Back at Balu Pass

Today I went out with a friend, Bryan, to Balu Pass in Roger's Pass. The weather had been snowy and windy and the north face of Mt. Cheops was shooting size two avalanches as we skied by, uphill, on the other side of the valley, hugging the safety of the trees. We could hear the avalanches before we could see them since the visibility was poor.

Given the touchy conditions and what the visitor center called "a very reactive layer" in the snow pack, we played it safely. We skied up to Balu Pass (5 km / 700 m from car), picked our line down a descent that was less than 30 degrees steep and came down safely.

During snow tests, a simple shear test revealed no sudden results in the upper snow pack where we skied. There was maybe 25 cm of storm snow on top. Skiing in that snow was a little tricky because it had quite a lot of drag, probably because it was forming a soft slab.

It was very windy at the top and the gusts were strong. Proper winter conditions!


Ski season begins

The ski season has started in Revelstoke!

Yesterday a friend and I headed out to Roger's Pass in Glacier National Park to open up the ski season. A mere two weeks ago we were still mountain biking on the trails of Revelstoke. It's a smooth transition to skiing - just need to get 1500 m higher to where the snow is. Technically one could still bike in the valleys but it's rainy and miserable and the bikes don't love all that water in the linkages. I now have a lot of work to do on mine.

Anyhow, please enjoy these two shots from Roger's Pass, Connaught Creek area. We reached Balu Pass in nice weather and stable conditions, then descended back down. There was maybe 20 cm of fresh snow on the surface, with no cohesion to form a slab. Skiing was good. The snow had an isothermal base and on top of that maybe 50 cm of variable snow, with a crusty layer 20 cm down from the top. We saw no signs of avalanches, heard no wumphing, and skied mellow well-supported terrain avoiding convex rolls and terrain traps.

Can't wait to get back there again.


Season end at Iqalugaarjuk

On May 10th we headed out to Iqalugaarjuk, a small lake absolutely packed full of arctic char. They outing was organized as Delia's workplace's "IQ" day (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, Inuit traditional knowledge). Government employees in the north are are entitled to an IQ day a few times a year, during work time. Usually these days are spent fishing, collecting berries, or something of that nature.

The drive distance was about 100 km which took about maybe 2.5 hours to travel one way. Spring was well on its way but the driving conditions were superb after the first hill climb out of town on rocks and moss on which the machines got a bit of a beating.

This was our first chance to visit Iqalugaarjuk. What had kept us from seeing before was the relatively challenging sea ice trail to the location: the last fiord has a polynya that can crack open pretty suddenly. Also, the whole area can have thin ice and with some snow it might be easy to get into a bad situation. There is a way around the bad spot but it involves driving up and down vertical cliffs - we are talking "haul your machine up or down with a mechanical pulley or with many strong people" type of a situation. But luckily our IQ day solved this problem since we were going with people who were familiar with the place.

Fishing was amazing. Right in the first few minutes, I pulled up my first five-pounder. More came quite quickly. Andrew from our group was pulling fish after fish from a single hole, soon surrounded by15-20 fish flopping on the ice around him. As a beneficiary he had no catch limit, but us qallunaks can only take four fish home with our fishing license. After my third one I went and drank several cups of tea, took some photos, and tried to burn time so that I could stretch it out a little bit before I got my last one.

A good ending to a great season. That was our last trip of spring 2016. Epic is the word.

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