-Approaching the Tyrwhitt meadows which are around the corner in the sun.-
My goal today was to ski on Tyrwhitt for the first time this year. The question was, how to access it? Should I take a chance on going up Whiskey Jack, or go the tried and true route via Elk pass which I knew was in nice shape?
I had two enjoyable skis on Elk pass in the past three days, but I was curious to see what conditions were like on Whiskey Jack. I parked at Boulton creek and proceeded to climb. I was getting an early start today, thinking I might put in a lot of Ks. It was 1:15 pm when I hit the trail. Snow temperature was -6°C, air temp was -8. At Pocaterra, the thermometer read -12. Inversion?
I initially had no aspirations of doing the complete Tyrwhitt loop which includes Whiskey Jack, Tyrwhitt, Elk pass, Fox creek and Moraine. Yesterday, I spoke to Dave and Kelsey who said Moraine and Fox creek were really rough. A couple days ago, Andrea said “Fox was near impossible.”
After 400 metres and one vigorous climb, I reached Moraine junction and was excited to see snowmobile grooming on Moraine. I may have to reassess my plans, but first, let’s see what Whiskey Jack holds in store. I had yet to experience Needlemania over Ice.
The start of Whiskey Jack didn’t look promising. There was fresh snow over the needles and ice, but snowplowers had exposed the trail right down to the old base. This inconvenience didn’t last long, however, and the conditions improved considerably the further I went. By the time I reached the steep section, I’d consider overall conditions to be good.
The temperature seemed a lot warmer, too. Just as Ray Perrott experienced at Lake Louise today, it seemed milder the higher I climbed.
At the Whiskey Jack – Pocaterra junction, the conditions were wonderful. I could have gone in either direction on excellent tracks and snow, but I had now decided to do the loop, so I headed south.
In 500 metres, at the Pocaterra – Tyrwhitt – Lookout junction, I could see there had been no takers for Lookout since the fresh snow on Saturday. Tyrwhitt was calling my name.
I happily answered the call. Skiing through the Tyrwhitt meadows in these great conditions is like being in a magical dreamworld – except it’s real. I feel like I belong here. The beautiful meadows with their fluffy pillows of snow, the snow-covered pine and spruce, the bears who are sleeping only metres away in their dens, and mountains shining in the distance. Some of the last unspoiled wilderness on this earth. I’m sure glad I’m living here.
Now for some fast and exciting downhill. Elk pass is only getting better each time I ski on it. You know conditions have to be exceptional if I’m willing to go 50 Kmh on cross-country skis. I dislike going on airplanes, but today I felt like I was flying.
Upon reaching Fox creek, I had enjoyed 13.56K of fantastic skiing. Now I was looking forward to a pleasant finish to the day with a thrilling ski along Fox creek and Moraine.
Fox creek is one of my favourite trails with its twists and turns over undulating terrain as you snake through the forest. Not today, sorry to say. These were terrible conditions. Warning: Don’t go there.
The tracksetters, normally miracle workers, can only do so much with crushed ice and thick tree debris. Holding on for dear life, I somehow lurched my way, skis noisily scraping, weaving precariously close to the trees, until I came upon tracksetter James at the Fox – Moraine junction.
The snowmobile didn’t like the trail conditions either, and was overheating. James explained that the sled requires some real snow on the cooling fins to prevent overheating.
Moraine was a little better, but I was glad that I had mostly uphill. Going the opposite direction would be perilous, maybe even unhealthy. I should also mention that your wax won’t last more than two minutes. Talk about abrasive. I’m not sure what terms we can come up with to describe the conditions here, but Jeff’s Margarita snow sounds a lot better than this. How about Needlemania and Crushed Ice Over More Ice? This one, which has been mentioned before, Loud and not relaxing?
I know it’s enticing to do the entire loop, but I can’t recommend skiing on Fox creek at this time, and nothing will improve until we get more snow.