Good Friends, Blue Skies, Deep Powder and The Element of Risk.
A backcountry tour is never a boring adventure. This day was one of those days that many a backcountry enthusiast would never want to encounter.
It started with a gorgeous inversion day. The valley was blanketed with cloud while the skies above were blue beyond belief. The temperature was perfect – cool enough not to cook but warm enough not to require heavy clothing. Brad, Richard and Eddie, (that would be me), set out to shred “Hogs Heaven” – (H. H.) which is located on Indian Ridge. It can be seen from the top of the Paradise Chair on Marmot Basin.
We decided to access Whistler Creek from the Knob Peak instead of heading up the creek via the parking lots at Marmot. We were lucky as the Marmot Ski Patrol were doing avalanche work and opened the “Peak”, allowing us to ski the back side. The hike up the “Peak” was steamy as the sun was beating down. Once on the top we checked our “beacons” before descending into Whistler Creek. Finally the pay-off begins: deep, soft powder and solitude as we explored the virgin run in POW. From the hollow we peered back at the pristine tracks in the snow. From here we slipped on our skins and headed up the “H. H.” Breaking trail, Brad led us up in no time.
After soaking up the view and “inhaling” lunch we climbed nearer to “Heaven”. With clouds rolling in we decided to abort the summit and descend immediately. Our initial path took us, fortunately, to the left or west of a steep pitch where, in our excitement and enthusiasm, we managed a mid-slope collision. When the laughter and snow had subsided Brad and Richard resumed the assault. Within seconds I heard a resounding “WHOOMPH“!!! After a quick glance at the “roll” above, which we had avoided, I followed. Suddenly reality set in – “AVALANCHE, AVALANCHE!!!” I screamed.
The only thought that raced through my mind was to outdistance this THING. I tensed my stance and tucked down the hill as the top of the mountain came in hot pursuit. Focusing on the fall line and pushed by panic my speed eliminated all possibility of turning. Time seemed paralysed as I soon crashed into the bushes far below. From a distance I heard, “Are You Alright? Are You Alright?” Brad was yelling that I had cleared the path of the avalanche. I peeked back and saw my tracks emerge from the wash a few metres behind me. With a sigh of relief I headed off to join the others.
After debriefing and recording the event we returned to Marmot Basin to view the avalanche from the top of the Paradise Chair. After appropriate “Toasting” a class TWO slide, we thanked our lucky stars for the harrowing experience.
Access: From third parking lot of Marmot Basin (Whistlers Creek Access) or over the peak from the Knob Chair
From Jasper: Approximately 25 minutes drive
Trailhead: parking lot
Distance: 6 Kilometers, approx. 3 – 4 hours
Elevation Gain: approx. 600m
Activities: Back Country Skiing