Trip Report

Location: Campbell Icefield Chalet, in the Rockies about 30 miles north of Golden near the Campbell Icefield at the head of Bluewater Creek (near Waitabit Creek and Valenciennes River).

Dates: Feb. 11-18, 2006.

Personnel: Doug and Leslie Knight, Sean Harrison, Pat Doyle, Pat Fenton, Earl Badger, Steve Krause, Brad Chapman, Brad and Jen Larsen, Dave Matthews, Bob Portmann, Stan Wagon, Arie van der Velden, Kevin Root, Todd Richter

Hut notes: The hut itself is great, with adequate electricity from a hydro generator and running water and a flush toilet. The bedrooms were nice -- generally two to a room -- and the sauna helped keep us clean. There was a custodian, Remi Bernier, who kept the sauna going every evening.

Saturday: We flew in to the hut on a clear day in Don McTighe's Bell 212. At the staging area I met Doug Knight, who was in my high school class (Monklands, Montreal) from 1963-1967. We spent the week recalling teachers and students from that bygone era. One fellow in the group got to the hut and could not find his pack. Amazingly, he had left it at home. But he was able to get enough spare gear to ski. In the afternoon several of us skied to the Dome and down, a nice steep run.

Sunday: Long tour to the ramp towards Freshfield Col. The col was too steep to comtemplate (though later in the week Remi did go up and down it). Very cold there, though warm elsewhere. Then to Barnard shoulder for some fine skiing, and back home across the Icefield to the Notch. A 9-hour day under blue skies. 5100' climb.

Monday: Light snow overnight. Low visibility. Earl, Steve, Bob, and I descended steeply from the hut and turned the corner toward Valenciennes Col. Zero visibility and quite cold. On the way back, at the low point (the Platform), there was a nice 750-foot slope that I skied twice. The group did a third lap while I tried to find a way back to the hut. I ended up setting a ridiculously steep track -- "the trail of 1000 switchbacks". It was up a very steep slope -- the waterfall area -- but I came up right to the hut. The others all followed it. 4230' climb.

Tuesday. Clear day. I took Doug and Leslie Knight on a tour to the far point of yesterday's tour. Leslie stopped at the false lake while Doug and I continued to the top of the knoll. On the way back we took a good route back to the hut: much easier than yesterday. I was feeling a little sluggish in the skiing so far, no doubt because I had not skied much in the big boots. The new Havocs did feel nice though.

Wednesday. Amazing day. Left a little late with Bob and Earl (about 9 am) and headed to the East Peak (of Alan Campbell). Down steeply to the creek and around to the skinup point at 5600'. Then the long climb to the false lake and then to near Valenciennes Col. The day was beautiful -- clear and cold -- and we had no trouble getting to near the col, where we then cut the corner heading up to East Peak. Getting to the summit was no problem (about 9200') and the ski down was long and not steep and in perfect powder. There were remnants of tracks from the previous week, as a 70-year-old had made the summit. But on the way down we cut another corner and headed down the back side of the col a long way....all the way down to about 5600'. We had not moved terribly fast as Bob and Earl had had a 7500-foot day the previous day, but those two are strong and can go fast when necessary. Anyway, we were now way down in the woods, having lunch, and hoping we could find a route to the High Col (8600') near the hut, since that route home would be very good.

But visibility was deteriorating, we didn't have a GPS, and all of this route would involve breaking trail in powder. One good omen was that just after lunch I spooked and was able to photograph a ptarmigan. We shared the trail-breaking as we traversed toward the Campbell Icefield, but when push came to shove and the clock was running down, we put Bob in the lead. He broke very well and the meters clicked off and just after 5 pm we saw an up track that was going to our col. Excellent!

Of course, we took it and skied down the 1700' to the hut in no time, arriving just before 6. Total climb for the day was 6720 feet, something I had not attained in the backcountry in two years; and we probably covered about 11 miles. Nine hours is starting to seem like a long day. Earl and Bob were good with the map when it counted and the snow all day was good, both for going up and down. Looking at the map at the hut, it appeared we took a near-perfect line from our low point to the high col, except perhaps that we were a bit too high in the trees at the start.

Thursday. Several people wanted to go for East Peak and it seemed like a fine destination despite the very cold temps. It was 13 below zero overnight at the hut and the high at the hut this day was two below zero. But there was also a very strong north wind. Seven of us started but Jen turned back at the false lake because of the cold. Six of us got to the summit and, to repeat, it was very very cold. Coming down was fine, but I was tired from yesterday and struggled home. About 4700' climb. The highlight was the excellent visibility. Mt Forbes stood out very nicely and of course Freshfield Peak looked very striking. Remi, the hut custodian, made it to the Freshfield Icefield and the summit of Mt Prior today. He said it was very very cold!

Friday. 4250' climb on a tour to treeline at the south face of Mt Alan Campbell, then down steep trees and a gully to way down Bluewater Creek to about 4100'. Then up to the platform and home the usual way. The highlights of the day were the alpine views and feeling of the treeline area.

Saturday. Out by helicopter in good weather. As the heli left, it came back quickly. Apparently the tail boom door had not been closed properly. That was my responsibility so I was a little embarrassed. On the next flight I was again in charge of that door and fastened it correctly. Bob and I drove to Rogers Pass in the afternoon for a last day of skiing.

Sunday. We decided to try the loop that starts at Loop Brook, goes through the col at the Dome, and then down the Dome Glacier on the Asulkan side. The trail up had lots of steep sections, but at the alpine area it was fine. We deskinned for one 1000-foot run down some steep trees, and then carried on to the glacier and col. A slab had come down in the draw leading to the col, but the boot track was to the side of that. Bob went up the steep track, but there was another way that involved more traversing -- and steps were there -- so I tried that. A delicate move around some rock brought me to the area above the slab and I felt quite exposed as the snow was not solid (and we had no axes). I persevered and made it to the flat area of the col, but it was a mildly harrowing traverse. At the col we had the expected great view of peaks I had climbed: Avalanche, Eagle, Uto, and Sir Donald.

The descent was super and totalled over 4000 feet. There were steep open slopes and than some amazing pillows and mushrooms. At one point I went over a rise and it turned out to be an 8-foot drop that took me totally unawares. I did not ski terribly well, yet the descent was still enjoyable. I wasn't able to keep up with Bob on the climb as he just powered up the slope; I imagine I was a little tired from the week. Total climb for me was 6230 feet.

Climbing summary: For the 8 ski days I climbed 36230 feet. Subtracting off two short days leads to six days with an average of 5205 feet per day.

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