Comstock Couloir

Posted on May 07, 2011

Last weekend, Cody Lank and I made an attempt to ski the Comstock Couloir on Mt. Dawson, the second highest peak in the Selkirks.  The adventure required travelling on four different glaciers, and about 15 000 feet in elevation difference, in a 16 hours and 20 minutes car to car push.  In my humbble opinion, the Comstock is about as classy a run you'll find in the Rogers Pass area.  The only time it's been skied / snowboarded, it was done from a bivi, but doing it from the road made perfect sense to us.  At 4:20 a.m. we clicked into our skis and commenced the 4000 foot climb up the Lily Glacier.  Shortly after 6:30, we were at Lily Pass and getting ready to ski a 4000 foot fun into the Imcomapleux River's headwaters.  Next task was to ascend the Dawson Glacier.  When we got near the base of the Comstock, high winds were blowing huge plumes of snow of the summit.  The sun was baking a south facing slope we intended to climb to reach the Fox Dawson col, and the wind made the technical traverse accross the summit ridge look a little unpleasant.  So we tried to ascend the couloir directly.  Unfortunately, the wind generated spindrifts than continuously ran down the couloir.  As these seemed to increase in size and frequency, we had to abort the mission about halfway up the couloir.  The upper section of the couloir looked as if it was getting seriously cross loaded too.  So with about 400 meters of couloir left to go but more like 500 of steep skiing to Dawson Glacier below we switched to descent mode.   It was great to be in a wild place.  The snow was perfect and turns were awesome.  A narrow section through some rocks provided the crux before the steep powdery fan below.  A long run down to the Incommapleaux river valley followed, were we got baked by the heat of the day.  Soon however, we were ascended up to the cooler temperatures of the Geikie Glacier and the ridge below the summit of Young's Peak.  From here, the classic Shady Chute, also known as Forever Young, drops down to the Asulkan River valley and is also a fine couloir.  There was still knee deep powder despite the sunny conditions and our legs burned as we descened the final 4500 feet to the car.  All said and and done, it was another fine day in the mountains.  I'm sure in calmer conditions, we would have gone to the summit and skied the entire couloir, but I'm sure we'll be back!   

Cody at Lily Pass shortly after sunrise.  The Comstock is visible on the left of the photo, although the summit of Mt. Dawson is in the clouds.

The Comstock is the obvious couloir is in the center of the photo

Almost halfway up

Perfect Snow for skiing and bootpacking 50+ degrees.


The fan below the couloir in all it's glory

Touring up the Geikie Glacier

Ice formations on the Geikie

The view back towards the Dawson Massif just before dropping into the exit run - the Shady Chute, also know as Forever Young

Good snow in the Shady Chute in sunny conditions

Some recent published work, writing and photography

Posted on April 11, 2011

I've been busy working on some writing project lately so I'm a bit late at updating this blog.  Below are some links to work I've recently had published.  For the Gripped stories, the link gets you to the digital mag, and you can get three free zooms so be sure to use them on my stories!  If you want to read / zoom more you'll have to buy the digital issue, or the digital subscription.  A pretty cool way to preview the mag!  I also had three stories and whole bunch of photos published in the the new "Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America" coffee table book.  As it it turned out, I was actually it's bigest contributor, and had fun working with the authors, Art Burrows, Chris Davenport, and Penn Newport.   

Click the mags below to access my feature story and photos of "5 calssic couloirs", and Jason Kruk's article and my photo's from "A meeting with the Emperor" 


Tags: Posted on April 11, 2011

On the 3rd of April, I climbed Rocketman - one of the best multi-pitch mixed routes I've done yet.  I had tried it a week before with Jen O, but a dropped tool on the third pitch marked the end of our attempt.  Six days later, Raphael Slawinski (his report, photos, and route history here - see "twelve years later") and I teamed up for what was probably the second complete ascent of the route since Raph had done the first ascent 12 years earlier.  There had been some other good attemps and a few parties made it relatively high, including one this year, but their tracks ended with three sustained pitches to go, including a very sandbagged M6+, a pitch of WI 5, and a direct WI6 pillar that sure it sure felt pumpy after 8 sustained pitches of steep ice and overhanfing rock.  It was perhaps the first time ever that final pillar had been climbed.  An uber strong Swiss duo had done a variation that goes by the name Rocket Baby, and were likely the only other pair to free-climb the entire wall.  Their route finishes up the last three pitches of Rocket Man, and their story can be found here.        

Me, skiing towards thebase of the route.  Photo: Raphael Slawinski

A self portrait at the fith belay