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Trip Report

Participants: Paul Kubik, Roger Barany, Steve Pollack, dog Linus and Mark Tremblay.

February 21, 2015

Some pictures from Pokosha posted by Simon Chesterton the previous week made the snowfields on Pelion look pretty smooth. It seemed a good opportunity to check out Pelion. I put a trip at short notice on the schedule and got a couple of members from a Duffey trip that was cancelled.

I wasn't much concerned about the snow level. There hasn't been any at low elevations all winter. I warned people  in advance that it would be a long hike carrying skis. On Friday night Mark phoned to say he would join us and go partway. He had just lost his dog of 15 years so I thought he might need some 'Linus' time.

We met Saturday morning and drove up to the trail. Mark parked his van on Ashlu Main and the Xterra took the rest of the party up the washed out A200 road to the trailhead. The hike up was pretty enjoyable. The benefit of having sunshine and no snow for weeks on end is that the trail was dry and mud free. That allowed us to make good time with the heavy packs. Despite that, it is still a lot faster to ski the trail. It felt more like an early July trip except it was a bit colder and there were no bugs and bears.

We eventually arrived at the snowline at 1 PM, right where the trail bursts out of the trees onto the moraine. I did say it is faster on skis. Mark had turned around shortly after the footbridge crossing. Roger was feeling the exertion and urged Steve and I to make haste for the summit. He would follow us higher as his energy level permitted.

After lunch, Steve and I started up continuous snow next to the moraine and then up the NW ridge of Pelion. Snow conditions were thin, hardly a meter in depth. The snow was hard frozen and streaked with water runnels. Near 1700 meters we were compelled to mount the ski crampons. The views were opening up and I could see that what had appeared to be smooth snow from afar was a misconception. The north face direct route was sheer rather than a snow ramp. The other ramp off the NW ridge onto the upper snowfield sported an ice cliff and lines of thinly bridged crevasses. That narrowed the choice to the bypass route from the high col.

The bypass route is counterintuitive since it heads away from the summit ridge to the col east of an imposing tower that frames the east end of the summit ridge. The bypass route climbs a glacier to the col at 2100 meters. There was a cold NE wind of about 25 km/hour so there was no warming of the snow surface. About 100 meters below the col even the crampons were barely biting into the ice that covered the glacier. Steve and I and the dog gained the col at 3 PM. It was looking like that would be our high point. The bypass swings around to the south side of the summit ridge and goes up another col 50 meters higher to gain the upper snowfield from the south. It's a marvelous route when snow filled. In this year, there was a line of exposed rock at the crest of the col.

The year prior I was in the col with Nicolas Jimenez and two dogs on a spring trip. Another low snow year and the snow had retreated leaving a short Class 5 climb on rock with a deep moat. I had no hesitation for myself but the deep moat was a problem for the dogs. This year's trip looked a lot better snow-wise but the ice conditions were unfavorable. It was looking fairly involved and there was no promise it would be any better on top. Regretfully, it seemed wise to call it a day.

I cooled off rapidly once the sun dipped behind Pelion's summit ridge. The ski down was interesting - very icy rain furrows and sun cups. A few jump turns were employed descending several of the steep steps as we retraced our route down the NW ridge. Skiing the north face direct was out of the question in these conditions. We reunited with Roger halfway down. The conditions never really approached corn snow until 1200 meters where the skis came back off.

Then began the mighty slog to get back down the trail. It's kind of a downer carrying skis through all that great ski terrain. Not much you can do about it. There's no snow. The headlamps came on about an hour down the trail and we got back to the trailhead at 10 PM.

The upper snowfield on Pelion's north side. Two standard approach routes looking pretty dubious for the conditions.
_The upper snowfield on Pelion's north side. Two standard approach routes looking pretty dubious for the conditions.
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28.02.2015 (1235 Days Ago)
Trip Report TitlePelion Mountain ski
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