Dogtooth

It’s the time of year where the lines we stare at all winter finally start to come into skiing form. Since getting home from Europe I’ve had to work altogether too much, but still got out for descents of the classic Forever Young couloir in Rogers Pass and a quick half day in Canmore’s Miner’s Gully, plus some short tours around Kicking Horse. Feeling back into the swing of things, I set out with Ryan for an exploratory overnight trip to Dogtooth Peak, which, at 2838m wears the crown as king of the Dogtooth range.

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Dogtooth Peak at the head of the valley, as shot from somewhere near the top of KHMR.

We caught the first gondola at the hill, then ripped over to the Stairway chair. After some brief debate we decided just to roll off into Canyon Creek from there. The snow was excellent here for a bit, but after a few hundred meters it turned variable so we started traversing north. Our aim was to meet up with the Crescent Moon slidepath running from near the summit of Ozone, but thanks to some massive piles of avalanche debris we ended up hitting valley bottom a few hundred meters early. Close enough.

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Woah.

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The destruction left after March’s mega cycle is immense.

From there the story, like the day, gets boring for a bit. Sevenish KM of sticky valley bottom and half a bar of glop stopper later we were dumping our overnight gear in a pleasant meadow and refilling water bottles for the push up towards Dogtooth’s south ridge. We worked our way up a steep moraine into the upper bowl before gaining a steeper notch a few hundred meters short of the summit. The south ridge was blocky, heavily corniced, and in our way, so skis went on packs and we started climbing. Eventually, we decided to skin the final few steps to the summit to allow ourselves some extra distance from the massive cornice.

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Zigs and zags.

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A less common angle of the Sir Donald group with Copperstain up front.

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Enjoyable ridge climbing to gain the summit.

Then we had a decision to make. Our original plan had been to work our way over to adjacent Moonraker Peak via the same ridge system. Unfortunately, it was 5PM and the ridge was looking significantly less trivial than we had hoped. Not only that, but Dogtooth’s east face – the one we have both been staring at for years – was in perfect condition, and we had even spied a break in the cornice that was guarding it on our way up. By the time we finished laying out the options we had our decision, and we slipped down to where we thought our entrance to the east face might be.

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Dogtooth-Moonraker ridge.

Someone was going to have to go over to the edge and see if we really were in the right spot, and that someone turned out to be me. Ryan put me on belay and I gingerly sidestepped out, hoping beyond hope that I wasn’t walking out onto a hanging schoolbus made of snow.

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Ryan, waiting to drop.

Thankfully, our routefinding was on point and I wasn’t. After tossing some chunks of snow down to ensure the line was covered in the perfect snow we thought it was, I hopped in. It was exactly what we hoped for, just deep, bomber, right side up powder that barely even wanted to sluff. 850m of absolute hero snow, right back to camp.

Dogtooth Beta

Green: up. Red: down

Once we got there, we rigged up a comfortable spot to sleep, got into the whiskey and talked about some plans for the next day. With the quality of snow we had found on Dogtooth, we wanted to traverse Dawn Mountain for a descent of its east face as well. Unfortunately, the following morning’s weather refused to cooperate and without the visibility to get safely into our line, we called it, retracing our steps back down the valley and into the resort instead.

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Go time!

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Or… Maybe not. Just time to go home.

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