX
    2486 Posts

    5 days of great riding, most likely 5 days to write it all up. Thanks again your TR’s never dissapoint

    #624906
    glasshouse_bc
    31 Posts

    Fantastic Trip Report….many thanks for sharing.

    Looking to go to Kootenay Pass in the next couple of weekends for my first trip in the back country

    Have a great one

    Steve

    #624907
    sluffer
    30 Posts

    nice….those pillow lines look sweet.

    #624908
    jbaysurfer
    947 Posts

    Yet more great stoke from the treepilot!

    You didn’t talk much more about the storm after the first day. You said you swapped skis to check it out later, and didn’t notice a difference…what about the rest of your time? Up? Down?

    You buddy digging a pit got me thinking about harness/ropework. It seems you’re doing more group work than last year, so I’m wondering if you guys do ever bring harnesses/rope while touring? Epic lines that start with a rap is the stuff I dream of :headbang:

    #624909
    treepilot
    352 Posts

    Thanks for the comments!

    The storm feels a lot like my khyber for downhill. I moved the stance forward more than the khyber and am probably riding more centered now. I suppose that means the nose is floating a bit more, but I never had problems keeping the nose up on the khyber either. I believe that in deep enough powder, I could ride a 2×6 and have fun.

    For uphill the side by side testing seems to have refuted my earlier comments about it lacking traction. Maybe it’s a mental thing – does my leg slip because I think it will? The only obvious solution is double blind testing. Up and down? Who wouldn’t want to ride blindfolded downhill and compare boards :scratch: I traded complete setups with the Moose today who has a 168 Burton and we both found the Storm to have much better traction.

    Construction looks to be top shelf and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a Venture in the future.

    As for ropes and harness, yeah, we are starting to do some tours where scoping stuff from underneath isn’t always possible, meaning a roped pit or cut is a good idea. I personally wouldn’t have done what Dave did – if it’s going to rip, I’d rather have a board attached to my feet as opposed to a snow saw and a shovel in my hands.

    Dave and Rich are planning on getting the needed gear. I probably will soon as well. My home turf is the front range rockies, which pretty much dictates you view the line from the side or bottom – dropping in blind is a good way to find yourself partway down a mountain over top of impossible terrain features and/or scoured slopes.

    #624910
    BGnight
    1382 Posts

    Wow, you’re gettin’ er done this year.

    Looks fun :drool:

    #624911
    nearls
    162 Posts

    Another sick one tree pilot! Nice work.

    #624912
    Dave420
    34 Posts


    Hope this pic works. Our tracks off Wolf Ears. Great to have you out again Treepilot.

    #624913
    Dave420
    34 Posts

    Got this today. Way steeper than it looks, which is odd. Unofficially named it Wolfs Tail.

    #624914
    treepilot
    352 Posts

    @Dave420 wrote:

    Got this today. Way steeper than it looks, which is odd. Unofficially named it Wolfs Tail.

    Nice work! Great name.

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