Every April the freezing levels rise… sub alpine tree skiing becomes undesirable, and rain fills the valleys, while snow remains tickling the clouded peaks. The month of March produced 3 full days of sunshine, with another 1 or 2 half days, it remained problematic for filming. April has been a similar story. With the forecast looking promising for a window of light we gathered our gear and prepped for a couple nights deep in some of the highest terrain we could get ourselves into. Our mission, to find the lingered spring pow.
The winter has been plentiful here in BC. March has proven to be one of the best for snow quality… wish I could say the same for sunshine. Here are a few of the months most inspiring images.
With my recent early season trek north to Coastal BC I felt it was appropriate to get myself into a snow safety course before things get rolling this winter. BCA has been supportive of my interest in snow safety and, as it would seem appropriate, I reached out to the company for advice on a course in the Sea to Sky corridor. Bruce Edgerly of BCA came back with a suggestion to take the AST 2 through the Mountain Skill Academy (https://www.mountainskillsacademy.com), in Whistler BC. A great place to begin your snow safety training if your interested in a class.
Having taken my Avy 1 in the States and now completing my AST 2 here in Canada I now have an even better set of tools for approaching terrain and snowpack this winter. Although much of what I had learned in my Avy 1 was refreshed for me in the AST 2, there was more emphasis placed on approaching terrain. This is something that I have dwelled on in the past. What’s the safest and most efficient way to get up there? A question that sometimes isn’t as clear as you may think… there and many ways to skin the cat so to speak, but in most cases only one way to do it safely, or one way that is better than the rest. All in all is was an amazing experience and well worth doing. It’s absolutely crucial for any backcountry enthusiast and I encourage anyone interested in going out of bounds with their friends to take a course.
Last week we punched up to an area just outside of Pemberton in the Duffy Lake Provincial Park. We spent one night in the hut and spent two days ski touring the local zones… certainly somewhere I’d like to revisit during the later winter. Lots of options. We over stoked the cabin’s wood burning stove, converting our sleep arrangement into an overnight sweat lodge… lesson learned. The skiing was all time. Snow appeared to be pretty stable. Pretty neat times.
I currently sit in a coffee shop in Haines AK. Yesterday the temperatures soared into the low 60’s. I took advantage of the unusually warm day biding my time oceanside, watching for the abundant wildlife that inhabit these parts. We had experienced 3 beautiful weather days last week. The week before, one and a half days of sun. On Wednesday April, 20th we had arrived back at the pass, after some down days spent in town, ready to get out on an afternoon spine face we had scoped. After leaving Haines that morning we found a handful of police and rescue crew at the camping lot on the pass. What was going on?
A week previous a small film crew from Whistler had shown up and set up camp right next to me on the pass. One of the crew introduced himself as Max, we exchanged some info on what we had seen in the field that day, talked about future plans, and how long each others stay was, etc. Max was a genuine guy, with a warming character, knowledgeable in the mountains, and a solid skier. Maxim Arsenault passed away after falling off a small cliff and into a depression on Wednesday April 20th… a real fluke of a situation. Everyone was baffled at the pass, and his film crew devastated.
It was hard to pick up our gear and move out into the field that afternoon. We questioned whether or not we should go out at all.
The day before max’s passing we had run into some problems with helicopter competition. Showing up to a couple faces that had been tagged by a previous film crew from a Heli op. We then proceeded to destroy ourselves mentally and physically approaching The Goat Wall. The night max passed we were able to muster the crew back into action and tag some spines in some glory sunset light. The next morning we climbed and skied an opposing aspect in the same area in the sunrise. KC Deane dropped in and set off a rather large slide, high on the face, going for a 600 vertical foot ride over cliffs and ending up on top of the debris pile. John Spriggs and I had sprung into action as soon as we saw the propogation. Already enroute to the debris pile, and ready to start our search and rescue. KC was fine… So it goes in AK.
A humbling week to say the least. Some goals accomplished, some still await our return. All in all, AK has really shown it’s power this trip. It’s been 6 years, 2010, since I’ve been here, that was in a heli though, now I attack these peaks on foot with assistance from my snowmobile. The experience is rich and rewarding. I’ve gained an appreciation for the up. Each face we approach is puzzling. What’s the safest way up? Quickest? The whole puzzle from bottom to top and back to bottom is so dynamic and requires more mental focus. High value shredding.
These mountains are unlike anything else in this world. Everything we step to is much larger than it looked from below. Moving through these peaks on the ground is so different than in the air. A different appreciation is gained. Massive peaks with little mercy, you must tread lightly here. A delicate dance must be done with mother nature to ensure a safe return home at night.
Our plans include waiting out this next storm cycle and getting back out next weekend when the next window comes. A promising forecast is giving us hope.
We have spent the later half of January and the first half of February in the Revelstoke, Golden, and surrounding areas. A slight injury in early January had left me hungry for some good skiing. Upon arrival into the area conditions were about as good as it gets and it remained that way for the duration of my time. The conldrush was good warm for what was to come and during the second and third weeks of February we were able to really open up the throttle and bag some sure to be headliners for the future media releases. Bellow is a photo collage of some of the areas we poked into and got to shred… I think it’s safe to say I’ve earned my wings in pillows and finally discovered the key to riding them. Speed.