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[TR] This Be the Place - FAWK 2/16/2008


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Trip: This Be the Place - FAWK


Date: 2/16/2008


Trip Report:

So a group of five of us had had enough with day trips in powder (tuff tuff life) and wanted to bust out the traverse season. Avi hazard has been notoriously aggro over the last few months, and since it hadn't snowed for a bit and the rating was down to moderate, we figured a bigger trip was damn time: Place Glacier horseshoe traverse it was.


Common knowledge has it that North Joffre Creek is a slide alder purgatory, but we were surprised to find a wide open road that led to the very head of the valley, and the various ice climbs shining away quite prominently. We guessed about a 2hr ski from cars to base, and the climbs looked good to go.




Plan was to do the thing counter clockwise with an exit by Cassiope. We worked our way into the whited-out headwaters of North Joffre Creek and wound our way up excellent powder tree runs and into the alpine. Took a lot of determination to skin up such good skiing without being able to ski down it :mad:


Sure enough, we got above the fog about 5:00pm:




We were hoping on a camp on the Place Glacier itself but we were faced with one last, quite steep, slope as a final barrier over onto the glacier. We debated how to attack the thing: some wanted to go up to the ridge top, but PB and I had once tried some steep couloirs over there fronting the 8 mile valley and knew that the ridge had 1800' of exposure on the other side. Problem slope at right:




I started skining up the left side of the slope to try to link into what looked like a bench system on the map, but things felt too steep and the slope was wickedly exposed over cliffbands.


We traversed back right to where it looked like we could bootpack up to the ridgetop. The sun was now going down and we had been going about 7 hrs nonstop. Looking up at GROC starting the bootpack:




Looking down to the glacier below:



Three seconds later, the whole slope cracked. We could see the crack right in front of us darting from rock outcrop to rock outcrop. We looked at each other and silently mouthed "D-O-N-T M-O-V-E" It was the proverbial car teetering on the edge of the cliff. There was a good four seconds of silence there where no one said anything, there wasn't a sound in the air, and all I remember was the hue of the sun going down over Saxifrage.


There's screaming and gasping and I can see in my peripheral two or three other guys going in and out of the maw. I see the stauchwall approaching like some sick waterslide. The lights go out and I feel my right leg get twisted behind me like a piece of plastic. And then it stopped.


It took only a second to realize we were all okay, lucky that we had all been more or less on the crown when it went and were able to stay near the surface. Amazingly, the only thing missing was my poles, which GROC immediately tried to find before things set up overnight. Looking out to Saxifrage while sitting amid the dishwasher sized blocks:




We threw up camp and drank single malt and tried not to think what could have happened if we had continued on out left on the exposed part of the slope over the cliffbands.


Slope in the light of morning:




We only found one of my poles the next day so I skied out with one borrowed helistake. And life being the comical juxtaposition that it is at times, in the morning twelve heliskiers were deposited on the ridge right above us and whereas the night before was empty and cruel, the morning was a gong show of clownish proportions.




Helicopters were everywhere and I half expected to hear directions being shouted at the skiers a la Kilgore to the surfers in Apocalypse Now. Down in the forest on the way out we ran into a lost heli client and guided him down to the valley bottom, the day becoming one cruel and stupid joke compared to the night before.


Lessons? Within a moderate avalanche hazard rating there are always pockets of extreme. Never underestimate the danger of cross loading. Always look at your run-outs. Stop when you're bonking. I wanna say don't crowd together on a bootpack, but ironically that was probably a good thing for us here. And oddly enough, when you're bootpacking it somehow feels like you're safe because you're climbing . . .


Oh, and fuck it. Go bowling. :fahq:

Edited by jordop
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We looked at each other and silently mouthed "D-O-N-T M-O-V-E" It was the proverbial car teetering on the edge of the cliff. There was a good four seconds of silence there where no one said anything, there wasn't a sound in the air, and all I remember was the hue of the sun going down over Saxifrage.

As the last one in line, I hadn't started up the bootpack when the first crack sounded, so I immediately ran down our uptrack to the last switchback to get out from underneath whatever might happen. I turned to look back just in time to see the slab cut loose and the boys start to go for a ride. All I could think was to try and keep an eye on where everyone went, and how hard it would be for me to dig out four people. Luckily, GROC had been able to anchor himself at the crown, the other three stayed on the surface and no one was injured.


The aftermath from my vantage point:





After getting dug in for the night, re-hydrated and fed, we analysed what had happened and discussed what we could/should have done differently. Given the opportunity to walk away, best to try and learn something from the experience.

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Is this the "a whole party was partially buried off the Duffy" incident that was mentioned on avvy.ca?

Possibly. We didn't report it, but we did briefly talk to the heli guides, one of whom surmized that it was the result of being a south facing sun-induced event (with the 3600m fl on Sunday). Tried to tell him it was a high density cross-loaded windslab that happened the previous night at -10*C, but not sure if it registered :crosseye:


Whistler bulletin captured the conditions more accurately:

"The strong winds have created a wide variety of conditions in the alpine and treeline terrain. You will find pockets of soft windslab, stiffer IF resistance windslab in cross-loaded terrain features..."

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What kind of bindings are you on? Did they release?

We all had our skis off at that point as we were bootpacking. Luckily, the slide didn't "grab hold" of the skis on our packs . . .


Did you get a thanks for rescuing the heli-ski client??


Not reallly. We have written a letter and I'm awaiting a reply before I'll comment further on this.




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Wow, glad to hear everyone made it through OK. It would have sucked to have to dig, it would've sucked even more to have to dig in the dark.


Good thinking on the cliff bands, thats been something I've been trying to pay more attention to this season.....whats my runout....


Isn't there some kind of deposit on Helis-skiers, like an environmental fee, sureley you should get somthing back for bringing that back out of the backcountry.

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Hey jordo, quick question for you. Did the slide happen somewhere around 305836?

Yep, that's the spot. Have you been through there before, Matt?


Edit: I just looked on your TR page, and saw that you went around clockwise a couple of years ago. Did you have any issues skiing down that slope?

Edited by PaulB
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