Every year since 1906 the Alpine Club of Canada has been arranging summer and winter adventures for its members. One of the adventures this winter happened just after Easter break deep into the majestic Purcells in the Columbia Mountains in British Columbia where ACC had prepared for the Stockdale Ski Camp 2015.
Early on Easter Sunday morning ten strangers met two mountain guides, Jeff and Ian, and our cook, Lisa, at Meet on Higher Ground Café in Radium, BC. After a quick breakfast and coffee we all re-organized at the Invermere airstrip and then carpooled along the Horsethief Creek Road towards our staging area closer to the Stockdale group where we were flown safely in by Greg from Bighorn Helicopters to our camp location immediately below the Stockdale Glacier.
A 20 minute scenic flight later we flew by our camp bathed in sunlight and set by camp manager Dave who welcomed us to the ski camp. Chef Lisa was already preparing a lunch while the guests got settled in the two-man tents.
Camp location in the Columbia Mountain range – latitude: 50.51212 longitude: -116.65863
Flyby above camp before landing at 2135 meters above sea level
Day 1 – Adapting to an amazing scenery and a few cold nights
Stockdale Glacier on the right, Eyebrow Peak on the far right and Camp Peak to the far left
For those of us living in Western Canada we were pretty excited to finally get some proper powder skiing after this years historically poor snow conditions in the more accessible areas. Lead guide Jeff was already planning our first day of adventure to warm up the fresh legs – just a short leg up the north arm of Starbird Glacier to the col south of Camp Peak. I kept wondering if Jeff was going to keep up his fast pace the rest of the week as he sprinted up the last slope. A short while later the group gathered on top of the windy col. We skinned off and got ready for the best powder skiing this season back to camp and a precursor of what the rest of the week would bring.
Ski touring the first climb of the week and looking forward to the turns back to camp
Day 2 – Partly cloudy skies and variable skiing conditions
After a relatively chilly (-20 C) night in the sleeping bag we woke up to Lisa’s food bell at 0630. She had already prepped hot breakfast and we eventually thawed with a warm cup of tea in hand. Every morning Lisa had the oatmeal porridge ready for us and an additional delicious course like pancakes, french toast or eggs.
Catching a breath while capturing some pictures
Due to the low clouds this morning Jeff and Ian took the group up the lower areas east of camp between Mt Dorothy and Camp Peak. A few powder turns later we continued our ascent to the col. With the heart pumping as we climbed higher I stopped to capture a few pictures of the vast landscape and got an excellent excuse to take short breaks in the thin air.
The weather closed in on us as we got closer to the col and some of us were looking forward to try out some turns where we just had climbed, but Jeff was eager to check out the east bowls with views of Lake of the Hanging Glacier. So we waited 15 minutes as it cleared up and we could start on the second powder run of the day. Further down we hit breaking crust and eventually turned around and got our hearts pumping again. Back at the col the group split up and I chose to go along on Jeff’s bonus lap as the other half of the group started skiing down back to camp. Some great turns later we descended into another open bowl further north below Mt Dorothy. A sweaty climb later we were also heading back to camp. I seriously considered renaming the bonus lap to “penalty lap” as I drank the last drops from my water bottle. At the bottom we found an open creek to fill our water bottles and did some bush whacking to keep the elevation back to camp where Lisa had the soup ready as we arrived.
Mike and Jeff enjoying the turns before the last leg back to camp
To be continued…