Paul OBK and I have been organizing a trip for the ACC Calgary Section for the last few years that we call the Rogers Pass Trip for People Scared of Rogers Pass. It's sort of a tongue-in-cheek name, but the reality is, while you may not need to be scared of it, everyone should treat Rogers Pass with some serious respect.
Rogers Pass couples huge, complex terrain with probably the most difficult to manage bonus hazard - a ton of people. You need to be considering not just the snow, terrain, weather and other usual variables, but you need to be be acutely aware of what other parties might be up to.
Case and point on this one is the Michalchuk brothers. Dan and Stephen were riding Avalanche Crest when the met up with another party. The went first and rode a super nice looking line. The party above then accidentally triggered a convex roll which propagated into a beefy class 2.5 slide. Dan was seriously injured and with poor visibility, SAR couldn't get to them right away. Dan recovered, but if you read his interview on BigLines, the magnitude of the shittyness is readily apparent.
Anyway, Paul and I run a trip every year where we take a group of ACCers who are reasonably strong and experienced skiers, but have maybe only been venturing into simpler avi terrain and take them out for the weekend. The idea behind the trip is that Paul and I, who've spent a bunch of time in Rogers Pass, can talk about how we (two amateurs) try and mitigate the hazards and use various tools like Doug Sproul's map to mitigate both the terrain and the other parties.
This year, we had a really awesome group join us. Darren, Tyler, Candice, Adam, Wayne and Myndi were all strong resort skiers with varying levels of experience in the back country. The unifying thread between them was a healthy sense of apprehension about Rogers Pass.
Friday night we drove out to the Asulkan parking lot, dumped the cars and toured into the Wheeler Hut. We then spent some time looking at maps and discussing our plan for the next day - identifying the hazards and mitigation strategies we'd employ.
We woke up decently early and were skinning by the time the sun started to valiantly try and rise despite the heavy cloud cover. The plan was to skin up to the Asulkan Hut. We would use an early start to mitigate hazard from other parties, and strategic rest stops, decision points and party spacing to mitigate objective hazard from avalanche slopes the route crosses. The stability was actually pretty good, but we wanted to treat it like the bulletin didn't say it was a great day for big objectives.
The tour up was a piece of cake and while we did get passed by a couple of parties, it turned out we were friends with the both and had quick chats about our various objectives so we all knew where we were headed.
The great thing about an Asulkan Hut weekend is that you can blast up to the hut, drop all of the heavy stuff, have some lunch, and then get some laps in the afternoon with lighter packs. We headed above the hut and as a team decided on an uptrack to the shoulder of the Pterodactyl. The ride back to the hut was the sort of white-out 'ski-by-braille' fun you so frequently find in the Rogers Pass alpine mid season.
Back at the hut I commented to Paul that I was hoping we'd get the classic Asulkan weather combo of puking snow and winds that make you wonder if the hut's going to stay on it's foundations and sure enough - Rogers Pass delivered.
Tons of food, some mulled wine and more pouring over maps while the wind howls outside takes up only so much time so it was an early night. Once again Sunday we were up and out the door as the sun rose. The wind had scoured away any falling snow so facing the prospect of wind affected snow above the hut, we decided to drop down in to the tree triangle and see if the weather had been kind enough to deposit the snow there.
Despite a little bit of wind slab near the hut, as soon as we hit the trees, it was unconsolidated, blower powder. A quick pit and an extended column test (ECT) confirmed our assessment and bulletin's assessment that the primary concern would be loose sluff. We then picked a couple of lines, split into two teams of four and banged out a couple of laps in pretty fantastic conditions.
Eventually we decided we needed to start thinking about getting back to the cars so we toured back up to the hut, had some lunch and then cleaned up and swept the place down.
A wise man once told me 'Never leave good snow in search of better snow' - so we briefly debated skiing the same aspect down to the mouse trap. Ultimately though, given the nature of the trip we decided we'd take the line skier's left of the tree triangle. It's a different aspect and we were interested to see if that would result in some slab or if it would remain unconsolidated. We figured if it was slabby, we could retreat back to the lines we'd skied that morning.
Once there though, it was more perfect powder so we progressively worked our way down to and then through the mouse trap before a brief slog took us back to the cars.
The whole weekend was pretty fantastic. We had a great group who were active in discussions, we had one of the best huts around to stay in and to top it off, blower snow with good stability on the aspects we were playing on. Hard to ask for more than that.
Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.