About Me

My photo
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!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rainbow East Glacier

Rainbow Mountain is this big sprawling summit west of Whistler, commonly frequently by heli-skiers, heli-tourers, and sometimes even snowmobiles. For some reason, I've never skied to the summit. Perhaps I was secretly hoping that one of my friend's would invite me on a heli-drop on Rainbow, the style that many people seem to prefer for maximizing powder turns, or my distaste for Whistler Olympic Park and the snowmobilers around Hanging Lake.

The fastest way to the top of Rainbow Mountain is via a helicopter, and I hear it's about the same price as a Whistler lift ticket. That gets you up into the alpine within 5 minutes, and leaves you with the rest of the day to ski north facing powder runs. The second fastest way is via WOP and Hanging Lake, but then you have to deal with all the snowmobilers who love that area too. From the east, you can either go up either Nineteen Mile Creek, which we took, or Twentyone Mile Creek, which gets you to Rainbow Lake, but then you'll also have to deal with snowmobilers.

On Sunday, Tim and I went up via Nineteen Mile Creek, and then skied down the East Glacier. John Baldwin highlights this as a superb daytrip, and I would completely agree with that. This route takes you through some great old growth forest, the long rolling southeast ridge, up to the summit, a committing descent down the East Glacier, and finally through more beautiful forest at the head of Nineteen Mile Creek.

We left the car at 9:30am, from the end of Alpine Way in Whistler. Despite the fact that we were both already in Whistler, it had been a disorganized morning, after all we didn't even plan to go skiing until 10pm the night before. I'm not sure about the parking situation here, and there are only a few plowed spots, and it seems to be the front yard of some guy's house. We left a note just in case. It was sunny and warm, and I had visions on napping in the sun on the summit on a beautiful spring day, and decided to leave my goretex behind. The route goes up a logging road, also part of the Flank Trail, and we left the road approximately 1km before a bridge over Nineteen Mile Creek. We took the first overgrown spur, but I suspect the second spur might be better. The idea here is to work your way up a steep cutblock to get to the old growth forest above. Instead of taking the big switchbacks through the cutblock, Tim opted to break trail up through steep second-growth, dealing with large treewells and near-isothermal snow at the same time. It was warm, we forgot skin wax, and ended up with massive globs of snow attached to our skins. So much for the idea of having "light" skis, instead we dragged around several extra pounds of snow on each ski. Next time, take the logging road through the cutblock, I think that's more pleasant. The highlight at the end of the cutblock is this massive tree with beautiful bark.

Tim wishing we had skin wax. Trailbreaking through steep trees in the cutblock was a serious chore.

Beautiful sub-alpine terrain on the southeast ridge of Rainbow Mountain.

A short stroll through the forest then takes you up into the alpine, along rolling terrain on the southeast ridge. No snowmobilers, just two skiers and a flock of snow geese above. This route also gives you a good view of the East Glacier, most importantly a view of the steep headwall below 1800m. Don't ski over it!

Tim and a view of the East Glacier.

Soon the winds picked up, and the light winds forecasted for the day changed into strong northerly outflow winds. We passed through impressively wind scoured slopes, sastruged covered ridges, large cornices, and a massive wind cirque on the south side of Rainbow Mountain. We accidentally went too far down while trying to bypass a minor rock step. We re-orientated ourselves, and continued to the summit, constantly battling against the wind.

Tim up ahead. My IT band has been giving me grief recently so I slowly followed him.

We were on the top around 3:30pm, our high-speed quads are not quite as fast as a helicopter! Rainbow has been on Tim's list since he was fifteen, when he first spotted it across the valley from Singing Pass, so he seemed quite happy. With better snow conditions in the forest, and less wind, I think you could get up here in five hours or less. The weather showed no sign of improving, with darkening clouds on the horizon, and we didn't ski the North Glacier. I was glad that I didn't do a heli-drop on Rainbow Mountain today, as I would have been quite disappointed to pay to ski wind effected snow! We quickly took our self-propelled summit shot, hopefully MEC will use it in all their stores and website.

It was way too windy up there for me to smile. I've been wanting to take this summit shot for a while now.

We traversed back over to the top of the East Glacier. The idea is to ski down, and right, towards the toe of an obvious steep rocky ridge, without falling into some massive crevasses. The route is also threatened by cornices, but we were lucky that they had already fallen off, creating a large avalanche off of Peak 2279 that ran all the way to the valley bottom. We worked our way down the glacier, following various ramps around large wind cirques. It's quite tempting to ski left, but that puts you above the headwall and frozen waterfalls. The skiing was great, mostly boottop powder, until the bottom where the light was so flat that I couldn't see what I was skiing. I should have brought googles.

Tim skiing down the upper part of the East Glacier

Tim skiing past a a waterfall on the lower half of the East Glacier. I didn't stop to take a photo, but there was a large Class 2.5-3 avalanche behind the rock rib triggered by cornice release. The debris was mostly covered.

We finally saw snowmobiler tracks at the head of Nineteen Mile Creek, but these were nothing compared to the highpointing carnage around Rainbow Lake. The ski out through Nineteen Mile Creek was quite pleasant, rolling through beautiful old growth forest. After some quad-burning skiing on sunbaked snow on the logging road, we were back at the car by 6pm. A highly recommended and satisfying daytrip, and a nice line on the map wall!


More photos here, nothing too exciting as the lighting was quite flat all day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vantage Ridge

On Sunday, Christian Skyler Craig Matt and I skied some great snow off Vantage Ridge, a long ridge that separates Cerise and Caspar Creek.. I've skied past this area many times on the way into Cerise Creek, but this was my first time exploring the long easily-acessible runs off the ridge top. The snow quality was best on north facing aspect, and there was break-able crust on west aspects which kept us off "Cheque's in the Mail," a good looking run down an avalanche path into Cerise Creek.

Last minute phone calls were exchanged on Saturday night, with only a vague idea of where we were going skiing. We drove past the sunshine in Whistler, hoping to head to the Duffey to ski some less "Coastal" snow.

We only skied the north facing runs off Vantage Ridge, also known as the South Side. By sleeping in, we took advantage of a broken trail along the broad forested ridge until the ridge flattened out at 1900m. The skiing here was good enough to warrant coming back for more.

It had snowed all week, and then another 10cm of light-density snow fell throughout the day. This resulted in some great skiing, although a weak layer only 60cm deep stayed in the back of my mind as I skied down. Quite frequently there would be too much snow spraying up, making it a bit difficult to see where I was going.

Skyler skinning up for our third and final lap, with a view of the Duffey Lake road behind him.

A late afternoon view towards Joffre Peak.

Our last run of the day went down the east avalanche path. Although Baldwin mentions "that the small trees at the bottom are somewhat thick," we had no trouble skiing down to the cutblock.

This is what happens when you drive over a pothole at 80km/h in a near-bottomed out vehicle loaded with five guys and gear. Luckily Christian had a full-sized spare, and we made it home without further incident.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


On Saturday, Laura, Leah, Mark, Sarah and I skied some short but sweet runs on the north side of Zoa. This is one of those nice pleasant spots, with easy access, mellow slopes, and good views, and only two hours and half from Vancouver on the Coquihalla. It was unusually quiet out here today, and we saw only one other skier.

Lea touring up the mellow ridge enroute to the top of Zoa. The sun came out ocassionally throughout the day, but it was mostly a cloudy day.

Sarah enjoying the short and sweet runs of Zoa.

Mark straightlining down Zoa on his b-dizzle megafats.

Sarah found some fun skiing lower down in the trees


Mark skiing the short and sweet runs of Zoa

Darth Vader telemarks too.

Sunshine and powder. I kept hoping that the sun would poke out of the clouds for the time while skiing down.

Laura skiing off Zoa.

Lea and Laura on the way home. Zoa is the forested bump in the background. The upper half of the main runs are visible on the right side.

Great skiing, great snow, and great group.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Strachan Sunset Ski

Skiing off Strachan in perfect conditions. I don't think it gets any better.
Lisa skinning up towards the top of Hollyburn.

Afternoon lighting on the Cypress trees

Lisa skinning up with views of the city behind.

Lisa and views of Howe Sound


Light fast and fluffy powder. The best snow I have ever skied on the northshore, and ranks amongst the best this season.

Lisa skiing off into the ocean at sunset. We sure live in a beautiful place.

Great skiing terrain off Strachan when the conditions are right.

Beautiful sunset powder skiing off the subsummit of Mount Strachan. I have never gotten faceshots on the northshore until now.

Lisa skiing off into the sunset at the bottom of the Christmas gully.

Finishing off my Friday afternoon beer just outside of the ski area boundary! What an afternoon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hollyburn Lunch Patrol

Skiing powder on the North Shore. Laura, Mannie, Cashew, Justin and I went up to Hollyburn on Sunday to check out the snow conditions after seeing snow in Vancouver. I'm happy to say that the conditions up there are the best they've been all season, cold, and with lots of snow. Hopefully with all this snow, I can start doing some of the really good daytrips between Vancouver and Squamish.