Canadian ski traverse: When wolverine has an ultra-light skimo vest but you got a pound of cheese

By: Stano Faban

As I am listening to Prince’s Fury followed by Purple Rain for the 100th time in three days it reinforces one truth – that there are times to play fast and there are times to play slow, in the mountains that is. In ski mountaineering, there are occasions that call for the best ultra-light gear and then there are trips where a pound of brie goes a long way J

Since the last race on the Canadian calendar, back in March, I kept talking to my friends about jumping on a challenging week-long ski traverse in the heart of British Columbia. The first time we discussed it was few years ago but this spring it looked like all will finally come together. At the end, we had to opt out again as the weather became questionable with the departure day approaching. But the packs were packed, the gear and food was ready, and we had a couple of days to kill. Then after Reiner couldn’t drive to the coast (originally we were supposed to drive north to his neighborhood) Peter and I decided for a more casual trip starting in Whistler.

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Racing at Lake Louise with the new awesome Ultimate Direction Skimo 8 vest.

Few days later, by then the end of April, we found ourselves riding a chairlift up Blackcomb Mountain which is part of the world famous resort. This felt very out of place and we got some strange looks as our packs obviously weren’t carrying an afternoon granola bar. Once finally skinning up the first climb, with stormy weather coming and going, our packs felt heavy and we started to feel free. We were on a ski traverse again.

Objectives for our trip were to do a couple of side trips as this traverse is not that long and we just wanted to enjoy time in the mountains.

The first day took us down a long valley where we had to crisscross a raging creek a couple of times. We were lucky to somehow always end up on the better side which kept us skiing to a low pass where the snow was melting quickly. From there we started our long ascent in hopes to reach a big flat glacier that night. Fortunately, we messed up with navigation and lost an hour (usually happens on the first day), thus, being “forced” to pitch our tent at one of the best spots we ever had.

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What do you say, could you build a B&B at a better place?

Next day we picked up some fresh wolverine tracks that turned out to be our companions for the rest of the trip. The only explanation could be that the animal must have possessed the same guide book as we had, and obviously a much smaller pack.

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Wolverine resembles a ski mountaineer – it is very adventurous, routinely climbs high peaks and travels across big glaciers. We followed its tracks for 3 days.

Our first side trip led us up an exposed ridge to the top of Wedge Mountain, the highest peak in the area. Unfortunately, clouds were building the higher we went and visibility turned bad by the time we reached the summit. With that, we came up with a short poem: “Going up is trouble. Going down is double.”

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Skiing down the exposed ridge wasn’t super fun due to tricky flat light.

Skiing down the exposed ridge wasn’t super fun due to tricky flat light.

Another great camping spot with the Wedge Mountain in the distance.

Another great camping spot with the Wedge Mountain in the distance.

The third day, we spent the morning rolling around in the tent as a small spring snow storm went over us. After it passed, we went on a tour to explore but didn’t get up to anything exciting, the weather was difficult to predict. In the afternoon, we decided to move on and skied the big yet mellow glacier super slow as at times we couldn’t see whether we are going up or down.

Peter posing after the weather finally cleared and we could see the big glacier in the distance behind.

Peter posing after the weather finally cleared and we could see the big glacier in the distance behind.

We skied around the Owls, one of the most dramatic peaks in the area, and marveled the steep ski lines on them. For example, the diagonal ramp off the top and the steep slope down to its left have been skied before!

We skied around the Owls, one of the most dramatic peaks in the area, and marveled the steep ski lines on them. For example, the diagonal ramp off the top and the steep slope down to its left have been skied before!

After another dinner and night in the high alpine we decided to push for an earlier exit as the weather just kept on surprising us. However, during the long day out, we managed to summit and ski another high peak in the area, Mount Currie. Once again, thick fog came in quickly as we climbed the mountain and didn’t dissipate while we waited at the summit.

Getting ready for the final descent.

Getting ready for the final descent.

Ski traverse exists in the Canadian mountains are usually finished by long walks in ski boots down wild forests and this time wasn’t any different. After 1300m of descending, regular mosquito attacks and 4h of f#*@ing around in the bush we finally emerged on a logging road. It could have been much worse.

Here’s a rough map of our trip, the Blackcomb to Currie traverse. We covered about 60km and 4000m including the side trips. Feel free to contact me if you would like to do a ski traverse in Canada and need some help with choosing the right one for your abilities.

Here’s a rough map of our trip, the Blackcomb to Currie traverse. We covered about 60km and 4000m including the side trips. Feel free to contact me if you would like to do a ski traverse in Canada and need some help with choosing the right one for your abilities.

 

 

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