Saturday 4 May 2013

Mt Currie, Owls and Mt Weart ski expedition.

Daily Vert: 1700m + 700m
Total Vert so far: 67,400m

Early on in this season we started making plans for big and creative spring trips- the kind of trips that would really stand out over relentless laps on local classics like Fissile and Cayoosh.  Last week's mission to the Tantalus was one such trip, and I've still got my fingers crossed for the McBride traverse later in the month, but this week it was the seldom seen and seldom skied North Face of Mt Weart, and the Great White Owl Couloir.

Geographically these peaks are quite close to Whistler, but access is quite difficult, and adding to their obscurity is the fact that they can't be easily seen from any of the local touring hotspots.  You can just about catch a glimpse of the Owls from Currie, and you can kind of see the north face of Weart from all the way over on Ipsoot, but thats about it.

The plan went through several iterations as we considered logistics, participants and secondary objectives, and the options of skiing in from Blackcomb, a heli drop on Rethel, a 4 day base camp and ascents of Wedge and Mt James Turner all fell by the wayside as we settled on the idea of a two day trip with a heli drop on Currie to begin with and the north face of Weart and the Owls Couloir as the twin objectives.

The first day started off well, the weather was looking good and Blackcomb Aviation dropped us a little way down from the Summit of Mt Currie on Hibachi ridge.  We started making good time on the traverse over to our proposed campsite, despite the deteriorating weather.  We weren't too concerned about the increasing cloud and fog as the route finding was fairly straight forward and it was forecast to improve in the evening.  More concerning was the fact that Steve's Salomon Guardian binding snapped in half about an hour into the trip, leaving him unable to use the tour mode on his skis.  Luckily the binding still functioned in ski mode.  Steve might now be one of the only people in history to complete the Currie Wedge traverse in winter by bootpacking almost the entire way!

Near the start of the Currie-Wedge traverse

Heading up to the Moe-Weart col in deteriorating weather.  Good thing I spent days studying the route on Google Earth before setting off!

Setting up camp on the first afternoon, hoping we are in the right spot.

Despite the poor weather and broken bindings we made it to the Moe-Weart col with out too much trouble, and found a nice sheltered spot to set up camp.  By this stage we could barely see 10 feet through the clouds, so we hunkered down in our tents and waited for things to improve.

At about 5.30 in the afternoon the clouds started to break and we could finally see our objectives of Mt Weart and the Owls.  We were fairly confident that the weather would continue to improve, but as it wasn't a certainty we decided for the narrow couloir over the open face for our evening mission.

Steves gets his first view of the Owl couloir

Boot packing up.... yes, it was very steep.

Ben dominating the last section of the climb

Sweet view of Wedge from the top

It took us about an hour and a half to climb the 500m couloir, and the snow on the way down was chalky, grippy and consistent.  A real joy to ski.  The couloir is one of the steepest things I've ever skied, I estimate in the region of 55 degrees.  The only lines of comparable steepness that I can think of would be Fissile Summit Chute, Decker Finger Chutes and the North Face of Mt Cheakamus.

Anyway, after this extremely enjoyable ski we skinned (or in Steve's case walked) back to camp and checked out the awesome sunset before cooking dinner and turning in early


Steve and Ben check out the sunset from behind Mt Moe.

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The following morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise at 5.30am, and made our way over to the North Face of Mt Weart

Sunrise from inside the tent.

The campsite looks a lot more appealing than it did the previous afternoon.

Checking out the North Face of Mt Weart

It didn't take us long to get over to the foot of the face, and before long we began the boot pack.  To our surprise the snow on the face seemed like it was going to be even nicer for skiing than the couloir had been, but it made for slightly slower boot packing.  We spent a little while roping up to cross the bergshrund at the bottom of the face, and despite the deep snow was made it too the extremely windy summit in about an hour and a half

Me on the summit of Mt Weart

The ski down was awesome... Quite deep and sluffy at the top, then soft, chalky and not so sluffy once it opened up.  It was super steep and long and sustained.  One of my all time top 5 runs for sure.

Runar rips the face

Shot of the Owl Couloir for posterity

Me and the owl

After packing up the camp it was time to head home.  We sat around for a little while in order to watch Matty Richard and Kye Petterson ski Weart as well, which was pretty cool, and then we headed over to  the Weart-Cook col to ski down.

Heading home

Ben and the Armchair Glacier

The ski down the armchair glacier was a surprising treat to end the day.  Very long with a nice pitch, and more by luck than judgement we hit it at just the right time so the south facing slope was on just the right side of too slushy.

Steve skis down the Armchair in front of Wedge

We skied past the Wedge Hut and down towards where the summer trail enters the woods.  We managed to keep our skis on for a little while, but before long we had to walk.  All told it took us 2 hours and 10 minutes to get back to the parking lot including breaks and transitions from the time when we entered the woods.

The final stretch

That last bit of walking was a bit of a pain, but we were all still buzzing from the great skiing in the morning.  Its so warm now that big trips might be over for the season.  I'm going to try and squeeze in a few more if I can, but if not we really went out on a high note!

You can see a few extra pictures from the trip in my facebook album:

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