Fairy Meadows – Day 14 Echo Glacier – Friendship Col – Sentinel Peak – Shoestring Glacier – Echo Glacier – Friendship Col – “505” Couloir – Granite Glacier

12 days of skiing in the last 14 and I still feel fine. Annoyingly everyone else wakes up groaning with aches and pains. I decide that today will be a solo day to tie up loose ends. I had initially thought about going for a 10,000 ft day but the weather now seems to be breaking so I write up a travel plan that involves a bunch of loops that bring me back to the hut. These loops include skiing off Sentinel Peak, a ski down a face of the Shoestring Glacier, a repeat of 505 Couloir and an ascent of Sentinelle and descent of its NE face. Of these 4 objectives I managed to complete three before the weather finally broke, making for a very satisfying solo tour.

The sauna was buried

The toilet was also buried. Keep in mind that the toilet is 14 feet high and is mounted on 6 foot high stilts. The snow is another 6 feet above its roof.

The mood in the hut was very relaxed. No-one was in a terrible rush to get going and there was still a lot of food to be eaten and booze still to be drunk. I had one more cream-horn to power me.

Pam and Mike relax and enjoy breakfast in a little nook

Todd, Lee and Tim getting ready

Dwight, Alexei, Beth and Joel in the kitchen

I really enjoy solo tours. There’s a purity to self-dependence and self-reliance. I never understand why people feel the need to plug an ipod in as they move along the mountains. Ignoring the obvious safety considerations, immersing oneself in the sounds of silence, the whoosh of skins on snow, the sound of your breathing as you exert uphill. All this complements the visual splendor and sheer clean smell of mountain air in a way that no music can duplicate. In no time at all, I am past Friendship Col, making my way to Sentinel and then to Sentinel Peak.

Ready for the bootpack up to Sentinel Peak – Sentinel E face is the ridgeline

Two routes down Sentinel Peak E face then swing hard skiers left to Sentinel – Damon Col to enter the Shoestring Glacier..

Picture earlier from the week shows Benet ready to ski off Sentinel Peak’s East Face. His line is skiers right. My line today was skiers left

The rip down Sentinel’s East Face is exposed and steep (about 50 degrees). The first few turns are smooth on wind-buffed pow. Unfortunately most of the face is wind-hammered on the fall-line and I have to traverse to the centre of the face to get decent snow and then traverse back hard to Sentinel- Damon col. I drop into Shoestring Glacier and pleasantly surprised as there are no rocks to side-step at the wind-swept entrance. Even more satisfying is the powder that has been wind-transported onto the Shoestring. Beautiful turns await and soon I am dropping another 500m to the base of the Shoestring moraine.

Tracks down Sentinel E face – Benet’s old tracks are down the middle – mine are fresh and are picture right/skiers left

I can’t get enough of the views from Pioneer Peak down the Gothics Glacier and towards Sir Sandford

Up Friendship Col again and on to the Gothics Glacier. This time, I skip the flattish tour over to the Gothics and head right for Pioneer Peak. I replicate my previous day’s tracks to 505 Couloir and soon am standing at the entrance again.

Sometimes its best to leave the good alone. Yesterday’s run was great. I felt strong and confident and skied a big steep line well. So I get a little greedy and try to get that same line again. This time the snow’s a bit heavier – temperatures have spiked quite a bit since yesterday. Also the centre and right side of the couloir have Benet and my tracks in them so the fresh snow is a bit harder to find. Instead of skiing conservative I rail 10 – 12 turns down skiers left. I have nowhere to turn to manage sluff and get rocked as my feet get taken out from me and cartwheel once, twice. Thank god, it was a small sluff and thank god it wasn’t close to the bergschrund. Thank god, I locked out the toes in my Dynafits and didn’t lose a ski – that would have been a bad bad scene. Chastened, I ski out the rest of the couloir a lot more conservatively and head down, safe but humbled.

Looking down 505 Couloir

Three quarters of the way down 505 Couloir

Looking down to the 505 bergschrund

Looking up 505 Couloir on the bench below the bergschrund

Perhaps it’s a good thing to be reminded of the power of mountains. I make my way to Sentinelle’s NW flank and prepare to bootpack and climb to a bench where I can skin and gain the summit. But now the snow is warm and rotten. My ice-axe placements are purely for moral support and if I peel off this rock, it’ll be a long fall down. A drop hits my head. I look up and see birds. I don’t think it’s bird poo but it certainly is warm. A lot warmer today then yesterday. So what do I really have to gain by summitting this minor peak and skiing this minor route? Not a lot really – I’ve pushed my luck a bit today and had a great run of touring in this wonderful area.

It’s a good time to cut loose, go home, hang around with my wonderful wife and newfound friends and eat some of the excess food at the Fairy Meadows hut. And so I did.

Day 14 elevation profile

Day 14 map

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