French-Haig-Robertson Traverse

Fourth attempt at this biatch!

 On Saturday March 26, I was invited to join my buddy Al and his friends on another attempt at the traverse. My first three attempts were foiled by weather, avi conditions and poor trail finding abilities. So, when I was asked to join, I changed my weekend plans to accommodate the trip. My friend Cam came over at 5:30am, we loaded up the truck, picked up Al, drove to Shell by COP, filled up the truck, spilled some Gatorade and we were on our way out of town. We arrived at the Burstall Pass parking lot at 7:30am and departed for the French Glacier at 8:15am. The trail was in good condition with a good track-set so we made excellent time up French Creek. I had a personal vendetta against the high route through the trees, so while the rest proceeded to take the lower creek route, I went high. Finally found the right way to go, but it ended up linking with the lower creek route anyway, so not any faster than the lower one.

Anyway, we had a nice lunch break at the top of the moraine before getting on the glacier, watched two skiers ahead of us break trail, and after 15mins set after them since the chill was starting to set in.  

With frozen hands, it took me a solid half hour to warm up again and soon after I was at the French Col and the Haig Glacier.  To my surprise the catabatic winds present down the glacier, disappeared at the Col. This gave us warm and windless conditions on the traverse across the Haig towards the headwall of the Robertson Col between Mount Robertson and Sir Douglas. Soon after the French Col, I caught up to the two skiers who broke trail and together we navigated the pin-pong ball whiteout conditions and strained our eyes for the slightest hint of the Col.  Luck would have it, as soon as we got close to it, the skies opened up briefly giving us the Col and the approximate route.  Since the pair broke the trail the whole way up to this point, it was the least I could do to break trail up the headwall.  At the beginning there was a faint trail marked by nicely packed snow but that quickly disappeared.  The snow conditions weren’t super stable or stellar so I opted for a bootpack route directly up a rocky spine on the headwall.  The uphill bulldogging was quite interesting with the bottomless facets sinking me to my nipples at times but I was really enjoying it.  I also wanted to get off the slope asap to not linger above the climbing skiers below.  At the Robertson Col, the winds picked up, momentarily clearing the air. I got a brief glimpse of the cornice before it socked in again but just enough to see an easy drop in around it.  One by one the rest arrived, and slightly chilled to the bone from the winds (although quite warm), we skied down the upper Robertson Glacier.  The bulletproof wind slab at the top was truly that… bulletproof; however, as we dropped a couple hundred vertical feet, the wind-sifted snow made a solid boot-top deep, fluffy, layer to enjoy. It was quite satisfying skiing by the stunned skiers on the uptrack who were trying to score first turns on the Robertson.   We appeared out of the clouds covering the Col, and deeeeeestroyed the virgin slopes with flawless S-turns.  Hehe.

 The visibility got better and better, the temps got warmer and warmer and after a beauty 1000m vertical ski down the Robertson Glacier we popped out onto the Burstall Pass highway.   A solid 45mins later, we were back in the parking lot and on route home via Hwy 40.  It took us around 6.5 hours for the round trip which is pretty decent considering the large group of six we had.  Fantastic day and finally got that pain-in-the-arse out of the way. 

Thanks for the solid day gents!

Here is the rest of the few photos…  Not stellar due to poor light and incompetence of the photographer who forgot what setting the camera was on. Doh.

This entry was posted in Climbing, Skiing, Travel, Uncategorized.

One Comment

  1. Mike March 29, 2011 at 12:35 PM #

    Ahhh. Good to see you got it done. Next time try putting your camera in the auto mode :-)

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