Overnight, we had winds and then the barometer rised and skies cleared.  Up into the Alpine Corin and I went with Mo' coming along for earned turns that she earned from being our Den Mother for the week.  Much wind loading and difficult wind slab was found, so after poking around we made a long run to Below Treeline.  Bagged a Feeding Frenzy run and then 2 on one of the 7 Deadly Sins.  A glorious day and it knocked out a small cough and cold I had - nothing like fresh air to take care of things like that.  Mo' noted on one ascent that I was really laying down the hammer.  With 1F and P hardness windslab 20-50cm thick and natural activity observed, we dubbed the stability to be Poor-Fiar-Good and hazard to be Cons-Cons-Mod.  Clouds were moving in and ...
 
..... BOOM! next morning, over 25cm new and the snow stake was on the way to 190cm by the end of the day.  In our morning discussion, I placed on emphasis on falling barometer which meant that any paths crossed in the AM could be a death trap on the way back in the PM.  Stability got rated as Poor-Poor-Fair with a Hazard of High-Cons-Mod and a warning to watch what's above among other things.  Micromanaging terrain was a big part of the discussion, as well.  A human factor we decided was that this was Corin's first real "big cycle" of the season as he had been guiding at CMH in relatively dry conditions.  Avalanches started running naturally at 0840 and then per my notes, Mons' monster face ran big (audibly) as well as Snow Leopard.  Roughly 15-20cm more would fall during the day and I had one of the 4 or 5 BEST powder days of my life!  Deep throatings, chin music, monster face shots and snow flowing up my face and over my head.  Corin, Mo' and I had the time of our lives.  After making the first descent of the headwall of a tree run from Treeline, we ran into Team Magazine.  I shouted to the women who skied The Grand "we're getting deep throated, we're porn stars and loving it".  Chris from Colorado via Sandpoint ID apparently ran over the back of the skis of the photographer from Team Magazine and didn't realize and in fact reported that he never saw the guy ........... yeah, that's 'cuz we were all getting blinded after about one turn and visibility was difficult.  Skiing between the trees meant making as educated a guess as possible.  I went to go stick a 4 footer and landed very hard and almost bought it ......... probably 'cuz it turned out to be really a 14 footer and 51 year olds are not supposed to do things like that ............. but then again, why not.  Corin pushed me for one more run and on days like that, ya' just gotta' do it.  I kicked off a big sluff on the steeeeep headwall of a tree run that run into a tree well ......[gulp].  Then we nailed the run and skinned back up to the lodge at the end of the day.  Problem (uh-oh):  the day really kicked my arse and I was getting a nasty flu bug as I was probably skiing beyond what I had energy for.  I was coughing brutally at the top, hacking up unmentionable things. 
 
That night, I was woken up by Mo's headlamp as she asked if I needed cough medicine as apparently I was waking up the lodge with a vicious cough.  The next morning, Corin felt bad for pushing my so hard to which I explained that it had to be done on a powder day like that.  Then he told me it was OK to take half a day or the full day off.  Sadly, I had to be realistic and throw in the towel for the day.  I asked if we could do crevasse rescue and beacon pratice in the afternoon to which we both agreed that would make the best outta' the day.  So, at 11AM, I dragged my arse into the classroom and I went at it and went big by making a 6:1 drop loop haul and converting it to a 12:1 ......... to which Corin showed me an even better way to do my nifty trick.  We went live by doing real live snow anchors and building systems off of that.  Later that afternoon, we got together with Mike and Sean (the latter was taking an AST-2 from Mike) and did some intensive beacon practice near the bottom of Home Run Bowl.  Just making the short nearly level trek there really knocked the wind outta' me, but it was worth it as we went big with multiple practices.
 
Later after dinner, Chris from Sandpoint fed me 2 generous sized blasts of some good high end sipping rum that he brought.  I hadn't had rum in almost 30 years and never recalled it tasting that goooood - this was not some mass produced swill that you mix with cola!  Well, in the middle of the night, I woke up and was feeling better and it was difficult for me to fall back asleep 'cuz adrenaline was flowing through me I just knew that I was feeling good enough to get in some skiing the next day!  It just HAD to be the fine dark rum that cured me! Next day was clear, bright and calm and we took it slower and went into the Alpine, just in case I fell apart and had to descend, plus the weather was favourable.  Up onto the Kemmell Glacier we went and we were able to make numerous fine turns.  We descended a bit early, but really not much earlier than everyone else and I was elated to have a great day.  Uh-oh, Mike and Sean reported that a cornice collapsed on Kemmell and triggered a Size 2.5 (maybe bigger) that ran.  Corin was upset that it might have run over our tracks on the Kemmell Glacier, but as we all discussed we realized that Corin picked a good route to the top of a plateau (not a roundish mound which woulda' meant crevasses) in the middle of the glacier and avoided the terrain trap gully on skiers left which all left Corin reassured (he was safer than he had realized; note that Mike had not seen if it had run over our tracks).
 
That night, we finished off the fine sipping rum to which I thanked Chris profusely for and then a box of cheap wine.  Next day was very cold and we all felt bad about having to leave. Sean gave me a ride to Calgary - I always get a ride back there, anymore.  Then it was back to the harsh reality of an Eastern Thaw ............. still, I can't wait to ski in Vermont, again! 
 
Mark P. Renson

From: Mark P. Renson <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 9:33 PM
Subject: Re: [SKIVT-L] Icefall Lodge BC, Jan 2013

When we landed, we had 148cm at treeline to play in!  However, this was after a 2 week drought and during that time, there was cold dry weather which made the top 30cm a layer of facets.  The bottom 30cm was laminated old crumbling rain crust and the rest was a well settled 1F strength right side up midpack.  But first, we had beacon practice ...........and the nice thing about a 5 foot snowpack is that you can bury beacons deep - in excess of a meter.  This ain't some practice where you search for beacons in shallow piles of leaves - you wade through deep snow, trip, stumble, get panicky and then dig well past exhaustion.  My toughest practices have been at Icefall. As a reward, we got in a late afternoon ski in Home Run Bowl with me skiing a new aspect of it.  Nice fast turns in the facets were had!  I was skiing with Corin, who had just finished a 2 or 3 week stint guiding for CMH Monashees.  For the day, we gave a stability rating of Good-Good-Good (for Alpine-Treeline-Below Treeline respectively) but advised that 10-20 cm of new might create action.
 
Overnight, 14cm new!  We thought we might have heard an audible (slide) on the 6500 foot W face of Mons and then discussed the snow stability for the day.  Per the discussion I scribbled in my notes as follows:  "Wilderness Skiing mantra: Everything is guilty until proven innocent".  Through the trees to Treeline we skinned, finding soft slabs and sloughing running naturally on convex rolls 15 down on facets - yeah, that meant that the new snow was running on the old facets.  We dug a pit at treeline and got easy results (3rd tap on a compression test) on the new snow and then we did a Deep Tap test on the rain crust that was 140cm down and got no results and an ECT reported no real propagation ............. I then thought if we had only had those tools 10 years ago when we were with Dave, Ken and The Man at the top of the 48 degree (max pitch) W-SW aspect Goat Peak digging that big pit and how things just might have been different.  Hey, we've moved on and today we moved up and at the top of a knob, Corin did a ski cut on a slab about the size of a living room ..... and little did we realize was that Team Magazine had been following us and was on a skin track below us.  Ooops.  But all went well and we found skiing that happily was better than anticipated.  Back up the mountain we went and we witnessed the dark side of ski photography: Team Magazine was at work and boy did it look like a bummer.  Anyone who thinks being some ski model is glamorous had better think again.  What they would do is wait for the photographer to set himself up in just the right position (yeah, that takes time) and then the skiers would take a whopping 2 turns with turn #2 really being some hockey stop in order to make an explosion of snow which is when the photographer would snap the money shot .......... and that's how they got down the mountain!  Meanwhile, we got in numerous fine ski runs.
 
At our meeting at the end of the day, we reported Stability of Poor-Fair-Fair and a Rating of Cons-Cons-Mod and in the lodge stability notebook: "HN (new snow) not bonding well to facets and big unsupported planar features can go big on this ........ sun crust observed on SW aspects at treeline (something new and unexpected) ..... if we get 30cm w/ winds, The 7 Deadly Sins will run to bottom."  Yeah, Corin, Mike and I set up our own avalanche forecasting center for the week.  Not a big regional one like the Banff NP or Bridger-Teton center nor a microforecasting center like MWAC (on the Rockpile) but more like a mid-forecasting center.  Cool stuff and it really opened my eyes.
 
Next day, we forecasted avies possible up to Size 2.5 in steep unsupported terrain.  The question was how the new snow - an additional 6cm fell - was bonding especially since little settlement was observed overnight.  So, for the day, up into the Alpine we went to gather information from above and plus we felt that there might be some breaks in the weather.  We put on our harnesses and brought crevasse rescue toys and into the big country we went.  At roughly 8250 feet, we found a 240-260cm snowpack and dug down to the glacial ice to find the rain crust.  None was found.  But we did find easy results 30 and 40cm down (storm snow) and a little surprise when on the 27th tap at 70cm down, we got something to go on decomposing stellars - yeah, you could see the classic snowflake shape on that failure with some aging.  Oh, and we also found "sintered facets" which Mike verfied later on as something that really does exist.  Yeah, we were learning things you don't find in avalanche courses and books and we really were in a Level 3.142857 course which means the learning never stops and if you keep doing the right things, you ski for an eternity.  Subsequently, we needed steeper slopes as we were getting slowed by actually too much snow and snow was falling which made for a cool Alpine experience - there was a lotta' snow up there which made for a much different World than down below.  We made our way to a neat spot known as Back Door which is really a sideslip on a double fall line shot which must be done in order to avoid going arse-over-teakettle over some ledges.  The reward is that it spits you out onto the top of the massive snowfields of Home Run.  We did more very good skiing the rest of the day at Treeline and Below Treeline - mid thigh to waist deep.
 
It was only Monday ............ more good skiing was to be had!
 
Mark P. Renson

From: Mark P. Renson <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2013 10:03 PM
Subject: Re: [SKIVT-L] Icefall Lodge BC, Jan 2013

I got a ride to the staging area in the tiny town of Donald, BC.  We used the Chatter Creek staging area to load onto the chopper.  Here, I ran into former MRG patroller Dylan Crossman who was on his way to Fairy Meadow.  We last heard about former MRG patroller Brennan at Refresher in November and that he was trying to land a spot with an operation in the San Juan Mtns of Colorado.  This was per John, our United Airlines jet pilot and he saved the number he talked to Brennan, labeling it with "Brennan's friend's phone" ............... so, we know that Brennan has still not sold out to the establishment by getting a cell phone though rumor has it he set up a hotmail account.  Anyway, while chatting with Dylan, I asked about Brennan and apparently Brennan has indeed landed work and is doing quite well and very happy in the San Juans.  I know several of you out there know Brennan.  Small world, ya' know.
 
Then Mo' showed up - she would be our cook for the week and is the owner of: http://www.mosmountaincuisine.com/ Her biz' is booming and she says she'll keep at it and not sell until she can "get $260 million for it".  Her success has come even without entire semester long courses on plating design and combinations/pairing!  Instead of taking critical coursework in those arenas, she got an AST-2 certificate and ACMG coursework to become an Assistant Hiking Guide.  Plus she skis.
 
Another group that would be with us showed up which included a somewhat prominent skier who has a descent  of the Grand Teton to her credit as well as an ascent of the Cassin Ridge and descent of the Orient Express in Alaska.  This group was to be doing photo shoot work for Patagucci and OR and other "names" in the industry as well as magazines.  Someone tagged them with the name "Team Magazine" ................ ummm, I cringed when I first heard that 'cuz to me it had a derisive tenor and on a hut trip in the wilderness, everyone must get along.  But apparently, Team Magazine was OK with it (who knows, maybe they even coined the name).
 
OK, off in the chopper we went into the heart of the icefields of the Canadian Rockies and disconnected ourselves from civilization for the week.  Yup, the internet connection was down - no Wx reports to be had.  We did have contact via radio to Banff dispatch in case of an emergency.
 
Mark P. Renson

From: Mark P. Renson <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Sunday, January 13, 2013 10:42 PM
Subject: [SKIVT-L] Icefall Lodge BC, Jan 2013

After braving a cold pre-dawn wait for the shuttle bus in my new Feathered Friends down jacket and then a 2+ hour delay over a frozen latrine in the jet on the runway in Montreal and a bus ride to Lake Louise, I entered my $34.50CDN/night group hostel room which was occupied by 3 or 4 younger female snowboarders and to get to my top bunk, I hopped over drawers, gear, drawers, hair brushes, more drawers, crap, drawers, duffel bags and even more drawers. That room looked like a bomb nailed it. If Sharon and Leigh think they're cheap when it comes to their Canadian trips, wait 'til they get a load of mine.  A few Big Rock Honey Browns http://www.bigrockbeer.com/beer/honey-brown there took the edge off of me before I finally slept after traveling roughly 16 outta' 21 hours.
 
Next day, rather than paying full freight at "the local ski hill" (yeah, I know that a few of you out there are familiar with that term), I just chilled out and enjoyed shuffling around on the nordic trails in town and dug a pit near the Bow River for practice as I frequently find a few consistent parallels between the snowpack there and the one at Icefall.  I found a 71cm snowpack and the Nov 6th Rain Crust to be bomber.  Then, I hopped on the Greyhound to Golden BC and while rolling through Field BC, I scribbled in my geeky all weather note journal: "Expectations: Nov 6th rain crust a non-factor; dry and cold wx means possible SH and NSF; obs thru KH Pass was mod-strong winds + blosno therefore look for wind slabs in Alp on S & E aspects and subsequent cold temps might make slabs brittle.  Looking forward to being w/ Mo', Andy, Corin, Larry and new like skiers!!"
 
Next, we'll catch up with Mo', new skiers and even get a "Brennan Report" ..............
 
Mark P. Renson
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To unsubscribe, visit http://list.uvm.edu/archives/skivt-l.html