March 9, 2020 will be forever etched in my mind specifically for 2 reasons.
The freedom we would feel before being locked down indefinitely by the global pandemic.
The best conditions I have ever experienced in the very fickle and challenging alpine juggernaut called the Tantalus, in southwest BC.
It also drove home the idea of Carpe Deim, seizing the opportunity when it presents, the key ideology that is necessary to be successful in the mountains.
I have, for years, dreamed of a link-up of a number of lines and summits in the Tantalus. The classic steep ski lines off the east ridge of Dionne, the north face of Serratus and off the summit of Alpha down the west face. I rarely get an opportunity to combine personal goals with work, so this was an incredible chance to take advantage. My 2 guests were fit, keen, capable, and very lucky. JP and Dominic had been trying to get into the range for many seasons, and they got the full experience in one day.
THE CREW. PHOTO BY LARS ANDREWS
The real truth is that I almost bailed. An already long winter and the prospect of another 8-10 weeks of travel and skiing was weighing heavily on my mind. It’s really good to have small breaks over the season to recover and I had just finished a long week of guiding the day prior.
Glad I didn't. Some of the best mountain conditions of the year had locked in. New snow, cold temperatures, clear skies, and no wind.
March 9, 2020
7:45 AM - First Heli up to Haberl Hut
9:15 AM - Descent down “Whale Back”, a unique and aesthetic line on Dionne
ENTRANCE TO WHALE BACK. PHOTO BY LARS ANDREWS
10:15 AM - Descend east face Dionne, the long moderately steep line near Haberl Hut, where a large (house-sized) chunk of cornice had collapsed
HOUSE SIZED COURNICE. PHOTO BY LARS ANDREWS
1:05 PM - Summit Serratus via Climbers Route, descent north face to below Alpha
STEEP SNOW CLIMB UP SERRATUS. PHOTO BY LARS ANDREWS
1:55 PM - Begin ascent of Alpha via west face/couloir
SERRATUS FROM ALPHA SHOULDER. PHOTO BY LARS ANDREWS
3:15 PM - Summit Alpha, descend west face
ROCK STEP ON ALPHA. PHOTO BY LARS ANDREWS
3:45 PM - Heli Pick up and back to Squamish
Conditions were nearly perfect. Clear and cold, boot top to knee-deep light powder, minimal sloughing, very little solar effect on all but due south aspects. Stability (other than cornices) was locked in. Confidence was high.
After many years of skiing and climbing in the Tantalus, I had yet to experience conditions such as these, hopefully it’s not the last time.