Wednesday 15 April 2015

Rethel and Parkhurst Couloirs

April 8th 2015

Its been a big week in the Coast Mountains.  The skies have been blue, and the snow quality is far higher than it has been at any other point all season.  As far as I can tell, almost ever major peak and big line in the sea to sky has been skied by hungry enthusiasts just this past week.  Fitzsimmons, Wedge, Twin One, Alpha, Serratus… People have really been getting after it. Luckily I had a little plan of my own which I have been sitting on for a couple of years, just waiting for conditions to line up right.  Obviously we aren't the first crew to put this link up together- I believe it was a big hit with the now defunct Renegade Heli club a few years ago, but its still a little off the beaten track… despite its proximity to the resort.  The plan was to charter a heli from Blackcomb aviation for a drop on Rethel Mountain, and ski the Rethel couloir. I have skied this line twice before, once from a heli drop and once when Benoit and I bootpacked it from the bottom in a gruelling 12 hour day… But the interesting part was going to be then looping around and skiing the Parkhurst Couloir, which as far as I know sees considerably less traffic.

Some people claim it is cheating. I say Whatever Trevor!

Despite the joys of the heli drop, the summit of Rethel lies within the Garibaldi Provincial Park, so you have to get dropped it tree line on the park boundary.  It is about a 600m climb to the summit, which took us about 2 hours.

Steve enjoys a view of Wedge from near the top.

The Parkhurst Couloir as seen from the summit of Rethel

Strong crew, strong views.

Weart and the Armchair Glacier, always a treat to behold.

The couloir begins a little way down from the summit.  We dug a quick bucket seat anchor and I roped myself to the edge.  I was very pleased with what I found!

Steve on the rope about to rappel.

The cornice was freakin' huge.  We used two 20m ropes tied together, and they still didn't reach the ground until tensioned with the weight of a person.

Cory skiing the couloir. Note the tiny dot which is Steve at the bottom.

Looking back up you can see the size of the cornice.

After skiing Rethel we split into several groups. Cory decided to go and chill solo at the Wedge Hut. Benoit, Benat and Cedric decided to boot pack a couloir on the lookers right of Parkhurst. Steve and I skinned up the glacier to the Wedge Parkhurst col with an eye to skiing the central couloir. This climb was pretty easy, and we skinned all the way from the lake to the summit of Parkhurst in under 2 hours.

On the summit of Parkhurst with Wedge behind.

First few turns down the Parkhurst couloir.  This is one of the gnarliest lines I have ever skied.  Extremely steep (approx 50 degrees) Extremely narrow, and it doesn't run in a straight line, so if you fall you will be bouncing off the rock walls the whole way down.

It's also extremely long!  Approx. 500m of sustained couloir skiing.

From near the cabin, the 600m Rethel Couloir.

And the 500m Parkhurst couloir. Not quite as long, but definitely steeper, definitely narrower, and definitely scarier!

Chilling at the cabin before the walk down.  We skied the top pitch as far as tree line and then switched to boot packing.  Took about 2 hours to reach the parking lot, but everyone was in high spirits after a great day.

Back at the bus, exhausted but stoked!

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