This photo pretty much sums up our day on Mount Gordon; 
taken on descent, after I crashed into a tree 

Mount Gordon February 20, 2005

Mountain height:       3,200 m (10,496 ft)
Elevation gain:          1,200 m 
Ascent time:            
6:40  
Descent time:           5:20
 
Roundtrip distance:   28 km

Ski mountaineering with Mark.

Break out the record book for this one! I’m sure our dismal and pathetic descent time of 5 hours, 20 minutes will stand long as histories longest and slowest descent of Mount Gordon .

I really can’t decide whether this was a successful first ski mountaineering trip or not. Yes…..we made it to the summit, yes…..the ascent on skis was a done in respectable fashion, however, our circuitous (skiing across the slopes as much as down) and painfully slow descent pretty much negated one of the major benefits of ski mountaineering – a fast and thrilling ride down.

Leaving the Bow Lake parking lot at 8:30 am under beautifully clear skies, we encountered problems right away. I neglected to fasten the skin to one of my skis correctly and in the chilly temperatures, the glue froze and the skin wouldn’t stick back on. After 20 minutes of failed attempts using duct tape, we were able to remedy the problem by tying a shoelace from the binding to the skin clip. It worked remarkably well and I didn’t have any further problems. Generally, the remainder of the ascent to Bow Hut went well and we arrived there 3 hours after leaving the car.

After a 25 minute break at the hut, where I was able to thaw out my ski and skin and reattach it correctly, we started up to the Wapta Icefield. Again, the ascent on skis was easy and I thought we would have no problems making a rapid descent. Unfortunately, being new to skis, we soon started to feel the strains from using muscles we were not used to using and our pace slowed considerably. The clouds also started to roll in, further decreasing motivation. We slogged on and finally made the summit at 3:15 pm , 3 hours and 20 minutes after leaving the Bow Hut. The normally spectacular summit view was a little disappointing under cloudy skies, however, it wasn’t a whiteout, so I shouldn’t complain. Innumerable snow-covered and shapely peaks scoured the landscape and much of the very impressive Wapta and Waputik Icefields were visible: imposing Mount Balfour was the summit highlight, and well as Mount Collie, The Goodsirs, Mount Stephen, The Presidents, and Mount Hector  

Unfortunately, the trip was all downhill from there – figuratively and literally speaking! Several factors contributed to our slow and laborious descent. First and foremost, we were both physically exhausted and had aching muscles in parts of our feet and legs that we didn’t know existed! That, along with the fact that we have not learned how to relax when downhill skiing and I, for one, tense up to an extreme degree, made every turn and attempt at maintaining control very strenuous. Secondly, we were totally unprepared for the consistency, or rather inconsistency of the snow: at times, it was hard and icy, making control more of a challenge and at other times, it was very powdery, bringing us to an all too abrupt stop. Add to that our ineptness at skiing in general, and you have a recipe for disaster (or at least a less than speedy and esthetic descent). I guess one day at Norquay on perfectly groomed runs was not sufficient to make skiers out of us! It got to the point where we actually took off our skis and walked down a couple of steeper sections (how embarrassing!).

In retrospect, booking the night at the Bow Hut would have been the way to go. This way, we could have rested and then practiced downhill skiing on the slopes above the hut, the following day. Hindsight being 20/20, however, we hadn’t planned for that scenario and had little choice but to continue on. Our plight was not made any easier when the sun set and we had to take out our headlamps – skiing downhill by headlight is a darn sight more difficult than walking down. Both in a state of utter exhaustion, we crawled back to the car at 8:45 pm , for a sobering roundtrip time of 12 hours and 15 minutes.

Although not the pleasant and stress-free first ski mountaineering trip we were hoping for, it was a good day out, with phenomenal scenery, and has certainly increased our motivation to improve our skiing skills (or lack thereof!).            

Skiing across Bow Lake; Mount St. Nicholas at the left, Portal Peak to the right

 

Portal Peak (left) and Mount Thompson (right)

 

The Bow Hut, just visible below Mount St. Nicholas (left)

 

Almost at the Hut

 

Ascending slopes to the Wapta Icefield, with Mount St. Nicholas in front 

 

On the Icefield, with Mount Gordon ahead

 

More Icefield scenery; Mount Collie (left), Ayesha Peak (middle), Rhhonda South (right)

 

A closer look at Mount Collie

 

Beautiful Ayesha Peak (right)

 

At the summit of Mount Gordon

 

A summit view of The Goodsirs (centre, in the distance)

 

Starting the descent

 

A last look at the stunning sea of peaks to the northwest

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