Monthly Archives: April 2005

Hikes, extreme and tree wells

Well it seems that the end of March/start of April is pretending to be January. We had another 43cms last night, have had flurries throughout the week and it’s been snowing heavily this afternoon. Hopefully it’s going to continue until at least Monday because that’s when I have my next day off! Actually it’s not so bad because most of the top lifts weren’t open today because of either the high winds or avalanche danger I guess… It’s funny though because it seems that every time we have a big dump of snow I have to work the next day!!! The ride up was quite interesting this morning actually because the village gondola wasn’t working so I had to ride the fitzsimmons chair wearing my normal clothes :s
Ok so to the point of my title…for my past few days riding there’s been fresh snow each time. I explained in my previous post how we hiked on blackcomb glacier for a sweet run, well this Wednesday me and Tim continued the team extreme antics on ‘Spanky’s ladder’, which is an off-piste run that requires a short hike from the top of the glacier express chair. It’s a double black diamond but there’s only a short bit that’s really hairy on the changeover from Spanky’s into one of the bowls on that side of the glacier. On this part we first ended up at a sheer drop and then, having backed out on that, we came to a traverse that was pretty steep and icy. On this part I lost my edge and slid down a little way into a rock field but fortunately I managed to dig it in before sliding too far :)
It wasn’t as bad as it sounds because I could easily pick out a line through the rocks, just it was too steep and slippery to climb back up!!! I think after that part we came down through Sapphire bowl then traversed across the mountain til we hit the glacier road which runs out back to civilization. The whole run was pretty untouched, very nice snow and pretty steep! It was a really cool route though, I cartwheeled only once, and there were some nice deeps and chutes to carve some lines through.
The next day I made it out for a 9 o’clock start, which is unprecedented for me, but we’d agreed that whoever was late had to buy a pitcher of beer so I figure that must have been an incentive. Plus we were a party of 9!! We headed up blackcomb again and went straight to the glacier for the first run. Unfortunately I think the wind had been blowing strongly across it because it was very ridged and there were big icy patches in some places that I figured could only have been caused by high winds. What should have been a really nice run was actually pretty hard work for most of the way down!! Oh well. After that we headed back up the glacier chair then cut across to the top of the crystal chair (which is to be avoided as it’s painfully slow) and did another bit of off-piste called ‘fraggle rock’. To get here was pretty easy and it only requires a short hike again, you just walk up this big mound that you can see when you start out and then head down the other side of it through a bunch of trees down a fairly steep pitch and end up back on the main routes. The guy who showed us the way lead us over a couple of small drops, one of which psyched me out a little bit cuz it looked like there wasn’t going to be enough run out but in the end I nailed it :P but he took a bigger one a bit further down that looked a bit dodgy to me but he turned out ok so that was cool.
After lunch we went over to 7th heaven to see how that was. We managed to separate into a group of 3 (including me, pete and pete’s mate from uni) and a group of 6 because I stopped to put on a jumper in a shelter at the top because it was f***ing freezing, but they got cold waiting and then pete didn’t realize which way they’d gone (although apparently they waited for us for ages further down..), so we ended up going our separate ways at this point. 7th heaven was all crusty for some reason, presumably wind again, so after one tree run over frozen crust we decided to head back over to crystal and do some more runs down there. Whilst exploring we found this unmarked black run that headed down through the trees off one of the green runs taking you back to the lifts, so we hit that a few times which was wicked fun. The second time we were heading down to the top of it off the crystal chair though we cut off to the left of the piste and somehow I missed a turn and ended up in a big tree well with the ground level around my chest.. it was incredibly difficult to climb out because every time you try to push up the snow just falls away, much like I’d imagine quicksand to be like. I was told before during my orientation that tree wells are the biggest killer in whistler, but I’m not a believer in heading out of bounds on your own anyway and I carry a whistle in case of emergency!! Anyway, I called down to the other guys that I would be down in a minute and eventually managed to clamber out. About 5 metres further along though my board decided not to agree with me about which direction we were going in and I fell into another bastard tree well :) this one wasn’t as deep but it was equally hard work to climb out of because this time I was facing the tree.. I had to scrape all the snow off the top of my board with my hands because it was sooo heavy to lift up!!! All was good though and I eventually emerged and collapsed to the amusement of my companions.
So this concludes my latest installment! Hopefully it’ll continue this way until I’m set to leave, just don’t know why it’s chosen to do this right at the end but what the hey. We’ve waited long enough..

Speak soon amigos :)

johan rippey X