The following is a play by play explanation of a trip out to Rogers Pass for the Canuck Splitfest and celebrating the 50th birthday of my good friend Tex. In typical Splitboard fashion we rode big untracked lines day after day.
Friday through Sunday the Rogers Pass visitor center was buzzing with activity as the Cannuck Splitboard festival was going on for the next 3 days. I had a great time presenting both Sweetgrassses Solitaire and a 15 minute documentary I filmed with Crest Productions called Freerider, not to mention riding with a 100 individuals who shared my passion. Conditions were great with over a foot of fresh snow and mild temperatures which allowed us to reach alpine and explore the vast terrain that encompassed us. By the end of the weekend I found myself wanting more and decided to stay a few additional days when the pin point forecast showed rain for the forecast in the Washington Cascades.
A few friends were going to be staying and exploring and I decided to tag along.
Monday morning the visitors center was vacant as we packed up for a overnight trip to the Asulkin Hut, a amazing shelter built at the base of alpine surrounded by glaciers and big peaks. It was our friend Rays 50th birthday which coincided with a full moon so we felt there couldn’t be a better place for such a monumental day in his life. After 7 miles of skinning under dark gray clouds we finally reached the hut which protected us from the howling winds and made plans to take advantage of potential clearing in the late evening and ride powder under the light of a full moon. Well the moment we made the plans we cursed ourselves because when the clouds did part it was only for a few minutes and we never got to take those runs. The next day we lapped low angle trees in fear of avalanche conditions and made our way back to the Rogers Pass visitors center were both Mike and I said goodbye to Ray and rested in anticipation of a promising forecast.
Wednesday dawned bluebird as we put on our skins and started hiking towards a peak referred to as Video. We had heard nothing but good things about the area and we were drooling at the thought of seeing the Selkirks from a summit. It took a lot of work as we took turns breaking trail until finally reaching the top and the views were jaw dropping. The terrain around us was limitless and could be considered similar to some parts of the alps with 2000 foot couloirs followed by 4000 foot avi swaths that took you directly to the road. We took two laps on Video with a local who informed us “Conditions like these only happen 10 days out of a season”. By the end of the day our legs were worked, skinning 6500 vertical feet in total.
Thursday we went for the SW face of Cheops under high clouds. We intended for the day to be short so we could catch a greyhound buss from Rogers Pass at 5:30 p.m. so we started around 7:30 A.M. We kept a brisk pace finally reaching our high point of about 10 feet under the summit ridge stopping only because we were wallowing in chest deep snow. The run was a breathtaking 5000 vert of untracked powder all the way back down to the road where we unintentionally had to hike 7 miles back up and over Rogers Pass to the visitors center nearly minutes before the bus arrived.
Then back to Cascadia for the storm of the year
Europe has always seemed like a pipe dream, something so far away and way too expensive to ever seem possible. It was with great surprise and excitement that I found out that a project I had worked on with Crest Pictures and Friends, Freerider was chosen to be a part of the FreeRide Film Festival. With word of this I had tickets to go to Saint Lary, France to attend and another two weeks to check out the Alps.
The plane landed in Paris, France as the morning sun crested over the horizon for the next 48 hours I would take a whirlwind tour seeing touristy areas like the Luv, Effiel Tower and the Notre Dame before heading to the South of France. Once in the small country town of Saint Lary which is nestled in the Pyranees mountains I tried new foods, saw different films and celebrated a culture I have been fortunate to be a part of. It was a honor to have our film along side big budget films like All.I.Can, This is my Winter and Art of Flight.
With a train ticket in hand I decided to head east to Chamonix just as a front was approaching, that night I watched an almost full moon illuminate over towns before I made it to my resting point the Geneva Airport where I would take a bus to Cham the next day. Once I made it to Chamonix it was nuking snow and the drought they had been experiencing was officially over. I stayed with a Cham legend named Gary Bigham who was filled with stories of the valley and introducing people like Glen Plake to the mountains he called home. By my second day there the weather had warmed up and it started raining at the resort. There was a moment that I loaded a 75 person tram with 4 other people and decided I needed to head further east for colder weather and to meet up with a old friend.
I was able to hitch a ride with Caroline George, another First Ascent athlete over a pass and into Switzerland where I boarded a train and made my way to Bad Ragaz. While in Switzerland I checked out Davos and partied with my friend Guy Newman having a blast in one of the most expensive places in the world. The forecasts were looking optimistic so we decided to head further East to meet up with Lea and Lorenzo in Innsbruck, Austria and ski Saint Anton Am Alburg.
Our first day at Saint Anton was amazing with over 50cms of new snow and no competition for fresh tracks as we rode bell to bell, while I couldn’t see the terrain it was powder. That night we said goodbye to Guy and Lea and Lorenzo showed me around the streets on Innsbruck before getting some rest in preparation for another long day at the resort.
The next day we watched the sunrise and Lorenzo and I said goodbye to Lea and heading West on the Auto bond to Saint Anton. The conditions were great and before we knew it the clouds had lifted. I was stoked we had bluebird and powder conditions. It was one of the best resort days of my life and I owe a huge thanks to Lorenzo for showing me around before saying goodbye and hoping on a train to the Geneva Airport.
The storm had hit hard and the Airport was filled with travelers carrying snowboard and ski bags and here I was leaving for Oslo, Norway.
My last day of travel was a whirlwind day in Oslo with friend and local Arild where I tried local food, hiked the trails and checked out the bustling city.
The trip was only 3 weeks long but I was able to experience so much and I owe many thanks.
Kathy and Robert Christensen, All my peeps at Eddie Bauer, Bruno Delay, Guy Newman, Lorenzo, Lea Hart, Gary Bigham, Blitz, Arild and everyone else who made this a possibility.
On January 22 John Cocci and I made our way up to the Revelstoke area to take place in a splitboard festival up at Rogers Pass. This was my second time in the area and I was stoked to head back to such a cool area. The snow up on the pass was insanely deep but the avalanche danger was the worst they had seen in 30 years. Everyone was talking about a slabs going off 1 kilometer wide and 10 feet deep two days earlier.
For two days we rode 3000 foot trees runs with the Canuck Splitfest organizer Wade otherwise known as Treepilot on splitboard.com. It was a great time had by all with the highlight being John winning a brand new Prior splitboard.
In total the festival raised over 2000 dollars for the Canadian Avalanche Association thanks to Wade and all the contributing sponsors including Prior, Voile, and Lib Tech all giving away boards.
See everyone next year!
Here is a quick video of me testing out my new threats from First Ascent!
With weather less then ideal we had to scrap our original plans and head south in hopes of better weather. We decided among are endless options to head down to Lake Louise Cheateu and do a circumference of Fairview Mountain and ride down suprise col a 2000 vert colouir which runs to the shoreline of Lake Louise.
With a wrong turn we set foot on the wrong trail traversing well over 2 miles before backtracking to the Fairview trailhead at 1 in the afternoon. We were fortunate that someone else had already put in a skin track as we raced up the mountain switching over to bootpacking once aquiring the windswept ridge.
Before long we were standing on top of Fairview looking directly down 3000 feet to Lake Louise and quickly seting our gear up for a decent as we had under one hour of sunlight left and more then a mile to go before reaching our col.
What we thought was a easy ride down quickly turned into Billygoating as we carefully rode into the windswept face.
After spending 15 minutes carefully navigating through the face we made it into a wide open bowl which yeilded blower powder with every turn.
As we dropped to our traverse trail we hastly skinned across the valley before reaching surprise col at dusk. The light was quickly dwindling as we dropped into the wide open chute with knee deep blower powder for over 3000 vert. By the time we reached the West face of Lake Louise it was time to put on our headlamps and skin over 2 miles back to the Cheateau and our car. This would be are final day in the Canadian Rockies but hopefully not the last trip out here this season.
With rain on the lower slopes of the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, Jason Hummel, Sky Sjue and myself decided to travel out to the Canadian Rockies to experience some of the most rugged peaks I’ve ever witnessed.
With so many accessable peaks along the Icefields Parkway, it was hard to choose among them, but after stumbling upon Mt. Hector– an 11,000 foot peak with well over 5,000 vert of skiing, it became an easy choice.
Some of the locals thought we were crazy to attempt Mt. Hector, as many wait until the days are longer but we felt strong and thought it was worth a shot. We reached the trailhead just around sunrise, at the relatively late (for climbing) hour of 8:30 a.m.
It quickly became apparent that the continental snowpack was quite different from the maritime, as a quick pole test went straight down through the snow and down to the dirt. As we skinned up through the forest, we watched the sunrise alpenglow on the peaks to the west. As expected, snow cover was low on exposed ridges, so we often transfered from skinning to bootpacking and back again.
The weather was brutally cold as we climbed onto the glaciated slopes of Mt Hector and were finally greeted by the early morning sun.
We carefully climbed the glacier, trying to minimize exposure to crevasses, as snow bridges often cannot support a climber’s weight in a contenential snowpack.
As we climbed the northern face, the views to our east opened up into the vastness of the Canadian Rockies…
Once arriving near the summit of Mt. Hector, I chose to climb to a skiable subsummit while Sky and Jason went to the true high point.
We glimsped endless possibilites as we perpared to ride down over 5000 vert of untracked champagne powder.
One by one we put our tracks down the wide open glacier as the afternoon sun started setting on the horizion.
After 6 hours of climbing, we made it back to the car in less than 1. It was just before dusk when we arrived with grins on our faces from a job well done.
for a much more complete version of this TR check Cascade Crusades
Here in Washington it’s yet another day of fluctuating snow conditions. At Crystal Mountain, where I help fund my touring season by teaching advanced snowboarding classes, we’ve experienced bare ice, patches of foot-deep windblown snow, puddles, refreezing, and even the occasional slushy spring-like conditions within the last week. As I ride up the chair with my class– four 13-year-olds, who are eager despite the torrential rain and sleet– I consider regaling them with my latest adventure, which concluded not a 24 hours before, and is surely just beginning to leave my muscles sore.
I’ve just returned from British Columbia, where Jason Hummel, Sky Kilos, and I completed a traverse and descent of the Joffre Group, a sub-section of the more vast Liloet Range. When Mr. Hummel proposed that I abandon Washington’s well-groomed boilerplate for what became six hours of scenic approach and a half-hour of fall-line descent, I admit I wasn’t completely sold. But when he mentioned that our objective would include a sixteen hour drive round trip, I was in! Wednesday afternoon I met up with Jason and we drove to Vancouver to pick up Sky.
Sky Kilos (Skisickness.com) is a highly regarded skier within the ski mountaineering community and an all-around badass. We headed north from Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway, past Pemberton, and began to get excited when we noted the snow on the trees at 2000’. Since our highpoint would be around 8500 feet, this was a good sign.
As we climbed up Cayoose Pass, the temperature dropped to ten degrees. At the trailhead, we donned headlamps for the late-night skin out to Keith’s hut, situated at the base of the Matier Glacier and Joffre Peak.
Skinning under the vast network of stars, we reached the hut two hours and four miles later, and happened upon three other skiers already occupying the space. We quietly put our gear away and picked up some much-needed shut eye. Around nine a.m. we gathered our gear together, and, as recommended by Andy, a Squim local we met at the hut, decided to embark upon a traverse in the Joffre Group, and ride the aesthetic north face of Slalok, down to Joffre Lakes.
Under a low-hanging overcast sky, we traversed away from our objective to meet up with a ridge that made a perfect ramp to the col separating Joffre and Matier. As we traversed along the ridgeline, we were met with pockets of perfect snow, and began to get really stoked for the descent. From here, the view of both the Liloeet range and Costal Mountains opened up to massive alpine bowls and aesthetic lines as far as the eyes could see.
From the ridge line, we dropped down onto the Matier Glacier and traversed across and around crevasses barely visible from the past few months of record breaking snow accumulation. Finally, we arrived at the steep south face of Slalock. Soon traversing turned to kickstepping as we ascended the steep exposed face. There wasn’t much room for error, as an accidental slip could send us tumbling 2000 feet down into the serac field below.
Once gaining the ridge, the weather quickly deteriorated as the cloud deck slowly lowered upon us, and we switched to downhill mode as quickly as possible, for a perfect fall line of sustained pitch for well over 1000 meters until arriving at Joffree lake.
What started as a huge open face quickly turned into a steep couloir as we made large, open turns beside exposed glacial ice. When we arrived at the frozen Joffere Lake, we were all grins form ear to ear. As we left our tracks behind, I vowed to spend at least a little more time in the Costal Range this season.
Special thanks to Jason Hummel for use of his photography.
Hopefully, we’ve got less than a month to go before winter has got Washington’s mountains in an unbeatable deathgrip. But until that beautiful day, it’s time to explore!
With a break in the endless downpour of the last few days, Dan, Jason, and I found ourselves on the Northwest side of the Olympics dreaming of falling freezing levels and trying to imagine the alpine with just a little more snow on it.
After an 8-mile trek during which much future shreddage was scoped, we entered Royal Basin under a cloudy sky. We didn’t take many photos, but the ones we do have show how great the colors are, even if there isn’t quite enough snow quite yet. Enjoy! Photo credit to Dan.