Foon Alley; Phalanx Glacier and the Poop Chutes traverse - April 1, 2006
For those who've said that trip reports in the Whistler area seem to all be bluebird days, this is for you. Today, Sharon, Frank, Brian, Rich and I head out to the Phalanx Glacier again hoping to bag some couloirs we had scoped out on our last trip to the area. This time we try another approach, skinning up to Corona Bowl then at the bench mid-way on the bowl where you have the option to either continue skiing down to Blackcomb Glacier or traversing over to Poop Chutes we elect to traverse over to Poop Chutes. The traverse is a little complicated and I wouldn't recommend it in periods of high avalanche danger as crosses some 30 degree + slopes. Of course, no traverse is complete without a boot-pack.
Here Sharon shows respect to Frank - our mountain sensei.
We make it to Foon Alley, unfortunately the clouds and fog also make it. Somewhere down there is Phalanx Glacier, about 200m and 50-45 degrees or so down - hmmm, I don't recall any open slots at the bottom of it.
Being the person with the least amount of need for visibility and depth perception and also being the only one who purports to remember what the bottom of the couloir looks like I get to go first. Frank and Sharon are too sensible to trust my memory so they will ski down the ridgeline. Brian and Rich have grown to "appreciate" my random sense of mountain-awareness so they will follow behind.
uhh... I think that cornice ahead is small.
As he doesn't hear any shrieks of panic from me, Brian follows.
I stop well short of the true slope we could have skied down as visibility is nil and I'm not too crazy about navigating a glacier without rope in a whiteout. Here comes Rich at the bottom of the couloir runout. Snow conditions were nice in Foon Alley - a bit hard at the top but nice stable softish snow all the way down with plenty of edge hold. Reassuring rock walls on the side give you some indication of where to go and how to turn.
Meanwhile, Frank manages to find a nice big divot in the snow caused by a cornice starting to peel off the ridgeline coming off Foon Alley. Luckily he didn't break through too much. They made it down skiing by braille through cliffs to skiers left of Poop Chutes without further incident. Note to Frank to next time follow Sharon's compass directions and woman's navigation instinct!
We try to bag some more chutes coming off the ridgeline from the Poop Chute peak saddle (approx location of the top of the chutes is 096506) but a combination of low visibility and brutal skinning conditions and Rich dying on the way up beats us. The SE faces are wind-scoured with 5 cms on top and I had to put in some pretty hideous kick-turns - barely OK for me - not so good for anyone behind.
Here we are! If you could see ahead you would be able to see the whole view of the Blackcomb Glacier and Ruby and Diamond Bowls - a glorious view - if you could see.
Getting down, we manage to navigate due north of the Poop Chute minor peak and find some north-facing slopes which unfortunately didn't ski very well; high freezing levels put in quite a slab. We link up to the east-west traverse coming off the bottom of Phalanx Glacier wrapping around the Poop Chute ridgeline and manage to navigate down to the Blackcomb Glacier skiout without need for further skinning.
The tree skiing down to the glacier skiout road wasn't bad. On the way, Brian and Rich manage to find some pillow action.
Here's the map to give context. Some useful waypoints are
Foon Alley (FA) - 2347m 099502
Poop Chutes peak - 2236m 096508
Blackcomb Glacier road skiout - 1756m 084515