On Sunday 22nd January there had been a storm that passed through the few days leading up and the Avalanche Canada report was showing as Considerable for the Sea to Sky area. Kate and I were looking for some tree skiing or mellow slopes to hit up given the current snowpack. She’d recently been to Gin Peak and we weren’t keen on driving as far as the Duffey given the decent base further South, we’d both spent an early season day on Metal Dome back in late November but we’d approached from the South since the road was clearer and in high winds and heavy snow we’d fallen short of the summit but found some fun terrain to ski. We decided to explore Metal Dome but approaching from the North to see what we could find in the trees and perhaps some lower angled slopes in the alpine.
Alex decided the conditions were passable to his tastes and we were fortunate to have him along for company too. We drove their Subaru to the trail head which is a turn left off Highway 99 approximately 44km beyond Squamish heading North toward Whistler. The Road is the Callaghan Valley Road and you will follow this another 6km until a turn on the left takes you up 100m or thereabouts to a parking place with an FSR road forking off to the right (this is where you skin from) If you round the corner and spot the dog facility you’ve gone too far.
We left the car around 8.30/8.45am and started skinning up the road which gains elevation gently for about 4km with great views out on a clear day to Blackcomb, Rainbow and Wedge.
Once we got to the end of the road we cut up into the trees but continued contouring a long and gradually gaining traverse. There was one party of two behind us who cut up much earlier than us on a steep skin track that gained elevation quickly. From the maps we had we were confident in our way finding and carried on breaking trail on our traverse North West. We crossed the creek around 960m and continued on in the same direction until 1100m approx. Here we cut back and tried to gain more elevation quickly.
We had been breaking trail for a long time when we eventually popped out into the Alpine around 1.30pm – slightly frustrated at how long it seemed to take us and how far away the summit of metal dome still looked to be.
We had given ourselves a turn-around time of 3pm so still had some time to continue on but knowing we wouldn’t make it to the summit in the time left and not seeing any desirable or indeed safe terrain worth pushing on for, we traversed over to a small shoulder above some trees to transition.
As we contoured over to our ripping spot we saw what we thought were other skin tracks over to our East which was surprising as we hadn’t seen anybody all day since the two guys who left us for a steep skin track not long into the trees.
As we mosied on over Alex shouted ‘Wolverine!’ and we all stopped dead in our tracks. I was disappointed not to spot the magical beast but Alex was adamant it had popped behind some trees less that a 100ft in front of us. We paused for a few seconds trying to spot it again until we realised that wasn’t the greatest idea and we carried on our way with a bit more haste in our steps.
It wasn’t until we got closer to what we thought were the skin tracks right in front of us that we realised they were actually one singular track about the width of a snowboarders down-track – similar to the width of a Wolverine dragging its hind legs and bushy tail through deep powdery snow!!
We ripped our skins and headed for the trees. The reward for all our patience was some really awesome light and deep snow in amongst some nicely spaced trees. It was a good long run through the trees that planted us right at the start of the road but we all agreed that it would have been nice to get a couple of laps in like that.
I kept my skins on for the road back out as there was mixed ascents and descents and I couldn’t be bothered with all the extra energy that shuffling and skating would cost me. Kate and Alex went in ski mode and whilst they were a little slower than me on the ups they beat me to the car by a few minutes. Kate said it was kinda sketchy and I was happy with my method.
We avoided the Whistler traffic by stopping off in Squamish for a beer and a burger at the Copper Coil which is becoming a bit of a regular hit for post ski adventures.
With hindsight we realised we probably contoured for much longer than we needed to and could have taken a much more direct route to at least the point where we transitioned so that tree laps would have been possible. It was a fun adventure non the less and nice to know there is the option of some great tree skiing here for another day when Avalanche chances are higher than would allow for other alpine objectives.
I’d also like to come back for the summit at some point, perhaps with a quicker/more direct up-track and longer daylight hours though!
Thanks Kate and Alex for a great day! can’t wait for the next.
(To see a fancy 3-D video that my watch produced from our GPS track click here)