About Me

My photo
I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Columnar Peak

Jan 23, 2010

Ben, Emily and I spent a fantastic day out in the Elfin Lakes area. I had pretty much written off Sunday as a ski day, but late Sat night we decided to go skiing anyways (despite the crust). Quite sleep deprived, we skied over to Elfin Lakes, and then up the south face of the lower south summit of Columnar Peak.

We left Onatah coffee at 9am. A perfect alpine start. We ran into many snowshoers on the way up, but there were surprisingly few skiers out. They were probably all smart enough to stay home and ski something further north. We skiied past the north facing slopes off Round Mountain, and realized that the snow wasn't perfect, so we continued on to Elfin Lakes instead.

The snow was way better than the previous day on the Northshore, but nowhere near the beautiful powder that spoiled us over New Years at Lizzie Creek. We didn't have any particular plan for the day, but the idea of skiing up the Columnar Peak seemed reasonable enough for this day.

Emily inside the Elfin Lake hut. Ben brought along some nanaimo bars to share, they were quite tasty! It was quite foggy at the hut, and the snow didn't seem very good so Emily stayed behind at the hut. Meanwhile Ben and I continued up towards Columnar Peak. We didn't really know if we would go all the way to the top, since the crappy snow around the hut, and the thick fog weren't very motivating compared to an afternoon nap.

We broke out of the clouds just below the south summit. We didn't bother going any further to the centre summit.

I was quite stoked that we were above the clouds. Ben was happy to go down at this point, but I thought we should wait for another fifteen minutes to see if the views would improve.

And then it did! The clouds parted, and the mountains appeared! I love it when this happens, when the weather is nicer in the mountains that in the city.

Views of Paul Ridge, and Sky Pilot behind.

I really like the clouds blowing over the ridge here

After a short break at the summit, many photos later, it was time to drop back down into the clouds. The clouds were just awesome that day.

Ben traversing towards the south face. By this point in the day, the snow was getting quite heavy.

Everything cleared up as we skied down, and it was quite a good ski out to the car with nobody around, and just lots of mountains. The rain runnels were quite evident everywhere around Elfin Lakes.

Nice to look at, not so much to ski.

We were the only ones out here.

It was a great ski out. Not too cold, no headlamp needed, and nobody around. It turned out to be a fantastic day! Thanks Ben and Emily!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hollyburn and Strachan

Jan 22, 2011

Ben, Evan, Greta, Lee, Bram, Chris and I made a nice loop by skiing up Hollyburn, over to Strachan, down the Christmas Gully, and then back up to the Sky Chair and down the groomers. There were a few other ideas tossed around for the day, but they all involved skiing up logging roads to get up to questionable snow. So instead we just drove up to Cypress to get to the crappy snow quicker.

A very short day on the north shore, and something I'll like to repeat with better snow.


The group taking off our skins at the top of Hollyburn. I was excited that we were just above the fog, and we even caught a glimpse of Vancouver Island before dropping back down into the whiteout. From the summit of Hollyburn, we headed slightly NW and went down some steep west facing glades as described by Baldwin. I'd like to come back here when the snow is better, but it was a good day for exploring.

From the bottom of the glades the route goes parallel to the "Collins" run. The skinning was quite difficult with the layer of ice underneath. There was about 30cm of crud on top, with an icy crust below, making it hard for skins to grip properly.

A sea of fog. I was happy that we were up here in the sunshine.


We dropped down to the col between the two summits of Strachan and continued onwards to the higher north summit

Greta skinning up and above the sea of clouds.

We hung around at the top for a while, since it was only noon, it was sunny, and it was completely calm out. Super nice conditions (except for the snow).



Chris and Ben skiing down. Bram and I skinned up through those steep open glades later. We all fell consistently down the slope. It just wasn't steep enough!

Bram and I decided to ski down the Christmas Gully for more exercise, which is about 35 deg and leads down to the Howe Sound Crest trail. The snow was barely skiable at the top, but once it flattened out it wasn't very good for skiing again. The others waited at the top of Sky Chair, and we climbed back up through steep glades to the top of the Sky Chair before skiing back down the groomers. The usual exit would be to follow the HSCT back to the parking lot.

What happened to La Nina? There are some really good trips on the Northshore and in the Howe Sound area, if only the snowpack was lower.

More photos

Monday, January 10, 2011

Marriott Basin

Jan 8-9, 2011
A Duffey weekend in the sun with Agi, Lisa, Simon and Alex. With the special avalanche bulletin out, some worriesome snow layers and limited experience in the group, we kept things mellow but still fun. We skied some high quality snow on some low angle slopes, good times! I can't wait to come back here when the snowpack is more stable, as there's some good looking terrain!

Alex, Lisa, and Agi leaving the hut in the sunshine, ready to ski some sunny powder.
The clouds seemed to really like the basin though, and they never completely left. It did clear up at night giving us a spectacular starry night.
Alex and Simon skinning up to the col immediately north of the hut. The sparkles of snow were quite nice, and it never did stop snowing that afternoon.
Simon finds a nice pillow to jump off on the way down.
The snow was perfect in the trees.
Lisa skiing down.
Agi found herself a pillow to jump off too.
After two laps, we went back to the hut, to warm up with cheese, an awesome stirfry, and a chili chocolate fondue. It turned out to be Dave's birthday too.
The next morning, we skied a short run on the sparsly treed ridge behind Alex and Lisa. The snowpack still seemed spooky and we were fairly cautious about any open slopes with lingering surface hoar, which we found 35cm down.
Bluebird weather and powder in the late morning meant smiles all around.
Lisa skiing down through some nice powder
Simon skiing down through some nice sunny powder

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lizzie Creek New Years

Scott, Sandra, Ben, Frances, and I skied around the Lizzie Creek area for six days over New Year's, joining a large group of VOCers up there. The terrain was fantastically varied and kept us busy for a few days checking everything out. Plenty of snow, sunshine, friends, and good food made for an excellent trip.


Frances crossing the washout at the bottom of the Lizzie Creek road. It took us approximately 8-9 hours after the creek crossing to the hut. The road was slow going, with lots of alder. We arrived at the hut in the dark, after having to break trail and navigate through deadfall in the forest leading up to the gates of Shangri-La.

But as Scott can tell you, the efforts of the previous day were completely worth it. We skied some fantastic south facing sunny powder on below Anemone Peak.

Ben and Scott with sparkles of snow everywhere.

The snow was really good in the trees. We skied this south facing aspect early in the week, since it would become crusty with the week of sunshine. We can't let good powder go to waste!

An evening look at Long Peak. Scott Sandra and I skied the main face right of centre a few days later. We tended to avoid north facing aspects on this trip, as it was too cold in the shade, and the snow was more wind affected. Nighttime temperatures were down to -20C, and it felt like that during the day too.

The next morning we skied up Long Lake, where Ben and I got in a few quick early morning turns, before making a cold trek through the natural freezer that is Long Lake.

We went across the lake, over towards the Crystal Tarns, and then down some amazing south facing trees.

If we didn't have to climb back out, I'm sure we would have skied all the way down the road at Rogers Creek. Sandra picking a nice line through the shadows.

Another beautiful sunset skin up to finish off the day.

We finished with some great powder on the way back to the hut. The great thing about the location of the hut is that everything run basically goes back to the hut. But it does sit in a little cold valley.

Bluebird weather again the next morning, with Cloudraker dominating the skyline. Another trip perhaps. There was a large avalanche on the east face.

We spotted these two short south facing gullies northeast of Long Lake the previous day.

The snow was fantastic!

Sandra skiing down into the second gully.

And then we skied back up to Arrowhead Lake and continued onwards to Heart Lake.

Sandra skinning up above Heart Lake. There's alot of nice terrain around here.

Sandra skinning across the south face of Tabletop Mountain.

We skied off the south side of Tabletop, and then down open slopes to Heart Lake.

Sandra making it look easy in front of a crowd. We went back up for another lap afterwards because it was so much fun.

Sandra skiing back in the warm evening light. A great way to end the year.

Sunset on some of our tracks from the last two days, plus a few more from the 20+ VOCers up here.

On New Year's Day, Scott Sandra and I skinned up towards Long Peak.

And then we skied down the northeast face of Long Peak. We had a fairly adventurous descent, since we didn't really know exactly how far down we could ski before getting cliffed out. In the end, we traversed across the face and basically skied it from top right to bottom left. Scott and I continued up towards Arrowhead Mountain for another run in the late afternoon.

After four days of bluebird power skiing, it was hard to leave through the Gates of Shangri-La.

Skiing out through slide alder on the Lizzie Creek road. We finished the trip at the Skookumchuck hotsprings. If only every ski trip ended with a soak in hotsprings, with nanaimo bars and scotch.