Roger's Pass - January 7-9, 2003
(all pictures by Mike) The tail end of the shortened Wapta trip was replaced by 3 nights and 2 days based out of the Wheeler Hut in Roger's Pass. Luxurious hut, and only a handful of other people there, despite its proximity to the road.
Avalanche danger was considerable, so we didn't venture too high.
On the second day, we decided to head up to Lookout Col. We decided to use Jessica as our avalanche poodle. We followed a well-used skin track up steep, but somewhat skied out slopes, which presented no obvious avalanche danger to us. The skin track petered out and we proceeded on hard windpack. The snow above here sucked, but I wanted to at least get to the col for a view. As Corinne followed me up a solid feeling slope, Mike called up from below that Lukas and Jessica had set off a slab. I couldn't even imagine where that was, and figured it must have been small... this slope seemed bomber, so we continued across it to a flat area, where we had to go down a little ways to safely get up to the col. It was at this time I saw a fractured slope around a corner in the gully... Jessica's slab? Hmm... it was pretty sizeable, about 100ft wide.
Lukas and Jess were heading down, and after seeing this, and knowing the skiing above here sucked, Mike, Corinne and I decided to do the same. We skied down a shallow ridge between two gullies... it seemed very safe, surely not dangerous. Mike, Corinne and I skied down a short (30ft) steeper section and waited below for Jess and Lukas.
Skiing on the wind-scoured chunked up slope was difficult, so Lukas suggested Jess try some jump turns, just like Mike did in this section. She said something like "I don't know if I'm powerful enough", but did one anyway, and triggered two slabs (from a distance) on either side of the slope.
I just saw the first, and began skiing off to the right side as it broke into pieces and traveled toward me, but that was a gully, so I changed course and went left, but there was a second slab coming down there, so I went straight. The slabs didn't travel very far on the flattish terrain we were on, but you never know what they're going to do. Jessica watched as we scampered away like ants.
Soon, they stopped and everyone was fine, but we were a little miffed at what had just happened. These slopes seemed rather inocuous, and the snow was wind-scoured with old ski tracks embedded in it. Yet we kept on triggering slabs on the adjacent obviously wind-loaded sides of the gullies. They were small, not big enough to bury someone, but this place was a maze of terrain traps, and it was frightening how we had so misjudged the conditions. Yesterday we had been much more cautious where the danger was more obvious.
"That's it, I'm side-stepping the rest of the way down!" - Mike
We watched as another party skied much steeper more serious terrain, just below us where the snow was not so wind-affected. Yet another party was climbing up the innocent-looking gully directly below us.
"Get out of the gully!!!" - Corinne
"...whatever..." - confused response from skier below.
We met up with the skiers and they seemed pretty suspicious at our claims that we set off slabs.
"You mean just the wind crust broke off..."
"No, the slabs were up to a foot thick."
Lower down the snow vastly improved and we continue back to the hut without incident.