Words By: Simon Coward
This past Monday we decided to venture further afield than we had this season to date. A plan was hatched to head up towards Pilot Mountain and get on the summit of (the remarkably not Massive) Massive Mountain in Banff National Park. It is approx. a 16km round trip, with a long, low angle approach through a sometimes friendly and sometime log choked creek bed. We weren't totally convinced it would go, but, with a small group all on the same page (up for a mission) we decided to give it a crack.
PHOTO: Facet Wallowing up the drainage
The day started out as expected with our low elevation start point, unsupportive snow, lots of deadfall and basically skinning on the ground. Our rational, experienced brains knew we were in for a long day, but we had committed to the idea and what is a day of splitboarding without a little uptrack suffering.
As we climbed into the 1700m elevation range the trail breaking went from shallow snowpack walking on the ground to a deeper snowpack, still completely unsupportive and travelling on ground. This was to be the theme of the remainder of the climb. Short stints in the lead with mid calf to waist deep trailbreaking in an undulating creek bed. This trip is funny though, you are stuck in the bottom of this drainage, with no views and when you are kind of ready to shut it down, you climb a bit and the alpine comes into view, and it just keeps unfolding that way, tempting you to go higher. There was a lot of conversation however about how 'sporty' the ski out was going to be.
After a few hours we made it to treeline where we were greeted with overcast views of this really big feeling zone. At that point we were committed so we wallowed on, taking our turns in front wading through the unsupportive snow.
PHOTO: Feeling very small below the summit ridge and big terrain of Pilot Mountain (unnamed peak in shot)
After a good 5 hours of climbing we reached the col between Massive Mountain and the summit ridge of Pilot. At this stage we canned our plans of summitting, not for time or fatigue but because the pow on facet riding looked incredible.
Contrary to the avy forecast we saw very little wind affect and found a largely bottomless, slabless snow pack, which rode incredibly well. Lots of alpine and treeline faceshots in a zone with a bunch of varied and fun terrain. We rode a couple of laps before deciding we better start navigating the drainage back to the car.
PHOTO: Ali enjoying an amazing run after many hours of climbing
The ski out was actually pretty uneventful, some bony sections n the creek kept us on our toes and we wound up skinning down the last third of the elevation as there wasnt enough snow to ski.
Such a great day out, not one for the feint of heart. We were on the go, really without anymore than a 5 minute break for 8.5 hrs.
Looks like conditions are changing as this weather warms up, keep an eye on the avalanche forecast and stay safe.
The Splitboard HQ Team