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Of the twelve people who signed up for the ski mini-camp at Brian Waddington Hut eight people (Dan and Marilyn, Gabi, Kelly, Sven, Jay, Alex and I) made it to the meeting place in Pemberton. Efficiently packed into two cars we drove to the trailhead and started skiing around 10:45.
Low snow year in the valley. Still we were able to skin up right from the cars. The logging road was easy, the trail was a lot harder, lots of icy patches and steep terrain, open creek. Ski crampons came handy for those who brought them.
Everybody made it to the cabin in time for a beautiful sunset. For some this was the workout of the year! And for those who were suffering from an unfinished flu this must have been more that that. Hats off to you guys and ladies.
By 8:30 we were headed to Aragorn and its ever shrinking glacier. The smaller it get the more of it stays in the shade, tucked below Aragorn's imposing rock face. After brief detour by Dan and Sven to ski a deliciously looking NE facing couloir off Gandalf we made it to the glacier and decided to abandon a summit attempt for yo-yo skiing on the untracked shaded slopes.
Glorious views and pretty good skiing considering it was so warm. Huge cornices fell off Aragorn a day or two before, tumbling down onto the glacier but not triggering any step down avalanches. On the second run Alex hit a snow snake, his ski did not release properly resulting in minor twisting of his ankle. This was the closest we came to pulling out the section's satphone.
All day we could clearly see few days old snowmobile tracks around the high lakes between Aragorn and Gandalf, an area off limits to motorized traffic. The snowmobilers came via Cadwallader Creek.
Skiing back to the cabin was a mixture of heavy snow with patches of thin breakable crust forming in the shadows. Shortly after getting back to the cabin it started to snow.
Grey sky and progressively worsening visibility kept us around the trees on Cabin Hill. Good skiing. At lunch time I suggested that half the group might consider skiing out given the fact that the weather forecast was calling for cloudy and snow for the next few days.
After several rounds of indirect negotiations, silent justifications and an assessment of the upcoming 24 hours, Marilyn, Gabi, Kelly and Alex decided to ski out and by all accounts had as much fun doing so as is possible while skiing icy moguls in tight trees with an overnight pack. Oh and it was raining too.
The remaining posse kept yo-yo skiing the trees. It was snowing lightly and the visibility was touch and go, the temperature was rising, making the powder a bit heavy but overall it was a good day to be out.
It was hard to believe but morning revealed a bluebird sky and significantly cooler temperatures. 10-15 cm of fresh dry powder fell over the preceding 24 hours. The cold air sucked out moisture from the 10-15 cm of fresh snow that fell over the preceding 24 hours leaving us with dry powder everywhere. Remnant clouds hanged on the East horizon but by nine o'clock they were gone and we were zipping up and down on the N face of Cabin Hill.
Like kids in a candy store we wanted to have a go at everything immediately. Unfortunately none of us has a VOMax of Olympic athletes. We had to choose and be as efficient as possible. Despite a certain lone voice calling for immediate gratification we stuck to our plan and managed 4 fresh track runs on 3 different slopes with just 2 skin tracks.
The steepest part of Cabin Hill, the prominent ridge on the right side was a good start. Then two glorious runs in the NE bowl off Peregrine Peak and finished with with a sweet and steep run directly off NE ridge of Peregrine leading straight to the cabin.
After a quick lunch and clean up we skied out wishing we had time to stay much longer or at least until all the runs were skied. Perhaps next year. Much terrain was left untouched. Return of the King looked delicious (and more importantly stable). So did the whole N side of Peregrine and the peak W of Peregrine.
Occasionally, when skinning up, I experienced feelings of remorse over suggesting that people ski out a day earlier. Eventually I came up with two new rules for backcountry skiing:
Stability was good throughout the four days (March 5-8, 2010). No whomping or settling notices, no shooting cracks.
We ski cut most of the runs with no problems or warnings. On the steeper slopes, the top 5 cm layer sluffed making one feel like surfing.
Skiing in we observed most S facing slopes, especially gullies and couloirs, avalanched few days before. It was hard to be more precise when but at least one cornice fall off Aragorn looked no more than 48 hr old (i.e. likely came down on March 4-5).
The area has lots of snow above 1500 meters; the snowpack is at least 1 meter higher compared to the same time last year (March 2009).
Have some photos from this event that you'd like to share in our photo album? Please forward them to Kayla Stevenson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that we prefer to receive the photos in approximately 640x480 or 750x500 pixels - do NOT send original high-res photos. If you have a LOT of photos, please submit up to twenty of your favorites (only) for a day event, or up to forty of your favourites for a multi-day event. Thank you.
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