Back country Hollyburn – Avoiding snowshoe hordes

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  • #1096

    Subtitle: An exploration of the secret BC ski route up the back side of Hollyburn.

    We had been scheduled to go to Diamond this beautiful chilly sunday morning, but the leader decided, in view of stories of very treacherous road conditions on the access, and the enormous amount of new snow, to go local instead. No respite on the alpine start… we still had to show up at PR at 7.30 am.

    6 of the usual suspects showed up at the cypress parking area between the downhill and xc areas. Heidi took a look at the terrain, and in view of a recent injury, decided descretion was the better part of valour, and sadly departed. The rest of us crossed the road, in the tracks of an intrepid soul who had just ascended the 25 foot ice and snow bank on the east side of the cypress bowl highway. Skis in hand and poles stuck in the snow, we gingerly inched up the steep incline. There was a crux near the top where you had to throw your skis ahead of you and climb up, kicking steps in the recalcritant icy snow. A slip would mean serious injury by means of falling down 20 feet under a downhill skiers vehicle. This was enough for one of our number to inch his way back from the crux, and come up by a much longer way. It was such a beautiful morning we didn’t mind at all waiting for him and looking at the sparkling snow and old growth cypresses. Though a few members were far ahead and nowhere to be seen.

    Finally we started our ascent up the steep slope. The angle seemed to vary between 20 and 40 degrees. While there was good spacing between the trees, it looked like a difficult descent. Having expected oceans of powder, I was disappointed to see a rain crust about an inch below the snow surface, promising nastiness on the downhill steeps as ski tips would dive below the crust. THere was a pretty good ascent route, very obvious – it’s apparent that this route isn’t a secret anymore, but at least there is a fairly good trail and no snowshoers. We passed the signs for the Baden powell route now and again, some just about buried in the snow. I think these are about 15 ft up on the trees. Some guy with a dog was skiing down, dog was making better progress than the skier, coming down on his belly and gaining enough traction from the powder atop the crust to keep his speed down a bit, hilarious. We decided to pass on coming down this way today due to the conditions.

    Eventually we made it up to the meadow below the summit of Hollyburn, not without a couple of difficult moments trying to kick turn getting around corners on steep exposed slopes. Also a couple of false starts when people had different ideas about exactly where we were. But the weather was fine… sunshine, no wind and just a couple of degrees below zero. Nice lunch. After lunch, the skiing across the meadows proved fine. There was enough powder to snowplow and parallel turn and a couple of us would dearly liked to stay up there and play around for a bit, but some had already gone off into the sunset. So we were obliged to go down so they wouldn’t be waiting at the cars for too long. The main trail down was thrashed into a mess of styrofoam plates by the snow shoers, but we found good skiing in the trees at the sides, picking our routes alternately to the left and right. On the less steep slopes the crust was reliable and had enough powder for control. Finally a run down the XC route to the power lines and a rendevous with the snowshoe highway about a hundred metres in. Then the walk/ski back to the cars. Back home with an afternoon to do whatever. For me, cleaning up at home, for some others, a snowshoe trip to Goat.

    Thanks to Lesley for organizing. and to Carol, Paul, Al and Doug. Good times. Sorry no pix… one of those days when “i shoulda had the camera” but didn’t.



    Shame Chris the snow Elfin Shelter was to die for ;P

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