Cha cha cha hey! Mt Hector Conga Party
Last Saturday I gathered the troops for a ski ascent of the quintessential Rockies spring classic; Mt Hector. It’s one of the few easily skiable 11’000ers and was a perfect option for my girlfriend’s first ski mountaineering mission. I also brought JF along for some weight at the other end of the rope. I guess he’s decent company too but mainly he’s weighty.
Two cool kids. Passing the rope through the backpack chest strap makes being the middle sucker bearable. #toptips
We left town early in the am, getting to the Hector pullout at 5. There were already a few parties gearing up to head out, including one with a drool-inducing Sprinter. One of these days...
Travel up to the waterfall was fast and furious with a great freeze as we raced to beat the sun on those slopes. This part of the trip can be very high risk due to terrain traps and overhead hazard. Throwing the skis on the shoulder in the uber fast ‘rando carry’ we booted up the waterfall pitch to gain the alpine meadows between Andromache and Hector.
Rumour has it Kenny Loggins wrote Danger Zone about this area. Cornice for days!
Running again through the moraine below Little Hector we geared up in what we thought was a relatively safe spot for the glacier. About an hour after we moved on, the sun hit Little Hector and popped a cornice which brought down a size 2. The runout didn’t reach the skin track but the party behind us probably had a pants wettingly scary encounter with the powder cloud.
Yikes. The runout only reached halfway between the slope and the skintrack, but this really hammers home the importance of beating the sun in spring.
The grind began, with the two parties ahead of us setting an excellent skin track. I’m a big fan when the track is low angle and minimises kick turns. All the little things add up when you’re trying to save energy for the long haul. Plodding for hours we finally ascended the steep roller below the summit col, exchanging choice banter with the parties taking in the views.
The Hector conga line. There’s two parties in front of us and three behind.
We put our crampons on after a bite and headed up the summit block, which was well covered enough (excepting the very bottom and very top) that I brought my skis. After some incorrect exposure calculations JF kept on up to the summit with myself and H stopped about 2m from the top! I reasoned I wasn’t confident dropping the 2m rock step to the slope below so I clicked in and skied from below the top step, proudly executing a jump turn over the lower rock step. Alas, I failed to gesture and shout wildly before committing to the turn so no one saw it.
It was down time, and we were looking at 1500m of spring powder and hopefully corn on the descent. It’s a tough gig but that powder isn’t gonna ski itself so we booked it on down, stopping to regroup and take selfies only once. Once off the glacier, the powder we’d lovingly farmed turned to heavy mush, making our ligaments tremble in fear. I managed to make it down with only one core shot which is a pretty good achievement. The waterfall chute presented an interesting feature, I felt like the best skier on the mountain as I jump turned down it a la TJ from Aspen Extreme. I’m quite sure I look a lot cooler than I am.
H verifying the snow is indeed soft, if a little heavy. Absolutely terrible vis though, we could see way too far.
Quick travel through the isothermic snow below treeline saw us back at the car, parched and hungry from the big day. Not a bad run, and I’m absolutely stoked that H skied an 11’000er as her first skimo mission. I see lycra and race bindings in our future!
‘Yeah I guess it was ok’ she says. ‘What’s next?’