Fairy Meadows 2008 – Unicol – Granite Glacier

Words by Lee Lau. Photos by Lee Lau, Sharon Bader, Mike McArthur, Jeremy Roche, Carl Gable and Bill Carey. All rights reserved

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The forecast was as described; cold and clear. We started out at 9am after a bacon and pork-fat rich breakfast in temps of about minus 18. Damn, it was cold…. Sharon, Benet and I had been on the glacier before and were pretty confident navigating it so we didn’t rope up. I led with a probe periodically out to check snowbridge integrity and found snowbridge depth to be 300 cms +

Morning glow on the Granite Glacier

Looking S to the Adamant Range

Cold start on the skintrack

I set a high track on the Granite Glacier, a bit further south then I needed to in the hope that we could use it again if we wanted to get to Pioneer Pass, Sentinelle or to the Ironman-Unicorn col. It’s also possible to go a bit more direct but that involves winding through some crevasse complexes but has the advantage of not being as meandering a skin track. Time passed fairly quickly; thankfully soon we were in the sun and skinning up to Unicol at about 2600m.

Approaching Unicol

Close to the Colossal ridge at the Unicol

The views from Unicol have to be seen to be believed. From there one can see over 40kms NE to the Columbia Icefields then SE to the Mons and Lyells. It was cold, but there was minimal wind and we could soak in the sun and plan our descent.

View from Unicol

We chose a route down to the base of Colossal then skinned over to the Enterprise – Colossal basin. While the rest of the group continued and skied off the basin to the Nobility Glacier, Benet and I decided to do some scrambling so that we could ski a nice steep pitch down to the Nobility. This turned out to be a really fun run with a good sustained long runout. The first ski cut didn’t set anything off except for surface sluff and I could let the skis run all the way down to the glacier.

Putting in tracks on surprisingly good snow off Unicol

Benet and I thought we might be able to find a nice pitch to ski

Lee making tracks down to the Nobility Glacier from Enterprise Peak

Benet putting his signature on the line

This tour was meant to be an exploratory tour and was going without a hitch. Sharon, Benet and I skied off to the top of the couloir off Enterprise we had skied last year and which Sharon had named “Beam Me Down Scotty” to take a look. We were sorely tempted to drop in and carve up the 400m of 45 degrees pitch but the rest of the group weren’t feeling the love. Not wanting to split the group and agreeing with the wisdom of keeping the first day conservative we headed over to the snow slopes skiers right of Scotty and started our descent.

Well. we thought that Scotty’s Right would go having cruised down it last year without a hitch. However, last year had been a record year for snowfall and we had also been at Fairy Meadow six weeks later in the year. It turned out that the crevasses weren’t all covered yet halfway down the pitch and the rest of the slope cliffed out.

We turned tail, headed back upslope and contemplated choices. It was now a bi late in the day (about 3.30pm) so we chose the conservative route and headed back down the skintrack down the Granite Glacier and back to the hut.

Benet pining for Scotty Couloir

Closeup view of the area around Scotty Couloir

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