Sharon is breaking heads and legs this weekend so I decide to take it easy and do an overnight trip to Cerise Creek and visit <>Keith’s Hut. A little history here; Keith Flavelle died on Mt Logan and in his memory and honour his family built a hut in an area south of the Duffy Lake Road. Readily accessible from the road and a fairlyeasy hike/ski in; its become one of the most popular huts.
Given that it is fairly easy access, I invited some friends along; here are Sven and Dorothy – experienced alpine skiers but never-ever toured before enjoying atypical Duffy Lake blue skies and a marvellous view down the Cerise Creek drainage at the parking lot trailhead.
It was very illuminating for me skiing and touring with them. I’ve toured for so long that I’ve completely forgotten that skiing uphill and using touring gear in the backcountry is, in many ways completely different then skiing off the lifts. First of all, S and D find that the skin tracks and entrances on to skin tracks aren’t always the easiest to navigate.
Here is our route to the hut. More details on navigation are found <>here.
Day 1′s route is marked in red. Day 2s route is in yellow.
S and D made it up to through the first part of the skin track and then to the Cerise Creek entrance where they were greeted by this splendid view of the north east face of Joffre Peak. The pyramid peak in the background is Mt Matier.
Here’s S and D enjoying more views as we keep plodding our way south down Cerise Creek to the hut. The skin track is basically a highway and we got passed by several groups heading in; so much for dibs on good sleep spots.
Still plodding away; the skin track switches from the north-south orientation and heads slightly SW uphill towards a knoll where the hut sits at about 1650m or so. Now the vista expands to include the Anniversary Glacier.
We get to the hut and it is packed. Another word to the wise; this hut is always crowded. If you don’t like living cheek to jowl with other people do NOT go there. Stuff is spread all over the place; the sleeping area is already strewn with clothing. Some people’s kids!
After setting up our own stuff and giving S and D a quick primer on travel in avalanche terrain I pick a route up towards the Anniversary Glacier. Kerstin – a solo skier visiting from Germany – joins us. Here is the view as we make our way up past some east-facing rock ribs above the Anniversary Glacier.
Our initial objective
My original plan had been to work some benches hidden behind the rocky shaded feature, make our way onto the second bench of the Anniversary Glacier and stop at Matier – Joffre Col. The slopes on the traverse in front (and behind) had slid in the last storm cycle so were safe to cross. Solar was not a factor but wind had trimmed this aspect so trail-breaking was fairly easy.
I hadn’t realized that the skin into Cerise had punished S and D so much. After a short while, they were done! So we turned back and skied some mellow low angle stuff down to the Anniversary Glacier. This view looks down the glacier towards Vantage Peak.
Another short note on conditions and safe routes using this picture taken earlier in the day. I took a route which went directly SW from the glacier heading up a natural half-pipe then gaining a ridge which is a particularly useful feature to use – its cornice free, it gains height gradually, and from the ridge it gives you a great look down the glacier. From the ridge you can traverse E and SE facing slopes to a ramp that divides the lower and upper glacier without actually travelling on the glacier. Downside is that those same slopes are 30 degrees plus. I did the traverse because those slopes had already avalanched in the last storm cycle so we basically were skinning over bed surface or old debris. Another alternative is to ski down that same ”safe ridge” to the toe of the glacier and then skin all the way up the glacier.
Today, there was no sluff on south or solar aspects. Quite a few naturals off N aspects which looked like they mostly ran off the storm snow between 2 to 3 days ago. Start zones were higher so I didn’t get a good look at them in this area. These N slopes had run off steep natural convexities – the ones I noticed were in the chutes off the cliffs separating the first and second benches of the Anniversary Glacier. On the bench I marked as “rest spot” HS was between 245 to 280 cms. On the glacier, I never hit glacial ice even using a 320 cm probe.
After S and D passed out on the rest spot; I continued a little further upslope to see if I could reach and ski a short north facing chute but on traversing a NE aspect there was considerable WS and the snowpack was very hollow – I got spooked on hearing a couple of very loud whumpfs so decided that discretion was the better part of valor, turned back and rejoined them for the ski down Anniversary Glacier.
Decent snow in the natural halfpipe we had used to travel upslope.
Sven milking some boot top softies on the way down.
I took the opportunity of this nice light to take this shot of some features on the NE shoulder of Mt Matier. The NW face of Matier on picture right is a nice ski descent. Possible slopes to ski tomorrow visibility permitting?
Closer look at the NW face of Matier – next project
Here’s a graph showing Day 1s progress and another run I did up to the E apron of Joffre and then part way down (but not all the way) to the glacier between Chief Pascall and Joffre (which I’ll call Joffre East glacier for lack of a better word.). I’m not sure why but heart rate didn’t register.
Our first run that day gave me a good sense that wind-loading was going to be the dominant feature of snow in the immediate vicinity so I went up the slopes behind the hut in search of NE and N slopes. Some amazing stuff up there. Ski cut and triggered soft slabs on NE windloaded aspects consistently off convexities and off steeper (35 + degree) slopes. There was a definite crown, a stauchwall, but the debris was soft unconsolidated powder. The bed surface was 0.5-1mm crystals. At first it was spooky but with the realization that there was a hell of a nice run ahead
I sacked up and had great blower powder turns down.
The run can take you down all the way to the Pascall – Joffre glacier. But I had told S and D that I would be back by 6pm and it would have made me late and not having a radio I behaved like a good boy. I traversed the ridgeline N of the hut and found a chute that breaks up the cliffs off that N ridgeline, bootpacked it and was back in time for pesto pasta.
Thirty six people in the hut that night! Probably another 10 or so in igloos; snowcaves or tents outside. All those farting snoring people with their crap spread all over the place and not putting their shit away; where’s Miss Manners anyway? Bah – it’s my fault for going to a popular hut.
Still its a lovely place. Can’t say its the worst place to get annoyed.
The next day it socked in. I let S and D have their 12 hours of sleep but they still looked beaten to a pulp when they got up. Took Sven and Kirsten a little ways up the NE shoulder of Matier and had a pleasant run down then went back to the cabin and packed up. Forced S and D to go partway up the east apron of Joffre where I knew the snow down that slope would be wonderful. It was wonderful and they had fun.
The happy couple
Day 2s graph. Hey I actually broke a sweat that day trail breaking.
This picture taken from Rohr – across the valley to the north – shows our ski route out marked as a yellow line.
Photo by Claudia Schwab – reproduced with permission
For aerial shots of this general area click <>here and look for pictures of the Joffre Group
We got out without further incident or injury and ended the day with the Colonel’s finest.