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I’ve been going to the Selkirks for a long time now and have had the opportunity to visit, hike, climb and ski in many tremendous places. But one place has always eluded me. “Fairy Meadows”. Such a underwhelming, unimpressive name. Yet to those who dream of summits and icefields, it speaks of huge glaciers, icy turreted peaks, and granite ramparts doused with snowfields. The Alpine Club of Canada has a hut at Fairy Meadows but it can only be reserved by lottery. I won that lottery one year but could not find 10 people who would commit (i.e. put down cold hard cash) so gave up my booking. I resolved to do some thingsthere and then. One was to was to find reliable touring partners and another was to look around for groups going to Fairy Meadows that had spaces. My first opportunity to go to this holy temple of Canadian ski-mountaineering arose from a post on Turns-all-year, a website frequented by WA and OR – area skiers. I managed to secure some spots for Tim, Sharon and I on a trip going to FM in the week of March 24 – 31st. Just a day after I confirmed our place in that trip, another group posted about two places in a group heading to FM for the week of March 17- 24th. Oh well… I thought … too bad I just signed up for one week. Then I had a really silly thought – wouldn’t it be cool to go for 2 weeks?
Sharon gave me the go-ahead. I emailed, called, and emailed again and within a couple of days, I had contacted Eric. Jeremy and I took the two places and within the week we were driving to Golden, checking in to the Rondo Motel and meeting up with the group.
It’s been a bad year for flying in the Selkirks. A record snowpack means that it snows and that makes for sketchy flying conditions. Plus 5 at the hut with rain on exchange day pretty much killed our chances of flying on Saturday with only one group making it in. Rogers Pass closed but luckily we had made reservations at the Rondo for another night so we got to enjoy the pleasures of Golden for one more evening.
The next day also looked bleak. Golden Helicopters even sent us back to town again (we got to check out some incredible wet slides off the TransCanada) when suddenly a weather window opened up for just long enough for us to get in. Off we went, just making it in by the skin of our teeth with four x 45 minute return-time flights using two birds.
Quadrant Ridge from the bird
Huffing baggage and food to the Bill Putnam hut
The first day we got in real late and there was only time to do some quick snow stability assessments and to ski some really nice runs off the moraine in front of the hut. Hasty pits basically confirmed data from the outgoing group. The next day (my day 3 and March 19th), 25 cms fell overnight with very little wind. Another 15 – 20 cms fell during the day. JR and I headed up towards Friendship Col and the Echo Glacier but turned back due to whiteout conditions at the toe of the Echo Glacier and finished up with tree-skiing in wooded runs east of the hut towards Swan Creek. Despite temps being quite warm (close to freezing), snow was light as well as being incredibly deep. A harbinger for what was to come during the week.
Total elevation skied on exchange day (Day 2) was 135m. Total skied n Day 3 was 1620m
25 new overnight without much wind
Jeremy playing on the Echo Glacier.