While driving out to Aspen after Silver Couloir I got a text from my buddy Chris for a scouting report. He saw my pic on Instagram and was heading to Silver in the morning. I gave him a call and filled him in as best as I could. Two days later, on Friday night, I was driving back down to Denver from Aspen and decided to reach out to him to see if he wanted to do go for a "bc mission" of our own.
He asked if I meant Beaver Creek or British Columbia before realizing I had meant backcountry and was stoked to let me know that he planned on heading to J-chute Tuesday. Never hearing of it before I let him know I'd do some research over the weekend and get back to him. I checked it out and by Sunday I was in. I was beyond stoked to be going on a backcountry mission with one of my old 44 Board buddies.
Our plan was to meet with Chris and possibly two of his friends at the Mount Royal trailhead at 7:00 am and then simply skin up the trail and branch off towards Mt. Victoria/J-chute. It was expected to be a straightforward and fairly easy ascent that should take no more than 2-3 hours. We would then simply drop into J and ride until we had to hike out back to the cars.
As always I was running a few behind but it turned out Chris, Josh and Erik were as well. I pulled into the lot around 7:10 as another car pulled in at the same time. I assumed it was one of Chris's friends so I said hi but turned out he was a total stranger. He was out there solo for some splitboarding as well. As I took a moment to poke around and test the snow, I found out that Chris and crew were still a little ways out so I headed over Loaf 'N Jug to use their bathroom and grab some Gatorades.
By the time I got back to the trailhead the guys had arrived and were already chatting with the solo splitboarder. His name was Connor and we all figured why not add one more to the group. Our wolf pack had grown to five and we set out a little after 9:00 am.
The initial trail didn't have much snow on it which we had expected so we hiked for a bit until we found enough of a base to warrant skinning. After maybe a fifth of a mile we did find some snow so we switched to skin mode and though it would be smooth sailing from there. Boy were we wrong. After only a few hundred feet the snow quickly ended on us and we were relegated to hiking again. Expecting option 2 to be the easier route, we continued along the trail.
We continued switching between hiking and skinning until we reached the base of J-chute around 10:40 am. Here we weighed our options. Option 1 was to skin up the chute knowing that it would get considerable steeper and more challenging the higher we got. Option 2 was to continue along the trail in the hope that we would be lucky enough to skin most of the rest of the way.
We were definitely not lucky. We were back to the combo of hiking and skinning. It wasn't until we were only about 400 vertical feet from our objective that we found the consistent skin track we were looking for... or so we thought. Without realizing we had gone off the main skin track and followed someones tracks who had gone rogue. Although there was plenty of snow, the remainder of the route we followed challenged not only our physical fitness but also our skill levels.
We reached the summit of Victoria around 1 pm. Here we took a quick break to have some snacks and snap a group shot before switching to ride mode and dropping in. We weren't exactly sure of where the entrance to J was but knew we had passed it sometime prior to reaching the summit. Therefore, we knew we had to head rider's left before losing much elevation or risk getting ourselves into tight trees and who knows what else.
Once we were sure that we had found and were inside J-chute we took turns dropping in one at a time. Although we were dropping in later than we had planned, the snow was actually pretty nice corn, especially where it was not hidden in the shade and the sun was able to warm it. The chute itself was a lot of fun. Plenty of small trees spaced perfectly with enough pitch to make it challenging if you wanted it to be, but not so steep that you couldn't simply cruise through.
Upon exiting the chute we continued to ride as far as the snow allowed. Although I didn't film, it was quite fun. It was a combo of creatively putting together the pieces of the puzzle that was planning your next few turns ensuring you stay on snow. All the while avoiding rocks, trees and streams but still keeping enough speed to not get stuck.
Eventually the snow did run out and we had to hike the remainder. By this time we had already descending quite a bit and the hike out was fairly short. I would estimate that we were back at the trailhead a little after 2 pm. This definitely wasn't the intense adventure that was Silver Couloir but the perfect way to spend a day catching up with an old friend while also making some new ones.