Joffre Lake Prov. Park and Chief Pascall
Great powder skiing this weekend! After some bluebird alpine powder on the Spearhead Friday, we looked to the Duffey for some longer descents on Sunday and Monday.
Sunday 4/14 we had mixed weather, with clear periods giving way to graupel and ridgetop clouds, before clear and back again. We choose Chief Pascall on the Duffey for a mix of alpine features and trees to match the weather. After easy track setting through a dusting of new snow on a firm base in the trees above the highway, we were very pleased to find light powder from 2150m to 1700m and no reactive wind slabs. Skiing was excellent and face shots and white rooms were had constantly by all in our group of four. We were able to ride some of the more aggressive lines off the ridge and set a more direct uptrack to lap the terrain. We exited via the 'Equinox' route and even though skiing deteriorated rapidly below 1700m, it was decent and very likely the easiest way back to the car. One other group was present, what we didn't ski, they did, and there was no avalanche activity or signs of instability observed.
Today (Monday 4/15) we headed up to the Matier Glacier and surrounding peaks. Almost full sun for the morning and convective cloud in the afternoon. We ascended from 3rd Lake to the glacier by climbing the Slalok side of the Matier Gl. I had never done this before but I felt with the almost complete melting out of the other traditional route to the East (Moraine below Joffre SW face) it was warranted. Travel was quick and track setting was great in the new snow. Height of snow was only 75cms in the windward area where we gained the glacier but quickly grew to +2.5m above the icefall. Although we were tracing an old track, we choose to rope up for the icefall navigation.
We skied Joffre's Aussie Couloir in decent conditions around midday, skipped Matier's NW face due to some equipment issues, and exited via Slalok and the Stonecrop Glacier. In general, the snowpack felt well settled. On the South facing Aussie, a small amount of new snow overlayed a crust. By the time we were descending (around 2:30 pm) all of this had softened and made for decent skiing. By 4-4:30 pm we were watching from Slalok as numerous size 1-2 loose wet avalanches were pulling out of Joffre's steep solar terrain one every 5 mins. We choose to climb the couloir with crampons and ice axes due to the variable crusts. This lead to major balling of moist snow bellow the crampons and slow travel. Tough call, because while they helped add needed security, they slowed us down and wore us out.
Ascending Slalok we easily gained the E ridge from the glacier with skis and skins before preferring to boot pack (no crampons) up the steepest part of the exposed ridge. Once above the short steep section, it was easy skinning in light boot top powder to the summit. We skied the Stonecrop skiers left line and then through the major central chute below. Amazing powder all the way from the first turn to the exit of the chute 1000m below where we entered lower angle sun affected terrain above the lake. The exit to the highway was firm and fast, about 30mins on skis.
In summary, the snow on North-facing terrain is great and everyone should skip work this week and get some powder before it possibly rains to the roof on Thursday and the ski quality takes a hit. Never know, could be next season before it's this good again!