The day started out like the opener to a bad joke: An Englishman, a French-Canadian, and a half-Filipina pile into a car… This time last year, a different set of buddies and I went for the couloir on Storm Mountain in Kananaskis Country, but after some sketchy switchbacks and digging a pit, we decided to pull the pin that day. Fast-forward to this year: I wondered if the same fate lay ahead of us as we discussed our objective from the car, but I was also very excited at the prospect of finally bagging it. It was the second ski tour of the year for each of us, and although a tad rusty and a little out of shape, it didn’t take us long to set a good pace as we followed a very obvious up track – set a couple days earlier by a pair of local legends.
After some minor river crossings, we arrived at a rock garden where we were quickly reminded that it’s still very much early ski season in the Rockies. Man it looks steep. Since Mikey’s skins looked like he used them as toilet paper, both he and Vince kept their skis on to traverse the field of moraine debris. I took mine off, obviously, to test the Vibram grip on my new AT boots and, let’s be honest, because my skins are way too pretty for that! As we started up the steep switchbacks with skis back on, the three of us kept sliding out. I had a bit more purchase than the boys, so I kept going while Mikey put his skis on his back and started the boot-pack early. Behind me, for every two steps forward, Vince took a step back and as I struggled I thought to myself: “Why didn’t I bring my ski crampons?” After some of the most graceful kick turns of my ski touring career, I gave up and took my skis off in preparation for the climb. The boys joined me shortly thereafter, and we had a snack break and discussed our approach.
Perched on an upside ski, I took a sip of my herbal tea and couldn’t help but feel total happiness as I took in the surrounding peaks that we had all to ourselves. And then there’s nothing quite like the halting sensation of a full bladder to break the peace – not bad, considering I’m usually on my fifth pit stop of a tour by now. Gents, you really have no idea how lucky you are. Popping a squat in minus whatever on a 40 something degree slope with quads that are already burning, hoping that you’re not unknowingly flashing someone, getting frostbite on your lady bits, or accidentally getting wee on yourself ain’t easy, folks! With an empty bladder and a newly restored level of stoke, I met up with the boys and since I was the only one with crampons, I took the lead all the way up. Funny, it looked way steeper from afar.
At one point early in the climb, I stopped to take a selfie – as you do – and I looked back to see the boys exhausted from punching through and fighting against the snow. After a water break and some amping ourselves up, we carried on, hugging the side and eventually booting straight up the guts. Fatigue started to set in during the last third of the boot-pack as the plunge of my axe was met with the sound of metal on rock and my steps began to puncture the crust. I yelled down to the boys to tell them that I was working pretty hard, and Mikey said: “If you’re punching through, I’m not looking forward to when I get up there.” Finally, the warmth of the sun kissed my cheeks as I topped out and I let out a loud “Yew!” in between deep breaths. I turned around to cheer on the boys as they came out of the shade and joined me.
Exhausted and stoked, we sealed our triumph with an enthusiastic high five and a mini photo shoot.
It didn’t take long for the chill to set in, so we turned over into ski mode and decided that we would yoyo (read #yolo) down. Oh yeah, she’s steep. The suspicions we had during the climb were confirmed as I dropped in first: this is awful! After some heart-pumping jump turns and dodging my pebbly slough, I pulled off to the side and signaled up to Mikey that he was ok to drop in.
I was relieved when he joined me and admitted that he was hurting because my legs were on fire! Didn’t I spend the summer hiking and climbing? Like nails on a chalkboard, we watched as Vince skied past us and sat down for a rest where the couloir fans out. Once reunited, we shared a couple fist pumps and admissions of stoke mixed with pain, and we planned our exit strategy.
Remembering that it’s still November and trying to avoid sharks, we made our way back to the car just in time to make my yoga class, for Vince to get to work, and for Mikey to pick up his car from the auto shop. Overall, it was a very successful and fun day, and I’m pumped to have finally nailed it. For now, though, I’m going to wait for more snow and better conditions because if living in the Rockies has taught me anything, it’s patience.