Duffey – Chief Pascall and Decker

February 27 was supposed to be clear and sunny most of the day dammit! Forecast sucks us in to a trip into Blackcomb backcountry headed to Mt Decker and the Decker Glacier. Blue skies but foreboding clouds as we set out.

The cloud rolls in before we’re even past the Spearhead and the run down to Blackcomb Lake isn’t much fun in the sheer white-out. We ski a conservative route down to the Decker Glacier and skin up the north face of Decker. Just as we get to the saddle on Decker, the sun breaks out.

It looks like sunlight will be fleeting so off we go again down the face we just skinned up. Sharon goes first (if it looks steep, its because it is)

Then its Peters turn

Then Rob’s turn

Somehow I manage to catch some face shots on the way down

and a few cartwheels in the snow as we lose sunlight and all depth perception

More Sharon

Then Rob

and Peter

Now I wouldn’t say that day was a big waste of time (any day of touring is good) but it was disappointing for the forecast to be so wrong. Off we go the next day to try a route that’s supposed to be good when weather is not cooperating. Up the Duffey, opposite Mt Rohr is Mt Chief Pascall, a minor peak with skiable north-facing slopes. Just the ticket after about 2 weeks of warm weather and sunny days.

This parking lot is directly opposite the Rohr access road; next to a weather station at about km 23 on the Duffy road. It is also used to access Rohr and Marriot. It gets pretty busy but the slopes to the north are more popular then Chief P to the south - and we are the only party heading in there.

The skin route up Chief P is steep and efficient. There’s actually quite a few skin routes further to the west apparently established from the Joffre access road. The route we take cuts up the gully marked on the map and then cuts up glades contouring up the west side of the gully. I can see that the bottom bit of the skin track on Chief P could be a potential terrain trap so next time am up in that area will scout the routes from the Joffre parking lot up the west side to see if there’s a way to ascent without entering the gully.

We don’t actually go near the peak of Chief Pascall. Apparently that can approached by routes from the Cerise Creek parking lot. The skiing on this ridge crested by a minor peak not named on the map looks perfectly fine and the climb up to Chief Pascall appears sufficiently daunting that we figure its best left for another day.

Chief Pascall is to the east from our lunch spot.

The snow on these north-facing slopes is truly a bonus! We hadn’t expected much due to the lack of snow over the past 2 weeks but we found pow; lots of it. First myself…

Then Sharon

and Peter admiring our tracks as the sun breaks through the clouds.

We’re quickly on a skin track that traverses an awfully steep exposed slope and back for more runs. This time Peter goes first down what is later measured as a 44 degree slope

The run ends with some glade skiing

Sharon then drops in. This perspective shows the steepness nicely

The clouds and the sun keep elbowing for position the whole day making for interesting light and challenging pictures

My run doesn’t go quite as smoothly as theirs

so its a good thing there’s a nice view to contemplate while I wipe off my glasses – view of the south face of Rohr showing the avalanche chutes leading down to the highway. These chutes can be skied – or so I’m told

The quality of snow is very high so we need no persuasion to go for a third run. The view from the ridge peak looking east is spectacular. The glacier to picture right is not named on the map.

Unfortunately Joffre is in cloud or you could see it in the background.

Peter leads the way down this run

and this time I do a better job on the steep face

Just generally having a good time

What is so nice about Chief P is that the ski-out is a ton of fun. The trees are that beautiful spacing for glade skiing and the terrain is not so steep as to contain surprise cliffs. There are also some open bowls for nice long turns.

The terrain on some of these bowls has an odd mish-mash of huge boulders dwarfing Peter

The snow is good a long way down this run.

Near the bottom, as the temperature drops, the snow starts getting grabby – to say the least. After you cross the last road as you approach the parking lot; conditions get very difficult. It is possible to keep heading east on the forest service road crossing the route out and linking Joffre and Cerise Creek and to ski the clearcut out to the main highway should you attempt Chief P when snow conditions down low in the trees seriously deterioate.

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