Fairy Meadows – Day 11 – Mar 27 – Granite Glacier – Ironman_Unicorn Col – Enterprise Glacier – “Scotty” Couloir – Granite Glacier

Todd has been kindly getting weather reports for us. Report for today and for the next few days calls for game on! Enough of lurking in trees and skulking around Friendship Col. Off we go to the Granite Glacier. My solo tour there last week showed good coverage on the glaciers. We skipped the rope and followed tracks from the group yesterday up to Ironman – Unicorn col.

Although the sky starts off with high-overcast, Benet accurately calls the weather pattern as trending clear today as the solar burns condensation off the valley floor. Over the days we begin to trust his weather predictions.

Gray morning on the Granite Glacier

Morning sun slowly burns off the valley moisture as we make our way through crevasse fields

Sharon and Kate approaching Unicorn

Looking back from Ironman – Unicorn col down the Granite Glacier

Making the last bit of the climb to Ironman – Unicorn Col

The top - or at least as far as want to go – the Remillard Group is in the backdrop looking west

Finally the top! Jeff and I had discussed making our way above some exposed bergschrund to the bowls west of Austerity and possibly to the 3100m mark. It was breathtakingly warm and the skies were clear as we reached Ironman – Unicorn col. I plopped myself down on a rock and started taking in the view of peak after peak after peak – some of which I had climbed, many of which I had not set ski or boot on. Amazing views to each side of us. Suddenly the idea of skinning and bootpacking up sunbaked slopes to get another 200m of elevation didn’t seem as attractive as it had in the morning.

Panorama looking to the Rockies from Ironman – Unicorn col

Panorama looking west to the Remillard Group

It does not look practical to descend west off Ironman – Unicorn col

We spent a fair amount of time lollygagging in the sun. How often does one get to hang out at 2950m in the high alpine in the North Selkirks on a clear, windless, warm day? We even had time to marvel at each other’s equipment, alpine-tourers touting the virtues of Dynafits and telemarkers preaching simplicity. But soon, it was time to head off and ski. Some of the group wanted to ski some runs down lower angle slopes on the Granite Glacier. Benet, Sharon and I wanted to explore a rather enticing couloir that came off a ridge running east of Enterprise Peak.

Jeff – three pins with cables on blown out old plastic tele boots and can still keep up to just about anyone on skis – that’s the virtue of skill and experience.

Michael contemplates freshies on the Granite Glacier and gets some

Pam in crevasse-slalom mode

Descending 300 m down the glacier then splitting off to different groups.

View of the Bill Putnam hut from high on the glacier – look for the green roof!

It’s easy route-finding from Ironman-Unicorn col down the Granite Glacier, then up to Unicol then contouring around Mt Colossal’s south and east face to Enterprise – Colossal col. The most dangerous thing possibly is the view of the Adamants. From that col, we had scoped out possible lines to enter the couloir and an alternate steep slope down to the lower Granite Glacier. It turned to be a cake-walk to get into the couloir and we didn’t have to rappel, downclimb or even hunt around for the entrance. Of course, I insisted on going first “for the safety of the group”.

We make our way from the Granite Glacier to Enterprise – Colossal col

From Enterprise Colossal Col we could see Todd’s group ski down the Enterprise Glacier and part of the Nobility Glacier from Enterprise north slopes and Sir Henry. Our goal is “Beam Me Down Scotty” couloir

Sharon and Benet head to the couloir entrance

Sharon named this line “Beam Me Down Scotty” in honour of its heritage coming off Enterprise Peak. Scotty turned out to be 45 degrees sustained for the first two thirds of its full 500m (1600ft) vertical drop then mellowing out to between 40 to 35 degrees for the last third. Scotty also had some serious wind-slab in the first one third. Skiers right down the line was very good powder snow, extensively subject to sluffing – possibly shaded from wind and sun effect by rock walls at that east aspect. Some warm slides had already triggered naturally off south facing rock walls at the end of Scotty couloir but it was pretty easy to avoid the slide debris.

I get first crack at the couloir and immediately find breakable windslab and sun-crust

The snow improves and is much better in the bottom two-thirds in the shade of the rock walls.

View from the bottom from the sunny wet-slide debris pile at the toe of the couloir as Benet then Sharon make their way down

Benet also finds wind-slab but makes his way down fine

Sharon is the smartest and has good snow all the way down as both Benet and I have broken all the slab up for her into nice soft snow

It was hard work breaking wind slab with big exaggerated jump turns in the first 150m but easy skiing in the last 450m. I stopped once then quickly made my way down to a safe spot to skiers left to enjoy Benet and Sharon dissect Scotty couloir.

Sharon slices and dices a steep roll in the shade of the couloir walls

Benet and Sharon navigate the lower Granite Glacier

After you are done you have the option of traversing east along the flat part of the glacier down to another smaller slope that will take you to the moraine at Swan Creek at about the same point as the treed north – facing runs due east of the Hut. You would have to descend 200m below the hut and skin back up. Alternatively, since at this finish point you are at the same elevation of the hut you could do what we did and navigate the flat broken part of the Granite Glacier through various crevasses and a rather large icefall to the glacial moraine immediately due west of the hut then skin back.

We elected to do the latter and head back to the hut. I put in an extra little climb to get to the top of the slope named “The Massacre” in Tim Place’s videos so that I could sign the slopes. Great way to spend a full productive day..

Success on Beam Me Down Scotty couloir

Impressive icefalls at the toe of the Granite Glacier

Sharon and the rest of the group have “feeling tiny” moments on the icefalls

Day 11 map

Day 11 elevation profile

Clemenceau from Ironman – Unicorn col

Tsar from Ironman – Unicorn col

Chaba from Ironman – Unicorn col

Alberta from Ironman – Unicorn col

Twin Peaks from Ironman – Unicorn col

Columbia from Ironman – Unicorn col

Bryce from Ironman – Unicorn col

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