This weekend was the final trip for the ACC Backcountry Training Program. We met at Bow Summit about 30 kms north of Lake Louise and set out across frozen Bow Lake. The day before it was -36 in Banff so we were quite thankful that the weather eased off a bit. That said, it was less than pleasant conditions when we set out across the lake!
above: Steve leads the way breaking trail through the whiteout.
I’m discovering that terrible weather in the mountains very often makes for some great pictures. The previous evening, the wind had blown extremely hard which creates a new set of hazards. Heavy cornices fall and trigger avalanches and wind transported snow builds up in perpendicular aspect gullies making them susceptible to avalanche. Our route was altered as we went up to avoid these changing conditions.
above: Captain Orange may recognize the mountain we climbed in 2009. It looked quit forbidding wreathed in snow! above: The level of exertion required to get to these places can hardly be believed sometimes. Lisa takes a turn breaking trail.above: The group assembles to discuss the route. The terrain may look soft and gentle but the convex rolls between us and our destination are dangerous under the wind load. The route to the right is too close to unstable snow and the way straight ahead crossed a terrain trap meaning even a small sluff could drag you over a dangerous cliff. I’m back from the group checking out a gulley with trip leader Steve to see if it allows a safe traverse towards our goal. After much observation and discussion, we were forced to ski down the way we came up. As with many things, there is much to learn in failure. The problems before us allowed for much discussion and decision making which is a good learning experience. Watching an experienced leader deal with conditions and personalities was also instructive.
above: Mike takes a recon trip to look at a possible route forward. A good look at a dangerous convex roll from a safe vantage point. With more time, we probably could have scouted and designed a route to get over this feature but as time ticked on, the conditions forced us to stop here.
We ended up skiing down a treed gulley with fairly tight trees and heavy, difficult snow. Everyone was having difficulty but for Suz whose alpine ski experience is limited, it took all her courage to get down. I felt bad as Mina and I had left the main group to drop into a much steeper section that everyone else wanted to avoid. Had I known what difficulty lay ahead for her, I would have stayed closer to help her through.
Back down on the flats, we slogged back to the road and on to the rustic Mosquito Creek Hostel, a log cabin just south of Hector Lake. We all cooked supper together on a propane stove and gorged ourselves. After supper we gathered round a large fireplace and tried to stay awake and be social though a couple people fell asleep in their chairs! We had a wonderful night with good people as we traded stories and planned the next day’s adventure.
more photos can be seen by clicking here.