Apr 24, 2015
Paul and I went for a ski tour out to Fissile Peak last Saturday. There’s not much to write about this popular ski destination, but I’ll add some information that you might find useful if you’re heading up there this spring.
Officially, the gondola starts at 10am, but you can usually get on it by 9:30am. I didn’t mind the late start. We stopped at Pure Bread which opens at 8:30am, and each walked out with $15 of pastries to power our day. The backcountry ticket is $58.50 with tax, which is just slightly cheaper than the spring pre-purchase ticket price of $63. The latter option might be worthwhile if you want to do a few laps inbounds, and then head out to the Russet Lake hut for the night.
We took the quickest way out to Fissile, which involves a skins-on descent from Flute towards Oboe, over Oboe, and then southeast towards Singing Pass. The forecast was for clouds with sunny breaks, and freezing level at 1800m. There was 10-15cm of new snow, but it was already getting sun-affected. I think the freezing levels were also high at the end of the storm, resulting in heavy moist snow on most aspects.
The clouds came in and out, staying cloudy for the boot pack up the southwest face of Fissile. I was getting bad snow build up on my skins, and I forget my globstopper at home. I was happy when we got to the boot pack. I brought an ice axe and aluminum crampons anticipating icy conditions on the melt-freeze crust on the face. The melt-freeze crust was supportive, with isothermal snow below that. I was happy to have crampons, but Paul was fine without. You can decide if it’s worth carrying the extra weight.
Paul wanted to ski Saddle Chute. Actually, he wanted to ski Elevator Shaft, but I thought that was out of the question today. The boot pack popped us out at the top of the Northwest Face, and we continued up to look at Saddle Chute. There was a big 10-15ft cornice on it. With flat light from the clouds rolling through, it wasn’t a good idea for today.
The steeper roll at skiers right had sluffed off and didn’t look look good skiing. We continued down the ridge to the left and then dropped in, slightly lower angle, and better snow. It wasn’t bottomless powder though. The 15-20cm of new snow barely covered up old debris from the sunny warm days in the previous week. The upper face skied well, but the snow was gloppy and heavy by the time we we were traversing out left towards the moraine.
We both needed the extra exercise, so we went up for another lap on Banana Chute. I was worried that the south face was now too warm at 2:30pm. But the clouds kept the direct sun off the face. We followed old steps that had frozen solid, making for a very quick climb to the ridge line.
From below, the line didn’t look great. There was evidence of wet snow avalanches running off the rocks into the bowl. But to my surprise, the skiing was great. Even better than the Northwest Face, with smooth spring powder all the way to the bottom.
The tradeoff of skiing another lap was missing the last gondola down from mid-station (4pm). This wouldn’t be an issue in the normal year when you can just ski down the Singing Pass trail, but now we had to go back over the Musical Bumps. I’m used to this routine by now. The snow ends abruptly 100m before Mid-Station. Sometimes you might try to ski through the last patches of snow, making marginal gains for high consequences of hitting a rock. But today, the snow line was unmistakable. I strapped the skis to my pack, and made the painful 2.5km walk down in my skis boots to the village. Next time, I’m bringing shoes in my pack if I do this again.