Who skis in June?
I’m not going to say it’s recommended or that conditions are “all-time!” But a few groups got out skiing on glaciers this past weekend and the photos on Facebook are all smiles and sunny skies.
I jumped in with a group of four who were aiming for The Sickle on Mt Victoria’s NE Face on Monday (Dyland Chen, Harley Hegnauer, Curtis Morrison and Carl Dowse). Low freezing levels and some snow over higher elevations on the weekend made it seem doable, so at midnight I sent Harley a text asking if I could join. By 1:15am we were leaving the parking lot a Lake Louise.
It’s a long walk to the snow-line right now but by headlamp you never see just how far you have to go so we were still in good spirits when we climbed the final moraines and were able to put skis on.
The Death Trap… man I hate that place. This was an easy and uneventful trip through thanks to a decent freeze, well bridged holes and a fading headlamp that prevented me from looking at the seracs overhead, but I still didn’t enjoy it.
The traverse over to the base of the Sickle from Abbot Pass was the crux of the whole operation. It was icy and lined with meter-plus deep runnels. Skinning across was not a option so we switched to boot crampons and reached the bottom of the face for first light at 5:30am. There was a minor rock step that we easily kicked up but that would make it tricky on the way down. Other than that, it was “left-right, repeat” all the way up.
The face had 10-20cm of recent snow over soft ice that you could get an edge into fairly reliably. As we topped out around 8am the surface snow was becoming moist but not yet sluffing. Partly cloudy skies made for dramatic views but we couldn’t waste too much time as the sun was packing a punch.
The first skier released most of the new snow as he went leaving a predictable, firm run for the rest of us. What do you expect this time of year? A story about blower pow? You had to ski a bit tentatively because you weren’t going to stop if you fell but it was smooth enough you could enjoy it all.
The traverse back was almost the worst part of the day as our skis wouldn’t fit in the runnels and their icy sides hadn’t softened at all. (The actual worst part was hiking through the tourists near the lake with skis on our packs. It’s tough not to seem rude when you get asked “Were you skiing up there?” for the dozenth time.)
As we shed ski boots and strapped skis to our packs for the walk back we watched numerous wet slides start washing away our tracks. We wouldn’t have wanted to be an hour later that day.
One last hot-tip if you are still thinking about getting out that way: The Lake Louise liquor store sells single tall cans and the parking lot there gets great mid-day sunshine. Enjoy!