I decided late last night to head up to Bow Summit today after being sick for almost 2 weeks and debating if I was well enough to ski again. I met up with Nicole Kelly, Mitchell Stagg, Jackie LaRouche, Andrew Thorsteinson, Shayna Quibell and Todd at the parking lot and started up the forest to meet up at the top of the fireroad.
Our first run was in the Roadside Bowl where we found something like 30-40cm of nice powder snow over the October crust. The crust here didn’t feel overly solid where I poked at it and the lower snowpack under wasn’t horrible either but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was bonding/bomber by any stretch. At the bottom we decided to try to get into the featured skiing above the fan to the skier’s left of the larger cliff/bench area that sticks out.
From here I’ve decided not to call out names but I believe the situation is noteworthy to mention in detail. I did not include this to shame anyone but rather to point out a situation that could come up with others in order to provide some learning.
The person trailbreaking gained the fan and had a large settlement go off (no release/slide). I asked them to head off the fan and for the rest of the group to stay off to the far side of the fan while I went to explore the situation and failure layer. I found a very dense/hard ice layer with very loose/airy facets below. About 50cm of powder snow sat above the ice layer. I had the original trailbreaker come up with me to show them what was going on and then we skinned up and away from the main section of the fan where we triggered another large settlement (no release/slide) above us. After being almost off the fan and under the cliff I found a total of 50cm of powder snow over the ground, no ice layer here nor facets. I looked down at the group to say something when I then notice a member skinning up the track and onto the fan. I called out to them to rejoin the group and they refused, yelled out defending their choice/criticizing my group management and then carried on ignoring me. Myself, and the person with me, skied down to the group and we retreated from the position as I did not trust the fan or the layers I had witnessed. The individual who ignored my request to stay with the group continued on, up and over the fan and out of sight. The rest of the group skied back down over low angle terrain and we all regrouped at the uptrack looker’s left of Tree Chutes area. We finished the day with another lap of the Roadside Bowl before heading out to the parking lot via the summer trail.
So that was our day, not sure how I feel about the whole “situation” to be honest but for me it was unacceptable. I was not overly worried about the group being exposed to the lone person’s decision to head into what I concerned to be unsafe terrain but I also didn’t want to have to do a rescue that would be unneeded if it went wrong. The fact this person skinned away from the group into terrain we could not view them in was also a little shocking to me personally. I’m very used to taking a leadership role but larger mixed groups of people you just met it’s not always easy, that and the fact I was just over being sick I was more in the mood to get out and have a few fun laps. It is important to set some pretty black and white ground rules with those you don’t know before you leave the parking lot, this is where we likely failed as a group today although most of the day went fairly smooth without starting that way.
I also talked to Trevor Dingman at the parking lot after and they set off a size one in the Pac-Man runout. Saw the size one that was triggered yesterday in the main bowl area. Definitely some concerns going forward for this ice crust layer from October. If a slab builds on the ice crust it will be very scary, even with the volume currently it’s pretty sketchy anyway I’d say. Mitch and Niki saw what looks to be a loose size 2 natural avalanche come off the hanging toe of Crowfoot Glacier on their drive back as well. We very well may be in the early stages of an avalanche cycle now.
Lots of people up there today, great to see Rance Tuff and tribe having a blast but not sure how I feel about that new ski pole of his.