Hollyburn

Today marked my first ski ascent of Hollyburn. I’ve snowsh0ed to the end of the nordic ski area before, but I don’t think that I’ve ever climbed the last few pitches to the viewpoints (it was snowing that time, so no view anyways…)

end-of-the-nordic-areaIf it’s a clear day, the view is spectacular and well worth the effort to climb those last few steep sections. And if your snowshoeing, remember the garbage bag for sliding down! I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many adults giggling away like school kids ūüôā

view-from-hollyburn view-from-hollyburn-2

The final pitch to Hollyburn peak is¬†steep! My friends and I weren’t sure if our skins would make it up, and dodging snowshoers on our way down didn’t seem like our kind of fun, so we headed off into the “meadow” in search of a gentler route up.

hollyburn-meadows

We never did find a gentler route, but we did have a friendly little visitor when we stopped for food.

grey-jay

Despite our best efforts, we never did get to the peak. No matter which route we explored, it kept getting quite steep! It was interesting to look at the trees and see evidence of old avalanches. I know that most of Hollyburn is relatively low risk, but it definitely gets steep enough to slide is places. Busy doesn’t mean safe! I was super-glad that the avalanche forecast was “low” for the tree-line today, as that meant we were able to explore a bit more.¬†Of course, I didn’t want to explore too far and find myself down the wrong side of the mountain!

But going back to the question of safety for a moment, even though the risk of an avy was pretty low today, that doesn’t mean there weren’t other dangers. Tree wells are always lying in wait, ready to trap an unsuspecting skier (or snowshoer). I think though, that today’s biggest danger were the ice bombs the trees kept dropping! As the temps climbed above freezing, all the snow and ice climbing to the branches was sliding off. By noon, there were ice bombs every minute or so! All those chunks of ice didn’t make for fantastic skiing (nor did the heavy melt-freeze snow), so we decided to call it a day and head back.

view-from-hollyburn-3

Remember, if you’re¬†travelling in the back country in winter,¬†know the avalanche forecast, carry a beacon, probe and shovel (and know how to use them!), be prepared for an unexpected night outdoors, and always tell someone where you are going!

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At long last – backcountry skiing

Finally, a nice day when I managed to get my work done early enough to get out!

trail to red heather

Honestly, I was beginning to wonder if buying my touring skies this year was a bad idea.¬†Throughout January and into February, I was¬†able to get out and ski on a somewhat regular basis. Then, I bought my skis, and every nice day fell during a crazy work week – and every week where work was manageable was rainy. And by rainy, I mean rainy all the way up the mountains. I’ll ski in the snow, but skiing in the rain is miserable.

Anyways, I finally made it out for a quick trip up towards Red Heather. I learned a few things along the way. First, I’m a total wimp when it comes to driving logging roads. Just getting to the lower parking lot was stressful enough, then when I encountered the tiniest bit of snow I aimed out and parked. Now, if I had been driving my little Mazda, that might make sense. But I was driving the Rubicon. So embarrassing. Doubly so when I got to the upper parking lot (courtesy of a very kind gentleman) and discovered a little car parked – without chains.

I also learned that¬†skinning uphill takes quite a bit longer than walking. I can walk to Red Heather (with spikes) in less than an hour. Skinning up,¬†it took me an hour to get roughly a third of the way. I made it just past the viewpoint overlooking Squamish. The next day I discovered that I need to build a lot more upper-body skiing strength and that even if my legs didn’t feel like they were working hard, there did. Running uphill just wasn’t going to happen.

So… gear.

I bought myself a pretty sweet set up: DPS wailer 99 tour 1’s, G3 ion 10 bindings and Atomic Backland carbon boots. Just thinking about how slow I was and how much it took out of my legs makes me¬†very glad that I went just about as light as I could.

I also found the perfect layers for a cool (+3C), sunny day: my MEC mercury 2 thermal tights, Lululemon run:swiftly long sleeve and Arctery’x Squamish Hoodie. I love the fabric of my MEC¬†tights: fleecy on the inside, smooth nylon on the outside. They are warm and breathable, and they have that all-important pocket on the back of the waistband. The only downside to the tights is that the rise isn’t quite high enough – when I run in them, they suffer from crotch drop. The Lululemon long sleeve is pretty awesome. Warm enough, breathable, quick drying, and, most importantly, has long sleeves and thumb holes. All outdoor athletic long sleeve tops should have thumb holes. And the Squamish hoody? It’s amazing, except that the fabric gets stinky extremely quickly. Like sweat in it once and throw it in the wash.¬†My layers were about as perfect as could be.¬†As I warmed up, all I had to do was lose my gloves and buff, and unzip my jacket a bit.