Bertha Creek Tour

Bertha Creek Highway

We went south seeking sun, snow and stability. Out the car in fringed temps and up Bertha Creek to Granddaddy, which we knew was in. The north ridge of Granddaddy was wind blasted rime ice with constant 25mph winds beating us as we climbed. Then off the top and down onto the frozen blob of rime ice that serves as a spotting stance.

Yet another pic of Eric looking at the big C.

Up Grandaddy

Down Grandaddy

Grandaddy had a ramp out onto the run, which we were thankful for. Eric crept across on snowboard muttering,”Why did it have to be heelside?” I crept across muttering with my whippet sunk deep into hard crust. The first turn is always the worst- a committing jump turn onto crust – then the snow got better with every turn until blasting down the gut of the couloir looking over the shoulder at a rime ice covered cliff on one side and a steep wall of ice and snow on the other.

At the bottom Pastoral beckoned so back to the col we went, then up her south ridge. It looks like spitting distance to the top of Pastoral from the valley floor, but it’s actually a solid 1500′ to the top. And so the jaunt up became a trudge with high winds beating us the entire way.

Up Pastoral. Bench in the background.

Then off the top of Pastoral and down the Northwest Face which had a solid 40plus rollover in perfect shape. We finished the run by dropping to the lower part where I sat in the sunshine, removed my ski boots and rubbed feeling back into my big toes.

Yet another pic of Eric on Pastoral.

Then back up onto the Pastoral Glacier and across and up to the Mistress col. And finally a boot up the short rock band to the bump that separates Mistress from Pastoral’s Northwest Face.

Up Mistress

Mistress skied beautifully except for heavy sluff, which cracked on Eric forcing him to make a hard skiers left cut away from a billowing pillow that threatened to knock him down.

Legs trashed and energy reserves diminished we turned downhill and drifted out Bertha Creek in late afternoon.

Notes: This looks like longish tour but it’s the perfect circle and in total only about 10 miles and 7K RT. The obvious way is Grandaddy > Pastoral > Mistress because the NW face of Pastoral dumps you right at the base of the Mistress Ridge. On the other hand skiing Pastoral without dropping the lower part is dumb so it doesn’t really drop you at the base, but you get the idea. The climb up to the Mistress col is easy and once you’re on the col it’s easy to reach the top. About the only downside to doing the loop this way is it’s impossible to tell how filled in the Northwest face of Pastoral is and impossible to tell if the rocks are showing in Mistress. So scope Mistress well on your way in and try and get an idea of the state of Pastoral’s Northwest face because some years it’s pure rock with a mandatory bergschrund huck.

Of course all that said you can’t ignore that these are steep runs that warrant respect. I’ve seen Grandaddy with a 6′ crown across the entire face; the Northwest face of Pastoral often has rocks sticking out of the upper slopes, which means that even on a good year the snowpack above the rollover has potential trigger points. And someone once told me he watched a skier tumble head over heels the entire way down Mistress.

Be smart. Don’t do crap like take your labs down the northwest face of Pastoral or ski wind slabs family style (actually watched 3 guys do this on Peak 3 this week). Wear a helmet etc. etc.. Enough on safety. Go skiing. Summer is almost here.

Grandaddy with a big ‘ol fracture.

Jay down Goldpan one past December. Note the rocks at the top of Pastoral’s NW face.

The Mistress.