Duffey – Joffre Spine Line

words and photos by Lee Lau and Chris Kelly unless otherwise noted.

Chris K and I headed up to Joffre to see if we could bang out a line we both had eyed for some time now. Our extreme laziness resulted in a tardy crack of 9.30 trailhead start time (atlhough dawdling over coffee was nice). We started bootpacking to the summit of Joffre by a route that did not involve cooking one’s brains out on Aussie Couloir. We had a grand view of other tourers on the south side of the Anniversary Glacier get some steep and deeeeeeep powder shots on N facing slopes.

This is getting to be a habit for me – fourth time in the Joffre area in the past month – our route up in red

Bootpacking to the first couloir

We were a bit late using this approach to the peak. By the time we made the 100m bootpack to a protected face it was already 12:30. The next few steps were on slabby snow that seemed to be a bit hollow – the rest of the approach was on a snowfield that looked like it would have shallow, rotten snow. So we decided to nix the idea of trying Joffre Couloir and save that for another day where we would get our butts out of bed a bit earlier.

All was not lost – we still had a beautiful short shot to ski down to another snowfield and an alternate line to hit – a spine of steep snow next to the Joffre Couloir which Chris had dubbed the “Spine Line”.

Panoramic view from the first couloir at about 2550m

Dropping in – very nice snow!

More good snow on these NNE faces – Chris then me

N facing snow was beautifully light and deep. The Spine Line had the same aspect – we skinned up then booted up another pitch to the windlip where we could prep. The Spine Line measures 48 degrees at the top and rolls over to 52 degrees. Our view from the valley showed that we had a fair amount of space to work with between a prominent icefall on skiers left and some open bergschrund and crevasses on skiers right.

Bootpack Number Two – this time to a nice narrow ridge for the spine line

Chris on the less-steep 48 degree start to the spine line

Dropping in

Looking up to the spine line and the Joffre Couloir

This turned out to be an amazing ski down perhaps some of the best steep-skiing stable snow of the season. The bergschrund halfway down the slope was pretty easy to see and we jumped over it pretty handily (the schrund on Joffre Couloir is a bit bigger – perhaps 6 ft or so across??)

Both of us only wished that we weren’t so bagged from all the climbing as we had to wait between every few turns to manage sluff – not having enough confidence in leg strength to outrun sluff and dodge crevasses. The steep pitches ran about 400m and we then had really good snow the rest of the vertical km ski to valley floor.

Really nice mid-winter pow on the way down

Our tracks from the valley bottom

Map of day’s route

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