Depressing lack of snow in B.C. makes for a stable snow pack and an opportunity to seek out new terrain in the BC. I had my eye on Atwell’s East Face for a while so when I spoke to Sky and he told me that he had a window of time to get after it, it took me all of a minute to set a meeting time, set goals and start the mission. We met in Vancouver on Wednesday evening. An hour later we were skinning up at the Elfin Lakes Parking lot at 10pm. A couple of hours later we were bedding down at the hut at 12noon with a early morning wakeup call pending.
The next day we were out the door early, leaving the hut @ 6am. Shortly before 10am we were at the bench approacing Atwell after dropping to Ring Creek then skiinning up towards the peak. The high pressure sure made travel easy and fast. Lots of tracks from skiers and snowshoers doing the Neve traverse but very few heading to Garibaldi, Atwell or Dalton Dome.
After a stiff climb on mostly snow with some not-too-technical ice, Sky and I were on Atwell peak at 1130am. We skinned the first bit of the bench to approx 2200m then switched to boots. The peak is about 2680m and we reached the top in brilliant blue windless heaven.
It was quite an unexpected pleasure to be sitting on what felt like the top of the world with time to ogle the views and wait for the snow to soften up a bit for our descent. We spend the time checking out future projects, admiring the tourists buzzing us in a little observation helicopter (see video at the end of this screed) and visualizing our turns down the 55 to 50 degree slope to come. We also looked at Siberian and Armenian Express – they need quite a bit of snow to be doable this year!
The ski down was exciting if uneventful – the way we like it. At a constant steep gradient it was fast moving in the first half. We ducked around a rib to the second half where icy slopes had me wishing for stiffer skis with better edge hold. From there it was more open turns down the bench to about 1950m then down fast rolling terrain to Ring Creek. With a total vertical from 2680m to 1300m it was a great way to spend a beautiful day. We were back at the hut at 3pm. A lazy bit of downtime spent drinking lots of water and eating meant that we left the hut @ 4.30pm and were back at the cars and out at 5:30pm.
Our route up
Skinning up with Mamquam Icefield and mountains east of Squamish as the backdrop
Sky and Lee manfully approaching Atwell’s E face. Tracks are from Sky and Hanna last week
Stable snow means steep skin approaches are possible
Lee practises the snow ninja pose
View of Robbie Reid. In the background is Slesse, Shuksan and Baker
Sky at the mid-point. Later we would avoid the icy choke by skiing over the step to looker’s right and skiing off the hidden pitch
Sky approaching the corniced summit ridge
Lee on the “bench” before the summit. W face of Atwell is in the shade at background and shows this season‘s low snowpack
Lee approaching the summit ridge. Spire Couloirs are to the picture right
Summit ridge is heavily corniced. Siberian Express route to picture left does not have a lot of snow
Lee is stoked
The first pitch off the peak is a bit icy and requires skiing with axe in hand
Sky drops off the face and lets it rip at the bench closer to the bottom not even stopping to pick up a dropped hat
Lee lets it fly
View of Atwell from Elfin hut
A super-duper secret future project
Some fine shots courtesy of Hannah Carriganwho was perched on a slope a bit of a distance watching Sky and I ski off Atwell
Lee (top) and Sky (bottom) skiing off Atwell
We look rather small