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The Climbing Club • View topic - Skiing in the Fitzsimmons Range (Feb 14-15)

The Climbing Club

at the University of Washington
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:04 pm 
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A Sophomore
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Location: Capitol Hill
Rok and i joined a huge contingent of UW astronomers up to Whistler for the long weekend. Instead of skiing the resort the two of us ventured into the backcountry in search of nice lines and fresh pow.

We left the condo at 6:30 AM on Saturday and caught the first gondola up Whistler after getting breakfast in the village. The backcountry passes (basically a one-way lift ticket) are now a whopping $45 CAD a pop! After a short run and some skinning, we were on top of Flute Summit and at the boundary of Garibaldi Park, one of my favorite places in the entire world. From here we skied over the last of the Musical Bumps (namely Oboe), skinned up Cowboy Ridge and down to the Russet Lake Hut.
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We dropped our overnight gear at the hut and skinned up the west slope of Whirlwind Peak, scoring nice views of the Cheakamus Glacier to the south.
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The 30 cm of snow from Tuesday was still light and fluffy on all but south-facing aspects, which was a pleasant surprise.
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Technically, this route took us over a glacier , but the coverage was so good that we didn't even notice (unlike the big glaciers, which were the most crevassed i've seen them in many years). We skied back down to the hut in time to see a pretty sunset and to score some beta from a few passing skiers. The told us about a mellow line down Fissile, the mountain directly above the hut.
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We thought we has the hut to ourselves (incredible given the long weekend and the easy access) but a quartet of German snowshoers joined us at dusk.

We woke up at 6 AM and Rok broke a pole wrestling with his frozen Dynafit bindings. The combination of quarter moon and early morning light was too good to pass up so we skinned up the west side of Fissile.
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As the slope got steeper and more wind-scoured we had to don crampons and ice axes. We made it onto the ridge just in time for sunrise.
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The "mellow" route down Fissile is a North-facing gully which starts on the mountain's west shoulder. The first few turns are in view of the hut 500 m below, which feels pretty cool.
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After the initial exposure the gully becomes very protected, and we enjoyed knee-deep powder nearly a week after the last snow fall, eventually dropping down to the Overlord Glacier.
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We skinned back up to the hut, snacked, packed up, and enjoyed the sunshine.
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We skied over the Musical Bumps to get back to the village. This means more skinning but also more turns than the alternative (coasting down Fitzsimmons Creek). This was an awesome overnighter. Between the gondola, the hut and the lack of serious glacier travel, it was logistically simple but oh so good! Our last good view of Fissile and Whirlwind:
Image
The rest of the photos are at www.astro.washington.edu/users/cowan/tr ... nd_fissile


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 9:38 am 
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The Shepherd
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Location: Ravenna
Wow, looks like an amazing time. The photos are magnificent. That sucks that they charge so much for a ticket. I wonder if they do so in case you decide to take a few lift chair laps. I have never had anyone check my ticket past the first gondola of the day. Although, I think the overnight pack might be a dead giveaway.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:05 am 
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One Armed Wonder
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Location: a Dungeon in the Physics Student
Wicked nice. Any avy worry at all?

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Life can deal you an amazing hand. Do you play it steady, bluff like crazy, or go all in? - Joe Simpson


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:33 am 
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A Sophomore
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Location: Capitol Hill
The expensive backcountry passes are a bit of a bummer but still worth the price, specially when the poor snow cover makes skinning up Fitzsimmions creek less appealing. I can't imagine doing laps with an overnight pack on, but that's probably what Intrawest is thinking.

The snow pack is very thin in BC, as in WA. The classic glacier routes (Spearhead Traverse, Garibaldi Neve) are not in very good shape and most of the exciting couloirs on Fissile have too much exposed rock to be enticing. The last snowfall was 30 cm on Tuesday, which has only partly consolidated due to very cold whether. (Sunday morning the weather was -20 C at the hut at 1800 m.) On shaded slopes (in the trees or north-facing gullies) the snow was boot-top to knee-deep. Then again on tele skis the snow always seems knee-deep :-)

The snow was super stable. There are some huge cornices in the area (eg: the top of Whirlwind) due to the fierce winds in the area, but we stayed clear of those. We saw one spot where a cornice had triggered a wind slab but it probably happened during or shortly after the storm.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:35 am 
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UW Climber

Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 6:11 pm
Posts: 137
Nice! But breaking poles seems to become a tradition in Garibaldi PP...


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:09 am 
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A Sophomore
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Joined: Wed Sep 22, 2004 1:34 pm
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Location: Capitol Hill


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 9:00 pm 
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UW Climber
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Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2004 12:29 am
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Location: Seattle
yeah snapping poles is a bummer but it turns out skiing is fine without them if you stay out of technical things like steep trees. Ski traversing above crevasses with slightly impaired balance was also a bit hard on the nerves. But, now that I'm a weight-obsessed dynafit convert, I might just always tour with one pole or ditch them altogether... ;) Seriously though, who knew skis could be so light??


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:51 pm 
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The 11th Essential
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Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 10:28 am
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Location: Boulder, CO
Sweet. Great overnight idea. Sorry to hear the snow pack is suffering there too, but it doesn't sound like that dampened your spirits or the incredible views.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 1:15 pm 
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Moss Man
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Location: Seattle
Excellent, a classic trip!

I have been up there in similar 'light snowpack' contitions. It looks just like I remembered it, even the 'preserved power' on Whirlwind.

They raised their lift prices, it used to be $30 a few years ago, but then again, you can take one more lift to the Flute now, right? So that means that you get a few more runs in on the traverse over (gondola -> symphony or peak -> flute ).

- Kevin


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:41 pm 
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A Sophomore
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Location: Capitol Hill
The symphony express gets you to the top of Piccolo. There is a descent, traverse and some climbing to get up Flute, which is still in bounds but not lift accessed. Fortunately, all the resort skiers eager to huck cornices lay a very nice bootpack :)


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