Free Drop Off to the Bow Valley and Calgary
Couloir Season Kickoff Party: Funnel of Death and Gutentight
By Kieran Crimeen
Joel and Matt both got a couple of days off and the weather was looking sublime. It’s early spring and that means couloir season, a good time to work on the technique before we start to look at the face lines of the Rockies. We tossed around a few stupid ideas before settling on ‘having a look’ at the Funnel of Death on Bow Peak.
Parking at Mosquito Creek Hostel, we made short work of West Nile and gained the moraines. Somehow along way I managed to find myself in front, looking up at the wall trying to decide which crack hid the funnel. I was assuming it wasn’t so obvious when directly underneath. A likely looking slough pile and chute above had me convinced, so we front pointed and dented our picks up a little Scottish gully to gain the crack in the mountain half a kilometer from our line. My bad. With someone else firmly in charge of leading the party, we made it to the right spot.
We swung leads setting the bootpack up the the winding corridor, preferring not to think about how narrow things were. Future Kieran is a great guy and he can deal with that. We soon entered the Funnel. I hadn’t been in much big terrain this winter due to the perpetual PWL’s so it took a while to get used to things. What we couldn’t get used to were the cornices drooping above us. Temps were cool but we couldn’t shake the feeling that Dave just wanted to drop down and say ‘hi’ so we sped up. About 30m from the top the top layer of snow changed to a soft slabby facety mess so we elected to click in from there. Any amount of sloughing was likely to strain us through the funnel so we played it safe.
Pretty sure we’re in the right spot this time
The skiing was intimidating but the snow was in fine condition. I felt rather inadequate watching Matt and Joel swoosh down but I managed to hack my way down.
Matt grabbing Monday by the horns
Despite appearances there was enough room for turns, with no particularly oppressive section. We regrouped at a safe point and then there was nothing but open slopes, with some creamy March powder hiding in the shadow of the fan.
Joel making it happen in the lower section
All in all not such a bad line despite the objective cornice hazard and certain terrain trap. With the Funnel of Death in the bag we elected to regroup tomorrow and try a what was by all accounts a mellower line, Gutentight.
It was not.
Same story in the morning except this time we (I) knew where to go. We made short work of the fan and quickly walked up the echoing walls of the lower hallway.
Fast booting up the couloir to avoid overhead involved some pretty steep snow climbing in which I got my first faceshots of the day. Once in the upper section things deteriorated quickly into hard, uneven runnels that had Joel and I questioning our ability to make it down in a controlled fashion. We elected to click in below the final pitch whilst Matt defended his title as ‘Best Skier on the Mountain’ and continued to the cornice.
After some creative ‘turns’ in the upper section we regrouped below the first choke and enjoyed some of what we had yesterday, fine soft snow with some good support underneath.
Some of the good stuff
Skiing the final corridor was an quite an aesthetic experience, with the sound of snow under your skis bouncing from wall to wall.
The fan once again hid some amazing cream and we blasted down to the car so Joel could make it to work. Gutentight was a real beast, one that I’ll have to finish the job on.
All in all a fantastic opener to spring; early starts, steep lines, fear and shaky legs. Hopefully the weather delivers and the stoke train keeps running.
For some video evidence of our trips check out Matt’s trip report.