Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ski Waddington Region Coast Range, BC

An alpinist and technical ski mountaineer's paradise! The Waddington Range logistics, as Jim Harris, Seth and Solveig Waterfall planned, began by departing May 9th.  I left from The Shack in Ashford, WA to the Waterfalls' house, and drove through the Canadian border 600mi north to Bluff lake, BC. We then had an overnight at the King Family's Ranch B& B.  We hired Dave King's brother Mike King, the heli pilot and owner of White Saddle Air, to fly us in 40mi to the Waddington Massif. We landed in the Rainy Nob zone on the Tiddiman Glacier to explore for 10 days in hopes of splitter weather.  We planned to ski tour the mountains and faces of the Waddington region, then have a heli flight out of the mountains on the 19th. We would then spend an afternoon cleaning up, relaxing over beers, and have a celebration dinner back at the King's ranch.  After that we would be left with the fun part to finish; a 14hr drive back to Washington state having great memories, new learning, and experiences with great friends.

The Wadd... Day one sniff around tour.
All went well on our 14 hr travel up. We slept well after a big meal at the King's and the weather had us flying in, being on the glacier by 9am. Then the first part of the the cookie crumbled. Ten minuets in to the heli flight I looked at Seth with a long face and asked "Did you get the white gas?" Seth Responded with "No..." a few seconds went buy before he burst out with "We are dead without gas." "I know" is all I replied. The next second we asked Mike if he could turn the heli. With 20min extra flight time tacked on to the bill we retrieved the gas from the van in which it lay. 

The landing on the glacier was a great feeling. Sometimes just getting started and into the mountains can be the hardest part. When the rotor wash settled we drug the mountain of equipment and food we brought for the coming weeks a short distance across the Tiddiman glacier.  We set up some very well built tents from First Ascent for the expedition, including the ultimate Kitchen Tent the "Pantheon Dome." Good living! As we started to re-organize the food the second piece of the cookie crumbled. Seth says "where is the $100 bag of meat?" I Respond with "No way! Shit! I put it in the fridge of the van." A few minutes of rage went through Seth, throwing hats, kicking empty food bags, and stomping the snow, as a short meat dance to have it fall out of the sky. As he emerged from the tantrum  we confirmed the cheese did indeed make it on the glacier. If all we are missing is a big bag of meat we're not so bad off, at least we have fuel to cook the cheese with. Note: the whole team is left handed so I suppose we can just blame our forgetfulness on our left-handedness at this point. 
S and S Making the meatless goods in the cook dome.

Seth, Solv, Jim on high speed corn Stiletto Glacier 
Our first afternoon we put the skins on and went on a short stretch of the legs to get a feel for the place and a better idea of the snowpack. The trip was given perfect weather and we launched early the first full day to the Stiletto Couloir and glacier for a five thousand foot reward of corn. We were back hiding from the heat in the mid afternoon and made a plan to try Mt. Waddington from the Tiddiman Glacier  through Combatant col up the Angel Glaicer to the NW summit of Unknown Mountain/ Waddington.
Moon over Bravo Pk.

The Combatant Col.

Not sure exactly Why they call it Angel Glacier? 

Summit Pyramid NW Summit Waddington. 

Solv, Jim, Seth 4,000m 

MAIN Summit Waddington. Not sure the best way up that one?

Post-ski of the angel glacier in powder. Feeling very alive after the ice fall crossing. 

Lost of Ice hanging around! Combatant Col/ Bravo Pk. far left.

The day provided spectacular views, great snow, wonderful weather, and a cast of great friends that love the mountains.  This was one of my best ski tours ever. Waddington is a place as brilliant as Chamonix with no people and no lifts, the true wilderness, just spectacular. A long day and seven thousand feet of gain and descent delivered a rest day with a great breakfast and some good chilling, interspersed with the Canadian air force buzzing our camp as they cruised the mountains performing acrobatics.

The next mission was to climb the east ridge of Munday. We collected memories on two of Munday's summits which has a 2 mile long ice cap summit. We then skied back down the majority of our ascent route again having amazing weather, views, and friends in our presence.    

On the East Ridge of Mt. Munday Massif. Waddington left /Tiddaman right 

Stiletto Glacier from major col in center.
The prize in my opinion was Mt. Grinnell, featuring low objective hazard, north facing skiing, steep, and one amazing summit ridge with 5k of descent. The morning of this objective was a perfect, not one other person except for us exist in the range, cool! We set foot on top in wild swirling clouds that opened for sun breaks. We descended in wonderful light  to the top of the black pyramid where the steep 50 degree skiing begins. The snow began to fall and visibility was poor so we had time to kill and the weather would change eventually.  Given that this was our assessment, we took a picnic for an hour or two. When the weather changed and the sun fully lit the face we were getting paid for our patience. We skied recycled pow and enjoyed the feelings that real steep skiing allows. What an incredible run in the mountains!
Mt. Grinnell. Ski from summit toward camera to dark black Piramid center down left to big open face.

Top of the black pyramid Waddington behind

Summit Ridge Mt Grinnell steep snow climbing!

The team from one summit to another. Mt Grinnell  

Seth on top Mt Grinnell Wadd and Tiddaman Group  

The Big steep Face from the black Pyramid.

Solveig, Recycled pow, and 50 degrees I like It.
What turns out to be the last big tour of our amazing trip to the Waddington Range was Mt. Spearman, a sub summit of Waddington's east side. We put the skins on early as with all the tours on this trip, climbing up the Bravo glacier to the Bravo-Spearman col, then climbed up toward the Spearman summit.
During this trip we had traveled primarily un-roped and done many dozens of crevasse crossings during our stay but one caught us and pulled Seth down. We responded quickly and fished out Seth from 70ft down in the final crack before the summit pyramid! Miraculously, just a sore shoulder and a frazzled mindset resulted from the fall. We salvaged the day with having 98 percent of the climbing done, so we enjoyed a fresh perspective on life skiing corn five thousand feet back to our camp. We decided to take off since we had gotten nine blue bird days in a place known for only having a few nice days a month. This was one of the best expedition ski trips I've been apart of.  Thank you for all the great times S, S, and J.
SSWaterfall. Bravo glaicer route on accent to Mt Spearman.  

Waddington Main Summit from 3,300m on Spearman with S and S.
Happy to be Living!

We got warned, we had enough, and had wonderful corn skiing to our camp.

I think they are in LOVE!

Seth in the Stiletto... Think I'll bring a rock rack next time too.

Laurie and Dave King outfitted us with a brilliant cabin style bed and breakfast, with their amazing home serving as the main lodge for meals and entertainment. Their hospitality is unparalleled.
Mike at white saddle air is the way to get in and out of the wadd and his machinery and piloting skill top notch. Thank you for the ride.

The King's grand B and B

Dave and Lori's Ranch Thanks Guys!

I want to thank First Ascent/ Eddie Bauer for the sponsorship to make this amazing trip in the mountains happen. I want to personally thank Seth, Solveig, Jim, and Caley for this opportunity to join the trip along with a big thanks to, Tom and Mike at beyond Coastal/ Chums as well as Gabe at Smith Sport Optics. Your support helps makes it all happen.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

PNW for another great late April

With time on my hands and fit legs from the season in La Grave I got out on a number of nice tours in Rainier national park. I skied on Lane peak, the south side of Rainier, and a bonus of my sixth ski off the pin on Rainier. I had some rain filled office days in the bustling town of Ashford, WA (joke) and settled in for some recovery day after 79 days of skiing in the Alps.
Summit Ridge of Lane Pk. The 4hr tour from Ashford to Ashford 

 I went for a climb up the zipper to the summit of Lane Pk.
 "There is never bad snow, there's just bad skiers". Doug Coombs
1st time I skied off the true pin of Lane! sweet tour  ok snow. good and steep. 
Laura and I took a day tour to the base of Gib ledges at 12k in April. It was one of those days when the weather, conditions, body, and mind all wanted the same thing: to go higher, and what goes up must come down. Laura and I set off around 8am and cruised to muir in 3hrs, checked in with Ranger Stephen for a cafe and continued on skins most of the way up Cowlitz headwall. This was remarkably the first time in a dozen climbs of the feature that I've skinned almost all the way to the base of gib. We had perfect sun soft hot pow. The descent was brilliant and smack in the middle of the fall line. As Laur and I reached 10,200ft our motivation for up and feeling the flow we skinned up and headed East for the Cathedral Crescent cooler. This is one of the best runs within 30 minutes of camp Muir. The decent was on great corn snow and we took the cowlitz/ paradise glaciers to 8,700ft. We then traversed the snow field and descended the skiers' far right side Nissqually chute and continued on to 3,700ft at the Nisqually view bridge.  This day that seemed for us both to be light exercise out on a tour wound up having 9,000ft down and 7,000ft up. It is fascinating to me how much all the conditions matter to the ease of a day in the mountains. Guides say in the mountains it depends........"on what?" on a lot. We were fortunate to have all the elements perfect on this very fine April day.    

LJR skinning at 11,300ft on cowlitz headwall. 

The Nisqually Ice cliff last April 2011 compare to this season!

The Nisqually Ice cliff one year later Ouch! Taken from entrance to the gib ledges. 

LJR Ripping turns from the base of Gib.

Faint corn tracks down the center 

LJ Ripping The Cathedral Crescent 

Nisqually chute far Right.

Lower Cowlitz: from the Paradise gl. Colwlitz gl. divide.

The lower tatoosh range from 5,000 on the Nissqually Glaicer 

The bridge!
A few days of poor weather dropped some new snow in the lower elevations so on the next days Laura and I had free we went with Nick P., the recently unemployed by choice to Lane peak tatoosh range in Rainier park. We started the skin with minimal optimism on having good snow from 3,800ft but soon in to the main climb from valley bottom we discovered the north terrain was a bit colder and the snow from the steep walls had sluffed in to the run known as the Fly couloir.  As we booted the upper 45 degree section all we could think was sweet 30cm, of new and light and stable powder. Thanks LJ and NP for a awesome day.
First run off Lane peak

Photo Nick P Laura climbing down from the view point 

Nick schralping the goods.

Photo Nick P. Getting my ski on.

Laura and Nick Return from Lane Pk.
The Fly and The Zipper Lane Peak.
The following day Nick and I headed to Muir where we planned to stay the night and climb Rainier by the Gib ledges route. We would decide later what to use the skis on for when we got on top. The walk to muir was brutal with high temps and no wind, we were cooking like eggs on reflective asphalt. We made good time despite the fatigue and dehydration.  We had a good evening of hot drinks and a stomach full of torts and cheese. Nick and I woke to a perfect sunrise and with some wind, we departed camp muir at a leisurely 8:30 to climb GL to the summit.  We made it up in 4:30hr for a great day of walking in the high mountains with bluebird sky. After 30 min on top we clicked in to our skis on the pin and descended to the upper Nisqually ice fall Glacier to near 12k and skied some of the best corn fall line we ever had done, crossing right to Fuhrer's finger, on to the Wilson glacier, and out to the Nisqually Bridge; 10,500ft of uninterrupted down hill bliss!
Nick sending the Gibraltar Ledges. 

Top of GIB

Nick and I on The PIN

Nick slicing Chalky turn just off the summit

Upper Nisqually Glaicer Turns 
The long slide down from upper Nisqually 

Nick skiing Corn to the Finger 

Photo Nick P. Slaying corn in the Finger 
Photo Nick P.

Nice Blocks of Ice Wilson
photo Nick P Big fresh rock fall near the Fan

The hour and a half descent form the top was followed by a hundred cars passing us as we hitched for two hours, trading positions with our thumb out. Then we pullout the throw your hands in the air trick for the last 30 or so cars until finally a guy passed and I this time added the hands folded in prayer mode and tossed the hands up but he just drove by.  At this point I was ready to just walk out like a traffic cop and stop a car in the middle of the road to kindly ask for a ride to paradise. Three min later the guy I folded my hands and gave the quick tossed hand, had turned around and pulled up asked "Need a ride?" Clearly! I hopped in and had a great ride to our whip. So, I suppose when hitch hiking for longer then it took to ski down, use the hands in prayer mode, give them the old toss the hands up, and show the awh man look... and they will feel guilty and return for you.... or  bring a lady and pull the old fashioned bait and switch... Ah, and it is illegal to hitch in the Rainier park.