Trip Report: Marriage Lake

4/12/2024

One last gasp of a warm winter season.

Skiier descending a powder field.

Hurting for a Yurting

As I sat at the Chili's in the Edmonton airport, two mango margaritas deep, I got a phone call from one of my ski touring buddies. He gave me a last-minute invite to an Easter long weekend ski trip to the AlpX backcountry yurt. Buoyed by my two mango margaritas, I immediately said yes.

The trip involved a 5-minute helicopter flight into the backcountry behind Mt. Currie in Pemberton, where the yurt was underneath a ridge in the Hibatchi range. Flying over, it looked like spring had come to the valley, with an abrupt snow line sitting at about 1600m. We got lucky with the weather window and had about 10cm of fresh cold snow after a historic avalanche cycle.

The first afternoon we did laps on the ridge above the yurt on the obvious 30-deg powder field before retiring to the yurt for dinner. It was my first time on a heli trip and also in a yurt and I found it quite luxurious. Definitely some perks flying in rather than dragging yourself an a 70L backpack in.

View from the Yurt at sunset.

Dog Days of Spring

The weather held for the second day, where we undertook a traverse of the icefield behind the range, and then on the third day we planned to get an early start to tackle the obvious couloir above Marriage Lake.

Skiers approaching Marriage Lake at dawn

The couloir is visible in the middle of the ridge up above. I didn't know it at the time but it's a total highway prize that you can see from the highway in Pemberton.

Our group went up a supported bowl to the left of the image, did a quick check of conditions and stoke, and then set across beneath the ridge and then into the guts of couloir. We'd observed a large cornice to the right of the corridor, where a large rock split the passage right at the top, so we tried to track left and get out from underneath it quickly. The snow was mostly stable but there was a little bit of sluffing as we put in a couple tiny zigzags before transitioning to the bootpack.

The whole couloir wasn't crazy steep, as far as couloirs go (with my vast experience of going up one prior to this), roughly 40 degrees, and the bootpack was thankfully uneventful. At the top there was a nice defined ridgetop where we could all stand and look over both the lake and the next valley over. I climbed down to transition below the steeper ridge drop with one of the other guys, and once we were all buckled in and ready to go we dropped into the corridor one by one.

I'd like to say I skied this beautifully but at this point I was emotionally, physically and mentally the equivalent of a little trembling chihuahua. I battled my way down the 50cm of cold fresh powder and then eventually remembered how to ski and brought it down to the safe point to see the first skier. We regrouped on the sun-baked side of the ridge and then skied out to the lake. After that we obviously had to admire our lines and eat snacks, and then regrouped with the rest of the team to ski a few more bonus laps.

Selfie with chocolate bar.

The couloir was the big highlight but we had one more morning of skiing before the helicopter came to get us and we were back to real life. I was very pleased that the timing and conditions had worked out so perfectly, especially given that I'd been grinding out a crazy schedule at work for a few weeks prior. Overall it felt like a pretty perfect cap on a mediocre ski season and a great way to see my improvement from my first extremely shaky ski tour last year.

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