Explorer Peak (West Ridge)

Every now and then we get that long period of high pressure where everything rocks. The temps are decent, the snow is beautiful, stability is good. Then the winds come and everything goes to hell. Windslab creeps across the ridgetops and where there isn’t windslab there’s pure ice. Runs look good from afar but once you’re in them you start actually thinking about things like home projects and ice climbing.

Closer to home we ventured further away from the beaten path to find absolute mank. During the week I tromped up Flattop, Peak 2 and Peak 3 on 3 different occasions where I found bad, worse and heinous.

Peak 3 hell.

Come sunny Friday we headed down south and up Magnum where we found breakable crust down low followed by windslab at the rollover. Once on top we leaned over the South face at the point where the cornice doesn’t overhang, however even then we heard and felt settling and quickly backed off. We then skied a north facing run off Magnum which we entered by dropping low on the ridge to avoid the windslab that is on and just below the summit ridge. The run was powder. Then breakable. Bad terrible absolutely gross hell breakable.

Cornice hell.

Thinking that it might be good on another north aspect – even though we had just skied the same aspect (skiers apparently suffer from severe short-term memory loss) – we toured up to the weather station and skied a Northeast facing run down towards Lyon creek. The run was powder. Then breakable. Bad terrible absolutely gross hell breakable. But it was sunny and the dog had fun. And I got to take pictures of all those things the forecasters tell you to watch out for.

Debris hell.

I spent saturday doing home projects. It was sunny but not even the dog seemed to want to go skiing.

Come Sunday I finally gave up on powder skiing and tagged along on Wayne and Carrie’s annual Explorer Peak glacier shakedown ski / climb trip. Eight of us met up and tromped up valley until stopping at the toe of the glacier to harness and rope up.

Carrie near the headwall.

On the ridge.

Hot cornice action.

Carrie at the top.

Richard Baranow topping out. The last time I got to climb with Richard was in 2007. It was crowded that day too!

Then up the glacier to the col followed by a deep bootpack up the heavily corniced West Ridge to the summit. Back down to the col where we unroped, donned the skis and ripped back down to the valley floor.

Middle Glacier, Byron and Carpathian.

A good day with good fun people. The skiing wasn’t that bad… then again maybe I’m just getting used to breakable. But it was sunny and we all had fun. And I got to climb and ski with a ripping 11 year old which was a window to one of the many joys of fatherhood.