Gun-Barrels and Exploration on McGill Shoulder

Continuing my weekend with Yann, Marie-Eve, and Christine, after a great day skiing Hermit, the next day we decided to go take a look at the Gun-Barrels on McGill shoulder.

McGill shoulder is an area I traditionally avoid just because it sees so much traffic. Luckily, last Sunday the weather was all sorts of miserable in that area with strong winds and plenty of blowing snow which meant we only ended up seeing one other party. The second upshot is that with the westerly nature of those howling winds, it wouldn’t be loading the area we were headed so we felt we could go take a look without freaking ourselves out too badly.

Howling wind, sideways snow, all that good stuff

We quickly toured up the ridge and it was an exercise in misery management. Blasting snow was doing it’s best to find every gap in our shells so breaks were spent huddled behind trees any time we needed to reassess.

Ducking behind trees to get out of the wind to reassess our location and plan

Once higher up and getting closer to the Camp West area, we decided to adapt our plans to conditions. The blowing snow was loading the Camp West area in a big way and we wanted to avoid the very top of the Gun-Barrels as we weren’t really thrilled with the idea of dropping into the line straight off the ridge. Instead, we opted to traverse in about 100m below the top of the line. As we ripped skins and started to traverse into the line, another party passed us continuing up higher the ridge. I hate having parties above me, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

As soon as we got off the ridge and into the trees, the winds disappeared and we discovered some incredible snow. There are two Gun-Barrels and once we’d traversed to the first one, we discovered that it had been well and truly tracked out the day before. It wasn’t the end of the world - wind had filled the tracks back in so it would still be a nice, but choppy line.

Faceshots on demand

Still conscious of that other party, we decided that we’d continue traversing and go check out the second Gun-Barrel. The hope was that the other party would ski the first one and we’d be somewhat protected by the trees between the two lines. In retrospect, I should have stopped them as they went by to ask which line they were planning on skiing.

When we made it over to the second one, we discovered that while the first Gun-Barrel was tracked out, the second one was absolutely pristine. The reward for traversing an extra 50m through the trees was a 500m chute of untouched snow. It was probably the best snow I’ve had so far this season.

Yann nuking down the Gun-Barrel

As a group we leap frogged each other down the chute. The snow wasn’t so deep that we were choking, but it was face-shots on-demand. Nice light knee-deep powder slowly built in density making for absolutely hero conditions.

So much perfect snow

At the bottom of the north Gun-Barrel, we ducked into the trees to have some lunch. Christine and Marie-Eve elected to ski out to the car and Yann and I went and explored the area just north of the Gun-Barrels. UP around the ridge-top things were extensively wind scalloped, so we ducked deeper down into the trees to get back to more protected snow. It was beauty, wide open tree skiing. There aren’t an infinite number of lines over there, but a small party could easily spend an afternoon lapping the area without having to cross tracks.

The Gun-Barrels are a super fun feature that I’d be super stoked to lap again in the future when I get the right combo of decent snow and limited other parties. A 500m chute bisecting beauty glades is pretty darn hard to complain about.

Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.