Free Drop Off to the Bow Valley and Calgary
Mount Murchison's Mega Couloir - A Trip Report by Kieran Crimeen
Spring seemed to be setting up nicely. Some rain down low on Friday followed by a punch of sun on Saturday that’d level George Foreman. Most of the stuff that would’ve fallen off the steep solar headwalls probably had so Matt and I made some plans to minimize overhead by playing under them.
The only beta we could find on the Murchison ‘Mega Couloir’ was a cryptic mention on the BigLines classics thread and a vague memory of a post on Instagram last winter. Seemed like enough. The previous week we’d bailed from the car on a different objective so we salvaged the day by snapping a few photos of fun things along the parkway.
Calling the bottom half a ‘couloir’ is a little bit of a stretch, it’s only got one wall.
We set out from the car at 6.15, with an unsupportive crust forcing us out of the drainage and into the trees. After twenty minutes of bashing we got back into the drainage above the waterfall and got to skinning. We arrived at the base of the ‘couloir’ to find it was full of bowling ball sized chunks of snow, the hallmark of a loose wet slide. The crux of the lower chute was not twisting an ankle on the scree-esque snow. Soon it was time to skin again, except we’d anticipated a slightly steeper line and dumped skins at the bottom. Oh well, plates have their uses even in spring.
The snow was a mix of blower, blower on deep facets, hard slab on facets or just facets without the trimmings. The angle was a real grind, just not quite steep enough to be able to kick a bucket without breaking the one below. A few hours of this awaited us, with my knees feeling twenty years older. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose fitness when you’re back to weekend warrior status.
Feeling like we should have topped out already. This was a pig to get up.
Matt managed to convince me to take it all the way to ridgetop, citing peer pressure as his motivator. We did about 30m of scree climbing to make it to the top, and what a topout it was. Mind blowing views of the gnar and a whole lot of mountains you never get a look at. Matt spent a few minutes trying to persuade me that Trevor’s line on the north face wasn’t that bad while I clicked in. I courteously disagreed with his opinion and started dry skiing my way down.
Exposure, seracs, Oh my!
A number of 11’000ers are visible on the horizon, yet we’re still in the couloir.
After the absolutely horrible time getting down from the ridge things really improved. The pockets of powder were sloughing at roughly the same speed we were skiing, allowing us to enjoy nice soft turns down the entire couloir. And what a long run it was, with around 1200m of excellent moderate skiing in all.
Matt keepin er nice and tight through the tight section
Now he’s skiing irresponsibly fast
The final bowling alley awaited us, I attempted to ski the damn thing but gave up and walked to the bottom. After swapping layers, repacking skins and padding our expensive cameras in our backpacks we were ready to brave what was likely to be breakable crust over a streambed. Luckily we happened to arrive on the tail end of corn o’clock and cruised back to the car with only a short detour around the waterfall.
This line seems to be relatively obscure, but it shouldn’t be. With views across the Lyells and up to the Columbia, an airy feel and over a kilometer vertical of great skiing there’s not a lot to dislike about Murchison.
A trip report by Kieran Crimeen