Posts Tagged 'ski'

A marvellous cold wet spring (2017)

By late morning, Wednesday May 17, There was blue sky over Horseshoe Bay, and we thought we could see fresh snow on the local mountains. We took the rest of the day off and headed up the hill to ski. As we drove into Cypress Bowl we noted that there was plowed fresh snow along the side of the road. We parked at the top of the public paved road (3010 ft.) and marvelled at the recent dump of new snow.

Fresh Snow at ev. 3000 ft in Cypress Provincial Park parking lot

As we skinned up Mount Strachan the fresh snow became deeper. There were a few day-old tracks so the dump of snow arrived a couple of days ago.

We quickly climbed into a dense cloud. By the time we reached the summit ridge, the clouds had thinned and occasionally we glimpsed the disk of the sun.

With my ski pole, I measured the depth of the fresh snow: 16-inches!

16 inches of fresh snow on the summit ridge of Mount Stachan - May 17, 2017

This has been an unusual spring. The local temperatures have remained cold and we’ve had lots of precipitation. The size of the snowpack up on our hills is awesome.

The drone pictures and commentary in this Clubtread forum thread provide an interesting perspective of the current snow the conditions high up on Mt. Strachan: North Shore Cornices.

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Sunday, Suddenly Sunny, Ski

After a month struggling with a virus, I was feeling better. And on Sunday there was a diamond-hard blue sky. Time to find some snow and ski.

Sunrise - departing Snug Cove on the ferry

Sunrise - departing Snug Cove on the ferry

There is snow high on the local mountains

No snow at sea level, but lots high on the local mountains

Access to Hollyburn Mt for skiers, snowshoers, hikers

Access to Hollyburn Mt. for skiers, snowshoers, hikers

It was cold at 1000 meters, and there was over a meter of snow on the ground. Compare this scene with the same place last year at this time: just before the Olympics.

That snow may look soft, but it is brutally hard.

Very hard snow, sparkling in the sunlight

Very hard snow, sparkling in the sunlight

Hole shows snow depth - at Water Boards, Hollyburn Mt.

Hole shows snow depth - at Water Boards, Hollyburn Mt.

Out of bounds on Hollyburn Mt.

Out of bounds on Hollyburn Mt.

Normally the best backcountry skiing on this hill is up there. We explored some of that inviting but icy slope and decided to return when there was something softer. It was a beautiful day and fun to be on snow again.


Edited post to add:

Compare the above snowpack to the huge amount of snow we found on a lovely February 24th, 2008

Cypress Provincial Park staff have cut a path to reach the trailhead on Hollyburn

Cypress Provincial Park staff have cut a path with steps in the snow to reach the trailhead on Hollyburn Mountain

Return to Callaghan Valley

Callaghan Mountain and Callaghan Lake are at the head of Callaghan Valley – the location of some of the 2010 Olympics. In previous years it was the site for several of our backcountry adventures. We returned to see the situation on 2010 June 27.

Upper Callaghan Valley - Google Earth

Upper Callaghan Valley and vicinity

The blue line shows our ski track from where we left the car. The dirt road climbs rapidly from the Olympic area to Callaghan Lake, which is nearly at 4,000 ft. It is rough, but passable with 2-wheel drive. There are water-bars, but they are wide and gentle.

A rainy day on the hill

We have hills, and we have snow. A little rain is no excuse for a backcountry skier not to ski. So, today we went to the local hill (during the Olympics they called it Cypress Mountain, but it is really Mt. Strachan). The good news is the commercial operation is closed for the season (at last). We were prepared for rain, so we had a good time. There is not much to say, but this is a web log — so this is really to log the conditions as of early May, 2010. This is a very short clip…

At the parking lot, about 3000 ft., the lower mountain looks like there is not much snow up there. Actually we found a good route up. By 3500 ft. there was lots of snow, and even a thin layer of fresh snow. Above 4000 ft the rain had turned to graupel and it was rattling off my Gore-tex. In cloud and snow there is not much to photograph… so there is only a tiny video clip taken at 4650 ft.

Last Cypress Bowl Ski before Olympics

Tomorrow, for security reasons, we backcountry skiers will not be permitted in Cypress Bowl until after the Olympics. Hollyburn Mountain is not a venue for the games, so that beautiful old growth forest will belong only to the security goons with guns. Today, the weather up in the bowl was mild (as everybody in the world seems to be learning) and foggy… but backcountry travellers are supposed to be able to handle anything (except lack of snow for skiing). So, we went there. The altitude where we start to ski up is about the same as most of the Olympic events. I have never seen so little snow at this time of the year — it looks like very late spring.

Hollyburn Mt. Trailhead - Cypress Bowl, BC

Snow conditions at the Hollyburn Mt. Hikers' Trailhead

Things improved with a bit of altitude, and above the Water Boards (top of the nordic trails) there was even some fresh wet snow.

On the Hollyburn Mt. summit trail, above the Water Boards

On the Hollyburn Mt. summit trail, above the Water Boards

There were very few people up there today. Instead of fighting churned up snow to the summit, somewhere above this point we headed off into the woods looking for some smooth glades.

The place to remove skins and start skiing

The place to remove skins and start skiing

We were alone in the woods. It was dark and foggy. And no other ski tracks. Somehow we missed our planned line and were heading into the unknown. So, we put skins on again and doubled back.

Suddenly we found ourselves on the slope we were seeking.

The slope to ski

The slope we wanted to ski

The only person who’d been here before us left a single snowshoe track. I don’t think I’ve  ever been the first to ski this pitch. It wasn’t powder… but I learned to ski in this lovely, soft, damp, west coast snow. It was marvellous. There was several inches of fresh snow over a firm base.

Hikers’ Trail, Hollyburn Mountain

We went skiing in the rain today. I love the mountains, the woods, the fog – or being in the clouds… so we dressed for the weather. We were surprised at the lack of snow.  Normally, by January there is lots of snow in Cypress Bowl. This is the entrance to the Hikers’ access, a trail that leads to the summit of Hollyburn Mountain.

Hikers' trailhead to Hollyburn Mountain

Not much snow at the Hikers' trailhead to Hollyburn Mountain

The top of the groomed nordic runs on Hollyburn is known to the locals as the Water Boards. What we call the backcountry begins when we go above that. We were astonished to see that above the Water Boards there were still huge holes where water was flowing beneath the snow.

Above the Water Boards on Hollyburn Mt.

Snow conditions above the Water Boards on Hollyburn Mountain

In the picture, the top of the nordic run is the flat area in the top right of the picture. The sign is warning folks of the dangers of backcountry travel beyond that point. These holes reveal the current depth of the snowpack.

Lots of snow last January.

First Backcountry ski of 2009-2010 season

Today, from the ferry on the Salish Sea we could see that the tops of the mountains were in the clouds. Up there we experienced drizzle or heavy mist. There was hardly any snow until we drove into Cypress Bowl. Once on skis and heading up Hollyburn Mountain we were pleasantly surprised by the depth and quality of the early snowpack. It was a lovely day on the hill.


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