Kokanee — Crazy Mary and KGR Couloirs

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 17, 2019      

This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.

We made it to Crazy Mary, Kate drops in with lots of stoke.

Crazy Mary, Kate drops in with lots of stoke.

The last week of March, Louie and I had the privilege of joining a rad group of humans on another round of Kokanee hut fun. This year the Kootenay snowpack was lower than usual, with us arriving at the hut to learn that there had been no new snow in the region for almost three weeks. We were greeted by blue skies and gorgeous visibility on the heli flight in, a world different from the stormy ski touring weather we experienced last year. The views sure were nice, but it was heartbreaking to see signs of lots of warming activity; rollerballs, cinnamon rolls, chunks of leftover wet slides all around the mountains.

All smiles on a sunny day on Kokanee Glacier

All smiles on a sunny day on Kokanee Glacier.

After arriving at the hut, we went for a quick lap to discover that north aspects were still holding cold snow. Sure love those north aspects!

With low avalanche danger, we wanted to try and ski something interesting. After reviewing the old printed trip reports stored at the hut, we discussed a few options, ultimately landing us on the decision to ski two lines on the north side of Sunset Mountain; Crazy Mary Couloir and KGR Couloir.

View of the 2 Couloirs from Giegerich ridge - they look like they connect, but they don't! The couloirs are just lookers left of the red line. KGR has two entrances at the top, we skied the lookers left one.

View of the two couloirs from Giegerich ridge – they appear to connect, but they don’t! The couloirs are just lookers left of the red line. KGR has two entrances at the top, we skied the lookers left one.

On Sunday, March 24th, Kate, Brandon, Louie and I set off to complete the quest. We had an idea where the couloirs were, but thought it was worth exploring the ridge on Sunset mountain to see if we could get our eyes on the KGR entrance from above, as well as peek at the full ridge walk over to Crazy Mary. We got a clear view of Crazy Mary from the top of South Sunset Mountain, and confirmed that KGR started from a lower ridge below the south summit that was not visible from above.

To get to Crazy Mary, we skinned up to the top of North Sunset Mountain and explored the ridge walk over to Crazy Mary. The snow on the ridge felt isothermal and loose, boot penetration indicated our concern was valid. The group decision was that it would be smart to save the couloirs for another day. After bailing, we enjoyed some flat light skiing off the south side of Sunset, then gained the summit of John Carter. Geigerich was looking fine when we descended off John Carter so we decided it would be worthy to ski a line on it as well. We also hoped to get a glimpse of the couloirs on Sunset on our way up.

The next day, we explored the possibility of skiing to the base of the couloirs and booting from the bottom. We headed down toward Griffin Creek drainage but again found possibly unstable isothermal snow. The descent was steep and exposed to a few big avalanche paths that displayed lots of past avalanche activity. We quickly made the decision: turn around, as it was only 10 am and the sun was already cooking.

As we skinned over to Nansen ridge, Kate saw a wolverine running near the top of ridge; he seemed to have been following an old skin track made by others in our group the day before. Wolverines sure move fast! We enjoyed some fun north facing lines of Geigerich and Nansen; Lutefisk skied really well!

By the third day, we were a little over attempting the couloirs; and with snow in the forecast it seemed like a great opportunity for a rest day. The next 24 hours brought about 20 centimeters of fresh, and lots of smiles. The next day all fifteen of us went up to Kokanee glacier to soak up views and powder. Jen, Lee, Todd, Erin and I dropped in for a long pow lap down into Joker’s basin off Cond Peak; hands down the longest and raddest pow line I’ve ever skied.

Hippy pow turns down into Joker’s basin

Hippy pow turns down into Joker’s basin

With last day of skiing arriving way too quick, and the new snow settling nicely, we pondered going for Crazy Mary and KGR once again. After our previous two attempts, we were making jokes that we’d be attempting the couloirs each day of our week in Kokanee until we were able to get them. We kept calling KGR “KGB,” so since I’m Russian, I was deemed an integral member of the group.

On the last day of the trip, Louie, Kate, Brandon, Chris, Theresa and I decided to go for it. Since none of us really liked the ridge downclimb to Crazy Mary off the summit of North Sunset, we were hoping to contour and attempt to ascent the west side of North Sunset to gain the entrance. After scoping that out, the ridge walk/downclimb of North Sunset still looked the best way to go; the west side looked steep, exposed and already baking in the sun.

Starting the “exciting” ridge walk approach to Crazy Mary

Starting the “exciting” ridge walk approach to Crazy Mary.

We were psyched to see that the ridge walk was way more filled in compared to our last attempt. Chris, Kate and Brandon spider-maned their way down to the top of Crazy Mary, while Louie, Theresa and myself did a quick rappel.

The spicy downclimb, Kate and Brandon leading the way.

The spicy downclimb, Kate and Brandon leading the way.

Top of Crazy Mary, with Brandon on deck.

Top of Crazy Mary, with Brandon on deck.

Crazy Mary skied well with the new snow. Even skier number six got nice turns! After a short traverse, the top of KGR ended up being just a short bootpack away. The skier’s right entrance was easy to locate.

Theresa dropping into the right entrance of KGR.

Theresa dropping into the right entrance of KGR.

The snow at the top of KGR looked phenomenal! To be safe, Brandon, who was the first one down, got on belay to confirm what we were seeing. After a few extensive turns and bounces, he started down the couloir. The vertical descent is a little over 2000 feet, with the steepest section at the top. I dropped in third and enjoyed mostly soft turns (with a few icy ones) all the way down. By the time I came out on the apron I could barely feel my quads. Kate actually counted the number of turns that she made in the couloir: 144. The thing just kept going!

Looking down into the rest of KGR, after the roll over at the top. I thought this was the steepest part.

Looking down into the rest of KGR, after the roll over at the top. I thought this was the steepest part.

Group photo from the week. What a rad crew!

Group photo from the week. What a rad crew!

Agreed among our group, this was truly the most exceptional line we’ve ever skied and a phenomenal way to wrap up this year’s trip. Kokanee is a magical place and I hope we get to keep making this trip every year.

Another closer look at the beauty that is KGR.

Another closer look at the beauty that is KGR.


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10 Responses to “Kokanee — Crazy Mary and KGR Couloirs”

  1. Frame April 18th, 2019 8:45 am


  2. Lee Lau April 18th, 2019 12:21 pm

    There are other couloirs in the back of Cond, Giegerich and S facing off John Carter. Because my personal belief is that there should be more room for exploration and new things I never described them. If you enjoyed Crazy Mary and KGR you will likely also enjoy them

    Added bonus – look for curious mountain goats accompanying you

  3. Jen April 18th, 2019 8:51 pm

    Beautiful pics! Those are some gnarly lines! Crazy Mary would be proud.

  4. Jon Canuck April 18th, 2019 11:02 pm

    What’s a hippy pow turn eh?

  5. VT skier April 19th, 2019 7:21 am

    Jon Canuck,

    Hippy pow turn = telemark turns

  6. Jon Canuck April 19th, 2019 2:24 pm

    Thanks VT. Dun plenty of tele-turns, many of them in Kokanee.
    Enjoyed the snug Slocan Chief cabin. And, later, the cushy convenience of the present Kokanee Chateau (a so-called cabin).
    Never skied the gnar portrayed in these photos.
    Eventually went to the dark side, skiing with tech bindings. Now, seemingly, I’ve aged out of the climb portion of backcountry skiing. So, I’m slumming it, back on chairlifts, still with tech bindings. Time flies when yer havin fun.

  7. VT skier April 19th, 2019 3:13 pm

    Jon Canuck
    “Telemark turns”, was just my opinion, of those beautiful arcing turns in the Hippy Pow turns pic.
    Sadly, I have gone to the dark side; touring with the lighter tech bindings, boots too. But I still tele a lot at resorts..toured a bit on teles, at Rogers Pass a few years ago..

  8. Jim Milstein April 19th, 2019 10:24 pm

    The hippy of cliché and story is laid back; so easy, laid back turns in sweet powder snow are what your canonical hippy seeks out and does. I will too, given a chance. A skier does not live by death-defying descents alone.

  9. Jon Canuck April 20th, 2019 9:02 pm

    Hey Jim,
    Canonical clothing. To this day, I continue to shred in thrift-store wool suit pants; tight knit, no-nap, so they easily shed the pow. Gaiters at the ankles. Mellow meditative up-tracks, wax tracks, tres pleasant.
    Aprés ski, I continue to savour tokes of BC BC bud, the head-wax.

  10. Jim Milstein April 20th, 2019 10:54 pm

    You are a gaberdine fiend, Mr Canuck. Live long and ski!

    I still ski uphill in this my sixty-sixth ski season . . . but slower, which is better than not at all. Downhill joy is undiminished.

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