Cold Weather And Poor Snow For Nigel Pass Season Opener!

Nigel Pass & Hilda Creek Dec 2010

Minus 20º Celsius temperatures didn’t deter a dozen club members from heading up towards Nigel Pass for the first back country trip of the season. The initial plan was to spend Saturday doing turns at Parkers Ridge but some prior scouting on Friday by Vance and Derry found that snow conditions were not favorable for turns so we switched to Plan B and headed for Nigel Pass.

With cold temperatures, but no wind, we departed the trailhead around 10:00 a.m. and shuffled down the road trying to get the blood flowing to our cold fingers and toes. We regrouped at the end of the road and “Skinny” Steve determined that his feet were too cold to continue without risking permanent injury and made the wise decision to headed back to the warmth of  Rampart Hostel where we were staying overnight.

The remaining skiers bundled up and headed into the woods down the first steep hill of the day and past the Ranger station. Unlike last year, we quickly picked up the trail down to the bridge over Nigel Creek but our skis found several rocks poking through the thin snow cover.

Once across the creek everyone put on their climbing skins for the climb up through the trees. Richard and Susan were breaking in some new ski gear and got their first experience with climbing skins. Who would have thought that a few strips of sticky fabric could be so useful yet so frustrating, in the end duct tape always prevails!

It took a few cautious steps to trust the traction of my skins and it always amazes me that you can climb such a steep angle with skis and skins. The longest climb of the day quickly warmed everyone up and we stopped for a quick snack once we got to the top and out of the trees into the bright, warm sunlight.

We took turns breaking tail up the relatively flat valley bottom. The low snowpack made it easier than last year to break trail but also left a lot of small shrubs exposed which we had to work our way around. Finding a sheltered sunny spot we stopped for some lunch and took in the scenery. The temperature was still very cold but the blue sky, sunshine and gorgeous views made a quick bite bearable. Vance’s delicious fruitcake really hit the spot.

On the move again and trying to warm up with some skiers started heading back down while a few of us continued on hopping to get a better view of the pass before the short day would forced us to turn around. We headed for the base of the pass but soon turned back as the lack of snow meant we would have had to abandon our skis and hiking the last big hill up to the top of Nigel Pass.

Removing our climbing skins for the ski back down brought back the glide in “kick & glide” and a little smile to my face. Tod had brought his double-wide water skis which looked like a major workout on the climb in but a lot of fun on the downhill sections going out.

We made great time heading back out and caught up with everyone just before the bridge over Nigel Creek. Everyone was back to the trailhead by 4:00 p.m. where the temperature was -17º.

We had a nice, warm, Saturday night potluck back at the Rampart Creek hostel which we were now sharing with a group of students out with their teachers on a Winter adventure snowshoeing and skiing.

Sunday found a group of us trying to get few practice turns in behind Hilda Hostel before heading home and I seemed to be practicing more crashing than carving as the snow conditions were wind slab over sugar but any day sliding on snow is a good day!