Confessions Of A Ski Bum

Cathedral Mountain

Last week Luke sent me a message, he was in the Rockies and wanted to get after something. Of course the snow has been a little sub-par lately but I suggested Cathedral Mountain as it was suppose to be sunny and I could at least get some terrain pictures I needed from the area. We ended up planning to go out on the 4th.

Yesterday I went up Narao and skied one of the avalanche paths above the road with Anna. I got some great pictures of Cathedral and when I got home realized that Adam had gone up to the summit. He reported it being horrible snow conditions but I already figured they weren’t going to be very good so whatever. We decided we’d still go up and now Kieran was joining too.

Kieran and Luke about to arrive at the top of the south couloir

As we pulled into the O’Hara parking lot just after 9am we saw Jesse and Yanick getting setup. They were looking to bag Cathedral as well and in the end we all ended up in a loose group of 5. It was pretty cold to start but not as bad as the last month so we hurried along the road to just past the 3km mark where we followed the well beaten in skin track leading up through the forest.

Jesse and Yanick finishing off the south couloir


At the boulder field we stayed high along the moraines until reaching the south facing couloir. The bootpack was set and the was travel fast to the top. The sun was strong and most of use had already taken off layers, it felt like a spring day, a nice change from the last month. After skinning up through the alpine and over the glacier we reached the summit ridge. I skinned up a small rock feature off to the side as the group started up in order to get some pictures and then started the final push to the top.

Skinning in the sun!

At the col we all switched over to boot crampons just in case the upper section was wind pressed. Kieran and Luke took their skis while the rest of us left them behind. The winds up the ridge were very strong and bitter cold but the views at the top made it worth the little suffering. At the top I got my pictures and turned around while Kieran and Luke setup to ski down.

Big walls, big sun

After regrouping at the col I switched over to skis and we headed down over the glacier, the rocky outcrop and finally traversing to the top of the south couloir. The snow seemed pretty good to me, the upper section’s surface snow had wind sculpted nonsense over a firm wind slab, the trick here was to ski fast and ignore the way it looked. The section before the south couloir had warmed a lot during the day and skied ok but was a little more variable with some light sun crust and thin breakable wind slab. All in all I’d say pretty average conditions for Rockies with the weather we’ve been having.

Crossing the glacier with the summit in sight


The south couloir skied pretty good too but I found it to be a little more variable than the upper alpine. The middle section was very firm wind slab with chalk and if staying on that it was “good” skiing. The sides had a bit more mix to the pack and I wasn’t too sure what I’d be landing on with each jump turn in those areas. In the end better than expected so I’ll take it.

Rock spires just below the summit


To finish the day off we detoured from our uptrack and headed towards the south facing fans where I found excellent snow, although only about 10 turns of it. After linking up with the uptrack we made our way down the forest, back onto the Lake O’Hara road and finally the parking lot.

Looking down the summit ridge

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