“We are almost half way through our gas, and we aren’t even half way to our destination.” Boating across the Kinbasket Lake in central BC and up the wood arm was the start of our adventure and it looked like it might not even happen. The 18-foot motorboat was loaded with five guys, Aaron Chance, Sean Cochrane, Dave Sproule, Andrew McNab and myself. Heavy enough on our own, we also had all the requisite gear to climb and ski Mt-Clemenceau, the 4th highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, plus camping gear and food for five days. All this weighed the boat down to the point of barely floating. How were we to know that it would take 70L of gas just to get to the back of the wood arm?
Obsessed with our goal, we all decided we would go further and figure out the gas dilemma later. Luckily for us, when we radioed Mica Heli for a pick up, they were also able to bring in 50L of fuel to get us home.
Their A-Star picked us up and we flew up into the Rocky Mountains, following the valleys we were planning to ski out in five days’ time. Phil, our pilot, landed us at 7300 ft and we set up camp. As evening turned around, some glacial ice left us excited about the next day.
Skiing off the summit of Clemenceau
We toured out of camp early the next morning and up towards Mt-Clemenceau; travel was quick up the glacier and soon we were into the meat of the climb. The west face route is a glaciated mess: huge blue seracs, deep dark crevasses and small snow bridges linked our route to the summit. We roped up and slid our way through the ice walls. Hours of uphill travel meandered us through endless decisions and wild ice formations.
As we neared the summit, I was impressed with how well this mountain ski toured, as it’s one of the highest in the Canadian Rockies; it was nice that it was simply a great ski tour. The winds began to get stronger and stronger, while boot packing the final pitches gusts threatened to blow us off the mountain. Not knowing how big the cornices were on the summit, we remained roped up and only visited the top to ski off the pinnacle. Fun turns led down through all the ice and snow ramps we had climbed up.
Sliding back to camp we settled into a great dinner (butter chicken on rice) and started planning the next day. The strong winds we encountered on the summit must have followed our ski tracks down, since soon enough the camp was getting gusts up to 80 km an hour. We spent hours digging and building walls to no avail. It seemed that the winds were stuck to the ground and would easily flow up and over our walls. Luckily our tents were well anchored.
Andrew and Dave finishing off the couloir on our way to Malory
Skinning to the top of Bruce
Skiing off Bruce
Most of the summits surrounding us seemed beyond our ski touring goals so we settled on trying to climb and ski Mt-Mallory. It had a great looking north face as well as an interesting up. We skinned across glaciers for three hours until we reached an unknown point where we thought a couloir existed…it didn’t. Luckily another couloir that did brought us onto a glacial ramp and a fun skin to the summit. We ate lunch at 10700ft and then I slid down the north face, where I quickly discovered that any soft snow was blown off in the wind storm. After the first pitch, I looked back up and my partners all yelled back that they wouldn’t be following me. At first I believed them – then they stoically did. Because of the nature of the ski tour, we would be able to get up onto another summit by skiing the north aspects. We wanted to encounter new terrain the whole time.
Although tired and not particularly excited by the skiing, we managed to rally enough energy to skin to the summit of Mt-Bruce. It turned out to be very worthwhile. The tour was spectacular: it finished off with a narrow ridge and a great ski descent. A few more hours of travel and we were back at camp, enthused yet ready to head home.
The next day we woke and began the trek back to the boat. A long and fantastic ski tour brought us to a long descent down to a forgotten logging road. An hour of hiking had us walking down the beach to our waiting boat. We loaded up and boated back to the head of the wood arm where we set up camp, enjoyed an evening fire under the stars and simply enjoyed.
The second couloir option on the way up mt mallory.