Words By: Simon Coward
After a couple of longish days over the past couple of weeks Brandon and I decided it was time for a good long distance summit mission to the Wapta icefields. So, with a clearing weather forecast a plan was hatched to try and get on Mt Olive.
One of the challenges these days (for me) is I cant leave Cochrane until 7am as I have to drop my kids off at daycare, so it makes these longer missions a bit more rushed.
With our 7am departure we were at the trailhead ready to ski just before 9:30am. We figured the success or failure of making the summit would start with how quick we could get to Bow Hut and to the climb proper. We managed to get to the hut in just shy of 2 hours so that set us up with a good amount of time to make the climb to the St Nicholas/Olive Col and then onto the summit.
PHOTO: Bow Hut as the clouds start to break
As we arrived at the hut the weather was still pretty socked in, though, as we stopped for a quick drink and snack the skies parted and we were treated to blue bird skies for the remainder of the day.
From the hut, we soon roped up and climbed around the NW prow of the always impressive Mt St Nicholas, we made quick time up to the col between Olive and Mt St Nicholas. From there we packed our skis onto our packs, expecting the inevitable boot pack up the North ridge. However, we quickly put skis back on as there was a bunch of soft snow on the ridgetop and we managed to ski within 75 metres of the north summit, before boot packing from there on.
PHOTO: Classic picture from bow hut visits. Heading up onto the icefields with Mt St Nicholas on the left
PHOTO: Skinning up Mt Olives steep and narrow north ridge
Due to time constraints we decided to just climb the north summit and make the most of our time to enjoy the quality looking descent between the two summits. We found 40cms of storm snow on top of a very hard packed wind/sun crust, which was more than thick enough to bridge between the facetted lower snowpack.
PHOTO: Our fun line down between the north and south summits of Mt Olive
Our run back down to valley bottom was, as always awesome. A long low angled mix of soft wind slab and pow all the way back to bow hut and then some gnarly old ski track skiing back to the valley bottom before navigating the long trudge back out to the road.
We did the full trip, which was about 24kms in 7 hours on the nose. The legs are feeling pretty darn heavy today but well worth it for a good adventure in the high mountains.
The Splitboard HQ Team