Many of us have stood at the top of the Stoke chair and gazed west. From that vantage point, you can see the entire Southern Monashee range. They look impressive and endless.
Often your eyes are captivated by the Columbia River as it courses through the valley, the light reflecting on its beautiful waters. The Monashee mountains rise strikingly from its shores. The southern peaks, known as the gold range, are massive rocky peaks which cast a Patagonian like silhouette. Glaciers hang on all the north faces as your eyes move north they flow over mountain tops, and large snowfields, eventually ending at our signature Mt. Begbie, the sharks fin peaks of Mt. Tilley and the skiers dream of Mt. Macphersons fingers. It takes a while for your eyes to wander the ridges and peaks of this range.
On closing weekend, while many of us were enjoying this view and ripping groomers, there was a feat being achieved amongst these peaks.
The Southern Monashee traverse is a 65 km ski traverse that starts in the Gold Range, which is directly above the Shelter Bay ferry and ends in Revelstoke. This traverse was first attempted in 1979 by a very experienced group of guides: Tim Auger, Dave Smith, Don Vockeroth and Bob Sawyer. They were the first to sample a small part of this traverse.
Then, in 2006, Remy Bernier and James Madden traversed what has become the standard way to ski across the Southern Monashees. Starting near Mt. Odin, heading north and staying as high as possible the whole time and ending in Revelstoke. Typically, this traverse takes 5-8 days for the average ski tourer.
Extraordinarily, it was done in one push this past weekend.
This idea has been thrown around for many years by many of us. Yet it takes a certain type of person to take these wild ideas and put them into action.
This type of person turned out to be local Andrew McNab and his super partner Dan Rohn.
Andrew’s resume is packed with incredible first descents and many huge days in the mountains. Born in Revelstoke, a certified ski guide and all-around optimistic person, it only made sense that he would be the first to make this trip happen.
Last year, Adam Campbell and I traversed 135km from Rogers Pass to Bugaboos in a 53-hour push. Years ago, Andrew and I did the Wapta Traverse with 7 summits in a 19-hour push. Needless to say, he is comfortable pushing deep into the uncomfortable.
He enlisted the psych and help of Dan Rohn, a budding ski mountaineer/ assistant ski guide.. Transplanted here from Banff and son of a prolific mountain guide, Dan brought some new strength and excitement to the team. He has vast experience in the mountains yet had never attempted anything of this nature. Previous to this attempt his biggest day was 3400m and this more-than 6500m was going to be a new experience for him.
On Saturday, April 16th, Andrew and Dan hired a helicopter and got dropped off at 9:05 a.m. near the summit of Mt. Odin, which is roughly 50 km south of Revelstoke. They began their super tour by summiting the mountain and skiing a 1700m north-facing powder run right to the valley bottom.
They were thankful that ski traverses are popular now and were able to follow a skin track up and to the summit of Gates Peak, which provided great powder skiing down the north glacier. From there they skinned and worked hard for the rest of the daylight hours. Until they summited Cranberry Mountain, roughly 15 km north-west of Mt. Odin, for the sunset. Some not-so-great skiing dropped them into the valley where they ate and powered up for their next climb.
At 12 hours in they were slowing down, but the rising full moon elevated their spirits and a few hours later they were on another summit, Mt. Armstrong. The moon was so bright that they didn’t need headlamps. From there they skied down to the Blanket Chalet where they snuck into the sauna for an almost 5-hour sleep until the early hours of the morning (Don’t worry, Andrew works there and had prearranged this sauna poach). In the morning Heidi Shaffer, the blanket chef, fed them a powerful breakfast and they were off at 6:45 a.m. with some fresh cookies in their bags and new fuel in their bellies.
With a few more climbs to go, they were pretty excited for what was to come: an awesome run down the Big Apple, an iconic heli-skiing run, and up and around to Mt. Begbie. In Andrew’s usual style they knew it wouldn’t be complete without standing on the summit of Mt. Begbie. So, they climbed up to the col and the summit. Then they shredded the North West Glacier down and finished off down to the Begbie trailhead where they had bikes waiting. A nice spin on their bikes brought them down to the Big Eddy Pub for the celebratory beers and burgers.
These days there are so many incredible feats happening almost all the time by many strong ski tourers, yet, in my mind, this speed traverse is something that many of us considered a worthy dream. Andrew and Dan made it a worthy reality. 65 km, 6900 m of elevation, and 6 summits, all human-powered and impressive. Now anytime I am at the top of the Stoke Chair, looking west and ogling the incredible sea of peaks of the southern Monashees, I will think about Andrew and Dan and be excited that they showed the potential.
Dreams can become reality if we are only willing to take the risks and challenge ourselves. Thanks boys for showing us what is possible.
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