Monday, February 11, 2013

Twin Peaks (almost)

It's our newest long-weekend holiday here in BC... Family Day! As Lina and I (and most of our friends) and geographically-remote from our families we have to make do with things like sleeping in cold huts and the back of the car for entertainment.

We started off our long weekend early as we both had Friday off and skied up Singing Pass into the Russet Lake hut from Whistler Village. I've passed by the hut a few times, but never stayed the night. We were joined by a couple of Whistler locals intent on riding only the most fearsome lines on Fissile Peak. We got to watch them make very neat work of Banana Chute and the Psycho Chute during our time out there... which was pretty alarming just to watch let alone consider doing myself.

Home for the night
Despite the misery of frozen boots in the morning, the hut was pretty comfy and we enjoyed a long night's sleep and pretty relaxed start to the day. Not needing to crawl out of bed at five to ski in the backcountry is definitely a treat. Our plan was to ski up toward the Spearhead range and see what we could find to ski back down again.

Sun is shining, weather is sweet.

Andrew approves of sunshine in the mountains
After some thought, we broke a trail up the Whirlwind glacier to Whirlwind peak, where we had some fine views and got pretty excited about planning another traverse around the Spearhead for the spring. It feels pretty much like spring already, but I suspect nature has some more winter coming for us first. 

Whirlwind peak and my attention-seeking sunglasses

Back down off Whirlwind
We started our ski down as quite a few day-trippers from Whistler were making their way up. The glacier skiing was in fine condition with the ice below keeping things cold and light despite the sunshine.

Lina descending Whirlwind

Adding our lines to whoever skied it yesterday...
After a really pleasant lunch stop back at the hut we harnessed up the big packs and headed out over Oboe and Flute back to the resort. The ski down icy groomed-runs was pretty harsh with tired legs and the big packs, but I still prefer it to the idea of the pinball-run back down Singing Pass. Our next stop (after some food) was the Duffey Lake Road to meet Paul for a day.

A cavern of ski gear. Amazingly we slept (quite comfortably) among all of this junk.
We got to try out sleeping in the back of the Blue Elephant for the first time, which fortunately was a great success. It's nice and flat in the back and big enough for two comfortably. The lack of all-wheel drive was a bit of a rude awakening from my Subaru days and required some creative driving in the deep rutted snow of the Joffre Lakes parking lot. We managed to get it in and out without too much grief though. When the sun came up, we drove up to Cayoosh mountain with Paul to see if we could find our way to the top this time.

Oh, hi.
More lovely weather and a good night's sleep fueled a fast ascent to the Armchair Glacier. We had managed to get further than last time, but the final pitch to the summit was pretty steep and the wind-affected snow wasn't very receptive to us putting a skin-track up it. We considered boot-packing up, but no-one felt a lot of enthusiasm for pounding steps in slabby snow or having it rain down on them. Paul spotted a possible rout up to the ridge, so we gave that a try instead.

Will it work?
In summary, the ridge is not the way to gain the summit of Cayoosh. Despite some misty-eyed reminiscence of how we might have skipped along the exposed ridge line in our reckless youth (which I think is fictitious in my case)... it looked nasty, so we didn't. The way up seems to be the steep slope so we'll come back on a firmer day with more pointy metal accessories and stomp our way up it. 

Reveling in our summit-failure.

That's the summit over there. We'll get it next time.
So over three days, we covered fifty-five kilometers, climbed over four thousand meters, and put on frozen boots twice. Today I'm going to use what's left of the holiday do do what it was intended for and try to catch my mum on Skype... then go for a bike ride. I approve of Family Day.

Something else I think you, whoever you are, should know about is our friend Geoff's book Eversong. We went to his launch party on Thursday night, which was really fun and I'm excited to get into the book after I've finished the two others I'm still slowly ready (sigh). It's available as a eBook, which is something I hope to get into when funds allow. I think some kind of e-reader would be great for travelling, though I do have a fondness for turning paper pages.