Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Simpson & Healy Passes

That pesky little cold I picked up in London hung around for a few more days than I hoped for, but after surviving the week at work I was ready for a little skiing over the weekend.  Anya & I spent all day at Sunshine on Saturday.  It was a lot warmer than last time I went up & the day seemed to sit around -5ÂșC.  There was a few centimetres of the fresh stuff & the sun & continuing snowfall made it a very pleasant day.  We hit all the lifts over the day & with the exception of a couple of runs off Divide, there were few people queuing.  Funniest thing of the day was Anya getting a little confused & heading off to Teepee Town chair, ducking through some trees, hitting a roller & then straight on to a little jump & ending up stuck in a small tree well.  Forewarned is forearmed & all that & I managed to land it & have a little laugh as Anya eventually extricated herself from her little hole in the ground ("We were evicted from our hole in ground, we had to go & live in a lake.").  After a big lunch, we skied all afternoon, had a drink or two at the bottom before a spot of shopping in Banff & a long soak in the Banff Hot Springs again.

Alex's plans for a "quite interesting" (I interpreted this as "well beyond my capabilities") ski tour on Sunday were scuppered by a call-in to work for his ski buddy, so I joined him on Sunday for an easier tour.  We took the Sunshine gondola up & skied off the back of Wawa looking for a derelict cabin near a lake up the other side of the valley west of where we left the Sunshine boundary.  Once again, it was another glorious day - still, warm & mostly sunny.  We skinned relatively easily for a while before we found a spot the Alex thought looked likely to reach the valley floor.   By this time we were in British Columbia, albeit briefly.

We skied a little way down before the slope got a lot steeper & we stopped so Alex could dig a pit to gauge the likelihood of us triggering an avalanche.  The avalanche forecast was for low or moderate risk (height dependent) & Alex's field testing suggested that it wasn't likely we would bring the face down on top of ourselves.  I had a go at my first snow-pack test (for want of a better word) - basically you isolate a 30x30cmxwhatever-height pillar of undisturbed snow & then tap/hit the top of it (shovel covered) with increasing force until it shears off.

The steepness & all the trees tested my ability, as usual - I managed reasonably well apart from one chute that was too skinny for me to be able to turn & slow down.  It was a quite spectacular dive right in front of Alex - pity I can't find a link to Alex's photo of me pulling myself out of the hole I'd created.
Down on the valley floor, we skinned up to Simpson's Pass & then took off up to the left to find the hut.  It was quite a steep climb up to the lake, during which I was starting to feel quite worn out from that dastardly cold.  Eventually up at the lake we spent quite a long time traipsing around where the cabin should have been (at least according to old maps that Alex had found).  After squeezing between too many trees, getting showered in snow & just generally going around in circles I was definitely ready for lunch on the lake edge.  Disturbingly, for me, I didn't have much of an appetite & after a bit more hut hunting (we never found it) we headed up to Healy Pass with me feeling more & more tired.  Thankfully, the pass wasn't as high as I feared & we made it up there just after three o'clock - just as well it's not getting dark until after six o'clock now.  Naturally, the views from the top were up to the usual high standard of around here.

It was a gentle ski down off the pass & that went pretty well for me until I tried to keep some speed up to get me further across a flat section, hit a rolling drop & then fell over about ten metres later.  We skied down the drainage back to the parking lot.  This bit was through trees & followed the skin track/hiking trail (season dependent).  When it was downhill, it was tight & twisty (a lot of snow ploughing for me) but manageable.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of flat & uphill sections - by now I was worn out & I hated these sections.  I really can't wait to be back on my bike where it's a lot easier to keep momentum & propel oneself along flat & uphill sections.  Back at the car about seven hours after we started skiing.  At least this week's game of Cities & Knights was resource rich.

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