Here it is January 14 2015 and it is time for another adventure in Rogers Pass. I am feeling somewhat spent (I did ski too much at Lake Louise prior to coming out) and I did develop a blister on the right heel so I hope I am up for this. After a quick breakfast in Golden at a local bakery that Mark insists is the only place here that can make a decent espresso (he’s right), he asks me if I am capable of doing a similar or longer duration tour compared to yesterday. Without thinking I say yes. Thinking is overrated. He suggests Lookout Col and I agree having no idea what I am agreeing to. Where Mark leads I will follow- I trust him.
We leave trailhead and set a reasonable pace to get warmed up and enter the llecillewaet Valley as we approach the moraine of the Col. I appreciate that Mark often takes us off the up track for teaching moments. The weather is perfect, warmer than yesterday, and there is little wind. I have applied moleskin to the right heel. I feel it a bit but it is not too bad. As we clear the trees the valley opens up and we get a great view of Mount Sir Donald as it’s peak pokes through the clouds. Brilliant.
It is tougher going through the moraine and all I can wonder is how do we ski back down through this stuff? Then the climbing starts and I quickly learn that I am working way too hard and slipping too much. Mark notices my distress and gives me a quick lesson in skinning up steep icy slopes. It works and I get it. On site teaching! Mark chooses a great up track through complex avalanche terrain that I would never tackle on my own. Guide…. good! This area is much quieter than Balu pass and we seem to have the place to ourselves. Two other skiers pass us from Finland and we have a nice little chat with them before heading up again.
Near the top of the Col Mark digs a snow pit and does a compression test. I ask him what he has gleaned from this and he says “it’s confusing and surprising”. Okay… I keep skinning up. Three other skiers are coming up the same slope behind us so I take a few pictures for perspective.
We reach the top of the Col and take a breather and have a bite as we transition. It has been a long climb but I feel great. I look at my watch and cannot believe it is already after 3 PM. Yikes, we will need to get down soon. Will we make it before we lose light? The views are spectacular! The sun breaks through and lights up the rim of a mountain on the opposite side of the Col. “Just breathe…..again”.
We are set to ski! What a feeling. We are able to find virgin lines on the way down but I am happy that Mark is leading because the way down has no correlation to the way up. At one point Mark says follow closely here and stay away from the right as there is a cliff drop off. It is good practice to stop and look where you are as the ski down is so much fun. I can see it would be quite easy to lose perspective and ski off a cliff. Mind you, you would be smiling initially as you met your demise! We are approaching the moraine and this is the part that I fear. Mark calmly says “oh we will just head off on skier’s left and join the summer hiking trail that completely bypasses the moraine” that I did not see at all as we were skinning up. Yes!
The remaining ski out is fun as we get thrown from corner to corner of the icy down track. It is like luge or bobsleigh sledding. Too much fun. We also pass a snow topped rock feature that you swear houses hobbits. We finish the tour and I am ecstatic. I feel strong and confident. What a great tour to accomplish. It’s all thanks to Mark as he points out we are back down in just less than a hour. We climbed over 1000 m and travelled 15.4 km.
We drive back to Golden and I drop off Mark as he drives back to Banff (his home) in his own vehicle. What a fantastic guide! I know I will be back to tour with him again. He is so knowledgeable- he taught and I learned. My skill set improved dramatically in two days and I know what I need to work on for future tours. I was able to get into terrain that I otherwise would never have been able to do safely. This was exactly what I was looking for in hiring a guide.
I am driving back to Calgary tired but enthralled with the experience I have just had. It is so important to push yourself in new directions even though it would be easier not to and to give in to your anxieties and perceived limitations. We live in an amazing part of the world and I continue to be enriched by venturing into the mountains that I love.
Until next time.