Rogers Pass — Saphire Col and Jupiter Traverse


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 18, 2017      
Asulkan in its glory with Thorigton right behind it, and Lena, Pollux and Castor peaks lining up (left to right).

Asulkan in its glory with Thorigton right behind it, and Lena, Pollux and Castor peaks lining up (left to right).

Rogers Pass is and always will be an amazing place to visit. After a marvelous adventure at the Asulkan last year, we couldn’t wait to go back for more. This April, our return was blessed with glorious weather and fine friends.

We left Seattle early Saturday and spent the night at Revelstoke. The next day we hiked in towards Asulkan on a gorgeous morning, as the weather cleared from a storm the day before. With a heavy pack the approach is a slog, but as our friend Elliot noted, “Four hours of hell for four days of hotel is well worth it.”

Even after hanging out in the hut for a few hours, we all felt pretty beat. We decided to skin up Asulkan Pass to check out “Sunset Bump” which had held such good skiing last year. The weather was clear and beautiful, with Sir Donald staring right at us. The snow we found was nice and light, with no traces of breakable crust.

Our first evening at Asulkan, enjoying the fluffy low angle pow.

Our first evening at Asulkan, enjoying the fluffy low angle pow.

The next morning we headed up toward Youngs Headwall but stopped short of the summit since we were concerned with windloading on the steep upper slope. We ripped off our skins and enjoyed the “6.5 steps” of Paradise full of powder, sun and smiles. As we reached the bottom of the run, we saw that a party of 2 skiers had descended down the headwall. After chatting with them about conditions, we decided to skin back up to the hut, grab some lunch and head up to the top of Youngs Peak.

Louie doing one of his favorite things, getting sporty on the skin track.

Louie doing one of his favorite things, getting sporty on the skin track.

Two more friends arrived at the hut just as we did, after skinning all morning from the parking lot. They were on a road-trip to Alaska, and decided to make a quick pit stop on Rogers Pass along the way. What a fun crew!

Nick painting our path for the day.

Nick painting our path for the day.

After a snack, we headed back up Youngs as a few clouds slowly rolled in. Once we were below the headwall, we found a few more people had come down, making it much easier for us to set a nice skin track. After many techy kick turns on a steep and powy skin track, we went and peeked over into Forever Young hoping to find no tracks. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case – a party has beat us down it. The conditions still looked pretty good, so we decided to give it a try. Nick headed in first and myself shortly after. The snow wasn’t blower pow by any means, but it was much softer and more fun than the year prior. We high-fived at the bottom and headed back up to the cabin for a scrumptious dinner.

Shot of Julia skiing Forever Young from above.

Shot of Julia skiing Forever Young from above.

Nick enjoying the last step of Paradise.

Nick enjoying the last step of Paradise.

After skiing the “double classic,” Seven Steps to Paradise and Forever Young Couloir, the day before, we were moving extra slow in the morning. The many delicious blueberry pancakes for breakfast didn’t encourage a fast start either.

On our skin back up on the evening after skiing Forever Young, we spotted 2 lines going down Thorington, a steep and enticing bowl holding what looked like the tastiest pow ever. Based on conditions observed on prior days, the three of us decided that we’d skin up across the valley to Saphire Col, check out the approach to Thorington, and make the final call on the spot.

Getting back to the hut after a day full of adventure.

Getting back to the hut after a day full of adventure.

With a crack of noon start, we clicked into our skis and skied down from the Asulkan Cabin just skier’s left of ski triangle. The goal was to keep as much elevation as we could, instead of skinning up all the way from the bottom of the Tree Triangle area right below the hut. The snow was light, a bit windblown, but skied well.

We began our skin up to Saphire Col around 12:30 pm at a steady pace. As we were skiing, we watched the rest of our group ascend Youngs Headwall. Incredible how far you can see down the valley on a clear day! We had some fun interactions via radios and watched our friends make turns as they disappeared into the 7 Steps. By 3:00 pm we reached the tiny little Saphire Col hut at the top of the ridge and stopped for a snack.

Making a plan and hiding from the wind in the little tin can.

Making a plan and hiding from the wind in the little tin can.

We got up the ridge much quicker than we expected, so we decided to attempt Thorington. There were two possible approaches: descend down to the Lily Glacier and wrap behind Jupiter peaks to later ascend towards Thorington. Or, the Jupiter traverse, a ridge climb across 3 peaks (Castor, Pollux and Leda).

Descending Castor after our decision to call it on the Jupiter Traverse. Can you spot Saphire Col at the bottom of this ridge?

Descending Castor after our decision to call it on the Jupiter Traverse. Can you spot Saphire Col at the bottom of this ridge?

Since we didn’t bring glacier gear, we knew the glacier route was out. After looking at the bootpack up Castor Peak, we decided to give it a try. The ridge climb was quite steep and technical; we moved much slower than we expected. Around 4:00 pm, we neared the top of Castor and were able to spot the rest of the traverse route. It looked even more technical, so we decided we would come back another time earlier in the day and bring a rope, harnesses, crampons and ice axes. We descended back to Saphire Col and enjoyed hippy pow back down to the Tree Triangle.

On the next day we woke up to find that the weather has deteriorated – clouds, high winds, and a storm in the forecast. We didn’t care too much anyways, feeling the aches in the muscles from the adventures over the past two days. We packed up and skied out to the car.

Back home in PNW, spring can’t make up her mind: the rain and snow just won’t let up. But the memories of this trip are keeping my spirits high. Can’t wait to repeat next year!

Peaks on peaks on peaks, Emily taking it all in.

Peaks on peaks on peaks, Emily taking it all in.

Comments

3 Responses to “Rogers Pass — Saphire Col and Jupiter Traverse”

  1. Leslie May 18th, 2017 2:55 pm

    I’m glad to hear the Asulkan is in good shape. What great conditions!

  2. Lisa Dawson May 18th, 2017 5:42 pm

    I hope Louie kept up the Dawson family tradition and made some hot buttered rum. Papa Lou showed him how during our Thanksgiving trip to the Asulkan back in 2013. I have many sweet memories from that trip.

  3. pockets May 21st, 2017 10:18 pm

    Beautiful pictures! Makes me excited to try out ski touring next season.

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