Fairy Meadows – Day 13 – Echo Glacier – Friendship Col – Gothics Glacier – Fria Col – Thor Pass – Pioneer Pass – “505″ Couloir – Granite Glacier

The bluebird days are now becomingly pleasantly routine. So is the routine of getting up early, discussing travel plans and figuring other etherally beautiful places to see in the wonderful place in the mountains. More then a few people in our group were by now feeling the physical strain of having toured and skied hard for a few days in a row. Luckily this was a motivated bunch and it didn’t take much urging for us to head out the door and again make our way up Friendship Col.

Sharon and Benet on the Gothics Glacier looking east to Ygdrassil and Wolf Peak

Today our paths took us to a tour of the Gothics Glacier. My over-ambitious plans to first ski off Sentinel Peak then check out the north-facing slopes near Ygdrasil and Wotan were nixed by both the weather and by more realistic and fatigued travel partners. I had to admit that the strong SW winds were scouring the slopes quite thoroughly and that the skiing might not have been terribly good.

One eighty degree panorama from Friendship Col to Fria Col to Thor Pass

What was good, nay, amazing and beyond either superlatives or description were the views from Fria Col, Thor Pass and the entire south ridge of the Gothics Group which we traversed. Truly, this must be where God goes on mountain vacations.

Stunning view of the superlative Sir Sandford from Fria Col

The aptly named Gibraltar Peak lies just west of Fria Col. Skier is Sharon

Lee on Fria Col ~ photo Benet Summers

Looking down Fria Col. You can drop down to the lake almost a vertical kilometre and a half below then saunter back up to the Adamant Glacier and back to Thor Pass for a healthy loop

Looking east down the Gothics Group. These rock formations are called the Toadstool

Better view of the route south down the Fria Glacier and to Palmer Creek

Sharon and Benet at Thor Pass.

Glacier upon glacier upon glacier from Thor Pass. I lost count of summits and icefields.

Thor Pass drops away at an angle of about 35 to 40 degrees towards the Adamant Glacier

The cool wind must have invigorated both Benet and Sharon. I still wanted to take a look at Pioneer Peak and to check out an interesting alternative ski route down Pioneer Pass. Initially Benet declined citing fatigue. I pressed on ahead alone only to see Benet heading my way only about 10 minutes later. Benet explains that he can’t let me have all the fun by mysefl – and I am grateful for the company.

While the rest of the group continue on to Pioneer Pass and make ready to ski down, Benet and I head up to 3200m to take a look at the view from Pioneer Peak. As it turns out we didn’t bother trying to summit but just took in the views.

Most of the group continued on to Pioneer Pass

Tim at Pioneer Pass

Looking up from Pioneer Pass to Pioneer Peak. Lee can be glimpsed on picture left about 200m above the pass continuing on to 505 Couloir

Route down from Pioneer Pass avoids various icefalls

From “Selkirks North”- pg 342 – 505 – Northeast Ice Slope AD + 55degrees 400m

From Fairy Meadows, approach via Granite Glacier. Climb the 400m ice slope that begins just left (east) of the toe of the northeast ridge. The steep snow and ice ramp requires front pointing for much of the climb. Tim had pointed out this little gem to us earlier in the week. I had slowly become more fascinated with the route and its aesthetics as the week wore on and presented a confluence of stability, skiability and visibility. My appetite had become more voracious after skiing “Beam Me Down Scotty” couloir and the big face of Sir William. It’s not every day that one has the chance of skiing a big bold line in the North Selkirks. Route-finding to the couloir’s entrance turned out to be relatively easy. A little experience navigating glaciers and a lot of memorization of various features and surrounding topography and Benet and I were shortly at the entrance.

This shot of 505 Couloir was taken from the summit of Sir William, about 6 kms distant

Panorama of the Adamant Group, the Granite Glacier and the Nobility Group from the base of the summit of Pioneer Peak

I wanted to drop in first badly and sneaked around the steep ice/snow bulge at 505′s entrance on skiers right. I was a bit worried on seeing the exposed ice at the top part and prayed that my first ski cut didn’t cause the entire slope to fall away and expose blue glacial ice. Luckily this didn’t happen and in short order I was turning in the gut of the couloir in waist deep powder! The snow from last week had fallen without wind. To top it off, wind transport from today had creamily buffed the snow surface making for incredible turns.

View down 505 Couloir and Lee in 505 Couloir – grateful that the ski cut didn’t sluff away the whole slope ~photo Benet Summers

Lee descends 505 Couloir

So it was that both Benet and I skied a sick steep chute with waist deep powder 5 days into a big high-pressure. Words cannot describe the feeling of exciliration and at the same time, the feeling of smallness one feels in such terrain. The snow was stable but the couloir was 50 degrees consistently down the fall-line. At that angle sluff holds its own particular power and it was quite the experience to make 4 or 5 turns and then watch the powder cascade a thousand feet down filling in a bergschrund at your exit. The bergschrund exit was particularly exciting. Both of us cleared the schrund by the simple expedient of straightlining over it.

Benet descends 505 as Lee waits out sluff on skiers left. Then Lee descends the remainder of the couloir

It’s pretty hard to top that kind of excitement. We finished off by retracing my steps from earlier the previous week down the Granite Glacier, wrapping around Sentinelle, down the Massacre and then back to the hut.

Lee, Benet, Pioneer Pass and 505 Couloir

Day 13 route

Day 13 map

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