Winter has steadily been returning to our valleys. Slowly but surely the snow-line has been marching lower and lower, sweeping down the slopes to inevitably blanket our world in billions of tiny enchanting snowflakes, each and every one exhibiting singularity and astounding fractal brilliance. I love snow. Bring it on winter.
I’ve been taking advantage of the accumulating deposits of snowflakes in the mountains this fall, getting out when I can and enjoying the conditions, even when they’re not necessarily ideal. Any day in the mountains is a good day in my books.
After a long warm spell from late October until the second week of November, the weather started cooling off again, which coincided with our annual trip to Jumbo. We drove in from Toby Creek on Nov 11 and arrived to a snowless trailhead, and for the first time in the eight years that I’ve trekked into Jumbo in November, I’ve never seen such little snow in the valley bottoms of Jumbo and Toby Creeks. We hiked up for trail for 200 vertical metres before encountering deep enough snow to skin. Travel to the hut was easy on the firm base, no trail breaking required. We left the trucks at 2:30 pm and arrived at the cabin at dusk.
Saturday the 12th was warm and wet, it rained to just above the pass, up to about 2450m, but by the end of the day it started cooling and the rain began turning to snow. First time I’ve ever once encountered rain at Jumbo in November, seems like there certainly is a warming trend in the weather happening as global warming intensifies, a little concerning, our winters are becoming markedly shorter, something that was highlighted in a really interesting video I watched today on our how our mountain snowpacks are being affected by climate change (https://vimeo.com/182392548)
Sunday the 13th was an improvement, we awoke to about 6-7cms of fresh snow and absolute bluebird conditions, getting everybody stoked for a big ski-mountaineering mission. We decided to set our objective for the day on the Bastille Col, a line we’ve all wanted to ride for many years, but have never felt confident enough in snow stability to try for it. Being as it was only a small amount of fresh snow on a very solid, well bonded base our group decided it would be a good day to attempt this committing line.
We circumnavigated the entirety of Bastille Mountain, setting off from the cabin under clear skies. We skinned across the pass, and up and around Bastille, encountering some challenging travel conditions on the South side at lower elevations, riding some full on early season gnar and shredding 20cms of isothermal schmoo over rocks and logs.
It was very cool to see some new terrain at Jumbo and explore a zone none of us had seen before, the terrain on the South side of Bastille was super cool, aesthetic rock faces and nice looking lines abounded.
We made it to the col just in time, as a large dark mass of cloud threateningly approached from the west. We assessed conditions and dropped in efficiently as we all intuited that it would be precipitating imminently.
By the time we reached the bottom, the storm was upon us and it began snowing moderately, the weather gods had given us our window and we were grateful to receive their blessings. We then headed back to the hut for a massive fondue dinner, followed by food-comas for most everyone.
The storm delivered 20-25 cms to the pass by Monday morning, transforming the entire landscape into a silent winter wonderland in which we travelled with much stoke for the entirety of the day (and a night lap of cabin peak under the full moon). By the end of the day we’d ridden six quality lines in nice boot deep snow on both sides of the pass, fully getting after the awesome riding and ‘having a time’.
On Tuesday morning we rode deep unsettled powder from the cabin down to the trucks, leaving Jumbo on a high note. Another great trip to Jumbo completed. Great friends, a varied experience with the full gamut of weather, snow and cabin life made for one of the most memorable and rich experiences I’ve had at Jumbo in my eight years of visits.
Since the Jumbo trip I’ve been out several times, and the conditions have only been getting better and better at and above treeline. There’s about 120 cm on the ground at 2000m, but less than normal snowpack below 18000m. The avalanche danger has been increasing (as expected) as we receive more snow and wind, so I’ve been taking it a little more conservatively in the mountains and riding simpler terrain while it continues to dump more and more powdery goodness on our favourite slopes.
Yesterday’s (the 23rd) turns were the deepest of the year thus far, the snow in the alpine is all-time, just perfect low density powder (and fast running sluffs) and today I sit and write this, hardly able to contain how stoked I am to ride tomorrow after the forecasted 25 cms falls today. It’s getting better by the minute!
Thanks for tuning in, have a safe and snowy early season!