After eventually crossing the boarder into Canada, Dustin Lemke, Reed Finlay, Brian Ladd and I pulled into Revelstoke to meet up with friends Greg Hill and Aaron Chance. Being that the USA vs. Canada gold medal hockey game was only a couple nights away, we tried not to be too loud and obnoxious like the typical American stereotype and let the Canadians enjoy being the hosts. We wouldn’t find out who won the game until we got out from Fairy Meadows a week later. We were bummed to hear that we lost…but at least it was a good game. Congratulations to Canada!
I know Greg and Aaron are busy guys these days, so we were more than grateful to know that they were going to be able to ski with us for a day on Roger’s Pass. The weather was soggy and the clouds socked in, so it meant even more to us that they were making the hour drive to the trailhead, instead of just banging out a quick lap and focusing on other things for the rest of the day. When in a new area, it is so nice to follow people that know the zone well…makes a huge difference in my book.
Since the visibility was marginal with weather coming in, we shot over to the Bonney’s area, with potential hopes of skiing Mount Afton, which would have been fun since Afton is also a town not too far away from Jackson. Home of Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner, who unfortunately lost some toes while spending an unplanned night our while snowmobiling a few years ago in his home mountain range. Not sure if that story got as much attention as his gold medal…but obviously we are glad he made it out okay.
Anyway, as we got higher up and into the alpine, things started to quickly get pretty touchy with the snowpack and avalanche conditions. Both Greg and Aaron were commenting on the recent instability and the forecasts were down right unoptimistic, with recommendations that skiers not venture on any slopes above 20 degrees. As we crested a ridge, a Class 2 (?) size slide popped remotely from our skin track and quickly turned us all around, not wanting to push things. Wish it was a better ski day…but it was still fun catching up.
That night, we cruised over the pass and spent the night in Golden, eating fat burgers and drinking mass Kokane before heading to the Golden Alpine Helicopters helipad on the west side of Rogers Pass in the morning. We were scheduled to start shuttling loads to the Fairy Meadows Hut at 11am. It would take five flights of about 20 minutes in each direction to haul all 20 of us with gear and food for the week, so it’s a long process. A few other parties were trying to get to some other huts as well, and they had priority since only part of their group had gotten in so far. A couple flights got out, even a load of wood to one of the huts, but by about noon, the pilot pulled the plug as the weather and visibility began to deteriorate. We sat around the helipad for the rest of the day waiting for better weather, which never materialized…a common theme for anyone that has spent some time flying in a heli. Back to Golden for the night for more beef and beer…AND CURLING on the big screen!! Yay!!!!
The next day started early, but my fears of another day sitting around and waiting grew as dense fog sat over Golden and only seemed to get thicker as we drove towards the pass. Magically, the clouds began to part as we neared the helipad and we could see sun patches on the peaks nearby. We could also hear the chopper running after parking our rig. Game…ON!!!! Our group of four was scheduled for the third of five flights, including a couple flights of gear. The Bell 407 is a sweet ship and we loaded her to the gills with boxes of supplies, including 2 kegs of brew for the week.
The pilot took the high route, staying above the valley mank as more sun patched peaks lead to glaciers and rock faces. We landed about 100 meters away from the Fairy Meadows Hut. Fired up to ski, most of us quickly claimed a sleeping pad, did a quick reorganization and skinned up…psyched to see what we had for a playground. The vis was…meh…but there was a fresh coating of snow, so we at least we had a clean slate to work with and didn’t have to ski over the tracks of the party at the hut the week before. Who also commented on snowpack instabilities.
We made our way above the practice slopes, and skinned up ridges and moraines as we tiptoed up towards the Gog and Magog rock features on the northern flanks of the Sentinel massif. I was rather uneasy about the snowpack, considering that I had recently lost a friend to an avalanche on a slope I had skied only two days earlier back home, as well as the fact that nearly our entire group also began to arrive near a section where you are forced to cross a bit of a sketchy section. I was more than willing to rip the skins and jib on some of the lower terrain to help spread out the group. A few others felt the same way and we descended.
From below, we watched as a few from the group pushed the skin track higher up towards Friendship Col, an important point for many of the ski tours in the area. With our group much smaller now, we reskinned and climbed back up the skin track. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me too much that I was getting sloppy seconds, but since the light was flat, we still had five more days to explore and ski, and the terrain around the hut was so huge, I knew there would be plenty to go around.
It was late, after 6pm, by the time we reached the col and the light was dwindling fast. I was little on edge, in new terrain and all, but being with friends with a bit more confidence at the current time was reassuring. We made it back to the hut as darkness arrived and I breathed a sigh of relief. With my head still not completely straightened out yet, the beer really tasted great and began to ease my nerves.
Support TetonAT, know where you are in a white out and grab a new GPS
from Backcountry.com. I’d probably go for the Garmin 60 CSX.