Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The High Pressure Set Up

A lot of snow junkies out there might dread the winter forecast that spells the end to fresh powder. Two little words puts your next fix in question: HIGH PRESSURE. I must say though, that I do love a good week or so of high pressure every now and again. Being up here in the heart of snow country, in British Columbia, it sometimes feels non-stop, and you ask yourself, when was the last time I saw the sun? Now that I have escaped the sun-drenched and snow starved former stomping grounds of the southwest, I feel the need for a good week of sunshine every now and again.

And now we have it. The last 4 days have been crystal clear blue sky, calm winds, accompanied by a settling snow pack letting us venture out a bit further and ski a bit more aggressively. Last week, we had a few storms to track, as my assistant guide Jonny Simms and I lead our group of skiers around this corner of the Valhallas for a total of 40,000 feet of ski touring in 6 days.

Jonny checks out the snow at the end of the last storm cycle

As of Sunday, we have a new group of 13 skiers to show around, and we have already done 20 grand of skiing, but its not the same old operating procedures, because those two words are with us, high pressure. So we have been going big, hitting summits, skiing in the alpine and staring down the spine of one of the most impressive and uninhabited mountain ranges accessible to most of us in North America, the Selkirks.

Looking down our skin track to Shannon lake, with the main spine of the Selkirks in the background. Where is everybody else? There is no one else here...ahh...the Selkirks!

This range is unbelievable, and it is really the home to some of the best skiing in the world, hands down. The mountains and snowpack add up for a perfect combination. It is an 'average' winter here, and the snow pack is a well settled 3m/10'. Just the other day we were looking down the bowels of a 6,500' foot descent that maybe 2 people have ever done. Today we were looking out at the Bugaboos, confronted with the 3,000' granite west face of the North Howser Tower, and off behind it the seldom climbed alpine big walls of the Battle Range. This place goes on and on and on. I feel like every mountain range I have been to in the lower 48 states has a limit to its mountain vistas...it is never 360 degrees; humans and their impacts are always visible. But up here, it's different, and it makes you feel good about how much adventure there is to be had so close to home.

And today was a day to check out some of those places so close to home. Even after three years of being up here at Valhalla Mountain Touring full time, there are so many runs I haven't gotten to do. Today I took the group down some 40 degree powder shots, with 15 to 20' pillows around to play on...I have been eyeing the line for 3 years and I finally got to do it now that the time was right...and it was so good, we did it twice!

Well, time to rest up for another big day of high pressure tomorrow. Maybe I will get to ski these lines that have never been done:
The group skins up to the summit of Cariboo Ridge, with the unskied north and west faces of Pyramid Peak, right in my 'backyard'

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