Let the record show: Squamish adventurers are opportunistic. Just a bunch of optimists, sitting around waiting to turn any ordinary hardship into an opportunity to find new ways to get rad. So, during the great Arctic snowpocalypse of early 2022, while local pipes froze and roads became luge runs, some optimists continued to find ways to turn challenges into opportunities. New ice routes went up on local waterfalls, snowmobiles became an acceptable grocery store commute vehicle—and Eric Carter, Paul Greenwood, and photographer Chris Christie decided it was time to ski the first known descent of the north gully of Siám’ Smánit, the Stawamus Chief.
Chris Christie: There were a lot of people in town keeping an eye on these sorts of things because of the cold weather and heavy snow to the valley. So, when Eric and Paul called and said it looked good, I was in. We left the parking lot at 6:30 a.m., and broke trail the whole way up. It wasn’t bad until the gully towards second peak. We skinned up to the ladders then put the skis on our back and took turns plowing through waist-deep snow. Once we got up the ladder onto second peak, it was all good. Just ski touring looking out over Howe Sound—all good.
Mountain Life: The idea was always to come in from the top?
Chris: That was the most important part; makes it an adventure. I know JF [Plouffe] hiked up the south gully and skied that a few years back but for this, it’s safer to come from the top. It self-cleans in there, and the walls are so steep there was really nothing hanging above our heads the whole time. Plus, there are giant chockstones you’d have to climb up and over if you approached from below.
ML: Yeah, it looked like you had a couple rappels to link it all to the valley.
Chris: Five rappels. Those giant chockstones were the crux. In the summer you can scramble underneath them but with all this snow, they are basically just giant crevasses of rock. We had a 20-metre overhanging rappel to get over one of them, but they are incredible. You see these huge granite rocks and wonder how they got there.
ML: What most people are wondering is—how was the skiing?
Chris: We had incredible skiing in there. The gully was legit. Didn’t hit a rock until we got into the trees.
ML: Well, great work seizing the day.
Chris: Half-day, we were back at the car by noon. I had to work that night. But it goes to show, we have four distinct seasons in Squamish and there are always opportunities here if you keep your eyes open. Every time I turn around someone finds something to do. People look at exotic places like the fjords of Norway and Iceland, but we just skied a couloir from summit to almost the ocean like you would in Baffin Island. I put Squamish on the exotic list. We have it all and we have to appreciate it and take care of it. –Feet Banks