Skiing Mt Sir Sandford

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Though secondary to completing the full Northern Selkirks traverse, the possibility of skiing Mt Sir Sandford had become an important objective. The day before, with perfect weather and snow conditions, we pushed all the way from Bachelor Pass to Great Cairn cabin, skiing well past sunset, in order to set up for a realistic chance at the summit. Unfortunately a close visual inspection of the route revealed it wind scoured, with bare glacial ice and some very technical climbing; certainly not the ultimate ski run we were anticipating (Greg Hill http://greghill.squarespace.com/journal/ and friends had skied the route days previously and encountered challenging climbing, skiing and descending). Trevor and Dan took the opportunity to rest, and enjoy the sunshine and the comforts of the cabin, while I picked out the best ski run and conditions we could see, a direct line down the Guardsman Glacier off the Footstool, and Andrew and I headed up.

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We followed Greg Hill’s skin track for a while, then branched off through an ice-fall to get a closer look at our descent route. Some boot-packing up a spectacular nose feature led to the summit of the Footstool (10400′), and a spectacular top of the world panorama.

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I was a little tense dropping into the top of the line, as the slope rolled over into increasingly steep and complicated ground, but the consistent boot deep powder inspired confidence, and an obvious line through the seracs and crevasses opened up. The next pitch was a classic steep and open powder line, followed by a long section of open moderate angled ripping, and finished down a steep bowled out chute in creamy spring corn snow. A magnificant 4800′ descent. It’s difficult to quantify what makes a truly great ski run, but I know that at that moment, while Andrew I stood admiring our tracks in the hot afternoon sun, it occured to me that I may just have had the run of my life.

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This view from the Adamants shows the upper half of our ascent (red), descent, and the classic route to the summit of Sir Sandford (black). As if to confirm the wisdom of our decision, as we were skinning back to the Great Cairn cabin after our ski descent, a chunk of the middle hanging glacier calved off and thundered down in an ice avalanche across the lower section of classic route. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the vicinity.

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