Monarch Icefield 2 — Twin Tip Sleds & Pow Quest

Post by blogger | May 24, 2016      

Monarch Icefield Part 1 here.

Climbing Mt. Erehwon (hint: spell it backwards).

Climbing Mt. Erehwon (hint: spell it backwards).

After sitting in our yellow dome for a day, we were a bit rested but still quite tired. Nonetheless, when day four of our trip dawned clear, we packed up camp and got on the move.

We roped up and slogged several miles up the Fyles Glacier. At this point it was the middle of a cloudless day, and it was hot. We covered any exposed skin and trudged in silence for several hours, connected by 15 meters of cord. At the end of the long, flat glacier we found ourselves at a steep pass overlooking the Jacobsen Glacier, an area we would explore for the rest of the trip.

We chilled for a while at the pass, and then prepared to descend the steep slope on the other side. We tied up the ends of our flexible plastic sleds, to create “twin tips,” then made our way down the slope, with our sleds sliding backwards in front of us. Coop and Eric managed to make some turns, but it didn’t look like much fun, so I mostly just side-slipped my way down. Eventually we made it to the lower angle glacier, where we decided to make camp. That evening we booted up a rocky ridge above camp, and decided to ski a steep slope below. We made an anchor, and Eric belayed me down to check out the snow. After investigating, it appeared to be very stable, and also quite icy. I made my way down the steep slope, and over the bergschrund at the bottom, Coop and Eric followed suit.

I was happy the snow was stable, but disappointed that it hadn’t fully transitioned to corn snow. Some of our steeper objectives might be more difficult to snag. The next morning we woke up and skinned over to the nearby twin peaks of Mt. Jacobsen. After rounding the corner, we quickly realized that the couloir on the west peak was out of condition. The aesthetic line was marred by large patches of exposed glacier ice. The west facing line of the east peaked looked better, but not by much, it also would take several hours for the sun to hit it and soften the snow. We decided to take our skis elsewhere.

We skinned back up over the pass we had sled-descended the day before, and set our eyes on a small summit flanking the pass. We booted to the top, and enjoyed beautiful views of Mt. Jacobsen, Mt. Satan, Mongol Mountain, and hundreds of other, more distant peaks. The northeast aspect of the peak looked like it would hold good snow so we dropped in. After a few icy turns at the top, it turned into the best snow we had found yet. Powder! We worked our way through crevasses, and ripped fast turns to the glacier below. We cruised back to camp around noon, and cooked up quesadillas on the Jetboil.

With the Jacobsen lines not in condition, we decided to break camp, and move onto the Jacobsen glacier, which looked to have a nice concentration of skiable peaks. After coasting as far as we could across the flats, we started our long ascent. Eric quickly got out ahead, and was soon a tiny dot in the distance. Coop and I continued slogging, and as the sun began to near the peaks, we began wondering when Eric was going to stop. As with many things in the realm of the icefields, the glacier was much larger than it appeared, and even after several hours of walking, we still hadn’t made it to the gentle pass that marked the top of the glacier. Eventually Eric took pity on us, and waited. We decided to skin a bit further, and then stopped to make camp, in the middle of a flat expanse of ice, ringed by peaks. It was late, almost dark, which means past 9 pm in these latitudes, at this time of year. We enjoyed an incredible sunset, made a quick dinner, and headed to bed.

The next day was another beautiful day. Even though we were dead tired from the last two days of hard traveling, we knew we had to take advantage of it. We started the day by skinning up a smaller peak near camp. We scrambled up rocks to the summit, and found a tempting snow covered steep run on the east side of the peak. I cramponed down to check out the snow conditions, and found nice soft stuff. Eric went first, and after he had made a few turns past my crampon tracks, he found not-so-soft stuff. Nonetheless, he managed to make it down the face, across the open bergschrund, and onto the glacier below. Feeling bad for the sandbag, I followed suit. Once down on the glacier, the snow improved, and we enjoyed boot-top pow for a few hundred feet. We skinned up the north ridge of the same peak, and made another run. Eric did laps on mellower slopes, while Coop and I found a steeper slope that proved to be less steep, and less icy, than our run in the morning.

It was only a little after noon, so we skinned back up, and headed for Mt. Dagon, one of the higher peaks near camp. We booted up another steep face to the top. For the first time, we saw the full expanse of the great Monarch icefield. Gigantic! The southern section of the icefield is much larger, and dwarfed the several mile wide glaciers we had seen up to this point. Peaks stretched as far as we could see in almost every direction, with the obvious spires of the Waddington range to the south. To the west we could see the faint blue sheen of the ocean. After a few minutes of enjoying the incredible views, we took off down the steep NW face.

The skiing was excellent spring snow, and left us eager for more. However, we were dead tired, and still had a few miles back to camp. Eric headed back, while Coop and I decided to try to get to the top of another peak near camp; Mt. Erehwon (hint, spell it backwards). We coasted most of the way across the glacier, and after crevasse navigation, made it to the top of the peak before the sun disappeared behind the peaks. The sky was pastel shades of yellow and gray; the sunset was already starting.

Surprisingly, we found powder on the descent, the best snow of the trip so far. As we ripped pow under a beautiful sky, it turned into one of the most memorable runs I’ve skied. We rolled into camp near dark, at the end of another incredible day.

Our tent after the storm.

Our tent after the storm.

Getting ready for our first steep sled-descent.

Getting ready for our first steep sled-descent.

Eric turned. I just side-slipped.

Eric turned. I just side-slipped.

Checking out Mt. Satan from our camp below Mt. Jacobsen.

Checking out Mt. Satan from our camp below Mt. Jacobsen.

Eric skiing, with part of our approach route visible in the background.

Eric skiing, with part of our approach route visible in the background.

Hiking into our camp on the upper Jacobsen Glacier.

Hiking into our camp on the upper Jacobsen Glacier.

Settling in to the "sunset camp" on the upper Jacobsen Glacier. Our home for most of the trip.

Settling in to the “sunset camp” on the upper Jacobsen Glacier. Our home for most of the trip.

Coop skinning up on the morning of our sixth day. The tiny dot in the background is our camp, as shown by the inset.

Coop skinning up on the morning of our sixth day. The tiny dot in the background is our camp, as shown by the inset.

Eric hiking up a peak above camp. It's on the glacier in the background, but too small to see.

Eric hiking up a peak above camp. It’s on the glacier in the background, but too small to see.

Eric carving tele-turns, with Mt. Dagon in the background on the right.

Eric carving tele-turns, with Mt. Dagon in the background on the right.

Coop jumping a bergschrund.

Coop jumping a bergschrund.

Eric nearing the top of Mt. Dagon. The larger part of the Monarch icefield stretches out behind him.

Eric nearing the top of Mt. Dagon. The larger part of the Monarch icefield stretches out behind him.

Coop skiing a line near camp on our sixth day.

Coop on a line near camp on our sixth day.

Coop skiing off Erehwon into the beautiful Monarch sunset.

Coop riding off Erehwon into the beautiful Monarch sunset.

Monarch Icefield part 3 here.


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7 Responses to “Monarch Icefield 2 — Twin Tip Sleds & Pow Quest”

  1. Rudi May 24th, 2016 4:09 pm

    phew that made me tired! Great report. Hope I can make it up there someday.

  2. Kristian May 24th, 2016 7:55 pm

    You can temporarily loop a cord or some webbing under a sled to create some drag and keep it behind you when going down.

  3. See May 24th, 2016 9:28 pm

    Beautiful pictures and excellent tr. Thanks. Product placement question: how do you cook quesadillas on a jetboil?

  4. Michael May 24th, 2016 9:30 pm

    wow. amazing!

  5. Dave Field May 25th, 2016 7:58 am

    Sounds like it was an amazing place. After all that hard work, where were you successful at finding the best skiing?

  6. Ryan May 25th, 2016 9:57 pm

    Rad trip. Gear question…What did you guys do about camp shoes?

    I have never done an extended trip like this, but even on a couple nighter taking off the ski boots as often as possible in order to maintain comfort and keep liners from getting moist.

  7. Louie III May 31st, 2016 1:44 pm

    Thanks guys! It was an awesome trip.

    Product placement answer: We were using a Jetboil Joule, which has a wide pot (big enough to fit a half tortilla in the bottom flat), and a burner that simmers very well. Having some greasy salami is a good replacement for cooking oil, too 🙂

    We tried the webbing under the sled, but I found it didn’t do much. I think it works better on a rigid sled, which stays on track better. These “crazy carpet” sleds don’t have any rails or anything, so they slide to the side very easily, especially on a sidehill or when turning. The webbing only seems to exacerbate this.

    We just took lightweight booties as our camp shoes. They’re a bit slippery, but work well enough. We slept with our liners every night, and always put on dry socks in the morning.

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