Trip Report - Miner’s Gully and the S Couloir
With spring hitting the Rockies and snow melting at the valley bottom I’m forced to rejoin the ranks of the damned that call themselves 9-5’ers. So for the rest of spring you’ll be getting more trip reports from me and less FOMO.
After discussing possible objectives for the weekend we decided on skiing Miner’s Gully because it’s always there taunting you. We’ve always talked about doing the S but I’ve never taken these conversations seriously because it’s like, far out dude.
A 7(ish) AM start saw us leaving a vehicle at Quarry Lake for the shuttle to the Goat Creek parking lot and we were kitted out and heading up Ha Ling at 7.45. We elected to hike up in runners and microspikes due to the warm temps. These warm temps also fooled me into leaving my gloves at home so I had to wear the ‘oh sh!t mitts’ I keep at the bottom of my bag. After being heckled by all the early bird hikers we learnt that we weren’t the first ones in line, there was a group in front of us! Picking up the pace we arrived at Miner’s col at around 9. There we saw a group of four getting first tracks. Good effort to whoever that was for waking up earlier than us and nabbing the stellar descent first.
Can you tell four others have been down here? Plenty for everyone, it’s a powder bonanza!
Miner’s Gully was great with plenty of soft windblown snow to open up the day’s first turns on. It’s a line that looks quite intimidating from all angles until you’re in it, probably averaging between 30-35 degrees. It’s not that steep, seriously. At the bottom we traversed far skier's left to poke around and talk about looking at the S again. I still wasn’t convinced it would go as I was in a bit of a slump after retreating from Hole in the Wall. Skis on the back, we plunged across the traverse and saw the first crux of the day.
A big ol crown was sitting right where the S fan should have been! Why did it slide? Was the couloir unsupported? The slope to the lookers left of the crown had run to ground the previous week so we felt confident enough walking up to have a look.
Note the big crown. Also note my amazing colour coordination. Talk loud and dress louder to get noticed folks. Photo by J.
I poked the crown with my pole a couple of times, eventually concluding that things were fine. It looked like the side of the run was taken out by the big slide and due to the lay of the land there wasn’t as much as snow as it seemed. Things felt good so we had another chat and decided to commit.
Onwards and upwards! Into the meat of the S. Neither of us remembered to log into Strava so I’m not too sure how long it was but it felt pretty exhausting. Probably because we were wallowing up 20-40cms of fresh powder. Absolutely terrible couloir conditions in my opinion but sometimes you can’t win. Snow cover was actually pretty thin in places, with a bit of rock climbing required at the chokes. Most of the cornices seemed to have broken off during the last week’s heat so we were feeling really good about stability. It wasn’t until I looked back that I realised I had to ski down and started to get gripped.
The master blaster pacing himself high above Canmore. I graciously yielded the bootpack after this picture so he could get some photos too.
Standing at the top we ate some food and played the ‘you go first’ game. It’s where you each tell your partner to go first and test the slope. It’s pretty daunting only being able to see 20m down the line you’re skiing. After some friendly abuse from J, I started on down, enjoying the focus and clarity steep skiing brings. The sun was hidden all day which meant the snow was good and the visibility poor, either due to the clouds engulfing the line or the constant faceshots. Did I mention there was a lot of snow in there? Like a fool I skied with the goggles up and blocked the sikk footy from the GoPro. Ski quality was amazing with consistent powder up high and the odd patch of ice lower down. The chokes were a different story, with some creative dry skiing required to get past them. The line probably averaged about 40-45 degrees with the chokes approaching 50 so it was all in all pretty reasonable, if a little tight in places.
At the very top. Wow this was intimidating. I’ve actually got my skis on you just can’t tell because the snow was deep. Did I mention that? I’m sure I mentioned that.
After laying some powder 8’s in the fan so everyone could see that we hit this bad boy we shared a guilty fist bump and sat down for a bit, watching another party come down Miner’s. The ski down the Ha Ling bowl was absolutely horrendous with debris from the aforementioned slide sitting below fresh. Even that couldn’t bring me down because I was still floating from the stoke. Everyone tells me that you should traverse skier’s right and get into the next drainage for an easier descent but what do they know? Following tracks from the previous party we skied, down climbed, kicked steps in ice, jumped and face planted our way back to the Highline trail.
The crux of the descent. I’ve heard there’s a better way but I refuse to believe it. I shortly joined my skis in a heap at the base of this little waterfall.
From there it was off to the Georgetown for a well earned pint and the opportunity to spray to anyone who walked by our table about the line of the week.