Philip, Olek, Annie, and I headed up on the 30th. We left Vancouver a full two hours after everyone else, but none the less, reunited at the trailhead with the big crowd. Breanne was supposed to be coming from across Birkenhead Lake, but she hadn’t appeared, leaving the rest of her group dazed and confused. Carrying a big pack filled with goodies, and plenty of alcohol, we made our way up the logging road. This went surprisingly fast. Jacob lost a basket in the snow and this seems to have made things a little more annoying. Olivier had two backpacks filled with god-knows-what. Somebody offered to take some weight and he handed them roughly 1kg of fresh oranges…
I took the rear on the way up to the hut, chatting merrily with Jacob, whose lack of a basket was causing him trouble, and Olivier, whose two backpacks were causing him some trouble. It went entirely uneventfully. Eventually I took one of Olivier’s packs, and we continued up the trail. Once we hit the lake I B-lined it across, as I was feeling the weight of two packs crushing my feet.
That night was merriful, but not too long lasting. Eventually I got tired and decided that the hut was too hot, humid and noisy for me. So I set up my sleeping bag in the snow outside, and found a soft warm place to sleep. It was warm to start out with, but as the night progressed, I kept adding layers. At about 5 I finally put on my down jacket, but it kept riding my midsection, so at 5:30 I declared the whole thing to be silly, so I went inside and slept on the table for the next hour and a half. I had an easy time getting up the next morning with everyone trying to cook around me.
A group of us headed out to check out the Aragorn Glacier. We passed around a corner, revealing the amazing face of Aragorn. THAT looks like a fun climb! We took our time, and did a few interesting detours, including scrambling up the side of a rocky moraine, and found ourselves at the edge of the glacier with not a lot of time to go before our turn around time. So we mosied on down, getting fantastic powder skiing and a lot of fun, to an interesting lake. We skinned up a ridge below Shadowfax, and skied our way down. From there we got an excellent powder run in the trees down “Shadowfax Creek” (I’m calling it that solely because it’s the creek below Shadowfax, and calling it “that creek” is unhelpful). Anyhow, it was a fantastic run. I have never tree skied before so I followed somebody else’s line. It seems that everyone did this. After the awesome run, we got to the bottom to meet Alfred, who immediately pointed out that “it must not have been fun, since [we] all followed the same line”. D’oh.
A fast and fun run later down Cabin Hill, we were all pumped up enough to begin the festivities! All sorts of amazing food happened… Olivier had roughly 2kg of Gruyere, some wine, some Fois Gras which *cough* he *cough* had carried up (it was delicious, and entirely worth the weight! ) We drank quite a bit of alcohol (maybe a bit too much ><). About half an hour before midnight someone suggested going for a run down Cabin Hill. I think that when you’re a little bit drunk you are a little bit better at everything. I certainly felt like a pretty good skier at that point, going off jumps and over pillows and such. :P We arrived back at the hut just in time for the traditional naked run. Gili said something about the trail breaking being crotch deep, but I did break trail, and it was only, like, knee deep! Happy new year!
We went to sleep, I figured that maybe I’d had a little too much to drink, and we all slept like rocks, despite a little bit of nausea and other consequences of drinking.
The next day (New Years) was hilarious in retrospect. Olek, Tim, Veenstra, and I went out to explore. I was feeling a little bit *cough* under the weather *cough* but I pushed hard anyways. Trying to be High Output after not being able to eat breakfast, with the persistent taste of vomit in your mouth is something everyone has to experience once. It turned out to be a good day, though I think my, *cough* slowness *cough* wasn’t hidden too well. >< Anyhow, at some point I began to envision the taste of delicious fresh orange juice. This thought kept me fully motivated throughout the rest of the day.
We went basically in the same direction as we’d gone the previous day, only this time, stopping only at the lake below Aragorn to dig a pit and collect some water. Whew. We got onto the ridge above Copp Creek and could see… nothing. So we followed the ridge towards Aragorn. I didn’t really know where we were. Usually I have my map and GPS in hand, but not this time. The terrain was interesting, with occasional scrambling or survival skiing mildly difficult terrain (easier in retrospect). We headed up a super windy, flat-ish area. The light was so flat and the whiteout so bad that as I was walking along I would occasionally walk straight into a wind lip and trip on it, completely by surprise. Eventually I noticed the Aragorn summit block, which I’ve seen pictures of, and instantly knew where we were. I find it pretty amusing that I basically had no idea I was climbing Aragorn until we hit the summit.
We couldn’t see anything. If I didn’t know what the block looked like I wouldn’t believe we were standing on a mountain, especially not the one we’d seen as an incredible face from the other side. We spent a while trying to climb it (the block, not the face :P). It was covered in rime, all the features had filled with ice, and our gloves and goretex were too slippery to do the boulder problem. So we lifted each other onto the summit! Yay! The descent was marked by a leap of faith into powdery snow (again, off the block, not the face :P).
We headed back down the windy ridge (I didn’t know it was a ridge at the time). It seemed to pass really quickly this time. I saw Veenstra, Tim, and Olek hug the rock down onto the glacier and considered going straight over the snow. I decided not to do that, and when I got to the other side noticed that what looked like a mellow snow descent was actually a giant cornice! We stood on steep ice, in crazy windy conditions and tried to pull our skins off. I was a little bit more nervous than usual, as I was afraid of both losing my balance on the ice, and losing my skins in the blustering wind. But in the end it worked.
The icy section was short, and it didn’t take long before we were far enough down the glacier that the wind subsided. This was AWESOME powder skiing. After every run I got to the bottom, heart beating, breathing hard. This is FUN! I think adreline is a good cure for a hangover.
We skied the trees back to the hut, and I arrived bounding with energy. Pretty soon, though, it ran out, and I took a nap at, like, 5PM. >< We ate dinner, and had more merriness.
The next day (The 2nd now), was interesting. We headed up to the col between Peregrine and Shadowfax, but we noticed wind coming in and temperature rising, so we cut our run short. We got back to the hut, and skied out. The ski out was fun, as always. :) I’ve discovered that the best strategy for the logging road is to basically straightline it. You can do parallel turns every so often if you need to brake.
The four of us, Olek, Philip, Annie, and I went to the Shady Tree for beer. We played games with the waiter. Questions like “Breakfast all day on holidays? It’s a holiday, can I have breakfast?” “No. It’s only a holiday in lieu of a holiday.” “Well, can I have breakfast in lieu of breakfast?” “Uhh”. We were hungry enough to order a second plate of food. I asked the waiter for a third plate of food and she didn’t believe me. What, do [i]I[/i] look suspicious?
Cheers to a good New Years!