Skiing at Grizzly Shoulder

10 Jan

Yesterday was my first time up Grizzly Shoulder in the Rogers Pass.  With close to 75 cm of fresh snow fallen in the previous few days, and the avalanche hazard finally dropping out of the red zone, it was time to venture out bright and early from our lodgings at the Wheeler Hut and test the terrain.   The parking lot at the hotel was full of cars. Fortunately, a good number of them were students taking an avalanche hazards course, so that meant virtually no one was headed to our destination: Grizzly Shoulder, in the trees 800m above the right side of Connaught Creek.  [An aside, one of the course leaders was long-time guide Albi Sole, while the other was Eric Vezeau, the ice-climber from Revelstoke who survived falling through the ice on Johnston Creek in Banff Park a month ago!]

Lynn Martel (leading this ACC Rocky Mountain Section trip), Alex Watt (from Edinburgh, Scotland, on his first trip to the Rogers Pass) and I started up the “efficient” up-track and Alex got a good education in the delicate art of kick turns. As we neared tree-line, we were passed first by a young couple from Golden, and then by Gerard Meszaros from Canmore and his two companions Heather and Randa (who were headed to the Hermit area via a high traverse).  We three stopped just below treeline at the top of the shoulder, where we were suddenly exposed to a nasty, cold katabatic northerly wind. We were happy to go no higher. (Gerard and his group encountered very cold air, poor visibility, and tricky route-finding, but good snow, on their route).
Here’s a Google Maps image showing the ski run so you know where you it is.


In the panorama taken at our lunch spot (click to enlarge), you can see the Trans-Canada highway way down below at the bottom left. The Ilecillawaet Glacier is in the first drainage visible in the far left, while Asulkan Brook (and the Asulkan Hut) is hidden behind a pair of trees to its right.  Next to the right, still in the far distance, is Mt. Abbott.  The massive peak in the centre of the image is Mt. Cheops, whence descended the massive avavalanche that killed 7 high-schoolers about five years ago.  To its right is Balu Pass, and to the right of that, above my skiing companions, is a flank of Mt. Ursus Minor.
After a very short stop for a bite to eat at the top of the shoulder just below treeline, we traversed skier’s left a few hundred metres past some cliff bands and then dropped down a steep, narrow gully to gain more moderate, open slopes where we found half a metre of of untracked powder (and more in places). Here’s young Alex negotiating the upper gully. It was very steep here, and we were a bit unsure as to what we were getting ourselves into. But that never stopped a skier, right?

Three happy faces at the bottom of our run all the way to the valley floor! (Alex, Lynn, myself). Alex was gobsmacked: so this is back-country skiing in Canada! Lynn and I were pretty happy, too.  Yep, that’s a helmet cam on my head.



Here’s a little video of our run. We spent over 40 minutes on the slope, so this is just a small sampling to show you what the terrain was like.  I shot the video in HD (1080p) but reduced the size for this blog. Please let me know if you’d like a copy of the original. But be warned, it’s about 100 MB. 
 Until next time – keep your tips up!




One Response to “Skiing at Grizzly Shoulder”

  1. Stewart Midwinter March 5, 2011 at 04:39 #

    <html><body bgcolor="#FFFFFF"><div>Yes’m, I was doing the filming.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div><span class="Apple-style-span" style="-webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(26, 26, 26, 0.296875); -webkit-composition-fill-color: rgba(175, 192, 227, 0.230469); -webkit-composition-frame-color: rgba(77, 128, 180, 0.230469); "></span></div></body></html>


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