When Pat mentioned that he was trying to get some people into Whitecap Alpine, it needed minimal arm-twisting to get Sharon and I to commit. I had seen the pictures, drooled over the terrain, pored over the maps, and heard the whispers about monumental peaks surrounded by mind-blowing choices of terrain and cold, blower snow. Plans were made, checklists were drawn up, bags were packed and gear was prepped.
Soon we were off to Pemberton and flown by Blackcomb Helicopters about 35kms north past big peaks into drainages I had never set foot in and deposited into a winter wonderland.
Birkenhead Peak from due south
A view into the Cayoosh Range looking east ~ Photo Pat Mulrooney
We set down, unloaded the heli, got comfortable and got to meet Ron Andrews. Ron is a character, full of experience and stories, a quintessential mountain-man who loves these big peaks and enjoys sharing the stoke. Ron is self-effacing and you won’t hear that he’s received Distinguished Service Awards from the Alpine Club of Canada, or about his numerous first ascents or the fact that he still rips descents and climbs. After a quick talk about hut and basic safety protocol we started up towards Standard Ridge to take a look around on this gorgeous day.
As Zdenek heads up to Standard Ridge, Mt McGillivray taunts us in the background across the valley.
The snowpack is already a ridiculous 260cms close to valley floor – crazy amount of snow for this time of the year and probably a month ahead of where it should be. We aren’t complaining. Interestingly this area seems to have more of an interior snowpack with some serious wind-transport up high and significant buildup of facets in rocky areas and thin-snowpacked ridgelines. Still the top layers are incredibly cohesive and filled with confidence we start skiing.
Digging deep for layers ~ Photo Pat Mulrooney
Full Frontal Glades are aptly named – a short 300m shot off Standard Ridge of 35 degree slopes back to the cabin – the snow is all I’ve ever dreamed about.
Sharon drops in ~ Photo Pat Mulrooney
Lee is a little less elegant ~Photo Pat Mulrooney
Zdenek slutting turns on Full Frontal
The light is still great and we’ve got enough time to drop into the creek and up and over to McGillivray Ridge. As expected the view is magnificent and you can see all the way to the Lord of the Rings Group and to Mount Weinhold. As expected the top of the slope was pretty wind-affected so we backed off before we got to ridgeline and elected to ski back to the cabin.
Pat rips downslope off the Toilet Bowl Glades back to the cabin
Sharon in back to the barn mode
We ended the day with a fantastic course dinner prepared by Danielle and Pat – home-made soup, salad schnitzel and the works. I ate three helpings and passed out.
Our route on Dec 30, 2006
Elevation profile for the day