Free Drop Off to the Bow Valley and Calgary
How I lost my Rogers Pass Virginity - A Trip Report by Kieran Crimeen
After putting it off for a number of years I finally made my way further west than I’ve ever gone before. With what looked like a good weather window and some ok stability I threw my fat skis in the car (yeah, 106’s alright) and headed over to Rogers Pass to see what all the fuss is about.
Day 1 - Forever Young
After picking up Matt (best skier on the mountain) in Golden at a very reasonable 8.45 and clutching our powder boards we motored on up to the Discovery centre so I could pick up my seasons pass. Following a quick chat we settled on checking out the Forever Young couloir, which is reputed to be quite the classic. Given my utter lack of knowledge this sounded just fine.
I don’t know what any of this is. Probably mostly unskiable terrain...
By Rockies standards it’s not that far from the road. We set a good pace up the skintrack and gained the glacier in no time flat. Bluebird skis, warm temps and no wind made this the place to be. The couloir itself was fantastic, with a steep roll that just kept rolling to the choke. Despite it being tracked out it skied quite well, with firm predictable snow keeping the angle in check. After regrouping below the Asulkan hut we decided to snag one more lap in and made our way up to the hut for a smooth powder surf down to the skin track out. And endless double pole and kick had us at the car. I was pretty wrecked but this place seemed pretty cool.
Blue skies and fat skis. This is all so new!
Some pretty views.
Happy days! Thanks Matt.
Day 2 - Jupiter Traverse
Joel had to head back due to the rigors of managing SkiUphill so it was just Matt and I. Matt suggested we work on some mountaineering skills and we settled on trying out the Jupiter Traverse. The best beta source (Instagram) showed that there were steps kicked at least to the top of the first peak and I’m all about making things easy.
The plan: A jaunt along the skyline. Well, maybe not a jaunt.
We deigned to start an hour earlier as this would probably be a longer day. I was feeling the vert from yesterday so Matt set a more leisurely pace up the Mousetrap and it wasn’t long before we were popping onto the glacier for some less than enthusiastic sidehilling up to Sapphire Col. Eating a slice of pizza and enjoying the warm sun we gazed out at the wild skintrack across from us on Mt Swanzy.
The first part of the traverse was easy, with big steps kicked in from the previous day. Unfortunately for us, these steps were kicked by some local hardmen and they’d dropped in just past the summit of Castor. Alas, we were now on our own. Some tricky route finding and cornice avoidance maneuvers coupled with a little winter scrambling saw us on the top of Pollux, absolutely baking in the days heat. The final peak, Leda, required a short downclimb to a heavily faceted/corniced ridge. After sinking up to my hip for the third time I elected to crawl to the top, motivated by the cheers of a party enjoying our suffering from a comfortable summit vantage.
That’s a slab.
Time to start trailbreaking. It was a little punchy.
We know where we want to go, we just don’t know how to get there.
The final downclimb, which I somehow missed on first inspection.
After a quick transition and some tip shots for the ‘gram we were ripping down the Thorington route on soft powder to soft windpacked powder, and not even close to being tracked out. A fantastic conclusion to the day. Once again we poled out to the car and rolled back to Golden.
Our exit, a glorious kilometre above valley bottom.
Day 3 - Mt. MacDonald 10/11 Couloir
After picking up Valerio (yodelling aficionado) and Kaitlin (fellow Rockies crusher) the previous evening we tossed ideas about. The issue was one of weather, with some clouds forecast to maybe roll in we’d have to keep our plans fluid. With this in mind we convened with a bunch of other groups at the Disco centre and asked each other roundabout questions to figure out if we were going to be the scoopers or scoopees. After hearing of two parties with our original objective in mind we elected to go for plan B, Gully #10/11 on MacDonald. A short drive down to Hermit and we were off. It’s a shame you don’t get approaches like that in the Rockies; 2km along the road and then straight up the fan into the guts of the line.
Valerio managed to keep skinning for a good 400m of vert before we started to boot up a fairly moderate couloir. This thing just went on and on and on. We regrouped a few times to keep from getting too strung out and came up with a plan of attack for the traverse, a terrifying prospect. Matt and I had both brought our Billy Goat Plates so we’d make things easier for the cramponless Kaitlin and Valerio. The snow from the traverse on up turned from semi breakable crust to fluffy white powder, a godsend in the steep upper pitch of the couloir. Matt got sick of waiting and just kept charging up all the way to the top. I was a little too gripped to spend much time taking photos but that place was wild. We were 1200m above the road and not much further away from it horizontally.
Kinda nice when you can’t see all the exposure at once.
This was the most gripping part of the day. A traverse on a hanging snowfield isn’t something I’ve had much experience with, especially not in the Rockies.
I elected to get it over with first due to a flat camera battery and made vigorous turns to root out any buried pockets that wanted to move. Nothing did, so we made our way down with some enthusiasm in the upper pitch and with some tentativeness in the variable lower portion. After some high fives and general excitement we sent ‘er on down to the road, enjoying some fluffy powder and a few pillows.
Buckle up, this is gonna be wild.
I did not like it when the inversion went away and I could see the whole way down.
Safely off the top pitch and through the traverse, we pitched things out over variable snow.
Kaitlin racing to beat the weather to the bottom.
Skinning back to the car we were exuberant. We’d managed to luck out with the weather and finish just before it turned for the worse.
I couldn’t have asked for better snow, weather or partners. Everything just came together in the best possible way. Rogers Pass is a bit of a madhouse, full of good snow, hard skiers and big lines as far as the eye can see. I spent my trip there feeling a little uncomfortable with the concept of ‘good stability’ and skiing big lines in January. But I suspect I could get used to the feeling if another window like this one pops up.