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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!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fat Dog Creek

It had been warm and wet all week, with snowfall on Friday evening. I was expecting dust on crust ski conditions and poor visibility, so I picked an area with trees for visibility, and low-angle slopes to stay on top of the crust instead of sliding and scraping against it. Alex, Maddy, and Scott were onboard with the idea of skiing deep in the Cascades. I'm kidding, we didn't go very far this time.

I've spent a lot of time in Manning Park this winter, and it's probably going to continue through the year as I "train" for the Fat Dog race in August. I'm registered for the 70miler while Alex is registered for the 120 miler. I don't really run in the winter since skiing is more fun, but you could consider this weekend of ski touring up Fat Dog Creek, the start of my training program!

We parked at the Cambie Creek parking lot, a large plowed area just east of Allison Pass. It never snows hard in Manning Park, and this morning was no different, with sunny breaks poking out of the high scattered clouds. There was only 15cm of very light snow over top of a semi-breakable crust. The ski area reported slightly higher snow depths from the storm, at 20cm. We skied quickly up the Fat Dog trail, an old road that crosses the Similkameen River, and then climbs gently northeast above Fat Dog Creek into a large burnt area. This whole area was destroyed in a forest fire in 1945, with areas of open meadows, beautifully charred trees, and some very dense second-growth.

The plan for the weekend was just to explore some ski potential. Most people tend to just come up to Fat Dog, up onto the gentle ridge leading north towards the Three Brothers and ski some very gentle terrain on the ridgetop. It's not really a place to go for the steep and deep, unlesss you know where to look for that (hint. North side of the Three Brothers). There are many open or sheltered places to camp, and we picked a spot at 1750m, just to the east of the Burnt Knob. We headed up to the Burnt Knob, a gentle summit at 1850m. From here, you can either ski a short pitch back down the east and northeast side, a nice 150m run. Alternatively, you can ski down the northwest side, through some burnt areas. We did a couple of short but sweet 200m laps here. We went a bit further down on the first lap, trying to see how low we got ski before the trees closed in. That happens here at Manning Park. The skiing was interesting. Sliding on the new snow was fast, but trying to control speed was difficult as my tails would catch in the semi-breakable crust below, mixed with the tight trees in areas.

After a few laps, it was time for beers. With low expectations for the skiing, Alex and I carried in some delicious beer from Stranges Fellows, an amber saison and a dark IPA. We're happy to report that while the ski conditions were below average that weekend, the South Coast backcountry brewery conditions were in excellent shape. We enjoyed a solid backcountry apres ski session inside the Hilleberg vestibule while it snowed lightly outside. It was warm out, a good thing as I had forgotten my warm jacket at home. A few days later, I went to a brewery next to my office. They had a beer named "Tropic Thunder." When I asked what it was, it was described as "umm.... well it was a saison, but then something happened and it turned into this... uhh... beer!" Tasting notes were tropical, hints of mango, papaya, and pineapples. In hindsight, that might have been the perfect beer pairing for the weekend.

Overnight night accumulations were minimal, with only 2cm of new snow. The freezing levels were forecasted to increased to 2000m by noon. Our plan was to ski in the morning, and then make it back to the car with the least amount of skiing in the rain. We skied two laps of a west facing aspect north of camp, with deteriorating snow quality on each lap as the forecasted warmth came through. As we skied back to camp, the moist snow was baked by the sun, leading to mashed potato conditions down the gentle ridge.

The light precipitation at noon was barely snow. Alex and Maddy had already skied out the Fat Dog Creek trail. Scott and I wanted to explore a bit more. We went back up to the Burnt Knob, and skied a 300m line down the summit, along the south ridge towards Fat Dog Creek. I got really wet here, skiing with my softshell pants. We picked a line that took us down steep glades, skiing the slush. Compared to the crust, this was awesome. The skiing in the tight trees in the second growth from 1650m down to Fat Dog Creek was less enjoyable, mostly survival skiing. We found an easy crossing on a snowy log, and side stepped back up to the main trail. We were back at the car by 2 pm, with just a light drizzle on the 5km ski out. Skiing crust wasn't enough. We were hungry and went to Via Tevere for the delicious type of crust to satisfying the cravings of a couple of Coast Mountain Cement Mixer Crust Fanatics.

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Heading up to the Burnt Knob

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Harrison leads the way

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Crusty conditions as always. 100% chance of crust.

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Blower snow on top. It's hard to photograph the crust.

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Alex making it look good as always.

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Fun times in the burn.

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Scott also makes it look good, no matter what the snow conditions are like.

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Chasing Scott down through the burn.

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Transition time.

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Burnt textures.

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Skiing off the northeast side of the Burnt Knob.

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Maddy 


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Scott

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Alex

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Harrison

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Our backcountry refrigerator

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Beer o'clock!

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The extended vestibule in the Hilleberg Nallo GT is awesome for hanging out in. I slept in this vestibule on a trip to Lizzie Creek with Scott and Sandra, when I didn't have time on the first night to dig out a snow cave to sleep in.

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Not raining yet.

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Steep terrain to the right, mellow to the left.

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Harrison slarving through the snow.

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Tele-steeze

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Mashed potatos.

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Gravy train time

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The skis are too long

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Blackcomb Buttress

After the warm sunny day on the Coquihalla on the Markhor-Needle traverse, it was back to the rainy reality of autumn on the Coast. Despite the lousy weather forecast which called for mostly cloudy with isolated showers, Sarah Kate and I decided to go for a lap up the Blackcomb Buttress anyways. The route follows a vague ridge/buttress on the left side of the DOA couloir, a very popular ski line off Blackcomb Mountain. The description in Alpine Select doesn't say much, except that "route finding is straightforward, with generous ledges, good rock and short-lived difficulties."

With the uncertain weather, we decided to pack a rope, a light rack, helmets and a harness just in case. Sarah had been up there on a sunny day without any of that, but we were unsure about climbing on the wet lichen. It was October, so the gondola was closed for the shoulder season. After a stop at Pure Bread, we started running up from Base II, going up Lower Gear Jammer with nobody else around. The weather wasn't very inspiring, cloudy and foggy as we slogged up through the wet grass. The gradient mellows out as you get onto Sunset Boulevard, and I started running more of the flat sections. We were at the base of 7th Heaven after climbing up for two hours from the bottom. There were brief breaks through the clouds, giving us a grey view across to Whistler.

We continued up the ski run towards Lakeside Bowl, and then picking up a trail that took us up to Blackcomb Lake at 1915m. Most of the time, you can see Blackcomb from here, but the 500m of rock above us was covered in the mist. At least, it wasn't rainy. We started climbing up the talus slope, passing the first rockband at 2000m. We continued climbing up through the talus, getting up to the next rockband at 2125m. In the fog, I was quite confused here, trying to navigate using my phone. Part of the problem was that I didn't know exactly where DOA, and that the Blackcomb Buttress route doesn't start until 2250m, near the exit of the couloir. These elevations are just based on Google Earth as I write this now. In the fog, we thought we were on route, and starting looking at the rock in front of us, at 2115m, on the lookers left side, well below DOA. Looking at the sat image, it's pretty obvious we were in the wrong spot. Sarah started climbing up while I looked at my phone. The rock was slippery, and we decided to try and get to the Blackcomb-Disease ridge col instead of the intimidating rock in front of us.

We went right and started plodding up more talus. Still foggy, but I knew we were somewhere near DOA as there were ski boundary signs, and abandoned ski poles everywhere. I think we saw the couloir, and then Sarah recognized the start of the buttress. It didn't look too bad, mostly grassy ledges, so we started up, prepared to reverse our route if things got too sketchy. The best part of the route was definitely a nice rocky ledge, where I stopped to eat my chocolate croissant. We continued climbing up along the ledges. The rock was definitely wet now. The rope came out for a short section, a 100m below the summit. After some more disorientating wandering through the talus field, and looking at my location on my phone, we arrived on the broad summit.

There wasn't much to see up there with the poor visibility. For the descent, we followed the open ridgeline to the northwest, down to the col at 2320m. I don't think we took the best line for the next part, as we contour across talus slopes below the bump on the ridgeline, traversing at roughly at 2280m. Continue traversing until you pick up the gravel road, "Green Line," dropping down the Seventh Heaven bowl. Instead of the ski runs, there is a vague trail that zigs zags down the bowl, staying west of the ski lift. I had no idea it existed except it showed up on my phone map. This was the best running of the day. We intermittently ran the rest of the way back down to Base II, except for a few sections where the grass was just too slippery to run on! Despite the so-so weather and some route finding issues, we were back at the car in just under six and a half hours round-trip. The only thing left to do was another stop at Pure Bread!

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Starting up from Base II on the ski run

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Wet grass and slippery wood

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Foggy

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Still foggy

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Running along Sunset Boulevard

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Can't we just turn on the chairlift and go up? 

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I was ready for ski season at this point!

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Slogging up more ski runs

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Where is Blackcomb?

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This was not the right way to go. Sarah downclimbed shortly after this photo.

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This way worked.

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Somewhere on the Blackcomb Buttress

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Best part of the day

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Scrambling up

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Sarah

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Kate

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Definitely wet and slippery conditions up here!

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The top perspective, and the wide angle lens makes this chossy scramble look way more radical than it really was.

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Sarah belays on a steeper section.

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Kate sending on Blackcomb Buttress

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I think we are near the summit

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Yup, can't go any higher. Sarah wanted us to go fast today, and lightweight MEC pink backpacks do exactly that.

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Running back down Seventh Heaven

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Running back down Sunset Boulevard