Mind The Gap
Every year it's the same. The calendar flips from August to September and our focus flips with it. The leaves begin their metamorphosis from vibrant greens to dreadful browns, the signs of decay and death. It's the proverbial turn of the page into a new chapter, into a new season and we just can’t help but to get stoked about it. Like super stoked bro. With September comes the pipe dreams, passed between friends via facebook and texts. Always joking about the approaching rains; "If only those freezing levels could drop a few hundred meters". Yes, if only. Of course the freezing levels never seem to drop quite far enough, or days off never seem to line up with opportunity. As we all know, 95% of the early fall is spent spitting pipe dreams back and forth between friends. When the snow level does creep down and precipitation is incoming you just need to make it happen if you can. You've just gotta.
This week, as freezing levels looked like they might creep down just far enough, work called. “Hey, can you take the next few days off?” Time off on a long weekend? I took it as a sign from ULLR. I sent out another batch of facebook and text messages, this time seeing who among my friends from seasons past were up to turning a pipe dream into a reality. We were going to find Winter in September. Fast forward through an 8am start, Timmies run, thirty or so kilometers of logging roads, and we were slinging backpacks loaded with our skis over our shoulders heading towards Mcrae Peak. The Ministry of Forests has deactivated the last portion of the road and created a new parking lot. This adds an extra kilometer walk to the route before you reach the old trailhead. Two and a half km up a well established trail, we took a right at a fork that broke us into the subalpine. Shortly after the fork we found snowline. A light dusting covered the slopes above, but not nearly enough to make any ski friendly turns. We were looking for the actual glacier which on the approach was obscured by cloud cover. Trending left, with a little route finding, we eventually found ourselves at the toe of glacier. Pools of glacial melt water line the final hundred meters of the approach and comments about how nice it would be if they were in fact hot pools were made. About two minutes later Roberto is up his waist in the drink after walking too close to what he assumed was a puddle. He promptly confirmed they weren't in fact hot pools. A quick change of socks and lot's of swearing/laughing later, and we were all in our ski boots looking upward at the glacier.
There are 2 very obvious slots at the very top and few more smaller openings on both the left and right side. Further down the center of the glacier there are a few less pronounced sags in the snow, indicating possible danger. Another party was just ahead of us and the last person in their group was about to drop in as the sun was beginning to poke out . As soon as we saw him, we started hooting and hollering, stoked to see our first run of the season up close. He quickly built up some speed, aired over a crevasse with an exaggerated jumping motion, caught an edge, bounced and tumbled behind a roller that was blocking our view. Although we had lost sight of him, we all knew in the pit of our stomach that he had just rolled right into the second slot… shit. “Did he just do that” one of his friends exclaimed. “Did that really just happen?” After what felt like 5 minutes of everyone scrambling uphill towards him, he finally reappeared. Needless to say we were all quite relieved. A closer look at the crevasse later determined he landed head first on a snow bridge that was covering a slot in the ice that we couldn’t see to the bottom of. Unbelievable luck that he managed to escape.
Now it was our turn. The sun quit ducking in and out of cover and came out full force, making for a bluebird afternoon. While the sun was great for visibility, it was also threatening to turn our field of powder into a field of shmoo. Lucky for us the temperatures remained fairly low, around 5 degrees Celsius for the remainder of the day. We skied a few laps, boot packing some sections and skinning others. We took our time playing in the sunny snow covered playground for a few hours, taking some photos and sharing a whole bunch of laughs and high fives. The feeling was surreal, skiing powder while just a few hundred feet below us it was still late Summer. I could describe the skiing but it's like they say, a photo is worth a thousand words. So here's several thousand words.
It was total FGP it was by far the best early September turns any of us have ever had. At the foot of the glacier after our last turns, we sat in the sun eating the rest of our packed lunches and began reminiscing about what we had just done this labor day long weekend. The walk back to the car, although all down hill, seemed to be twice as long and the jarring of the combination of loaded packs plus the down hill travel just plain sucked. The beers tucked in the shade back at the truck were extra delicious, and the view on the way down was nothing short of breathtaking. In summary, we didn't get super rad by airing any gaps in the glacier (we left that to others), and we highly doubt redbull would be interested in covering the trip, but we skied pow on labor day long weekend in North America, and that is pretty rad.
We will leave you with a picture of our new poster boy for safe glacier travel. We met a random hiker that made the ridge walk above the glacier in shorts and hiking shoes. While your're up there, you may as well traverse the glacier, because… I mean, what could go wrong?