Category Archives: Trip Report

Backcountry skiing: Al’s Habrich Ridge trail from Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish

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It’s mid-winter, and yesterday morning bright and early my buddy Mig and I met in the carpark at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish. It was sunny and cold and snowy! Yeah! Here in Southern BC, we’re having our snowiest winter for a few years. Mig and I planned to skin up then ski down one of the trails at the top of the gondola for our first trip together of this snowy, lovely winter.

We jumped in the gondola eager as beavers and rode up. Jings the carriage swayed and swung on its way to the top. The morning breeze was pretty fearsome!

Over coffee in the excellent lodge at the top of the gondola, I suggested we do Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail. It has jaw-dropping views down to the Squamish valley and across to the Tantalus Range, and also across to the majestic Mount Garibaldi.

 

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The top of the gondola

 

And so, we skinned up the first section of groomed trail, which led us nicely to powder. Deep powder! There were a couple of skiers ahead of us and we followed their tracks up the undulating ridge, winding between the snow-laden trees. The trail was steep with tight turns and just lovely. Lovely for now!

 

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Mig on the trail

 

We soon got our views.

 

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Looking down to the Squamish valley, the Tantalus Range is peeking in

 

 

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Mig on the plateau

 

 

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A snowy lollipop

 

At the plateau, which was our turning point, we peeled off our skins and prepared for the descent. I was a little anxious. It was going to be a tad difficult skiing down through the powder and trees: double black diamond in my book! Lots of early-season hazards like tree wells too! “You go first, Mig,” I said. Mig’s a better skier than me.

“No, you go first,” said Mig.

“No, you go.”

“No, you go.”

“Oh, ok,” I said and set off. It was soon obvious that skiing down our up-trail was way too hard for us. It was narrow, it was tight, it was steep in places, and it wound in and out of the trees with their scary, scary tree wells. We were surrounded by deep powder, drop-offs and undulating terrain.

Picking our way down, we both cursed and swore a lot. I chose to try to ski the ready-made track in some places and untracked powder in others. At one place, going too close to a tree, I suddenly disappeared up to my armpits in snow. I was in a tree well. At least I had gone in skis first and not head first! I was well and truly stuck but after a lot of wriggling about and a few expletives, I managed to unclip my boots from my skis and unstick myself from my predicament. Then after a lot pulling and digging, I got my skis out from the deep depths of the snowy hole – a good workout!

Ha, ha, we were off again and finally we popped out onto the groomed trail.

“I love corduroy, ” said Mig, and she was off.

What a great day!

 

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Sky Pilot, solo, trip report… and… Icebug Anima3 Bugrip shoe review

 

Sky Pilot is a fantastic and deservedly popular peak located fairly close to Vancouver. Despite its proximity to such a major city, the dramatic rock walls, pocket glaciers and craggy summits give this area a remote alpine feel – Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia by Matt Gunn

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Near the summit of Sky Pilot

I signed up for the Icebug Ambassador programme at the Sinister 7 last month. The programme allowed runners to buy a pair of Anima3 BUgrips for only $79. In return we were asked to post feedback from three runs on the Icebug Canada Facebook page. I had previously used Icebug Zeals and was enthusiastic about trying another pair of Icebugs. I can tell you the Ambassador programme is turning out to be a lot of fun!

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Icebug Anima3 BUGrips

The Icebug Anima3 Bugrip is billed as a lightweight running shoe that can handle any terrain. BUGrip is the name of Icebug’s grip technology for the most slippery conditions. The sole is made of a special rubber compound and has 19 integrated steel studs. Icebug say these shoes provide the best possible traction on anything from dry asphalt to pure ice.

With their steel studs, my first impression was these shoes were most definitely meant for snow or ice. The sole looked like grippy winter tyres! But, not wanting to wait for the seasons to change I put my Anima 3 Bugrips to the test for the first time on a hot August day!

I took them on a popular BC scramble – Sky Pilot near Squamish. I knew there would be plenty of different types of terrain to try them on. What a fantastic day!

The approach to Sky Pilot is pretty easy. You hop on the Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish. From the top of the gondola it’s a nice hike into an alpine bowl where you cross a non-crevassed snow field on the lower section of Stadium Glacier to reach the fun scrambles.

If you’re interested viewing the route here’s a link to my Strava of the day.

https://www.strava.com/activities/686866126/embed/e6618b44b86fee2fe9e3ba0c62e4dda9c624b795

So, how were the shoes? In summary, super comfortable and they handled all the terrain of this trip really well.

Some details…

First, the most fun part! The route I took on Sky Pilot (I think it’s the most popular route) has two crux sections of difficult exposed scrambling (one is class 4 and the other class 3). (Just so you know I’ve had plenty of experience scrambling and climbing so I wasn’t being reckless doing this on my own)

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The pink ribbons show the route!

I just have to rave about how much I loved the grip of these shoes on rock slab. I had no idea how they would perform and I took my trusty approach shoes as backup; they stayed in my pack!. The soles and metal studs on the Animas were fantastic. I would say their grip and confidence I felt wearing them on the rock was equal to that of approach shoes with their sticky rubber.

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The soles gripped this rock slab – class 4 scramble – really well

The shoes also felt great and grippy on the steep loose talus of which there was lots, and narrow ledges and gullies.

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Near the summit

The snowfield lower down was pretty soft with sun cups and the shoes performed as well as any other shoes on this. When the snowfield became steep and a hazard, I put on my Yaktrax.

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The snowfield of Stadium Glacier

Also, before the snow field there is a long, steep section of loose scree. The Animas gripped this stuff with confidence. Zero slipping and sliding!

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They were also great for boulder hopping.

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As for the fit, the shoes felt comfortable straight out the box. They felt flexible and cushioned. I didn’t have any hotspots after 7 hours of wearing them. I couldn’t get the women’s shoes in my size so I have the men’s version but they fitted my feet well. The only thing I didn’t like – as expected the studs made a bit of a noise on rocks but I soon stopped noticing that.

I didn’t use the shoes for running on this day. I was recovering from an ultramarathon. and just wanted to hike and enjoy the slower pace. But, I look forward to running in these shoes soon.

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A selfie at the summit!

While writing this, my thoughts turned to a friend I used to climb with. Years ago, I remember him telling me of his early climbing days in Scotland in the 1950s. He and his buddy wore nailed boots. They climbed stiff grades using nails or studs for grip on the rock. Footwear looks very different today. But the technology might resemble that used by the pioneers of climbing! I wouldn’t be able to climb in these shoes but for scrambling they are great. I’m hoping they will work really well for mountain running too.

Are any of you mountain runners? What shoes do you use?