Here’s three daytrips that I did over the Family Day long weekend in February. I wasn’t sure where to go, as I had a family dinner on Chinese New Year’s eve on the Sunday, so that left me with either an overnight trip, or three daytrips. The weather was also interesting, as it had snowed 50cm at Whistler in the past 48 hours, followed by significant warming. It was a trend for a bit in February, dry during the beginning of the weekend, followed by heavy snowfall on Friday overnight. I ended up doing three daytrips, two with Chris up to Hanging Lake and Zoa and one by myself up to Mount Seymour. Over the three days, I skied completely different snow in each area.
Heading up to Hanging Lake. Chris, being a new dad, was lacking on the sleep front. He ended up sleeping in and we had a late departure from North Van up to the Callaghan Valley. We caught up to this group breaking trail in the heavy snow just before the lake. Thanks guys!
Visibility was limited in the morning at Hanging Lake. The forecast predicted more clouds on this side of the valley, with possible afternoon clearing. There is just a short drop down to the lake here.
We tried to ski a lap on the open slopes above Hanging Lake, but the snow was too deep for the moderate angle slopes we were on. Treeline is at 1500m here, versus 1700m on the other side of the valley at Blackcomb. On a stormy day like this when you want to ski trees, sometimes Hanging lake just isn’t high enough for good snow quality. The snow was deep though, with 90cm of storm snow.
Skiing down next to the creek, with some cool pillows. We skied a lap down until the snow got heavy and went back up.
And back down, for a sub-alpine sandwich. Bacon, cheddar, kale, cream cheese and dijon on homemade sourdough bread.
Chris finding another stash of Callaghan powder. The snow on the west aspect was skiing better than the northwest aspects.
A short lap back down to Hanging Lake. Still with flat light. In the distance is a group of skiers camped out for three days. We passed them on the way up, all sporting ridiculously sized expedition packs, plus a daypack on the front too!
The afternoon clearing beginning. Too bad we had to be back down at the car for the gate closing. Last time when we skied the Rainbow traverse, we parked at Alexander Falls and skinned an extra distance to not worry about the parking restriction inside the ski area.
Chris skinning up to our last lap
Chris having fun skiing through these trees
On the way down, we linked up boulder fields south of the marked Hanging Lake trail. We followed this down, and then the creek briefly before contouring out in an old cutblock.
Catching the afternoon clearing over the Callaghan Valley in the cutblock. Not pictured is a short section of ski-whacking to get back to the ski area. Heavy rains in the preceding week had damaged the lower snowpack and melted some of the snow bridges across the creeks.
I was having trouble figuring out where to ski on Sunday. The forecast was calling for rapid warming by noon as a brief system moved in, bringing clouds and a chance of precipitation to the Coast. I looked at one model for the Coquihalla, which should partly cloudy conditions and below freezing temperatures until mid-day. We ended up picking Zoa Peak, given it’s short approach. We left east Van at 5:30am and caught a nice sunrise up on the Coquihalla at the Falls Lake turnoff.
Morning light over Thar Peak, as seen while skinning up the pipeline road.
North face couloir on Thar Peak. Super easy access for some steep skiing or snow climbing, 45-50 degrees. Today was not a good day for it though, with a crown line visible in the gut.
Dropping off a wind lip on the subsummit of Zoa Peak. It’s a gentle climb up a forested ridge from the road and there are some short 100-150m runs on the north side. We had to do a lot of short (30 minute) laps just to get enough skiing in.
Ski quality was better than yesterday, as we dropped down towards Coldwater Creek. The terrain gullies out quickly and you want to make sure you pick a good line down. Looking at a sat image beforehand lets you pick a hallway through the tree to maximize the descent.
Skinning back up towards the true summit, with Thar behind. We were skiing laps just east of the true summit though.
Interesting clouds rolling in, over the summit ridgeline of Zoa Peak. The clouds blew in quickly, mostly high. We experienced a brief hailstorm, with some graupel falling for a few minutes but that was the extent of the storm.
Lenticulars building over July Mountain
Boot top skiing in the Coquihalla Summit Recreation area
Meadow skipping on the north side of Zoa Peak. Some people might describe this as “low-angle bull-shit,” but it sure was fun that morning!
What goes up, must also go down. Down into my stomach that is. Same sandwich ingredients as the day before. More bacon, more cheese. And kale.
Our early-ish start meant we were the only ones skiing here in the morning. I could feel the temperature warming up though and the snow was getting heavier by our last lap.
Another view of Chris skiing, with Coldwater Creek below.
Last lap. We left the ridgetop at 1:00pm and had a very quick ski back out to the car. The snow on the south and east aspects had warmed up at the lower elevations, but it was still easy skiing back to the highway. We might have skied longer, but Chris had to pick up the wife and kid from the airport and I had a dinner to go to. It was still a very efficient (for me!) morning of skiing, with 1500m of elevation gain over 6 hours.
And this ended up in my stomach. Reunion dinner at my parents place.
I was in a brief food coma after this.
This was the first big warmup of 2016. I think the freezing levels went up to 3000m, with a temperature inversion. The daytime temperature was 15C on the North Shore Mountains. Balmy, but not rare as we do get a weather pattern like this most winters. All the new powder was probably cooked, so I decided to embrace the warmth by heading up to Seymour. I ended up spending more time that I planned up there, skiing and hanging out in the sunshine in shorts and t-shirt weather.
Booting up the south face of Pump Peak. Despite the warm temperatures, the angle of the sun is still low in mid-February and the snowpack held up through the day without going full isothermal.
It was a busy day up here. Mount Seymour had half-price lift tickets on Family day and parking was all the way down to the lower parking. Everybody was out here enjoying the warm winter sunshine.
It was also a good excuse to take these new skis out. They are G3 Zenoxides 88, mounted with dynafit speed superlites. I’m not sure what to make of the skis yet. I’ve only been skiing them in poor snow conditions.
A view of the East and West Lions.
And of course, the distinctive Mount Judge Howay. That north face has been skied.
I bumped in Andy and Mike Traslin on my 2nd or 3rd lap on Pump Peak. These guys have been skiing a ton here, as it’s their backyard, so no surprise to see them enjoying the snow today. The last time I checked, Andy has been up to Pump Peak 77 times this winter.
North aspects were holding up, with a thin icy crust on this slope that I skied later.
I was tempted to go for a sail in English Bay after my mid-morning ski, but somehow a short ski day turned into a full day.
I ended up skiing a lot of slush, some ice, some crust, some crud and everything in between until catching the sunset here on Pump Peak.
The south face of Meslillooet Mountain. The south ridge is a straightforward bushwhack from Norton/Joseph Lake in the summer, or so I’ve been told. Nick, Tyler and I climbed the peak via the right skyline (east ridge), accessed from the north.