The Catamount Glacier

With last weekends turns under my belt, I thought the timing might be right to hit an area that I’ve wanted to visit for years.  The Olive hut sits on a rocky perch overlooking the Catamount Glacier in the Starbird Range of the Purcell Mountains.  This hut is the perfect late season hit when the road up the valley is finally snow free but access to the toe of the ice is still filled in and fast.  The compact nature of the range lends itself to multi summit days with only a 300 ft ski down from the hut to the main icefield, putting you within a km or 4 of a dozen mountains perfect for skimountaineering.

With a late start from Golden and a long slow drive up an old mining road I didn’t start walking until 3 in the afternoon.  Access was fast to the snow-line thanks to a speedy summer trail and a willingness to get my feet wet.  Once on snow I had a track to follow that eliminated any guess-work with the route and told me that I wouldn’t have the place to myself.  Travel to the hut went quickly, and after I unpacked my big bag and looked at my watch I figured I still had 5 hours of daylight left and I set my eyes on the closest summit to the hut, Mt Harmon.

I short schuss across the valley and a transition later I was happily skinning up the eastern slopes of Mt Harmon, four-legged friend in tow, I skinned to easily gain the North ridge and the only skiable aspect, the West face.   After crossing a small bergshrund and a 100 ft of gain, the 12-year-old mutt decided she had nothing to prove and ran/slid down to the flats to wait.  With a quick ski test I continued post holing in the sun-weakened snow to a hanging ramp and was shut down within 3 meters from the true summit by a technical rock crux that was outside my comfort zone in skiboots.  An exposed few turns led to a traverse onto the main guts of the face where I could let the Dynafit Broad Peaks devour the evening corn and poop it out all the way to the flats. The east face skied a bit trickier after being out of the afternoon sun for a few hours therefore starting to refreeze.  Back at the hut by 9, in time to cook a pasta feast and enjoy an awesome sunset with my hut companions, split-board turns-all-year hopeful Colin and his fluffy hound Keisha from Kimberly.

Panorama of the Catamount Glacier *the Olive hut is on the rocky ridge below Scotch pk the left most pk

During the night the wind picked up and battered the small stone hut and neither Colin or I slept very well through the howling gusts.  Once out of our sleeping bags we could see a thick shade of grey beyond the window panes and he decided to head home while I wanted to wait and see if the squall would abate.  Fuelled by way too much coffee I saw to cleaning the hut to pass the time and managed to come up with a few bags of garbage to haul out.

The weather eventually broke so the dog and I headed out to ski off of a col between Scotch Pk and Gwendoline Mountain, just left of the center of the picture above.  The col offered good views down onto the Northstar Glacier and the mountains that border it to the east, hinting at possible future ski-mountaineering linkups and numerous peaks to bag.  The wind was still blowing steady at ridge-top so after a quick peek over the other side we tore hide(me, not the pooch) and slid back to the hut to lock up and start out for home.


One Response

  1. Sounds like a great adventure son and good to see Cera is packing her share……….I do enjoy reading these escapades…. 🙂

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