09 March, 2012

Taking It Easy - The Curtain Glacier

Photo Above:  The Curtain Glacier On A Sunnier Day
The mountains have been a tricky one to predict this year.  Different weather patterns have created different avalanche problems, layers, interfaces, and people have been getting surprised.  Still wanting the chance to get out on something big, we were forced to really sit and think what would be appropriate for the avalanche conditions, the answer was The Curtain Glacier off Mt Macbeth.  Just in the right spot for quality snow, limited slab activity for the conditions, but also that one beautiful line that would fill our need to get on something big and long without jumping into something we were unsure of.  After all the Curtain is truly one of the most classic spearhead descents, and also one of the longest glaciers to ski along with the Naden and Shudder Glaciers.

I met up with Graeme Bell, Jeff Van Driel, and photographer Vince Shuley on Blackcomb in the morning. Today was a day to see how well my back could carry a heavy pack since my previous post/accident (not well, pain is pain).  Initially worried about our objectives virgin snow, as Lee Lau and his band of friends for the day had the same plan, but as the thought of the Curtain dropped back across my view I realized there was room for everyone.  (Photo Below Courtesy of:  Lee Lau, The Four of us breaking trail under Tremor Peak)

The day turned out to be a touch less sunny than we had planned, but visibility wasn't limited at all.

We arrived at the mouth of the Curtain Glacier with a break in the clouds luckily arriving just in time for us to drop in.  I dropped in first checking out the skier's right line near some rocks and open ice, but the line didn't go as there was only 10cm's of snow on top of blue glacier ice, so Jeff took Skier's Left down the draw and radioed back up with route beta.  One massive advantage skiing in the backcountry is communications, and often forgotten in the trip planning process, luckily this was not a problem.

(Photo Above:  Our tracks coming down the Curtain Glacier)  A long, long descent, twisting through 1200m's of crevasses, bergshrunds, morraines, chutes, and slopes.    We were at the bottom of Fitzsimmons creek, for the long haul up to Cowboy Ridge for the exit.  We ended up skiing one short pillow line before continuing on our way.  Arriving at the roll before the Himmelsbach Hut, we observed a very recent size 2.5 avalanche with a 70-80cm crown line, that had pulled out naturally.  (Link To Wayne Flann's Blog with shots, note the skin track is ours, and we theorize Wednesday during the day this pulled out.)  Banana Chute had slide naturally during the last 48hrs, in the recent storm snow, but had been tracked out by skiers again.
(Photo Above:  Tracks coming out of Banana Chute, Fissile Peak)
Last part of the day, skiing out Singing Pass at night.  Stay safe skiers!
(Photo Above:  Last Transition Before Singing Pass)

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