Finally, The First Mission
It has not snowed much here in the East Kootenays, but I have finally made it out on my first mission to find snow. There are a couple places to ski around here early season before the rest of the valley is good to go, one zone is Harvey’s Pass up off the Lodgepole Road the other is in the north facing bowls of the 3 Sisters. Behind the Sisters you can actually ski all summer long on a few small pieces of glacier up there so when it snows just a little bit, the skiing can be pretty good although access into the this zone is a bit more “questy” as Sam put it.
I packed my car with a snow bike, and all my touring gear. I drove up Hartley Lake Road and then turned off onto a little single lane access road, This road (I can’t remember the name of it) has a couple massive puddles, wider in width than my car and just as long, in the summer they are deep! Fortunately for me and my Subaru, they were frozen solid, all except one, which I almost couldn’t get out of. My mission was almost cut short and I hadn’t even put my pack on. I rallied out of the rut, which was more or less a ditch then rammed my car into the next bit of woods that I could to get off the road. From there I threw on my pack with my skis and ski boots on it and jumped on a fatbike and rode the rest of the way up the access road, then it turned into singletrack, which was a bit harder to navigate with my skis on my back and a few inches of snow on the trail, I went over the handlebars once into a large hole but managed to keep everything on my pack intact. Before I came out of the trees and into the bottom of the bowls I stashed my bike attempted to put ski boots on, which were so frozen I had to warm them with my hands before I could get them on. The thought of this being just a fatbike ride ride came to mind but as I grunted and said “I came here to go skiing…” I forced myself in. From there I walked the last little bit into the bottom of the bowls and looked up towards the zone with the most snow. I hoped I could summit the ridge in the background on the left side of the photo.
I needed to find a way up to the deeper snowpack but the bowl was full of alders so I followed a trail that I knew from past missions, then branched off and started making my own way. This was my first time accessing this terrain from the bottom and to point out the obvious, the snowpack was shallow. As soon as I left the beaten path the fear of being on my own entered my mind. “It’s big country up here…” “Did I get to late of a start?” “What time does is get dark?” “Wow, what kind of animal tracks are those?” “Climbing down this is going to be gnarlier than climbing up!” Were all thoughts that crossed my mind more than once as I proceeded towards the deeper snow. I could see the ridge and a chute I hoped I could get on, timing was everything.
I hiked up the little avalanche chute then traversed, still on feet below the cliffs over to the little treed ridge, climbed up that then put my skins on and continued below the cliffs all the way until the photo cuts off. Now it was only a pretty long traverse to get below the chute then maybe a half an hour boot pack to the ridge but it was getting late, and slipping on the crust made traversing difficult.
I ended up getting roughly 60 turns, it doesn’t seem like much for the amount of effort to get there but the snow was good and the entire mission was enjoyable. I still had an exciting down climb to look forward to, then a bike ride out!