My life is so hard: Round One

Now that my weekend job of cross country ski instructing has wrapped up for the season, I’m doing my best to spend as much time as humanly possible in the backcountry.

Last weekend 6 of us packed up hellishly early and drove out to Bow Summit. Bow Summit is along the Ice-field parkway, and although it’s a fair distance from Calgary, skiers from the city are still drawn out there. There are a few reasons for this as far as I could tell. First off, there is essentially zero approach. If your descent is properly planned, it’s pretty easy to descend all the way to the parking lot without having to re-skin. Second, Bow summit pretty well always has good weather, and this weekend was no exception. Despite looming clouds on the drive out, we had clear skies all day, and with the exception of a bit of wind slab at the top, the snow was fantastic. There is also a great deal of good skiing below tree line, so even if the avi conditions are less than favourable, skiing isn’t completely ruled out.

We managed to get 3 laps in, and despite my super ancient 200cm skis, I managed to get in a fair number of turns. I mean, there was a fair bit of face planting as well, but my telemark guru has told me that if I’m falling on my face, at least I’m in the right position. I’m definitely feeling a dire need for a gear upgrade, backcountry skis just popped up to the top of the gear priority list.

After listening to so many of my friends go on and on about how awesome ice climbing is, I finally had the chance to get out for myself. My usual climbing partner and our mutual friend drove out to King Creek, which has three falls pretty close together, about 20 mins from the trailhead. They’re graded at WI 2/3+, so it was nothing particularly difficult, but it was so much fun!

I have a fair bit of climbing experience, but ice climbing is a totally different ball game. It’s sort of novel to be able to get a massive jug hold wherever you want it. It took a little while to get used to the crampons, and I had to consciously not try to smear my feet (shocking I know, but smearing on ice really doesn’t work.) I definitely have intentions of getting out again. Soon.

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Shiny Things: Sport Rack

The very least that I can say is that my family knows me pretty well. Most of the pictured gear (and a 60 m 10.2 maxim dry rope) were christmas gifts. I finally spent the time to mark it all. I got the rope out for the first time ice climbing last weekend, but I can’t wait to scuff up the rest of the gear…It’s all way to shiny for a respectable climber to be carrying.

Reading Week backcountry skiing

Well, It’s been a pretty busy few weeks for backcountry adventures…

I went up to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park over reading break and spend 3 nights at the Naisset huts with some friends.  This was the first proper back country trip I’ve had the chance to do, and it solidified my desire to get out more.

The ski in is 28 km, starting at Mount Shark provincial park, heading into BC over Assiniboine pass. Normally there would have been the option of staying at the Byrant creek shelter, about 14 km from the trailhead, but the shelter was fully booked for the day we were heading in. Instead, we got up extra early and trekked in the full distance.

Assiniboine lodge is closed this season while the lease for the land is being renegotiated, but the rustic Naisset huts, and the Wonder Lodge cook shelter are still open.

The second day we headed up towards Eli’s dome, but had to turn back about 3/4 of the way up. the light was so flat it was hard to tell what was happening. I managed to get in a few good turns on the way back, which made up for the lack of vista.

The light was still really flat on the third day, and according to the other people up there, the snow up high was pretty gross and slabby. We opted to stay a bit lower and did laps on the Niblet. The Tele skis I am currently using belong to my mother, back from the days before children when she and my father did a lot of backcountry stuff. They’re about a foot too long, have basically no side cut, and there is no heel lift for hill climbing. So it was a bit of a challenge, but I still managed to pull of some pretty good turns.

It wasn’t until the morning we left that we actually had a view of Assiniboine. Spurred on by the cold and wind, we made our way back to Mount Shark and down into Canmore for nachos and beer.

We made pretty good time, 10 hours in, 8 hours out and the trip went off without incident. (A good thing considering we lost the group’s SPOT device somewhere between Bryant creek and Assiniboine pass.) Backcountry skiing is making me reconsider why I spend so much money at resorts. This is far more rewarding.