Coming up short on Rogers Pass

Coming up short on Rogers Pass

Splitboarding Rogers Pass December 24-25, 2017

It is always a gamble planning a location in advance in the Vancouver area because when a six-hour drive is your radius cutoff, you have a lot of world class options. It’s just as hard knowing the cold short days and week old moderate stable snow would mean no bad choices between zones. With cult leaders M&M and friends agreeing to brave the christmas freeze down with us, we headed to Rogers pass and the Revelstoke area.

We had a day to scope the once familiar Baloo Pass from the Discovery Centre at Rogers Pass, which we chose again to stay familiar on Cheops. This scope mission would pay off in the end but more in inspiration and confidence than overall snow quality. Between the morning van thaw, packing my disorganized everything bag into my daily driver and always wishing I could find one more baselayer or left glove, Heather’s patience wore thin with good reason. A prompt 10:30 start, 10:32 layer up, 10:39 layer down and 10:50 total meltdown it was clear my day was going to be a hot freeze mess in which I test gore-tex’s ability to wick frosting moisture from itself and just how good a pack goose down does when lightly damp. Both impressed me but my socks did not. Having driven by the storage unit solely to get expired to warmers and leave them in the van would be a tactical error to haunt my ego and my toes for the remainder of the afternoon.

 

After a cheerful banter and soft snow seeming ready on all faces we finally reached a sunspot to regather our scale as Cheops always fools me with how long the valley really is. Our previous trip up this pass came with a few of our highlight lines in Canada so it came with some big shoes to fill. After a beautiful skin up the back sunny face of Cheops and adding another line to our shredlist for next trip our inflated experience quickly popped into reality with my approach to the previous entry point to feel that soul crushing “did we hike this for frozen wind crust?” The styrofoam creak across my skins and hair raising scratch of ice across my edge backed me up quickly. The risk of not doing all your homework, wind scoured cold pow would provide a disappointing but still fun ride down. Not having the time or knowledge, it was tough to tell which won at the time.  To safely get to the next line up and back, we took a safe route through the upper basin and hoped the second half of the ride would be smoother. As the shadows became sun zones and basin took a turn so did the snow. We had gone from riding dip dots of velcro fighting for speed to fantastic cold smoke in just three turns.

Taking advantage of the stable snow we trenched the line and had little sluff to deal with this time around. Hearing the camera squeal in mercy trying to focus on heather as an object in motion was a reminder to my numbing fingers was a good audible reminder you keep this brief and always keep moving. With that being the model of the day we briefly hugged and began the 30 yard swim across to the track out. The frozen sweat built up inside my jacket turned to soggy frustration on my neck and we were free.

Some funky boot packing, one footing and bobsled turns and we were back at the car within an hour. A slow warm up and total shutdown hunkered in my big jacket left me unhuman until a later burger. The van reached a tolerable temperature after a solid half of the drive as we arranged to meet the gang at the famous “village idiot bar” where we would realize it’s Christmas eve and finding a place to eat may be a challenge when my appetite reappears after the great thaw. A pint of Faceplant winter ale and indoors of the idiot we left them to their early closing and settled on some generic high ceilinged restaurant at the mountain. Once being offered every upscale on the menu and paying extra $1.50 for cheddar my overpriced triple O’s arrived half stale butter shined bun and all, needless wouldn’t be going there again.

For all the disappointments of yesterday’s meal our energy started on a high note, as it always does when the van starts at -20c. With one rental split and two other first timers to Rogers, we had chosen Video Peak as a good intro and had plenty of beta from the day before. After some vehicle problems with the Cult leaders truck we settled with a 10:30 start and strolled past the abandoned lodge for a cold hour of valley touring. The trouble with December trips is daylight is not long, especially for a delayed start.

 

With a less than eventful first skin moves for our beginner the day would move quicker with a high learning curve. After a few feedings and realizations that the peak is not coming as fast as expected the objective was no longer seeming feasible. Light, group dynamics and circumstances left us with one smart choice, make the best of the run we had. Fortunately short of video peak offers a basin with a nice few dozen sunny turns before turning into the survival bushwack. After a few close calls between trees, riders and exhaustion the exit was just in time to catch the last bit of useful sunlight. Arriving to happy warm dogs, working cars and a formulating plan for dinner was a joyous ending to our Christmas Rogers Pass trip, maybe one day we will see more than Balu Pass but we did leave video peak untouched and need redemption on Cheops.