Great Cairn Winter Mountaineering Week
A week-long fly-in fly-out (by helicopter) trip for beginners which encompasses basic mountaineering skills, basic ski touring skills (on telemark or randonee gear), ice climbing, glacier travel and crevasse rescue and avalanche safety skills. For more details there are a couple links at the bottom of this page.
Next Offered: March 22-29, 2008, Inquire if Interested
The Area - The Great Cairn hut is a cozy and spectacularly located stone hut, maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada. Winter access (and most summer access as well) is via helicopter. From the hut there is an abundance of ideal classroom terrain, although the area is limited in its appeal to experienced skiers and ice climbers. There is a small water ice climb which tops out about 50 feet from the door and a few more short climbs about 15 minutes behind the hut. There are ski tours which avoid steep terrain but do require and develop varying skills. There is plenty of avalanche terrain and a snowpack which often has interesting features and layering. And the surrounding topography is ideal for learning about localized mountain weather effects (and their impact on crevasses).
Equipment - All group equipment, as well as climbing harnesses, will be provided. Some personal items need to be provided by participants, all of which may be rented. While a detailed list will be provided the required gear will include a helmet, general mountaineering axe, crampons and boots (for snow/glacier travel), and telemark or randonee ski equipment. Quality ski equipment, including randonee skis, can be rented in either Portland or Spokane. Telemark skis are easy to rent many other places as well. Assistance deciding what to rent will be provided after registration but questions are always welcome.
Transportation - Transportation to and from BC and the helicopter staging area is not included. The helicopter is.
Safety - This is a remote area and the group needs to be self-reliant for the week. There will be guidelines to ensure a safe trip which everyone will be expected to follow. There will be a large group first aid kit in the hut as well as a repair kit. It is usually possible to contact a commercial chalet in the Rockies via VHF radio in an emergency situation, and sometimes somebody from the CMH Heliskiing Adamant Lodge, depending on where they are flying. However, a helicopter may or may not be able to reach the hut area depending on weather. The only radio communication with the helicopter itself is line-of-sight as they approach or depart. There will be a handheld VHF radio on the trip with all frequencies of possible use pre-programmed.
Helicopter Delays - This is one of the more challenging huts for the pilots to fly to since there is nothing immediately around the hut for visual reference. They can follow trees up Palmer Creek but those end before the final bench that the hut sits on. We will also be in the queue behind the regular flights to Fairy Meadows and several commercial huts, other factors being equal. (There is a lot of local variation in visibility at times, so sometimes the flight order depends on this.) The bottom line is that we may or may not fly on the day planned, either direction. If we are delayed flying into the hut any additional incidental expenses staying in Golden an extra night are not included in the trip cost. If we are delayed flying out you may arrive home late, so be sure your employer and anyone who might panic over this is aware of the possibility. Delays of one day are not uncommon, longer delays are less likely but can occur.
About the Guide and Instructor
Jim Frankenfield has been climbing for over twenty five years and professionally guiding for over 10. He has climbed and skied throughout North America and abroad. He is internationally recognized in the field of snow avalanches. His formal education is in Systems Engineering (B.Sc.), Snow and Avalanche Physics (M.Sc.) and Mathematics (M.Sc.) and before concentrating on outdoor recreation and avalanche engineering he worked in the fields of computer design, microelectronics, rocket motors, and higher education. His practical training includes the completion of world-recognized courses in such areas as mountain rescue and avalanche hazard mitigation.
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