TR: The Totally Not Birthday Related Rogers Pass Trip

TR: The Totally Not Birthday Related Rogers Pass Trip
December 16, 2015 Phil Tomlinson

Trip Participants: Christine, Paul OBK, Matt Breakey, Susan, Ken, Marie-Eve, David, Yann, Tyler, Phil

Location: Asulkan Valley, Rogers Pass

Conditions: About 40- cm of storm snow over some semi-consolidated storm snow from the week before with remnants of that surface hoar layer under that. Any place likely to see a combination of wind loading and surface hoar was super suspect (lee slopes behind rolls at tree line) and we had a couple of small slabs pull off.


 

Sometimes I have strokes of genius. They’re rare. But they happen. Almost a year ago I had one of those strokes of genius – I booked out the Asulkan hut for Christine’s birthday with the intention of inviting out a bunch of our friends to party in the best playground on the planet. A romantic gesture that just so happened to require me to do my favourite thing in the world – ski The Pass. Genius.

Except Christine informed me that I wasn’t to make her birthday a big deal. So I told everyone that they should come on a trip to the Asulkan hut the same day as Christine’s birthday but that it totally wasn’t related to her birthday. Genius.

My unintentional genius, exposed by a confidential informant since Paul wouldn’t have mentioned it himself, was that Paul’s birthday was right around the same time so we could celebrate his too. Genius.

Unintentional idiocy was that my company holiday party was the night before. So Saturday morning at 4am, running on a whopping three hours of sleep Christine and I showed up at the Breakeys, sorted carpools and with Matt at the wheel, Ken keeping him awake and Christine and I being terrible passengers completely comatose in the back, we headed out to the pass.

At the trail head, with a hangover just starting to make itself known, we hit the trail. The nice thing about the Asulkan is it’s a pretty quick to access hut so you can bring just about anything. My pack consisted of the usual ski-mountaineering gear plus fresh veggies to make a fresh Thai curry for 10, a box of wine and plenty of other luxuries. Marie-Eve and David hauled in two gigantic birthday cakes. Tyler hauled in a medium sized grocery store and everyone else had similar sorts of loads (I have seriously never seen so much fresh food on a trip before). We were not a super fast moving group but thanks to Matt’s trail breaking we were at the hut in a little over three hours.

After dropping stuff at the hut we split into smaller groups and with lousy vis above the hut, dove into the Tree Triangle where we found some super nice lines with decent stability.

The surface hoar layer from November is still down there in places, but the preceding week’s snow fall and following natural cycle had cleared out a lot of the danger zones (coming up the creek, anything vaguely steep had already slid), though the sparse trees on skier’s right of the Tree Triangle – legendary for suckering people into bad decisions – hadn’t popped yet.

Christine, Paul and I (team Birthday plus Phil) hit some of the more densely treed lines beside the sparse bits to suss stuff out and once we were happy with conditions, we hit some of the lower angle open lines as the sun started to die. The snow was fantastic – nice and low density firming up about 40cm down – total hero conditions.

2015-12 Christine's Birthday-8

We got back to the hut just as it got dark and the classic Asulkan wind/snow storm hit. Listening to the howling wind and feeling it rock the hut, we were stoked to be inside. Well, most of us were inside. I’d gotten Susan to go hide Christine’s birthday gift (a beacon) in a snow drift earlier in the day, so while I had a glass of wine a prepped dinner in a nice war hut, Christine braved the storm to find her gift. I’m comfortable with how that played out.

Those that had brought appetizers to share busted them out – Matt had an awesome soup, Susan had made seriously one of the best guacamoles I’ve ever tasted, there was cheese, sausage, humus, fresh veggies, fruit, huge vats of mulled wine (Yann is a master mulled wine maker), just tons of delicious stuff to eat and drink while a few of us chopped veggies for the curry. After dinner, Marie-Eve and David busted out the two birthday cakes, we sang happy birthday and whipped up another batch of mulled wine.

The next morning, we slept in as long as a pile of early risers (plus me) could, had a big breakfast, cleaned the hut (it was a disaster when we got there, we even had to re-wire the gas fire-place which looked like someone who couldn’t operate a knob had tried to ‘fix’ it) and then took off.

Half of us hit the Tree Triangle again while those with a bit more juice left in their legs and less pressing deadlines in the city hit the Triangle Moraine (confusingly similar names I know) where we found snow that was absolutely all time. It was bottomless, super light and the terrain over there is the perfect combination of steep and playful that has you laughing instead of either bored or pooping yourself. There’s tree lines, tree-line lines and wide open stuff and you can ski all three on the same lap if you want. Super nice area.

2015-12 Christine's Birthday-18

We timed our skiing just right so that we hit the cars just as we lost the last of the light and with Matt once again at the wheel, we took off. Seriously, dude’s a machine.

Way too hungry to make it home without stopping for food we hit the Island Restaurant in Golden which is a place I always forget about but seriously has awesome food. They even have a gluten-free menu for the Christines of the world. Go there the next time you’re passing through.  I had the hot and sour roasted tomatillo soup followed by the Aussie burger (has grilled pineapple, shredded beat and a fried egg on top). Frickin delicious.

With food comas offset by something like five coffees over dinner, we got back on the road and Matt delivered us back to the carpool (his front door) safe and sound.

One trip, two birthdays, shredding the GNAR in Rogers Pass, a ton of good food, mulled wine and amazing people. Genius.

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Phil Tomlinson

2 Comments

  1. Phil Tomlinson Author
    Phil Tomlinson 4 years ago

    I think that both Christine and Paul decided they would have birthdays on a roughly annual basis, so I think we’re covered 😉

  2. Matthew Breakey 4 years ago

    I know it is early season and hard to tell. However, it appears that El Nino will be a major factor this winter and all of the evidence is pointing to a slightly above average snow pack. Excellent ski conditions are now here and I’m really looking forward to the winter.
    Awesome trip Phil, Christine should have another birthday again next year. Same with Paul.

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