Saturday, March 31, 2012

All I Could

Last night I saw the ski porn flick "All I Can." I gotta admit, ski porn flicks leave me cold. They seem so much the same: endless shots of gnarly dudes with rad hairstyles skiing steep lines to some ghetto blasting music. Truthfully, I can't say I found All I Can any less tedious to sit through than the last ski porn flick I saw, and that was about as tedious as watching the snow melt in my yard.

The movie was, however, significantly more vacuous. These ski porn dudes should never be encouraged to open their mouths. Yes, they can ski, but as for coherent, well reasoned thoughts on complex subjects - such as climate change - these dudes prove that their last grey cells were long since blown away by their last dope hit.

A review in Powder Magazine says the flick "unites us all, young and old, to acknowledge hypocrisies and negativity and to engender positive change. ...All.I.Can. shifts the paradigm, leaving viewers encouraged and united on a communal front." Yeah, right. The idea that a bunch of half-stoned dudes who fly all over the world in jets and helicopters, drive powerful gas guzzling sleds into the mountains, and can barely string three coherent words together are somehow going to launch an environmental movement is risible.

Real change happens when real people make real sacrifice.

Get real, dude. 

A bunch of real people doing real work
 that will benefit other real people, no personal gain

Friday, March 30, 2012

There's Always Tomorrow

Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it's always your choice. Wayne Dyer.

Motivation, I'm sadly lacking in it right now. It's been a wet day, a wet week, a wet month. In March, you expect longer sunnier days and the possibility of doing bigger, longer ski trips. But, all we have had for March is storm following storm following storm. There have been a few, scattered marginally better weather days - notice I didn't say sunny - but, these last at most 24 hours and follow a big storm cycle, so bigger, longer tours are stymied by heavy trail-breaking and poor stability.

Right now, it is pissing down, as it has been doing most of the day, most of the week, and, yes, most of the month. I haven't skied since Saturday. Given that I am perfectly healthy, this is almost unknown phenomena. Each morning I get up and think, "today I'll go for a tour." I look out the window, see the tenebrous clouds lying low over the hills, listen to the rain pounding on the roof, the wind rocking the trees, and think, "well, maybe tomorrow will be better."

A short stroll around Grohman Narrows is all I managed today.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shortest Time Possible, Period.

A few of my friends are off on the Wapta Traverse in the next little while in two separate groups. One group, disappointingly for them, lost 50% of their group prior to the trip, going from a party of six to a party of three. The other party gained a member. One persons loss IS another persons gain, I guess.

I thought about going along, although I have done the Wapta Traverse, it was many years ago. The cost, among other issues, however, turned out to be prohibitive. My friends are taking six days to ski the Wapta, spending five nights in the huts, and another two nights at the Lake Louise Hostel. At around $45 for each night, accommodation alone adds to over $300. Then there is the Parks Canada vehicle pass, the inevitable meals out, gas, and soon, the tab will be over $400. I've spent less than that on backcountry lodge weeks with helicopter access.

Could take a tent, I thought, but my pack would be awfully heavy with six days of food, a tent, stove, sleeping bag, sleeping pad etc. My limit for load carrying on ski trips is eight days, but that is shared with another person. I'm not sure I could fit gear and food for six days in my pack, and I'm damned sure, I don't want to carry that load.

Of course, were they doing the trip in a reasonable time frame - three days is perfectly adequate for doing the full Wapta Traverse - and even allows lots of time for peak bagging, I might have felt differently. I could carry a three day pack with all the gear with no problem. But, doubling that time frame, moves the trip from a pleasant easy three day weekend, to a long, tedious grind with a pack that is far heavier than it needs to be, and a party that moves commensurately slower than they need to move.

The entire Wapta Traverse from Peyto Lake to Sherbrooke Lake is only 40 km and 1500 metres of elevation gain - it's been done numerous times in a day - and, all those years ago, it was a relaxing three day trip. After all, you don't carry any camping gear, so your pack is only modestly heavier than a standard daypack. Why anyone wants to (almost) literally crawl across it taking twice as long as necessary is inexplicable to me. Unless the purpose IS to expose yourself to a greater chance of bad weather or bad conditions, I can't see any logic in it.

Perhaps it's the old mountaineering philosophy scratched onto my soul after so many years, get up early, get out there, get it done, get back, shortest time possible, period.

On the Whitewater to Proctor Traverse:
Twice as far done in half the time

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Life In The New Millenium: A Message From The Dalai Lama

Yesterday, preparatory to moving, I was doing some rather tedious cleaning of the house, and came across an old newspaper clipping stuck to the side of the fridge.  I've reproduced it below:
  1. Take into account that great love and great achievement involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three R's: respect for self, respect for others, responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  7. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change but don't let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go somewhere you've never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give in order to get it.
  19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon. 

    Spring Mountain Sunset, Oregon

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When Deciding Is Difficult

The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.  David Russell

Last night I read this piece by Will Gadd on decision making in the mountains. The idea is simple, evocative and, I suspect, sound. It brought back to me many days when we've stood about the top of an avalanche slope having long discussions about whether or not to continue, how to minimize risk, what the odds of an avalanche are, where the escape zone is, and, a host of other variables, that as Gadd succinctly summarizes are "likely to (sic) complicated to make a good decision on".

The last time this happened was during our week at Kokanee. We had 120 cm of snow over the last days of the week accompanied by rising, then falling freezing levels, strong to extreme winds, and a buried surface hoar layer of unknown distribution. We saw a reasonable number of natural avalanches, but, overall, the extent of natural avalanching was far less than we expected. Snow pit tests were highly variable, and some small slopes were running while larger slopes were not. The data was confusing and did not fit into any of our previous schema.

In the face of this uncertainty, we played it safe. Skied short, low angle, safe lines in the trees and avoided overhead exposure. We recognized that conditions were such that good decision making was difficult, so the best thing to do was avoid avalanche terrain altogether. The week ended with no involvements.

But, I left wondering if things were as uncertain as we perceived them. Could we have skied the bigger lines without involvement? Or, did we avoid involvement due to astute decision making? Is good decision making recognizing when the data is too overwhelming, too complex, too contradictory to allow good decision making? If you believe Gadd's thesis, the latter is true.

If you'd asked me these questions in the week following Kokanee, I would have said we were just timid wimps. A month or more later, wiser for reading this article, I now think we were astute enough to realize when a good decision was beyond our knowledge and experience, and that the best decision involved zero exposure.

Not the place to stand about wondering what to do

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Novelty Is The Thing

I've been running a series of ski tours for my local mountaineering club called the "Simply Suffering Summits and Traverses Series." The title is meant to imply that the tours are longer than the normal tours offered on our club schedule, and will involve either a ski ascent of a local peak(s) or a traverse (or both). So far, I've run six of these tours. All, with the exception of one, have been full. However, full is limited to six people including myself. With that number in mind, the concept of the trip being full becomes less significant, especially as at least half of the tours have featured the same group of people. Each of the six tours has gone to a destination that, to my knowledge, has not been on our club schedule in at least the past ten years, and possibly never. In other words, they are new tours to new destinations.

This coming weekend, there is a ski tour to Old Glory on the schedule. Old Glory is the highest peak in the Rossland Range, has a well-beaten summer trail to the summit, and is on the club schedule at least twice per year, once in spring as a ski tour, and once in summer as a hike. In many years, there will be multiple trips scheduled up Old Glory during the calendar year.

Within three hours of the announcement of the Old Glory tour, the trip coordinator had 14 people interested! That number is more than the unique number of individuals I have had on all six of my Summits and Traverses Series Tours combined.

Trip difficulty could explain some of the stark difference in interest in the two tours. A reasonably fit party can ski to the summit of Old Glory in 3 hours and ski back to the vehicles in 1 to 1.5 hours, making the tour truly a half day option. Using my last tour, a ski ascent of Mount Lasca, as an example, we took five hours to reach the summit and two hours to exit, and were out for 8 hours total.

Similarly, some of the difference may be explained by "reputation". It's hard to know what people think about you or say about you, unless you actively engage in some kind of covert CIA type spying, but it does seem possible, if what I occasionally hear circulating is true, that I have a reputation for hard tours, early starts, long days, and fast travel. Or, it could be the meeting time that puts people off. The average meeting time for most club trips is somewhere between 8 and 9 a.m., while I routinely meet between 6 and 7 a.m. A prospect that may be daunting for some, but which I believe improves safety margins.

But, I have to wonder if some, or even most, of the difference in interest comes down to novelty. People seem to prefer what they know. Day after day, week after week, month after month, well, you get the picture, people will do the same trip over and over and over and, well, you get the picture again. I've known some people to go up and down the same peak a dozen times, yet never even consider setting foot on the adjacent peak, despite the ascent being no more technically or physically difficult and lying a mere 200 to 500 metres away.

I don't understand it myself. Personally, I'll endure all kinds of bad bush, long logging road approaches, tedious driving, ghastly trail-breaking and heinous descents, if, at the end of the day, I go somewhere new to me.

Henry David Thoreau said it best: "There is an incessant influx of novelty in the world and yet we tolerate incredible dullness."

On a 7.300 foot outlier of Cody Peak.  A terrible thrash to get here, followed by a ghastly descent, but we were someplace new.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Competent Groups, Competent Leaders

This year, for my local mountaineering club, I've been running a series of ski tours that I called "The Simply Suffering Summits and Traverses Series." The name may seem somewhat pretentious, as these tours, while harder/longer/more committing than regular club trips, are not particularly difficult in the overall scheme of things.  However, another club member was running a "Simply Decadent Series" (easy ski tours to local cabins with goodies provided), so the Simply Suffering Series seemed a good counterbalance.

Yesterday was my sixth tour in the series and we skied up Mount Lasca, a peak which, although only 20 km in a straight line from Nelson, manages to feel a long way from anywhere. Our route was made possible by a new logging road that is plowed to 1400 metres, and we did the return trip in about 8 hours (including a number of breaks).

Acting as trip leader for a club can be a stressful experience. People ill-equipped for the proposed trip, in terms of fitness, skill, experience, or all three, frequently want to sign up. Working out whether or not they are as good as they inevitably claim to be is difficult, and, if you end up with a very mixed group - half strong, half weak - group management becomes increasingly difficult, often to the point of consuming your entire mental energy. Many times, you'll end up with a group that is physically capable, but whose basic mountain skills, particularly in terms of navigation, route-finding and stability assessment, is weak. In those instances, the entire responsibility for the trip can weigh heavily on a volunteer trip leader, and making every decision throughout the day without support can become mentally fatiguing.

Yesterday I had a great group, as is becoming increasingly common with this tour series (reputation perhaps?). Everyone was physically and technically capable and, we were truly able to make decisions as a group. A rare instance on a club trip. I found the tour much more enjoyable when I could share decision making and route-finding with competent individuals, and not worry whether someone was going to tire themselves to the point of exhaustion or not be able to ascend/descend a certain slope in a reasonable time frame.

Like all clubs, ours struggles to find competent leaders. Yesterday, I started to wonder if competent leaders are perhaps a function of competent groups. Leadership is much less onerous when the entire party is capable. Too bad such a cohesive group is such a rarity.

Our group on Mount Lasca

Friday, March 23, 2012

How Do People Do It

I got a couple of free lift tickets for Red Mountain Resort from a friend so I drove down to Rossland and used one up today. It wasn't a bad day, fairly sunny, about 10 cm new snow in the past 24 hours (counts as a major dump in Rossland), no wind, and I paid for nothing but gas, so you'd think I could have a good day. But the tedium of it wore me down within a few hours.

It's unclear to me, as I never resort ski, whether all lifts are as slow as Red Mountain ski lifts. I am pretty sure I could have skinned up in only slightly longer, and, as skiing down is so fast, it seemed that before I knew it, I was back sitting on that chair again trying to avoid conversation with the person in the next seat who wanted to chew my ear off about everything that had happened to him that day, that week, that year. Long minutes of my life wasted on the chair, and, then, before I knew it, I'm back on that chair again, trapped like the proverbial rat in a trap.

After lunch, I stuck my MP3 player in my ears and listened to a talking book. This helped drown out both the tedium of my chair mate and the chair-lift ride.

So, my question is, how do people do this day after day, for fun? Unless you have the attention span of a gnat, it's just inexplicable. 

Where I would rather be

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Better Than You Thought

Last weekend, when we ski-toured along the Harrop-Narrows Divide and ended the day with a delightful 1,700 foot descent, we all commented on how great you felt at the end of the day when your trip turned out better than you had hoped. Yesterday was one of those days.

Driving up to Kootenay Pass it was impossible not to notice that there was no snow at all on the trees. Usually an indicator of either high winds, high temperatures or rain, none of which are conducive to good skiing. As we got closer, we could see that the trees had been stripped by wind. Kootenay Pass is a notoriously windy place.

Touring out to the north ridge of Lightening Strike, we were struck by how strong the wind had been. Even deep in the trees the snow was littered with forest detritus, a sign of strong winds, and the surface snow had been blown into a semi-stiff slab. Gaining the Lightening Strike ridge, we decided to "warm-up" with a low angle SE aspect run. The top 50 metres was on a nasty breakable wind-crust, but the lower we got the better the snow got. Not great by any means, but better. Back up again, we skied a steep NW facing line this time. Again, the top 100 metres took work to ski as it featured a stiff slab on the surface. Conditions again improved lower down.

Finally, we broke trail up the east facing slope opposite and had a sweet run down on perfect snow - no wind effect on this sheltered slope. We did it again before heading home.

In all, it turned out to be a great day after all. The promised sunshine was barely in evidence, but we had pretty good snow, skied a couple of runs that were new to us, and, most important, things turned out better than we thought. 

Evidence of the previous strong winds

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

HIT Stripping

I fell off the wagon a bit with my HIT strips. Before Kokanee, I could do a bunch of reps on our second steepest wall, so I moved them along to our steepest wall. Got back from Kokanee, and couldn't do even a single lap. "Just weak from skiing all week and no climbing," I thought. So, I've spent the last couple of weeks doing a lot of bouldering on the wall.

Tried the HIT strips again today, and still couldn't do a single lap. Moved them back to our second steepest wall and can do multiple laps. One wall is too hard, one too easy. There's no benefit to not getting off the ground, so I'll weight a backpack next time.

My homemade HIT strips

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ski Touring on the Harrop-Narrows Divide

Yesterday, we went out to check out some more winter logging for ski touring opportunities. Kalesnikoff is logging in the Harrop Creek drainage for the Harrop-Proctor Community Forest. Some searching around the internet, revealed a couple of maps, and a few Google Earth photos overlain with the new logging roads, that gave us a good idea of where we might get road access. I had hopes we would be able to drive to 1200 metres, turns out we were lucky and got to just over 1400 metres.

Once we had worked out where we were, I quickly came up with a reasonable looking tour. Following drainages, we planned to gain the divide between Harrop and Sharp Creeks near the north end at about 2100 metres. From this point, we could follow the ridge south to a 7,600 foot highpoint, and then various options for descent were possible.

Everything went well, travel was relatively easy to the first drainage, and very easy once we got started east up the drainage. It took us just over two hours to gain the ridge at about 2100 metres, and travel south along the divide was superb. Open easy travel with wonderful views in all directions.

We had a lunch break on the highpoint at 7,600 feet where we were overlooking most of the route Doug and I had skied years before when we skied from Whitewater to Proctor. From our highpoint, we descended due west down a beautiful 1,700 foot slope that was the perfect pitch for skiing and featured large openly spaced larch trees and lower down open pine forest.

At the bottom of our descent, we hit Harrop Creek and skied easily down the creek with the sun shining through open timber, and, quite quickly met our original track from the morning.

A spectacular day out exploring an area we haven't visited for many years. 

At the north end of the Harrop-Sharp Divide

Friday, March 16, 2012

Packs Are For Packing

Out skiing the other day, a fellow skied past me with all manner of gear hung about the outside of his pack. A shovel handle was strapped on one side, a probe on the other, a water bottle hung off a hip and helmet dangled off the back. Nothing was securely attached and the entire contraption looked uncomfortable, inefficient and potentially hazardous.

One encounter with a tree or even a small snow sluff and most of the stuff on the outside of that pack would be gone and lost forever. In an avalanche, even a small one, those essential items like probes and shovels would be whipped off that pack before a Republican could say "tax cut."

Backpacks, as one pundit put it, are meant to be packed, so pack the damn thing. Essential equipment, like probes and shovel parts should never be on the outside of a backpack. So, does that mean helmets, water bottles, etc. are fair game for strapping to the outside of a backpack? Not if you consider them essential. And, if they are not essential, why the heck are you lugging them about in the first place?

If your backpack is truly too small for essential gear, buy a new larger one. However, most of the time, when I see gear hanging off packs, the issue is not space, it's stupidity. Like the fellow who skied past me a couple of days ago. There was obviously room in the backpack for essential gear, for some reason, unknown to anyone, the dolt had just decided to dress his pack up like a Christmas tree.

That's all very well if all you want to do is stand in a corner and look pretty, but if you actually want to ski tour, it's just another dumb idea with potentially harsh consequences. 

A pack not packed

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

What a day in the backcountry yesterday. In the preceding three days, 50 cm of snow had fallen, winds had been moderate to strong from the southwest, and the freezing level had been bumping up and down. Avalanche hazard was rated considerable, high, high (below treeline, treeline, alpine). And every idiot who could strap a pair of skis to their feet seemed to be out.

Doug and I spent over two hours breaking a trail from the parking lot to the north end of Evening Ridge. Trail-breaking was on the heavy side, but not outrageous . No sooner had we got to the top of our planned run at 2040 metres than a solo female skier comes along the trail behind us.

First thing she says is "Where are you skiing down?" Which I take to mean, I have no clue where I am, and need you to tell me what I should do and where I should go. "Where are you skiing down?" I counter. "Well, I just followed this trail up (as if it had fantastically appeared before her like some kind of magic carpet), and I don't know where I am." "Do you have a map? I ask. "Kind of," she replies.

How do you 'kind of' have a map, I think. Is that like being 'kind of'pregnant? 'Kind of' human, 'kind of" a half-wit? "Well, either you do or you don't," I state the obvious. "Well, I looked at one in town," she replies. Right. That'll help.

Doug and I forthwith ignored her. Idiots in the backcountry aren't my responsibility until they are officially lost and I have to go out and look for them.

We skied a run down, broke trail from the bottom of our run, back to our uptrack, and skied back up for a second run. Our track had obviously been relatively well traveled in our absence and we were not surprised to find that two more female skiers had followed our track up and were at the top of the run. We also passed the solo skier who had skied down the top 100 metres of the run right by the up-track and was skinning back up. Clearly, she had no idea where to go and was at least showing some common sense by staying near the uptrack.

As we took our skins off on top of our second run, the solo skier arrived, saw the two new skiers and attached herself limpet like to them - the outcome she had been hoping for all day. We skied down well away from this happy group of idiots.

After our second run, we decided to call it a day. We broke trail back to our up-track again, and found the three women staggering along it exhausted although they hadn't broken a single step of trail. We flashed passed them as they stood gasping by the trail side.

Coming back through Hummingbird Pass, there were yet more idiots out and about. The skin-track had been deeply pock-marked by boot tracks, there were half a dozen backpacks, with various bits and pieces hanging off the outside strewn right along the middle of the track, and people were up on the steep avalanche prone slopes on either side of the Pass, filming each other skiing down. All this, in the middle of one of the biggest terrain traps in the area.

"What sort of clusterf**k is this?" I asked Doug as I skied quickly through, hoping none of the idiots chose that moment to launch down and trigger an avalanche on my head. In front of me, I could see Doug hurling backpacks off the trail like an Olympian competing in the shot-put. It was funny to watch packs go winging through the air while the owners of the backpacks chattered away like squirrels behind us.

Stupid is as stupid does, I thought.

Hurrying out through Hummingbird Pass before the idiots get us

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dreary, Drab March

Perhaps I am expecting too much to hope that March in the Interior of BC might bring some clearer skies and sunnier weather. True, we did have a few dry days last week - and we made the most of them - but the next seven days looks wet, dreary and drab. No doubt, it won't be raining or snowing all the time, there will be some variation in the wetness, but, dreary and drab it is likely to be.

This year, it has been a challenge to get out and ski as much as normal, and the weather hasn't made that any easier. A long series of drab, dreary, wet days with high avalanche hazard means that options are somewhat limited. And, after 10 years of ski touring around Nelson, I am running out of new places to go. Especially when weather and stability are less than cooperative.

Were I one of the many folks who are happy, happiest it sometimes seems, going to the same area again and again, I likely wouldn't mind. But, I find I do crave novelty. I am happiest getting out somewhere new.

Dreary weather to ski tour in

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Somewhere In The Purcell Mountains

Doug and I just spent a couple of nights at a tiny little cabin in the Purcell Mountains. We'd heard about this cabin from friends - it is one of those semi-secret cabins - but had never got around to skiing in, and had no exact directions for locating the cabin. But, there was a good weather forecast, swiftly to be followed by a bad weather forecast, so we took advantage of having no fixed time-table and skied in.

It was a bit of a slog in, trail-breaking was heavy with lots of new snow, and there is substantial elevation gain, but, simply by putting one foot in front of the other, we arrived in the vicinity of the cabin. Quite a bit of searching was required to find it, shovel it out, and stamp out trails to the outhouse and slop spot. When we finally came inside for the night, it was almost 6.00 pm, and we had been going solidly since 10 am.

We had a wonderful day and half of skiing in the area after that. Our plans for traversing towards some larger mountains to the north were scuppered by a steep slope that we felt too susceptible to avalanches to descend in the current conditions, but, we enjoyed ourselves skiing smaller slopes and skiing to the summits of ridges both north and south of the cabin.

On our last morning, the weather was clear, and we skied up to one of the ridges to enjoy the views that had been hidden by cloud during the previous day. It was windy and cold on top, but we stayed up there soaking in the magnificent surroundings until we were chilled and needed to depart.

In some ways, the ski out was more challenging than the ski in, as the road we skied down was steep, narrow and icy for at least half it's length. But, despite some challenges at the beginning and end of this trip, it was well worth it. 
Somewhere in the Purcell Mountains

Monday, March 5, 2012

When You Go Out In The Woods Today ....

Forget about bears, take a map and compass, and make sure you know how to use them. Last night, about 10.30 pm, our search and rescue group (SAR) was called about two female skiers who had failed to return home after a day skiing in the West Arm Provincial Park off the Whitewater Ski Hill Road. A couple of teams went out last night, but failed to locate the missing skiers, so Doug and I went out early this morning with another two teams to continue the search effort.

The skiers were located by helicopter heading east (towards the north ridge of Mount Beattie) about 7. 30 am. They had spent the night in a snow-cave dug into a tree-well on the north side of Hummingbird Pass in the West Fork of 5 Mile Creek. and were in good condition owing to the mild, dry weather overnight, and the fact that they had enough equipment and skill to build a snow-cave and a fire.

A SAR team was dropped off near the lost skiers and they were escorted back to the trailhead. They had spent the night about one kilometre north of Hummingbird Pass, and, were, at most, one hour from the parking area. But, with no map and no compass, they had no way of knowing this.

It seems, the skiers thought that they were skiing a run locally known as Black Queen, which is actually the east facing descent off the mountain White Queen. However, based on where they were located and their description of their tour, I suspect they had actually skied a north facing run off White Queen, and had then contoured all along the White Queen-Beattie ridge to finally descend into the West Fork of 5 Mile Creek where they spent the night.

Many things are unclear about how their day progressed. One thing is clear, and that is, that, from the time they left the parking lot, they really had no idea where they were or where they were going.  Under these circumstances, once you are lost, you are lost.  

Towing The Radio Repeater Out

Friday, March 2, 2012

An Eventful Day

It was an eventful day in the backcountry yesterday. We skied a steep east facing line off White Queen below treeline. Our test pit showed the mid-February layer down 105 cm; we got no reaction on it, or any other significant results in the snow-pit. We still skied steeper openings in the trees one at a time, but, apart from some sluffing, nothing moved.

Returning to ridge top, we noted a few cowboys skiing straight down the open east face of White Queen (known as Black Queen for some inexplicable reason). Most astonishing however, were the two folks who removed their skis and set up camp right below the steepest section of the east face out in the open and lingered there for at least half an hour. These people were right under the people skiing the east face, and, had an avalanche occurred they would have been hit and hit hard.

At the end of the day, we descended the west side of White Queen and noted a large avalanche that had propagated at least a couple of hundred metres across a popular ski run called the Whales Back. Later, I found out that this avalanche had been triggered by a solo snowboarder, who, due to good luck not good management, escaped off to one side. Another one who would have been hit and hit hard.

Finally, Nelson SAR was called out to evacuate two snowmobilers who triggered a size 2.5 avalanche in the backcountry north of Nakusp. No other details on that one.

Simply put, dialing it back in the first 24 hours after a storm would have prevented all these incidents and requires nothing more than being able to tell time. Something we all learnt in kindergarten.

Triggered by a solo snowboarder