Lady MacDonald

Lady MacDonald

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Making it count - Joffre in a day and fun on Mt. Hector

What does a true weekend warrior do when faced with an elusive long weekend? Maximize the time spent getting rad in the mountains.

We started the weekend off at Heroes Knob to check out the snow and planned to ski a few different aspects. We headed up the south side of the valley and topped out at a col with a great view. After descending, we decided to head a little farther west up the valley and check out the snow. On a North Facing slope at around 2100m we remote triggered a size 1 wet slab which moved slow enough for us to back up, pull out the cameras and film it going by. The snow softened up way more quickly than I was expecting despite the lack of direct sun so we called it a day. After that, we knew extra early starts were going to be needed for the rest of the weekend
Peter and Bill putting in the track
To top off the day, on the drive back to Canmore, I managed to get stuck in a rut in the slush, spin out and end up in the ditch. After 1:30 of digging and pushing, we got back on the road to realize that a bush I had creamed left us a present in the tire. We threw on the spare tire and limped back into town. An avalanche, a car accident and a flat tire all in a day must mean I had used up all my bad luck for the weekend, so it was time to get after it for the next two days.

The bush that fought back

Peter and I had spent the last two weeks checking the weather forecast in the hopes that it would cooperate for an attempt for a fast time on the Wapta in a day. We watched as it slowly deteriorated forcing us to change our plans.

Mentally prepared for a long day, we decided to give Joffre a go. Peter had tried skiing it before, and I have been up there in the summer to run Northover, but neither of us had made it to the summit before. Based on the conditions the previous day, we left the parking lot at 6:00 to make sure we got across the lake when it was still frozen. A good freeze and no wind the night before meant we could skate across the lake and make great time to the creek by Hidden Lake. From there we began the climb up the North side of the valley through the trees towards Fossil Falls. At this point I realized that I had left my camera in the car. So all the photos from the day are from Peter. Check out his blog here
Skating across Upper Kananaskis Lake on the crust

After crossing Hidden Lake we found a blown in, day old, skin track, and were happy to know other parties were ahead of us that were hopefully breaking trail towards the summit. Navigating around Fossil Falls, we got into some steep tight trees that were not fun to break trail through, but eventually popped out into the creek valley and could see the outhouse at the Aster Lake campground and knew we were on track. Passing through the campground at Aster in 2:30 after breaking trail the whole way, we knew we were in for a solid day. There was one party of four just leaving their shelter, and as we passed them they told us another group of 3 had left half an hour earlier. We passed them after 40 glorious minutes of not having to break trail, and I was back to the front on duty again. Ski penetration was 5-10cms, so travel wasn't too tough. We worked our way up the moraines about halfway down the valley and had to do a short bootpack to get over a steep section. In hindsight, we should have skied to the end of the valley and gone through the more open Col avoiding the moraines.

Breaking trail up the glacier with the summit in view
After roping up, we punched a track up the centre of the well covered glacier to the foot of the summit slope. From here, 6 rope tangled kick turns, a short bootpack, 1:15 later we were on the summit ridge. We left our skis behind, and scrambled the rocks the last little bit to the top, getting there in just under 7 hours.
Peter with the ice beard in full effect on the summit
The descent was awesome, with soft snow that wasn't too wind affected, and a nice consistent grade. The party skiing up behind us was a little frustrating, and kept ending up underneath us, forcing us to do some traversing to avoid skiing down directly on top of them
Our tracks with another party working their way up
The ski out yielded some pretty good turns in the trees, and we found a few narrow open lanes to avoid the tight trees from the ski in.
Laying down some low angle glacier wiggles
As we lost elevation on the way out, the snow got wetter and wetter, until when we hit the lake it was more slurpee than snow. We ventured out onto the lake to try and save some time, but it was pretty slushy, so we stuck close to the shoreline and left the skins off for the slog out. We watched the clock the whole way, pushing the pace to try and sneak in under 11:00. with 4 minutes to spare, we hit the shoreline, but at the wrong parking lot, forcing us to jog a couple hundred meters up the road to the car, beating the 11:00 mark.

After doing some looking online, I couldn't find any records of anything faster, so this might be a FKT? Leave me a comment if you've heard of anything faster, I'd love to know! With a better overnight freeze, and less afternoon melting it would definitely be possible to go faster, but I was pretty happy with how the day went.

GPS data from the day is here

Waking up Sunday morning with the legs feeling surprisingly good, we decided to tag along with Bill, Chris, Eliot and Jordan who were headed up to Mt. Hector. An uneventful day with a nice relaxed pace led to Peter and I with Bill in tow making it up to the top of our second 11,000 foot peak in 2 days.
Heading across the glacier with the big group

Loving my new Dynafit Cho Oyu's - Light on the up, fast on the down

Working out way to the top
We roped up to ski the lower section of the glacier and Bill, with his way better downhill skiing skills, dragged the other two of us the rest of the way down

Popping out below the clouds on the way down with Hector Lake in the background
Overall, a great weekend, and fun was definitely maximized (although significant amounts of type 2 fun were also involved)

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