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I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Phelix Creek

December 4-5, 2010

The conditions looked really good for a December weekend, two days of sunshine, some fresh snow over the past week, and moderate avalanche danger. That’s almost traverse weather according to Tim. After flopping through a few different ideas, we made a last minute plan to head out to Phelix to join thirty other VOCers for a weekend of leisurely skiing. No slogs, no epics, no obscurity, that was the plan.

We briefly considered skiing up the west branch of Phelix Creek, and then climbing Tolkien Peak along the way into Phelix, but the lower part of the spur road looked too bushy and alderly. We passed on that option, and continued on a steady pace up to the hut, arriving just under three hours from the car, following a well-broken trail.

It was really cold at the hut, and we didn’t linger too long before thinking of what to ski. I’ve never been to Phelix Creek in the early season, and was surprised to see so many boulders sticking out everywhere. We headed up to the Peregrine-Frodo col, and skied one run down the south side of the col. I’ve tried to ski this slope before, it’s at a good angle, wide, and very smooth. The last time I skied it, it was a sheet of ice, and this time, it was nearly breakable crust, but still skiable. At least we were skiing in the sun.

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Tim skiing along the upper lake. It was pretty bony in this basin.

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Looking southwest towards the shoulder of Tolkien Peak

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Tim pauses to enjoy some of the spectacular December sunshine

We headed back up to the ridge, and noted the incredible temperature difference between the shady north side and the sunny south side of the ridge. We slowly headed up towards the top of Peregrine Peak. We took our time, as it was sunny and calm on the ridgetop, and I knew it was going to be an icebox down at the hut. Just as the last glimpse of the sun disappeared over towards Sun God Mountain, we dropped down into the top of the Return of the King, a nice ski line. The skiing was pleasantly good, and before long we were back at the hut. Lots of singing, guidebook reading (me only), and copious amounts of food and desserts were enjoyed by all. It was incredibly starry outside too, with a completely clear sky and a new moon.

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Tim skiing up towards Peregrine Peak. The entrance to the Return of the King is nearby.

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Getting the last bit of sunshine before skiing down the Return of the Ring to the cabin.

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A spectacular starry sky and an awesome group of VOCers at the Brian Waddington hut

I was excited to ski Copp Creek, and the Aragorn Glacier on Sunday, and it didn’t take much to convince Tim either. We thought a few other people might even join us on this nice tour, especially those who were lucky enough to stay for another night at the cabin. At 6am the next morning, I looked around and saw that a few other keeners had also woken up. Apparently it was my bad influence on people to wake up before it’s bright outside.

We continued slogging up at a Tim pace towards the Aragorn glacier, breaking trail up towards the hanging valley below the east face of Gandalf. The best route up follows steep trees on the climber’s right side of the creek until hitting open alpine slopes above. We contoured around the open basin up there, and it was quite beautiful up there as the sun started to hit the east face of Gandalf and Aragorn and everything started to turn into a deep red. We skipped past the toe of the Aragorn glacier, and it was awfully hard to ski past it’s smooth glowing slopes. Tim was already way ahead as usual, on the way into Copp Creek. I figured we would come back here, and see a bunch of VOCers happily skiing down those slopes.

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East face of Gandalf

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Tim skiing along the open basin at sunrise

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Looking back at the sunrise and Aragorn Peak

A few years ago, Tim, Scott and Sandra skied down into the Copp Creek, which drains in Callawader Creek. I've heard Tim rave about it every time I mention Phelix Creek. From the shoulder northeast of Aragorn, it’s a full 600m down to the meadows below. The run starts off on a big open slope, which all funnels down through a terrain-trap gully before fanning out into microterrain with lots of boulder fields and sparse trees.

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Tim at the top of the Copp Creek run.

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A long climb back up.

We climbed back out of the Copp Creek drainage, and was surprised to see that it was still early, and that nobody had skied the Aragorn Glacier yet. So we headed up the Aragorn Glacier, skied along the windswept ridge to the summit boulder, and then turned around to enjoy some fantastic powder on the upper half of the glacier. The bottom half was good too. Two days of skiing in the sunshine, two summits, and good snow, it's almost as good as it gets.

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Light and fluffy boot top snow on the Aragorn Glacier

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A good weekend ski adventure!

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