Mountaineering season is here! After a fine winter with a lot of snow up high, the alpine routes on the South Coast are getting into great shape now. Time to pull out the ice axe and crampons and head for the hills!
Whether you are heading out for a day-trip to a local scrambling objective, or a multi-day adventure into the Waddington Range, it is always a good idea to consider a few important aspects of alpine travel before you embark into the mountains. Below are a few suggestions on topics to think about while planning your alpine adventures this season:
- Avalanches and Cornices – It may feel like summer, but winter conditions – and more importantly, winter hazards such as avalanches and cornice failures – are still a big concern at this time of year. There may not be the same amount of information for Avalanche Hazards available, so be extra cautious when venturing into the alpine at this time of year. Warm temperatures are the biggest culprit and can lead to avalanches on both surface layers, and possibly still wake up old buried layers from mid-winter. Treat all slopes with caution and pay attention to warming, especially in the afternoon.
- Glaciers are changing – Call it what you will, but times are a changing in our mountains and changing fast. On our glaciers, many new features are appearing and old, well establish features are vanishing. Do not expect a glacier to be the same as what you see in Guidebooks, on maps, or what you may remember from personal experience in the past. A prime example is the standard access onto the Anniversary Glacier from the Cerise Creek side. The initial basin that was typically filled with a “permanent” snowfield, has now receded and opened up into a chaotic and very dangerous zone with crevasses, icefall hazards and hidden creeks underneath. None of this existed 5 years ago.
- Spring storms – Every spring we are lured into the mountain expecting summer conditions, only to be walloped by a big pacific storm dumping a lot of snow in the alpine. Watch the weather and stay away from big alpine features until any new snow has cleared off and rock fall and avalanche hazards have diminished.
- High water levels in Creeks – With warming weather comes rising creeks and rivers. Don’t forget that getting to and from the mountains can often be the biggest challenge! Pay attention to water levels, especially in the afternoon on descents when the snow pack has been melting all day in the hot sun.
- Skills practice and refresher – Refresh your technical rope skills and crevasse rescue techniques. This is a great time of year to devote some time to practice your Rescue Skills, self arrests and rope systems. Check out our Canada West Mountain School Crevasse Rescue Course – Crevasse Rescue
Canada West Mountain School offers the full range of Mountaineering Courses and Guided Alpine trips, and feel free to call for more information on setting up a Private/Custom climb or course.