After Hewitt Peak in August, I took a mental break from skiing for a while. It was too hot, too smoky and much of the backcountry was closed anyway. That break lasted well into September, when temperatures suddenly plummeted. Snow started falling up high in noticeable quantities. That nudged Ian and I back in the general driection of ski mode, and we decided to head for a pocket glacier we both know well. Deep in the heart of the northern Purcells, it’s where I opened my season last year, in mid October.
We got on the road about 45 minutes later than we had planned to, although neither of us was too choked about the delay. More troubling were the stupid noises my car began making, some 40 or 45 KM up the logging road. I stepped out to check, just in time to see my right front tire finish deflating. Thankful for full-size spares, we rolled carefully onward to the trailhead. Or, more accurately, to the tree blocking the road about 4km from the trailhead. Neither of us had remembered a full sized saw, and breaking out the tow straps wasn’t overly appealing. We got walking instead, reasoning that there were probably more trees down further up the road anyway.
Annoyingly, there were not. Lesson learned.
It’s a short but stiff bushwhack into the alpine and, unlike last year, we wouldn’t be skinning. Soon enough though, we were staring up at our intended line. Our initial excitement at seeing the upper glacier filled in was quickly stamped out when we realized the chokes were infested with uncovered rocks. Conditions were about as low tide as it gets. After discussing a few options, we decided to go exploring on an adjacent glacier instead. It looked flatter, and a bit broken, but snowy.
To our surprise, once we got there we saw what looked like footprints, both human and canine. Was this really that popular an area? Shortly thereafter, we realized what we were actually looking at. Not a human and their dog, but a grizzly and a wolverine. Wild. The grizzly’s tracks led us through a small crevassed area and nearly to the top of the ski line. The wolverine’s veered off to solo some steeper ice.
The views from the top made the whole venture seem worth it, we agreed. Staring off at much larger peaks and glaciers to the north, a cold wind whipped early season snowflakes into our faces. Both of us made at least a few additions to our mental ski atlas.
In all honesty, skiing down was unremarkable, except for the fact that it was skiing, and the date was September 23. It was powder skiing to be sure, which is always fun, but the snow wasn’t well bonded, and there was only about 20cm distributed across the bare ice. The mountains always have the final word, and we were glad not to have ventured into steep terrain on this particular day.
I try to ski something interesting every month, which this line wasn’t. At least by my usual definition. It was a great day out though, in a wild setting and with spectacular mountains to look at. That’s plenty interesting in its own right. I also kept my ski streak going, and both Ian and I moved the needle a little towards our legs, lungs and minds being ready for the upcoming season.
In the immortal words of Mick Jagger: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need”.
I’m still looking forward to skiing something a little steeper when conditions allow it though.