Trip Report


Katie Larson, Kim Clark, Ben McShan, Stan Wagon (Colorado)
Guide Pierre Hungr (Revelstoke)


Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 4/15-17, 2015: Drive up with night in Great Falls, Montana, and then shop and pack in Golden, British Columbia.
Saturday 4/18: Fly in by helicopter. Beacon drill. 850 feet.
Sunday 4/19: Huge loop around Valenciennes. 4600 feet. Clear all day. One 2000-foot run.
Mon 4/20: Skiing at head of Forbes Creek. Powder. Clear all day. 53100 feet. Powder.
Tues 4/21: To valley between Zillebeke and Arras, 4000 feet. Clear all day. One 2700-foot run. Powder.
Wed 4/22: Storm day. Start with some rain, but then only snow. 800 feet.
Thursday 4/23. Back to same valley as 4/21 by different entrance. Skied different basin. 4200 feet. One 2200-foot run. Light snow, some sun.
Evening: Incoming text from the brother of my wife, Joan, on the satellite text device indicating a family emergency. There was a helicopter evacuation of the group in the dying light. Joan had had emergency surgery and Katie and I drove to Denver with brief rest in Canmore.


4/15 Katie and I drive in my Highlander. Ben and Kim drive from Denver in Ben’s truck. At 1 pm, 20 miles S of Buffalo, Wyoming, with Katie driving, our vehicle stalls and dies. Ben and Kim get gas in Buffalo and drive back. But that does not help. Ben calls his father who suggests a jump start. Nothing. Then he suggests disconnecting and reconnecting the battery. That works.

Were we too low on gas (I believe there was still 1+ gallons left)? Was the fast driving (85 mph) into a headwind with the roof box on a problem? We really don’t know, but the electronic control system needed a reboot and that worked. In fact, it can be done by pressing certain buttons.

Evening: O’Haire Motel and Sip ‘n Dip lounge in Great Falls, Montana. The mermaids were swimming.

Border: Long lines. Annoying. Ben’s car gets searched.

4/16: Finally arrive Golden. Weather is very good. No heli stress this year (for a change). Pierre is at Icefall Lodge and will come down in the first ride on Saturday. Internet at hotel is horrible and we rely on it for our phones, etc. Annoying. Jita’s has moved next door to its old location; flawless wireless there.

Friday 4/17: Shop, etc. Rain overnight, but it clears by Sat. morning.

Saturday 4/18: Helicopter into the camp proceeds with no problem. Two flights in a Long Ranger by Elbow River Helicopters. Setting up camp takes a while (especially digging out the space under the Megamid) and we spend the late afternoon climbing about 800 feet and doing a beacon/avalanche drill. Excellent powder skiing back to camp.

Sunday 4/19: Clear skies. We head S to the easy pass 1800 feet above camp. Saw wolverine tracks not too far from camp, and spent the day worrying if our food was secure. This pass is on the Continental Divide, so I suggest “Park Pass”. The other side has slopes with a northeast exposure that provide great powder skiing. We continue south to an easy slope above Bush Pass, and then start working back around Valenciennes. We kept descending on perfect corn and finally reached the bottom with a clear shot back up to a col that would lead directly to camp. The last part to the col was very steep and mushy and care was needed. To our left in this valley was a face with amazing flutings of snow and rock: “Andean Face”. The kick turns to the col were on steep terrain and Pierre shoveled them out a bit to make them easier for us. Finally we reached the top (calling it “Wolverine Col”) without incident and faced a clean 2000-foot powder shot back to camp. And there was no wolverine activity at camp. This was a tremendous loop crossing the Continental Divide twice, with fantastic views everywhere. 4600 feet climb. 8 hours. High point 9200 feet.

Monday 4/20: Clear skies. Back to Park Pass. On the way we think we saw a wolverine den: some discolored snow and lots of tracks below us. We did not investigate. As Pierre said: “We don’t want them visiting our house, so we shouldn’t visit theirs.” We were to make a try on Valenciennes Mountain which has a nice snowy south face, but got stuck after some steep climbing up the E Ridge. We booted up to a big cornice and then got through a smaller part of it. The boot up was tough in parts where sugar snow made steps almost impossible. At the top we came to the back side of the cornice, which was remarkable in that the cornice had broken away from the ground, taking a lot of rock with it: so it presented just a rock face. None of us had seen such a thing before. Whether it comes down in the summer or stays for years we do not know. We walked to the top of a small bump before retracing. We put on skis to get through the cut part of the cornice, using a rope for a quick belay as this was exposed. Then the ski down from there was very steep and I sideslipped.

After that we went to the same general area as the previous day for a high quality, steep powder run that yielded excellent pictures since I stopped two switchbacks below the others. This was a long run, necessitating an 1800-foot climb back to Park Pass and camp. 5100 feet climb. 8.5 hours. High point = 9400 feet. This was the most vertical for me since knee surgery in July. My knee was sore, but generally fine.

Tuesday 4/21:  Yet another clear warm day, so we went up to Wolverine Col, booting a short section in avalanche debris. Near the top we donned ski crampons and cut hard right to a notch that Pierre hoped would lead us through into the next north-facing valley west. It worked, but the initial 300-foot descent into the new valley was on steep icy snow, requiring all to sideslip. I was happy to have my whippet there. Then an easy climb to “Andean Col”, which was beside the face we saw on Sunday (and this was our high point of the week). From here to the trees was a 2700-foot run. Then a rising route around the ridge separating us from our camp valley worked, though it exposed us to some slopes that would slide when heated. We did get another 400-ft powder run before a very long descending traverse got us to easy ground above camp. 4100 feet climb. 7 hours. High point = 9600 feet.

Wednesday 4/22  Stormy day. Some rain. Then snow. We wandered up the slopes south of camp for 800 feet but then returned to camp. The sleepy afternoon was fine as three hard days did tire everyone out.

Thursday 4/23. We went back to the western valley using the exit route from Tuesday. Getting there was simple and then we climbed to a col via ski run #3, where #1 was what we did on Tuesday. We got easily to the col and tried for the summit to its west, but the final slope was cracking and steep so we did not make it, though we were very close. While standing at the high point my lower ski slipped down a foot or two. Not a big problem except my face lowered immediately onto the top of my whippet! This drew a little blood from my upper lip. Then a 2200-foot run down and a rush back to camp before the sun made the west-facing slopes dangerous. It was no problem. 4200 feet climb. 6.5 hours. High point = 9100 feet.

That evening a text came in from my wife’s brother indicating that my wife had emergency surgery. I really had to get out, and Pierre quickly found that Alpine Helicopters could come get us as the light waned. We all made it out, and Katie and I began the long drive. We were exhausted and took a rest night in Canmore. Then got to the hospital in Denver at 1:00 am on Saturday morning.

Friday 4/25:  Drive all day. No car problems!

Saturday 4/26: One am: Arrive at St. Anthony’s Hospital, Denver. Joan had had emergency surgery on Tuesday, 4/21. It went well.

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