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Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir

Squamish-Lillooet Area, British Columbia

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Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir

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  • Heading up early from the car park. - Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Keith's Hut in January snow, a good spot to stop for a quick refuel and, if the weather is clear, a bit of route assessment. - Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Popping up onto Motel 66.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • The view from Motel 66. The route across the Anniversary looks less steep from here then it does from the hut. - Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Hopping down from Motel 66. Don't be afraid to drop in on your skis and go a bit lower.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • If you stay too high, the slope gets rather steep and awkward.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • The view from the Matier-Joffre Col with Slalok in the background. Below the icefield are Joffree Lakes.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • A couloir on Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • The wide face of Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Looking up the couloir on Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • A good alcove is a steep skin up. It's a great spot to transition to bootpack mode: the steepness is just right, and it is well sheltered from debris.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Starting up the bootpack.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • The incline is consistent, just a bit steeper than 45 degrees in the narrower section.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Taking a quick breather on Joffre Peak. In the right conditions, this section moves much faster than expected, perhaps longer to get to the col than it did to bootpack and transition.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Looking up towards the summit of Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Preparing to ski on Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • It's a long way down, so careful turns are required to manage the sluff.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Looking out toward Matier, Tszil, and Slalok.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Skiing through the "constriction," which is fairly wide by couloir standards.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • The snow was definitely best in the middle of the couloir.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Coming toward the end of the couloir on Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • The couloir remains quite steep even farther down Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • Screaming out of the fan on Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
  • You'll need to briefly skin up back to the col to ski back down. Joffre Peak.- Joffre Peak via the Aussie Couloir
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Hut Based Trip, Plenty of Beta, Wide for a couloir, Many good "safe spots", Cornice hazard generally low,
Cons: 
Popular for a Couloire, Anniversary Glacier is challenging in flat light, South Facing means overhead Hazard is common,
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Region:
Squamish-Lillooet Area, BC
Access: 
Vehicle
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Site characteristics: Drinking water: 
Snowmelt
Number of days: 
2
Recommended Equipment:
Helmets, Ice axe / crampons, Harness / rope / anchors
Highest point: 
2,721.00 m (8,927.17 ft)
Max slope angle: 
45+ degrees
One-way approach distance: 
9.45 km (5.87 mi)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring
Primary aspect: 
South facing
Route Characteristics: Terrain type(s): 
Couloir
Shuttle required: 
No
Total Distance: 
30.42 km (18.90 mi)
Total elevation gain: 
1,790.00 m (5,872.70 ft)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
1,210.00 m (3,969.82 ft)
Typically multi-day: 
Yes
Vertical descent: 
1,790.00 m (5,872.70 ft)
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

The Aussie Couloir is a classic route in southwest British Columbia. The couloir runs for 450 metres and is 45 degrees from top to bottom, making for a huge line with a ton of superb skiing. Its proximity to Keith's Hut makes it a fairly straightforward two-day trip, but it can also be done in one big day.

The route has a fairly long season, and the chute is usually well-filled most years by late December. Despite being south-facing, it tends to keep a fair amount of snow well into June and beyond. The main challenge will often be access to the hut. By April, the skin track can get choppy, making for awkward ski-outs.

To get the the couloir, take the left-hand winter trail to Keith's Hut. From here, take the northeast ridge of Joffre, also known as Motel 66 Ridge. There is usually a good track to follow all the way up to Motel 66, the large rump where the ridge drops slightly before joining the steep flank of Joffre. This vantage is excellent for gauging the overhead risk to come, though generally it's best to be doing this section in the dark. Turn headlamps off to get a sense of what's up there.

The next section is the riskiest in many conditions. There are two very steep slopes above. The farthest back is 35 degrees and frequently produces class 3 avalanches. It is best to stay lower to traverse across this steep section, staying just clear of the fans. Follow the normal precautions for overhead hazards here. Don't know what I mean by that? Turn around and enjoy the amazing turns off Joffre Shoulder instead.

From here it's a deceptively gentle skin up the glacier. You'll need to poke around the corner for your first glimpse of the Aussie Couloir. At the col, it's a brief drop down a gentle glacial arête that deposits you at the base. Head for the right-hand side, where a cozy alcove makes for an excellent and secure spot to transition to bootpacking.

The climbing is very straightforward. The snow varies, but I found it best for climbing on the right-hand side. If the sun is on the face above, expect to be pelted with ice. Keep an eye on this; it can increase in size and frequency, and it's not unusual for rock to fall as well. Avoid conditions when sun is on the upper face while you're descending.

Make a note of safe spots along the way. For photography, this is especially ideal. Rest here, and even dig out shelves for packs, which can save time on the descent. Just make sure you are well out of the center flow.

The descent is pretty wonderful with incredible views. Sustained and steep the whole way, its length adds to the challenge. Remember your safe spots and have fun.

Once out of the fan, it's a quick skin back up to the col. Descend the way you came. Some opt to head skiers right and ski the face of the glacier. This has become increasingly scoured with seracs in recent years and is not advisable. Better to stick to your tracks and ski along the bench between the rock bands, then drop through one of the chutes or the wider face down lower.

If you stay high exiting these features you can ski back to the hut without putting skins back on. Aim for the terminus of the morraine on skiers left. Ski out on the skin track. Be sure to watch out for folks coming up for the night. 

Gear

What you take with you is depends on conditions.

  • Helmets are essential due to the rock and ice fall.
  • An ice axe can be nice. In soft conditions, the angle isn't too steep so reversed poles or a whippet is fine. But this can get really hard-packed with the sun, so it's perhaps better to be properly prepared. 
  • While it's easy to avoid the most risky crevasses, if you get caught in low visibility they can be impossible to see and still active even with 4 meters of snow on the glacier. A proper crevasse rescue kit is therefore always strongly recommended.

The Aussie Couloir on Joffre Peak is a big route that requires advanced mountaineering and skiing skills. Getting to the couloir involves crossing glacier terrain and some very serious avalanche hazard. The couloir is very steep, much longer, and more sustained than anything inbounds. If this is your first couloir, make sure you're going with steep skiing veterans. Skiers attempting this should be very experienced: double blacks should be near effortless, glacier mountaineering experience should be a given, and whiteout navigation and Avalanche Safety Training Level 2 should be a minimum before setting out on this objective.

Backcountry Safety

Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.

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