More from Nick Sutcliffe Canada trip - 3/4 Couloir!!!
May 14, 2012
Here is another story and pics from the last few days of Nick Sutcliffe's recent Canada trip, he took the trusty #1 SPLITN2 160 in some pretty beautiful and steep country......................
With the weather not playing nice and motivation down it was time out from the backcountry for a few days of cruising. A free day at Lake Louise helped freshen sore heads from the previous nights festivities and a bit of biking the next day gave the legs a change in tempo. Kicking Horse had closed, but I was still keen to have a look around, so skinning to the top and lapping out some upper tree runs filled in a couple more days. However, with the plane ride back to NZ just a couple of days away it felt like time was getting wasted - I was keen to get in one more trip.
Tossing around ideas, the words 3/4 couloir popped up. Dom reckoned it would be on, the weather was looking promising and we had a 3rd - Mike - who was also keen. Trusting local knowledge and the slight manic grin, I was in.
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The 3/4 couloir is at the far end of Lake Moraine, in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, Lake Louise. Its a classic line, rising about 900m in elevation and ranging from about 40 degrees lower down, to 50+ in the upper section. All good numbers - I was amped to be getting in a fun line right at the end. The 12km road from Lake Louise to Moraine was still closed so the trip had the added extra of 24km of skinning.
After the usual flurry of disorganisation we packed up the car and headed out to Lake Louise, figuring we could set off relatively late the first day, skin in and set up camp. In not far off blizzard conditions we set off skinning up the road and with quickly deepening sticky snow the skin in proved abit harder than expected - stopping every 5 mins to bash snow off heavily laden skis quickly got old and impromptu snow/ice heal risers caused the occasional curse. For the last few km's time seemed to stand still, but we eventually got to the lake in the pitch dark, set up camp, necked some hot chocolate and jumped in our bags.
The next morning dawned clear and with the prospect of fresh snow and a clear day we got into it. Its a short skin across Lake Moraine, and soon we were climbing up towards the couloir - skinning for a while, before opting to bootpack at the start of the couloir proper. From here it was just straight up, and, although runnelled in places, the conditions looked good. The scale of the 3/4 soon became apparent - we were going to be in here for some time - so we put our heads down and got on with the bootpack, stopping every so often to look around at the conditions and the awesome view across the valley. As we got to the final pitch the snow became thigh deep - a double edged sword; hard going up, but sweet going down, as long as it didn't pop on us. Lungs and legs were pretty stoked to get to the top, where we fussed around for a short while, refueling, photos, and getting the splitter ready for the trip back down.
A little wary of the potential for pop at the top I dropped in first, and those first few turned were so sweet - probably the best of the trip - then I made for a safe spot to watch my sluff charge down, before watching Mike charge down in an equally fluid manner. Nice turns. We ripped up the rest of the couloir and quickly arrived at the bottom, grinning and stoking on the line. The usual excited chatter abated as we headed back across the lake to our camp for more food, hot chocolate and packing, before heading back out on the last leg - the 12km back to the car.
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