We had great weather and a strong, ambitious crew on our early May 2015 Wapta Icefields Traverse in the Canadian Rockies. Over the course of 6 days we climbed and skied seven summits including Mt. Habel (evening ascent), Mt. Rhondda, Mt. Gordon, Mt. Olive, Little Crowfoot, and two unnamed peaks. That’s a new record for me… We also skied a few steep descents including Vulture Col, the Diablaret Glacier to the valley, and an amazing evening run below Mt. St. Nicholas. Snow quality was very high for May, including numerous powder runs, smooth corn, and everything in between. Thanks to JP, Kim & Colin for an awesome trip. Here are a few photos:
Learn more about the Wapta Traverse here.
Our second trip included quite the cast of characters from the Olympic Peninsula. Our plans of camping high on a glacier were thwarted by a terrible weather forecast, but the silver lining had us setting up our base camp in a region that’s been at the top of my list to explore. We had a lot of tricky weather, but got out every day, and later in the trip had some truly spectacular days of Super Cub assisted plane skiing. Huge thanks to Jay Claus for the hospitality, and along with pilot Steve Davidson (both of Ultima Thule), putting us in some truly amazing terrain.
Photos from two base camp ski trips in one of my favorite places in the world, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. We had two groups on two separate 9 day trips in two different zones, and each was amazing in its own way.
It was a heavy feeling time to go to the Wrangells, with the loss of a legendary guide and amazing human being, Peter Inglis, better known as Pi, the day before we would get on a plane to Alaska. Pi was strong in our thoughts every single day and we felt his presence in these incredibly remote mountains.
Our first trip was with Dennis, Terry, and Clarinda from Idaho (Dennis and Terry had been on the Wapta Traverse with us the year before). Leaving Anchorage, the weather was not looking promising for mountain flying: strong winds and flat light. But with a little luck combined with the immense talents of Jay and Steve of Ultima Thule Lodge, by 7:30 that evening we were landing on a frozen lake in one of my favorite areas.
Andrew McLean termed this zone the “Slotterhouse” in a recent Powder Magazine article. He was kind enough to lend us his Chinese made, Duraflame log burning tent stove, which with some jury rigging integrated nicely with our Eddie Bauer Pantheon Dome tent (don’t try this at home… or do). Most skiers and climbers don’t get to enjoy the luxury of a heated base camp tent, but this system was successful enough to be worth repeating (which we’d do on the next trip).
Conditions in the Wrangells were in some ways similar to conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Shockingly thin at lower elevations, with surprisingly good coverage at upper elevations – a stark dividing line.
Photos from this first trip:
Three Weeks in the Wrangells: PART 2 >
We’re excited about the addition of another big, classic, cascade volcano to our lineup of programs for 2015: Mt. Adams, 12,281′. Through a competitive application process, Pacific Alpine Guides was awarded one of two permits to guide routes on the north side of the mountain.
Options range from the no-experience-necessary North Ridge, to steep snow and ice routes like the Lava Glacier Headwall, North Face of the Northwest Ridge, and the Adams Glacier.
Learn more on the new Mt. Adams page, and come join us this summer!
Photos by Julian Hanna and Tyler Reid from two Rogers Pass trips in late January. It’s been a tough winter for the Pacific Northwest, a record-bad snow year for the Olympic Mountains, and overall a strange pattern for North America, but conditions have been pretty darn good in interior British Columbia.
Happy New Year!
We’ve spent 5 out of the last 6 days skiing in the Hurricane Ridge zone and over the course of that time found some really good skiing. We’ve seen the full evolution from “thin but skiable” to ankle deep powder, to really good powder skiing, to widespread wind affect, to entering spring mode. Overall, even though we’re still well below normal, we have twice the snowpack we had at this time last year. We’ve had a lot of NE winds in the last week which is counterintuitive for where the good skiing usually is, but the upside is this has loaded more snow on the sunny aspects that need it. All in all things are off to a decent start up there and hopefully this next warm spell passes quickly so we can get back to powder skiing.
Some GoPro footage:
Here are a few photos of terrain:
Ski touring by ski plane in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park last spring with fellow guides Andrew McLean and Eli Potter, we were repeatedly having problems with our guide radios (complicated handheld VHFs). Guides typically need what is basically a ham radio to be able to talk with pilots, other guides, rangers, etc. These are powerful tools but they come with a steep learning curve. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in the presence of malfunctioning radios, transmission issues, technical glitches, antennae problems, user error, etc.
As a backup on this trip I brought a couple of BCA’s BC Link radios and we put them into action.
The BC Link looks like any other small handheld radio with a speaker mic. On closer inspection, you realize the speaker mic controls the radio completely. In addition to transmit and receive, you can change channels, adjust volume, turn the radio on and off, and check battery power. This design allows the body of the radio to live in your backpack all day long, with the speaker mic clipped to your pack shoulder strap.
BC Links operate on the FRS/GMRS (talkabout) frequencies – this keeps things simple and license free, but in high traffic zones finding a clear channel can sometimes be tricky (the sub channels help). This wasn’t an issue in the Wrangells. As soon as we started using the BC Links our radio woes vanished, as did our awareness that we were using radios. We were simply communicating clearly in complex terrain.
A month later on a ski expedition to Mt. Blackburn, BC Links provided easy conversations between the summit ridge and base camp. The radios are USB rechargeable which integrates perfectly with a solar panel, and we were impressed with the battery life of these things (up to 140 hours according to BCA).
For guides, the BC Link won’t replace the complicated guide VHF. But for everyone else, the BC Link is a superior tool for distraction free backcountry group communication.
Jack and I went up to the Lake Angeles cirque today to check on the ice situation. As this was a scouting mission, we almost didn’t bring gear with us which would have been a terrible decision. Despite our late start we managed to get in a few laps. Super awesome to be climbing ice in the Olympics in mid November.
Lake was not trustworthy yet but skirting the edge was not too bad. Temps appear to be getting warmer for the next few days but with the next good freeze it should be good up there.
At 18,510′ feet, Mt. Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe, and one of the Seven Summits. Situated in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, this trip combines high altitude ski mountaineering with a heavy dose of Russian culture. The 13 day itinerary starts in Moscow and finishes in St. Petersberg, with ample time for measured acclimatization, skiing time, a 2 day summit window, and city tours. Similar to our Chile Volcanoes Ski Mountaineering Expedition, this program is offered in partnership with RMI Expeditions. 13 days, June 2015.
Learn more: Mt. Elbrus Ski ExpeditionSkiing on the Antarctic Peninsula is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Starting in Ushuaia, Argentina, this trip involves loading your ski gear onto a 331′ ship called the Sea Adventurer, and setting sail across the Drake Passage. Three days later you’re skiing above the ocean on surreal ice clad islands and peaks, shuttling to and from the ship by zodiac. In addition to the skiing, is the fact you’re in Antarctica, in a world of icebergs, penguins, elephant seals, orcas, and killer whales. This 13 day voyage is offered in November 2015 in partnership with Ice Axe Expeditions.
Learn more: Antarctic Peninsula Ship-Based Ski Touring