Becoming a Better Guide - Part 3

After six days of day tours and failed attempts to experience helicopter operations, it was time to head a little further afield.  Our printed itinerary - to ski the Spearhead Traverse over the course of three days - meant preparing for three days of whiteout navigation, glacier travel, and not skiing the many peaks that we'd be passing in the white, which was the whole point of taking three days to ski 18 miles.

So, what's Plan B?

One feature of the Canadian outdoor experience that I truly value and wish we could import to the U.S. is the extensive use of huts.  I want to write about this later, so for now lets just say that in almost every drainage along the Sea to Sky Highway, from Vancouver to Lillooete, there is a hut just a days hike or tour in from the road.  Evan announced our new plan:  to tour into Keith's Hut, at the foot of Mt. Matier, to spend two nights touring and skiing the surrounding peaks.

We drove up the highway, now fully familiar with the best coffee shops to stop at on the way.  Just outside of Squamish is Bean Around The World, in Brackendale, with incredible sandwiches and good coffee.  Just as the travel-mug reaches bottom we reach the Mt. Currie Coffee Company in Pemberton, with fantastic pastries.  Top off the caffeine tank and we're good to go.

photo Evan Stevens
A fantastically mellow approach brought us up to the Anniversary Glacier and Keith's Hut on a spectacularly sunny day, the second sunny day of the course!   We decided to make the most of the weather, tossing our overnight gear inside the hut before climbing for another half hour to make an incredible powder run on north facing slopes behind the hut.  In the early evening we all built emergency shelters, just to prove we could, before staying up late making plans for the next day.

skiing the Anniversary Glacier
Danny's Knob / photo Evan Stevens
Of course, Plan A was scratched the minute we reached the Matier-Anniversary Col, with minimal visibility, winds, and fresh snow.  Instead Danny, Matt, Evan and I headed over to climb and ski a smaller neighbor, toured out onto the Matier Glacier before finally doubling back to the Col.  I found leading the group down the Anniversary Glacier in complete whiteout conditions a huge challenge.  I could barely discern a horizon to the left, but I couldn't tell how far away it was.  I could barely make out the ridge rising up to the right, but I'd loose that reference every time I made a left turn.  Sometimes I looked down at my skiis and realize that I had pulled into a complete stall.  Oops.  Dowhill is that way.  About halfway down, my confidence began to improve - and soon so did the light.  I have to say that the descent of the Anniversary may have been my favorite ski of the season!

The next day we hoped to climb up the Twin One Glacier, but some incredible hanging seracs - including a hanging ice-field on the SW face of Matier that no one anticipated, convinced us, once again, that Plan B was a better option.  Up to the shoulders of Vantage Peak to ski laps, including one incredible run from "Danny's Knob" as we nicknamed one objective, before climbing back to the hut to pack up and clear out.  We skied one last run out and then slid/skated/glide down the skin track back to the cars.  That night we drank an extra beer or a glass of wine.  The Aspirant Examination was officially over.