Pre-Season Aemmer Couloir. What it's REALLY like to ski before you should. / by kevin hjertaas

 

A fairly honest look at what it's like to "Ski" lines early or even pre season.

Nov. 11, 2010 there was about as much snow as some early Octobers but Martin Lefebvre and I headed up the Aemmer Couloir on Mt. Temple anyway. Here's the story from Biglines.com

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In this story our protagonists take their gear for a 26 plus km walk. Half way through they take a ski break then continue marching. There is very little snow in the Rockies and most snow-covered faces have windslabs waiting to slide. One of the only lines we could think of that might be skiable in these conditions was the Aemmer Couloir. It holds snow year round and is generally protected from wind.

 Hjertaas gearing up on dry pavement

Hjertaas gearing up on dry pavement

4:30am – I get my daughter back to sleep for the second or third time (who can remember?) and nap until Martin Lefebvre picks me up at 5:30. Not a great start to my day. Martin and I patrol together up a Sunshine Village and there isn’t enough snow to open the hill today as planned so we have the day off to go exploring…

6:45am – This feels ridiculous. We leave the truck in the dark at the Morain Lake Road gate. The road is closed for the winter so we have to walk the extra 3ish kilometres on completely dry pavement to the trailhead. A skateboard would have been nice.

8:45am – We’ve made it the roughly 12km to Lake Annette and there isn’t skiable snow anywhere in sight. The hiking was easy, with minimal snow on the trial but now we have to walk up moraines of boulders with 20cm of snow coating them and very little hope of any skiing in our future. We’ve come this far though, might was well walk the gear further.

 Martin Lefebvre starting up Aemmer Couloir

Martin Lefebvre starting up Aemmer Couloir

10:30am – Things are looking up! From the base of the chute we can see the whole line is well covered in white. A slide has ripped out a lot of the fresh snow in the middle of the chute but above that it looks great so we finally put on ski boots and crampons and up we go. No need for skins today. The only snow below the chute is the debris from recent slides. 

11:30am – What are we doing here? The soft snow lower down has turned to the summer snow/ice left behind by the slide. We’re front pointing and wondering if we’ll even be able to ski this section on the way down. With no rope, down-climbing might be the call.

 Lefebvre climbing up Aemmer Couloir

Lefebvre climbing up Aemmer Couloir

1:00pm – Lunch time. Sitting atop the chute we get the only direct sun we’ll see all day and even though the wind is cold, we enjoy a 15 minute lunch and rest. The snow on the top half of the chute is well bonded, boot top powder that’s begging for us to drop in, so that’s exactly what Martin does. His first turns of the season are these steep, sluffing, committing lefts and rights. Way to start the winter off right Marty!

 Lefebvre ready to drop into Aemmer

Lefebvre ready to drop into Aemmer

1:20pm – Slough! After skiing the top with smiles we are pondering how to approach the ice. With ice axe in hand Martin edges out for a test. Before he can decide if it’s skiable he’s hit by a river of spindrift cascading down from the wall above. By the time it stops and I can see him again, he’s almost completely covered in white, bent over his axe holding on. His edges are holding though so away go the ice axes and we make careful turns and sideslips down a couple hundred feet until conditions improve.

 Lefebvre skiing Aemmer Couloir

Lefebvre skiing Aemmer Couloir

As we pass the small cliff at the bottom of the chute, all the hazards are behind us and we can finally open up our turns and enjoy the soft snow that drops down the fan and ends abruptly on the flats. 

2:00pm – High-fives. Then we start the treacherous descent through the rocks with skis on our backs again where they belong.

 Hjertaas laughing as Lefebvre skis Aemmer Couloir

Hjertaas laughing as Lefebvre skis Aemmer Couloir

4:00pm – How many km to go? In hiking boots again, we sip water from the creek and start the romp down the trail as fast as we can.

6:00pm – Finally. We hike the road in the dark for the second time today and I start to wonder if it was worth the effort.

 Lefebvre walks the road home in the dark

Lefebvre walks the road home in the dark

2:00am – The premiere and party for MSP’s newest film is winding down and I’m a little tipsy. I find myself spraying to some random at Aardvarks about how great Aemmers was and how rad I am. He seems impressed so I guess it was probably worth the effort after all.