Here in Revelstoke, like almost every other area in Western Canada, we have been suffering from some unusually warm temperatures for mid February, caused by a Pineapple Express (the weather phenomenon not the film!). Unfortunately these mild temperatures have been followed by cold snaps which have partially melted and then re-frozen the powder snow we’d been enjoying, to form every skiers nightmare – a solid crust.
A bit of ice now and then is part and parcel of life for every skier though, so we weren’t going to let the snow conditions get in the way of a good day out and what a cracking day it was! Myself and Tom McIntosh, a friend originally from Australia now spending his time in Revy, had made plans to tackle one of Revelstoke’s classics – Mount Macpherson, looking down over town at just over 2400m.
The tour starts from the Nordic Ski Centre located about 7.5kms out of town, directly across the valley from the ski hill. The initial approach is very easy going as it involves taking one of the nicely groomed trails out about 2kms till you reach the backcountry trail head, marked by a CAA ‘Avaluator’ sign. We followed the trail over a meandering creek until we saw a skin track leading off into the woods. The skin track zigzagged up to the side of a drainage ditch until we reached the bottom of a fan of avalanche paths, known locally as The Fingers.
Standing at the bottom looking up is pretty impressive. These avalanche paths are roughly 700m top to bottom and go from a mellow incline at the bottom to an almost vertical gradient as you approach the top. Usually they can be ascended by skinning up through the trees either side of the middle finger, but at times when the avalanche risk is low it is possible to boot-pack straight up. Although debris could be seen from last natural avalanche cycle as we looked up the mountain, the recent warm/cold weather spells had consolidated the snow pack resulting in the risk of avalanche being rated as low to moderate, so we opted to boot-pack.
With the temperature hovering around -5°C my Gore-Tex Norrøna Lofoten pants and jacket shell combo was the ideal outfit for the task, which generates a fair amount of heat! Both pieces have excellent ventilation down either flank so I was able to regulate my temperature easily as and when required – essential qualities for a day touring in the mountains.
We may have been caught in the shade of the mountain but elsewhere the sun was beaming down with not a cloud in sight, offering us stunning views down the valley towards the ferry crossing at Upper Arrow Lake and north past Revelstoke dam. Unfortunately for us, a combination of the poor snow conditions, terrain pitch and lack of crampons/ice axe forced us to cut the trip short.
We had reached the top of The Fingers, but were unable to climb the last 20m or so up onto the ridge line, where our goal was then to continue on up to the summit before coming down a steep chute of 1300m named The Womb. So we clipped into our ski’s on a rather precarious wee ledge I’d fashioned with my shovel and began our descent back down The Fingers, taking in the beautiful views across the valley before bushwhacking our way back to the car.
The snow might not have been up to much, but with such beautiful weather, the trip was definitely worth our while. With nothing but clear sunny days in the forecast it certainly feels like spring is in the air, but we live in hope that some epic snowfall is just around the corner! It’s mid February, winter can’t be over already… can it?!
Ali Livingston is one of our Norrøna ambassadors. Read all about him here.
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