Sunday, February 26, 2012

The honeymoon is over

My last day out in (almost) perfect snow stability was with a punch of good people on a couple good lines of a good peak in the good ol' Rockies. The day after the Emerald loop we joined forces with more or less the same core group one more time in order to ski one of the lines I had to look at for 17 Winters, but never had the chance, the guts or the partners to even attempt it. There is about a hundred meter stretch on the TransCanada Highway just west of the Great Divide where you get the view of this stunning lines, but specially in the Winter you can't really stop there to take in the view.
The two couloirs of Narao Peak, the first time coming into view after dropping into the bowl below Popes Peak - after bailing on the right one, we succeeded to climb the left one to the summit late in the day.
Andrew Wexler, in the first, right hand couloir. The higher we got, the less we disliked the variable snowpack, and eventually pulled the plug 100m below the top.
The unique feature on the first couloir, nice for climbing and taking pictures, but with huge consequences if one gets caught in a slide above.
The freshly imported strong legs of Alex from Austria trenching out the last few meters to the top of the left hand couloir.
After the 3 of us went through the exit, Wexler almost did not make it through the bottomless facets near the top. Heli shag parties with the Bug's Bunnies might be good for one thing, but not for the other. He somehow reminded me on some of the snow boarders in the Bobbie Burns, having to walk 100 Meters from the lunch spot to the pick up of Rocky Saddle.
Ian Welsted happily arriving on top of Narao peak in the late afternoon sun and strong west winds. What a few we had, from Sir Sandford to the Wapta, all of Yoho and the Goodsirs, Victoria north and south, Lefroy and Popes, Cathedral, Stephen and Hector and, and, and...
The view that really counted though was from the summit down the line we suffered boot packing in deep snow for a long ways, and are just about to drop in.
Wexler in the narrow part one third down.
Most of the couloir had unusual good snow to offer despite it's steepness, and our tired legs certainly appreciated the soft pow. Of course we had to celebrate this perfect day with burgers and beer at the "Paw"- thanks Andrew, Ian, Alex and Danny for taking advantage of the great conditions we've had in the homeland of the Rockies.
Three days later:
The first innocent looking fluff is hiding the suface hoar layer at Campbell Icefield Chalet. I had the pleasure to work there the last week with 73 year old guiding legend Bernie Schiesser from Golden and a nice group from Prince George. Together we managed to stay out of trouble during the worst avalanche conditions of this season so far.
The beautiful Campell Icefield Chalet at sunrise, one of the more comfortable back country lodges in Canada. If you ever get the chance, go up there and enjoy the hut and the surrounding terrain, you will not regret it. In the meantime, play safe out there and tread our new Valentine layer with the respect it deserves.