Blog: March 2012

cloudy day messing around

quick clip from messing around in the backcountry today. cloudy, snowing, kindabad light for most of the day. but always fun to be out riding.

bright shiny thing in the sky?

Sometimes it gets so cloudy and stormy around whistler that you start to forget what a bluebird day looks like. After receiving a bunch of new snow last week, the skies finally cracked and gave us 3 days of pretty perfect weather. With fairly stable avalanche conditions it was a good time to get after some lines.

Friday, my friend Dave Basterechea (owner of and ) and I met up pretty early with 2 different options in mind. The north facing chute of Triconi peak or getting up cloudburst mountain, which icy logging roads and my wife having to get to work have thwarted 2 previous attempts at. But they’re lines I’ve wanted to get for a long time.

The day started cloudy and snowing so we opted for Cloudburst which we knew had good trees to ride. So off we went on our snowmobiles with our splitboards in tow. We had to punch into some long forgotten trails to make our way over to our drop off spot then threw the skins on and started touring up. By this point the sun was out in full force and we started to wonder if we’d made the right choice. Oh well, too deep into it right now.

dave scoping from way down low

As we made our way up the mountain, new zones started to poke out of the trees. The first sight of a new area and the possibilities it holds is one of the most exciting things about snowboarding to me. New possibilities and unkown options. Super deep powder also helps..
After a little while of poking around, looking at options, and setting a skin track we’d made our way to the peak. And the convective clouds started to build like clockwork. There goes the view, there goes the light. Maybe we did make the right choice today.
We were on a casual timeline so we leisurely ate our lunch and discussed our options for what we wanted to ride. Having picked this nice spine zone as our major focus we strapped in and made our way day.

hmm, that looks fun. and fun it was!

The light was less then epic but the snow was glorious. We ended up doing 3 good sized laps from the alpine to down below treeline as the weather constantly shifted from full sun to hard convective snow showers.

dave and his k2 panoramic splitboard

Saturday, I’d had a few options with touring around squamish or Duffey lake with several groups of friends. My wife wanted to go splitboarding and somewhere new. No problem. She’s only 6 months pregnant. So after some early morning discussions we settled on another day (for me) on cloudburst. Kimmie’s wanted to climb that mountain for a while, so with a nice track in from the previous day off we went.
The day was a beauty! I can say it was very casual for me. Normally my wife is quite fast (ok very fast) at climbing, but being pregnant she has to watch her heart rate and take her time. So I’d send her up the trail, go dig some pits, poke around and then run to catch up. Watching her climb the summit ridge was like watching someone climb everest. Step, step, pause. Step, step, pause. But it was awesome. I love touring with Kimmie.

kimmie about to top out

Eventually we made it up top, and Kimmie’s smile was ear to ear. We took some photos up top as the view was unreal. Cloudburst is one of the few stand alone mountains in the area and it offers amazing 360 degree views.

pretty self explanatory. Obviously my beautiful and pregnant wife. never mind me, that kid is going to have a hard time keeping up with mom!

family that plays together..

After soaking in the sights for a while, it was time to ride. We pretty much followed dave and my tracks from the day before. Blower turns everywhere for the whole lap. Amazing day with my wife.

little slasher for me. That wav went for a few hundred glorious meters.

That night I got a call from my long time friend and neighbor, photographer Jeff Patterson. Turns out his snowmobile broke down way in the backcountry and had the parts to fix it (hopefully). I agreed to take him out there and we had Gaeten Chanut who was going to come and meet us there as they’d spent the last 2 days shooting together.
Normally, in the mornings this spot is packed in the parking lot. As I pulled up there was nobody. Not a soul. On a bluebird day. It was kind of spooky. Jeff pulled up and we loaded all the gear onto my snowmobile. Boards, camera gear, primary and secondary clutches, tools.. My sled was loaded down, so we took our time making it out.
We made it past the normal riding area and were headed deeper to get to jeff sled as we ran into a problem. My track was spinning on a super icy technical climb. Jeff jumps off and my track is still sliding. I lose momentum and start sliding backwards towards some big trees. I’m out! I jump and a second later my sled flips and slides. Somehow it stops short of the trees. As jeff and I decide to figure out the best way to flip it back over (and not have it slide into the trees) we hear a strange sound. Hmmm..
We flip my sled over and oil comes gushing out of the belly pan. Oh no. Turns out my Yamaha snowmobile has breather on the oil pan and if the sled flips and stays in just the right position, you can drain a lot of the oil. Thankfully there’s not a lot in there. However, with no oil my sled is not going anywhere. And we’re a few miles away from jeff’s.No cell service back there aAnd there’s no one to be seen anywhere. What to do? Take my shirt off and enjoy the sunshine. We had some time so we discussed a few options as to how to deal with our situation. First thing, let’s wait for Gaeten. 30 minutes later gaeten show’s up to jeff hiding from the sun (he’s a redhead) and me shirtless lying on my sled.
We tell him our new predicament and we hatch the plan to try to fix jeff’s sled. After a few shuttles and a bit of snowboarding we’re at jeff’s broken snowmobile.
The clutches come out, the tools come out and the sled gets torn apart.

those clutches are not light to carry!

Thankfully, we get it together pretty quick. As we worked the sun had crept around and started to illuminate some pillows and spines nearby. Leaving jeff to finish gaeten and I quickly hiked up top and got ready. Braaaappppp!!! Jeff’s sled starts up and he does a quick test lap. “All good! Let’s shoot some stuff.”
We get busy jumping, riding lines and slashing turns. As we’ve hit every worthy thing in our immediate vicinity, we remember that my sled still needs oil. Off we go in that direction.
As I’m standing ontop of the next bowl over I see a rider on a Yamaha sled. Quickly yelling at jeff and Gaeten to stop that guy and ask if he has oil, they race off leaving me to strap in and enjoy another glorious lap in the pow.
Amazingly the guy has a litre of oil. He just saved a long ride out to my car to grab oil. Some cash for the oil and we’re all set to go. Get back to my sled, put the oil in, fire it up and we were off to find more stuff to jump.

my view from one of my lines shooting with jeff and geaten

Pretty awesome 3 days in the sunshine (mostly). Thanks to my kimmie, dave, geatan and jeff for the good times. Looks like the snow is coming back in this week for a reset. Can’t wait to get back out there

wander, wander

it's good out there!

AVALANCHE!!!!! course

After wanting to take the Canadian Avalanche Association's level 1 operations course for 12+ years, I finally took it. It's a week long course, and really good opportunity to learn from some amazing instructors. I wanted to get my knowledge a little more formalized (and did) which was sweet.

The course was being held at my old home mountain of Lake Louise. The rockies have typically a thin, kind of sketchy snowpack, so it's a great place to go dig pits. And this year was no exception as there's claims of 40-50 year sketchy snowpack! but to find out more I had to first get to lake louise..

Generally it's a 9 hour drive from my house in squamish to the Lake. However, when i was just outside of Revelstoke they shut the highway (due to avalanches) 5 minutes prior to me being there. So from where i was I had 2 options, north or south and neither were (or are ever) a good option. So I had to backtrack two hours to Kamloops, then drive north to Jasper, then south on the icefields parkway, slept in my car for 3 hours, woke up and drove the last 2 hours to Louise. My 9 Hour drive turned into a 20 hour mission. but I made it there only 30 minutes late. Which for unintentionally touring around BC is pretty good.

a few hours of rallying on the icefields parkway

Our first day we toured out from lake louise ski area. Which was getting hammered. It was torture to hear the hoots from the people riding while we dug pits and did our beacon rescue exams. Thankfully my group finished early and I was able to sneak off and roll some laps.

Something I noticed from our beacon exams. If you ever plan on going in the backcountry, in addition to learning how to use your beacon and probe correctly, really take the time to learn how to dig efficiently and quickly. I was kinda blown away by some people who couldn't really dig. Time is of the essence in a rescue scenario, and you should be quick at everything. And somehow some people can't dig, don't be one of them.

But back to the sketchyness, of the snowpack. The Alberta rockies currently have a giant layer of perfect surface hoar that's buried down about 60+cm. Surface hoar generally acts like ball bearings in a snowpack and produces some great avalanches. However it's not really good to tour around when it's like that. So we did a lot of sideways touring during the week and dug lots of pits. And all of our pits said "keep walking sideways" because up/down was not a great option for avoiding avalanches.

Generally our days involved waking up at 630am to take the morning weather observations, a few hours in the classroom, go for a mellow tour somewhere, dig in the snow for a few hours, then ride down or tour out. Afterwards it was back to town for the afternoon weather observations prior a few more hours of class. Pretty close to 12 hour days everyday of the course. The you had your studying and homework to do at night as well. It all makes for a pretty busy week but it was all good.

aftermath of some testing..

group huddle

walking sideways

One of the realy cool things we got to do during the week was watch the banff national park's avalanche crew go to work on some mountains above the trans canada highway. They dropped some mega explosives from the helicopter up on the ridge tops and pulled down the 2 biggest avalanches (class 3) that I've ever seen live in my life. It was really asight to behold, and a good reminder to never get caught in something like that!

first one.

second one airing

woh! we did end up making it up to the alpine. however we walked up a very, very mellow slope to get there. I think I did 3 turns over 2 kilometers going downhill.

me above bow lake

a glimpse at the future, my new arcteryx quintec pack (awesome!) and k2 speedlink splitboard poles (also awesome).

our instructor pointing at something.

one of the instructors checking out my pit on exam day. I ended up doing pretty well overall and passing the course

exam day. pits in a meadow. You don't need a slope to test the snow. and it's a lot safer this way.

The alberta rockies are still getting snow and it's looking like the weak layers are there to party until spring time. So expect to see some more big avalanches in that area and here are the 2 chief culprits..

big surface hoar!

these are a treat as well, depth hoar

Big thanks to our awesome instructors and congrats to my whole class for passing.
an even bigger thanks to Ullr for rewarding my patience all week and hammering whistler blackcomb the night i was driving home. felt so good to finally ride all day in deep powder after digging in it all week.
Play safe out there.

Subscribe to Blog: March 2012