Friday, May 9, 2008

Manatee Glacier ski touring

Paul and I just got back from 5 days touring around the Manatee Glacier here in BC. We were supposed to go to Mount Waddington but like the weather, and in fact because of the weather, things change. Paul and I met up with Jasmin on the island and stayed over at Marc and Nikki's place... then early the next morning drove up to Campbell River to meet the rest of the group plus Cliff and Jan from Island Alpine Guides. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and the first flight couldn't land on the glacier due to poor visibility. So, we drove back to the ferry and went home to Vancouver to wait for better weather. The new plan was to fly from Pemberton (so no more ferries for us) on Saturday morning, which meant we could go to the pub on Friday night. Three hours sleep later we loaded up the car and drove to Pemberton, where the clouds were clearing. However, the clouds still seemed to remain in my head...

Suitably refreshed, and with the weather looking good we flew into the Manatee Glacier and set up basecamp...

For the next 5 days we toured around the area from the base camp each day, guided by Cliff and Jan. Despite being quite a big group (11 of us including Cliff and Jan) we got around pretty smoothly with amazing view all around us. As the first trip Cliff and Jan had guided together there were plenty of experiments, including the $99 "Skeena" kitchen tent. We had a sweepstake on when it would blow away, but amazingly it survived and had enough room for us all to pile in there to eat.

From the second day we started the hunt for the elusive corn snow. I've never skied real corn snow in the backcountry before as you have to have the right combination of cold nights to freeze the snow pack, followed by a sunny morning to get the surface melting, then you're in for quite an experience. The melted surface holds a ski edge really well but is incredibly smooth and fast... like a groomed run in a ski resort but covering the whole mountain side. A few thousand vertical feet of that got some excellent telemark thigh-burn going.

Returning to Pemberton felt strange after the solitude of the mountains. We hadn't seen any other signs of human life (other than a couple of aeroplanes passing overhead) the whole time. Despite spending most of my weekends in the snow through the winter it felt good to have really got out there for a few days. It's hard to believe how close you really are to home (in a straight line) when you're out there. Back in Vancouver the readjustment to suburban life was quick and Paul and I headed out for a mountain bike ride in the evening from Port Moody, stopped at Leo and Karen's for beer... and then got a take away pizza. You can't do that up on the glacier.

Here are my photos, here are Paul's photos, and here are Jasmin's photos.