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…)
If 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 🙂
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.
We never did find a gentler route, but we did have a friendly little visitor when we stopped for food.
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.
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!