Mt. Whymper – X Couloir

Ah life; lately it really hasn’t afforded much time for typing up trip reports. But here’s the first in a long pipeline, from back in April. It was my season opener for quality missions in the Rockies, after a frigid winter full of annoying avalanche problems. The problems were still there, mind you, this just happened to be one of the first days on which we puny skiers weren’t likely to trigger them. Not knowing how long conditions like that would last, Joel, Kieran and I set out for Mt. Whymper on the 93 South.

The three of us pushed a brisk pace into Chickadee Valley, led rather strongly by Kieran, who starts somewhat harder than most. I didn’t take any photos on approach, but rest assured that the bottom of Chickadee Valley isn’t terribly interesting at 6:30 in the morning. In what felt like no time, we were looking up at the line, which was somewhat more imposing than any of us had remembered.

The morning’s first kiss of alpenglow began knocking slough from the walls above, so we waited next to the couloir, convinced it would be clearing itself out shortly. A small slough rolled onto the fan, and though we didn’t feel that it would be the last of the action, we were comfortable moving upward so long as we were always able to see a safe hiding spot.

Joel: ready to jump out of the runnel at a moment’s notice.

Our conservative strategy paid off quickly, as the sizable flow of fresh snow we’d been expecting sent us scurrying for cover only a few minutes later. Unnerving as it is to feel that volume of anything rush past in alpine terrain, we were now convinced that everything had come down that was coming down, and we made good time to the crux of the line.

Kieran does the Billy Goat Plate grapevine through the crux…

Kieran and I were glad for ascent plates as we wallowed onto an exposed ridge and up into the top of the couloir. Thing were a little more tenuous for Joel, but he got through it and with some effort, the three of us topped out.

…Then looks up, seeing ridgetop for the first time in a while.

I’ve got a bit of a running mental shortlist of excellent couloir experiences, and this one easily made the cut. The X is a proud line and conditions were near perfect from top to bottom. The valley mush was still solidly frozen, so we cruised easily out, ensuring that Joel had more than enough time to make it to work in Canmore by 2 PM. All in all, a fantastic way to ease back into the rhythm of Rockies steep skiing season.

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