Monday, March 31, 2008

Steep Creek - spring really is the best time of the year

This weekend Jacek, Paul, Kala, Luisa, and myself skied into Steep Creek... which I think is an excellent name for a creek. The Duffey Lake area (where Steep Creek is) is quite new to me as it's a bit further north of Whistler than we usually go. The last trip up there plus this one make me think we'll be heading up there quite a bit more in the future. Despite the billing, Steep Creek was not very steep where we were climbing. "Quite Flat Creek" doesn't sound so good though, does it. At the spot where we camped we were greeted by this:

So we had to go and do this to it:

...and the correct procedure for doing that, is this (demonstrated by Paul):

The sun shone on us for most of the weekend, though it was really cold when the sun went in... the cold air meant the snow mostly stayed nice and light. Camping out in the snow is always fun, and in this case quite chilly. The chillyness paid off with a beautiful clear morning and the sun bouncing off the mountains around the camp as it rose... which I failed to take any pictures of that do it any justice. On the way home yesterday we made a food and beverage crawl of Highway 99 all the way back to Vancouver and of course discussed next weekend's plans. The Spearhead Traverse in one day seems to have everyone excited...

There are a few more pictures of mine here, some of Paul's here, and Dan's here. So many cameras.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Carlyle Lodge, the whole story

Last year I had my first ride in a helicopter out to Mystery Creek, and this year Paul and I got a last-minute chance to get the full fly-in experience. A group going into the Carlyle Lodge in the Kootenay Mountains had some cancellations, so Paul and I took two of the places. The group were three from Utah and the Benoit family who between three of them manage to live in Cape Cod, Idaho, Vermont, and Brazil. It says something about what BC has to offer that people come so far to play in the snow. For Paul and I it was a quick (?) seven hour drive across BC to Nelson, where I'd been once before in the summer, and then a short drive the next morning up to Kaslo where the helicopter would pick us up.

The great thing about getting flown in to wilderness is you can take all kinds of stuff with you... like this:

It took a few trips to get all of us and all the gear up to the lodge, and to ferry the last group back out again, but once we were all there we made ourselves at home... it was rather different to sitting in a hole in the snow and sleeping in a tent like we usually do.

Over the next seven days we skied on the Prospector, Carlyle, Pyramid, and Misty mountains that surrounded the lodge and also did tour over the pass between Misty and Prospector to the Carpenter area and out in the opposite direction to Heyland. Heyland was really spectacular and we got some sunshine, deep snow, and steep skiing down through the trees.

Despite having very tired legs after 6 days of skiing up and skiing down as much as we could, Paul and I decided on our last day it was time for some real ski-mountaineering. We skied up, then hiked the last part to the summits of Prospector and Carlyle, getting a run on Misty and a couple below the Pyramids on the way.

All in all, it was an amazing week of skiing in a fantastic place. Jeff, Leni, and Yukon the dog who run the lodge were really friendly and brought us the weather and snow stability report each morning, so there was no blinking at the computer screen at 5.30am for a change! The group all took turns cooking and some amazing culinary feats were pulled off in the lodge kitchen. The chocolate fondue Paul and I made went down particularly well... I have to thank Jasmin for that one as I stole the idea from him when he did it on a kayak trip last year. Finally, here are a couple more vanity photos of me skiing that Paul took with the fancy new camera. I'm even wearing a different jacket in each one... how stylish.

You can still see more of my photos here and Paul's photos here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Carlyle Lodge Luxury Backcountry

I'm going to write more about this when I have Paul's photos to take advantage of... but in summary, we spent a week here:

Doing this:

And then this:

You can see more of my photos of that here and Paul's photos of it here.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bear Trap and The Three Brothers

Early on Saturday morning, Paul and I loaded up the car with a very large amount of kit. Incidentally, did you know that "Live to ski" is nearly an anagram of "I love kit"? - amazing. Once the beloved kit was in the car we drove east to Manning Park for the Bear Trap Telemark Festival. We'd heard from Leo and Karen who ski patrol at Manning that the place was friendly and relaxed... and they aren't wrong. As we were getting ourselves sorted out at the car we were spotted by Jamie, the organiser of the festival (it must be the funny Telemark boots) who came over to check we were going to get in on the action. The action turned out to be meeting up with a bunch of other tele-skiers and skiing around in the sunshine. We had a bit of an informal lesson, which got me talking to Jamie about how you become a telemark instructor. One thing led to another and now I am signed up for my Level 1 instructor course in April. Exciting stuff...

Once the telemarkers were all suitably educated it was time for the serious business of competition. We had a sort of sprint-randonée race... climbing up to some trees, taking the climbing skins off our skis and skiing back down. Paul set a blistering pace which I managed to stay somewhere near before falling over (almost on top of Paul) taking off my skins. Paul came in first and I got second place. The real competition was reserved for the telemark-limbo, which I'm not even going to try and explain. It was fun though!

In the evening we set up out tent in the car park (this place really was relaxed) and joined some folks around their campfire and were fed cheese and wine (this place was also really friendly). Then we headed down to the bar to meet up with the other telemarkers, to drink beer, play pool, and eventually trundle back "home" to the tent.

On Sunday morning we met up with Jacek and Kala who had come up for the day to ski-tour with us to the The Three Brothers... a mountain nearby with, you've guessed it, 3 summits. It was a nice fast ascent up an old logging road and then onto the ridge. The sun appeared from time to time and the views over the Coast Mountains were great... though the wind was howling at the summit. At least we think it was the summit. The Three Brothers seem to have accumulated a few friends along the way and there rather more than 3 to choose from.

The ski back down was a limited to going back the way we came up as the steeper slopes were all badly affected by wind and the sun making a hard crust. We got some brief, but fun, skiing on the gentle slopes through the trees way down and a few more spells of sunshine.

On the way home we met up with Leo and Karen and ate a huge amount of food, including cherry pie. Yum. Next weekend Paul and I are off to the Carlyle Lodge for a week of ski touring. We're in search of the legendary Kootenay Mountains powder snow. Let's hope nature is feeling generous...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Jacek had landed

Spring (my favourite time of year) is nearly here and this weekend was my first bike and ski on two consecutive days combination of 2008. A fine combination it is. Today Jacek and I went down to Mt Baker (in the US) to meet up with a whole gang of Irish and Swedish people who we've had the good fortune to run into. Jacek and I went on a short tour in the backcountry next to the ski area with Margaret and Kala... and I gave my new camera a try. The results (with the camera at least) had room for improvement, but that's due to the operator. I managed to get a couple of salvageable pictures. The snow was pretty good in places and we even got a view from time to time.

Aprés-ski we did some socialising, some eating, and then headed back to the border to take care of the other important thing for the day. On our way back through the border, Jacek "landed" in Canada... despite having just come from there this morning, this is an important thing. This means he's going to be around in Vancouver for a while yet. Jacek also wins the award for "smiling in the most photos"...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Re-joining the digital age

My old camera, started getting a bit grumpy a while ago... which I ignored. As a protest it then stopped focussing at all, which meant I had to walk backwards and fowards taking pictures of things until one came out ok. Of course, this wasn't much fun.

Now, thanks to the wonder of belated birthday presents (thanks mum!) I have a new camera. Buying it was refreshingly easy... I went into a couple of camera shops, said "I like the look of this, what else should I consider that's similar". The answer in both cases was "That's the best one, you needn't consider anything else". So I got it.

I tried it out in a few places today... first on the dark and dank North Shore where I managed to take a not-totally-blurry photo of Jacek. This is quite a feat in itself. Then this evening I went to the park up the road and took photos of the conservatory, a sculpture, a flower, etc. I'm really pleased so far, and will hopefully take a few photos tomorrow skiing in the backcountry near Mt Baker. My photo experiments can be seen on my Flickr page.