Tropical Ski Mountaineering in the Pantheon - A week in “Havana” [sic] Pass
Generally at the end of each winter season I try to organize some sort of interesting ski camp. The idea is to travel to an iconic spot in the mountains, post up for a week or 10 days and climb and ski. Its a great way for me to wind down the winter and get inspired by new terrain.
The group is a collection of friends and although it is a guided trip, the level of skill and fitness amongst the individuals is very high.
Joining me on the trip to help with the guiding was G3 athlete and newly minted ACMG Assistant Snowboard Guide, Joey Vosburgh. Legend and a true snowboard mountaineer.
The weather forecast was unfortunately looking suspect. Tropical actually. Highs in the valley’s were forecasted to be in the low 30’s. Beach weather.
We were headed to Nirvana Pass, an iconic ski touring spot in the Coast Range, just to the North of Waddington and accessed through Bluff Lake and Whitesaddle Air Services. (A fantastic operation and amazing spot to hang)
As the lads arrived at the Ranch, the bugs came out and the temps spiked. As we flew into the pass that afternoon, you could see the wet slides start to rumble to the valley floor.
Regardless, the place is spectacular.
Day one recon left us a bit suspect of the coverage on the glaciers and the temps jumped to 10 degrees at 2700m. Seems like the snowfall in this particular region was very low. Lots of exposed ice and obvious weak, sagging bridges. Roped travel was definitely in order.
With temps forecasted to get even higher, we decided that early starts were a good idea. Both Joey and I figured that we should treat this as a summer mountaineering trip and hit it alpine style.
For the next week we enjoyed some steep couloirs, spectacular scenery, schmoo skiing, unreal corn snow, isothermal snow, 6am corn snow, lots of boot packing, some mixed climbing and even a few au-cheval on some knife edged ridges and summits. Lads with their shirts off on 2800m summits.
All to be back in camp by noon, to watch the world fall apart as daytime temps reached close to 20 in the shade at 1800m. Followed by mid-day naps, and amazing array of exotic apres cocktails (think Death in the Afternoon, Dark and Stormy’s, Rusty Nails etc etc) and Fruit Bocce and some great tunes to top it all off. Sophisticated Recreation.
But, really the the story is the heat and the high pressure. Never have I experienced temps of 8 degrees at 4am at 2000m and 20 degrees as daytime highs in May. Neither have I experienced a high pressure that intense. There were no clouds, ever. The summit of Waddington was absolutely clear for 8 days. Not a single cloud. Not a breath of wind. Amazing.