MOUNTAIN LIFE - Ontario | Winter 2016 - page 18

After years of roaming the northernOntariobush
withmy friend, EnnPoldmaa, I should knownot
todoubt his sense of direction. But in themidst
of an intense Lake Superior snowsquall battering
theAlgomaHighlands like thewaves that sank the
Edmund Fitzgerald
, I’m convincedwe’re skiing the
wrongway. I thrust amapand compass inhis face.
“See,we’rehere.There’sMamainseHill—to the
north,” I implore, gesturingwithmy pole into the
snowy hardwood forest.“Weneed togo
Ennbarely takes note of themap.“Noway,man,”
replies the 63-year-old co-owner of Bellevue
Valley Lodge, a bed andbreakfast specializing
inbackcountry skiing, located just outside ofmy
hometownof Sault Ste.Marie.“Just followme.”
Enn’s stubbornness is just as ingrained as his
internal compass.My frustrationdissipateswhen
it dawns onme that I don’t have a cluewhere
I am—save for being somewhere on the flank
of a 200-metre hill,way up an epically snowy
forest access road, northeast of BatchawanaBay.
Logging activity onnearby slopes openedup this
region in thewinter of 2015; normally, it’s a long
15-kilometre tour or snowmobile ride from the
Trans-CanadaHighway.Tohell withmaps and
compasses—I have no choice but
to follow. Enn’s like a bloodhound,
sniffingout a bottle–shaped couloirwe
glimpsed from afar a couple of hours
agoduring a break in the storm.
We bypass numerous choice runs
where thematuremaple forest opens
up intonatural glades, completewithpillow
hits anddry, fluffy snowpack that’s at least a
metre deep. I envision Enn’s computer-like brain
tallyingup the powder runswhile navigating, sans
instruments, to the crown jewel.At last, the forest
thins out.Abreak in the flurries reveals a steep,
35-degree apronof immaculate snow.Higher up,
a gulley parts a granite buttress.
Our switchbacks startwide, cuttingwaist-deep
terraces into the hillside.Then they become
increasingly narrow;we shuffle back and forth,
each line gaining ametre or twoof elevation. It
wouldbe easy topeel off our skins anddescend
fromhere—logical even, tonot botherwith the
remaining20-oddmetres of elevation. But the
beautiful couloir draws us upwards.
Finally,we linger at the summit,watching the
snow clouds part and the sun light up the ice-
covered expanse of Lake Superior.When a gust of
windblows in the next squall,we drop into the
best runof thewinter.
A break in the flurries reveals a steep, 35-degree
apron of immaculate snow.Higher up, a gulley
parts a granite buttress.
Overlooking the northeastern shore of Lake Superior, Paul Kyostia prepares todescend elusiveOntariobackcountry stashes. CONORMIHELL PHOTO.
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