Jöttnar Pro Team member Tom Grant recounts his expedition into the interior of BC, Canada, during which Johanna Stalnacke, Christina Lusti and he made the first descent of a north facing couloir on Blackfriar Peak. Film and photography by Fred Marmsater.
Black Friar - Story of a First Descent from Fredrik Marmsater Photography on Vimeo.
Our ski trio of Johanna Stalnacke, Christina Lusti and I had originally been planning to be dropped off in the Alaskan wilderness, but following reports of unfavourable conditions we shifted our plans to British Columbia where the winter had provided a huge and stable snowpack. We were stoked to have filmer/photographer Fred Marmsater join us, also no stranger to remote first descents.
We opted for a heli drop deep into the interior of the massive Selkirk range, BC, into a zone that Christina had been to once before. We were deposited beneath towering granite spires that make up the Adamants, a sub range of the Selkirks. Steep ribbons of gorgeous sticky white snow split the impressive granite formations, and the potential for steep first descents in these couloirs was immediately apparent. But none looked more pleasing than the north facing couloir that split Blackfriar Peak.
With enough supplies for two weeks, were settled into our camp and awaited a good weather window. It snowed, and then snowed some more. Poor snow stability and unsettled weather thwarted our early attempts to ski some steep couloirs. Finally a window came and we seized the opportunity to climb over a dividing ridgeline and to the north side of Blackfriar.
Taking turns breaking trail up 45-55 degree deep snow was arduous and we had to be sure of our judgement about the snow stability. As we climbed higher the snow only got better but to reach the top a 60 degree ice pitch had to be climbed. We went into swinging tools on the ice, covered with a thin layer of snow. As we topped out the only question left in our minds was whether we could pass the ice crux without using the rope. Christina skied first and being the ex-Olympic ski racer she is, masterfully skipped over the ice. Johanna and I arrived finding there wasn’t quite enough snow left on the ice for us to ski through, but after making one rappel we were back on steep shreddable snow. Letting loose the reins in the bottom of the line we shot out onto the glacier and looked back with satisfaction.
Throughout the trip we were faced with tough decisions. Snow stability was always forefront in our minds and changeable weather challenged us. To get the window and conditions we needed was never a guarantee. However, persistence paid off and having the chance to open up this classic ski line with a new team and alongside such skilled partners was a memorable experience.
Tom Grant is a member of the Jöttnar Pro Team and an IFMGA Guide. More information on Tom's guiding services can be found at his website, linked here.