Down Mount Robson first
Whistler skiers use full moon as inspiration on gnarly descent
Two Whistler adventurers used the light of the full moon and the native name of Mount Robson as inspiration as they pulled off the first ski descent of the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.
Ptor Spricenieks and Troy Jungen summited the 3,954-metre peak in the pre-dawn moonlight last Saturday after a gruelling four-and-a-half day ascent and skied down the entire mountain in a day-and-a-half.
"This is the greatest adventure so far in my life," says Spricenieks, 27, a global ski tourer and cosmic consciousness raiser. According to Spricenieks, cosmic couch surfer Jungen had been carefully monitoring the snow conditions on Robson all summer and a combination of summer storms and the full moon prompted the pair to attempt the descent. They were also motivated by their daring chauffeur, Whistler's Robin Allen, who plied the boys with energy and positive prompting.
A number of ski descents have been attempted on Mount Robson, but all have failed.
Spricenieks and Jungen are what he calls "natural partners" and are both in the process of writing their PhD thesis on Ski Shamanism and the Robson adventure should be worth at least a chapter.
"Since way back Troy and I have been spending years getting scared together," laughs Spricenieks.
The two made the ascent over the upper Mist Glacier under the full moon and had to free climb the last pitch of 70 degree ice to the summit at 3 a.m. Saturday.
They had climbed most of the route they skied down, but opted for the ice climb to the summit because the chute they were going to descend was full of "like, totally winter powdies," says Spricenieks.
After a power lunch on the summit, Jungen and Spricenieks jumped into the 70 degree chute.
"We dropped in right off the summit and it was really, really, really, really steep and really, really big and we were way scared… it was great," recalls Spricenieks, adding snow conditions ranged from winter powder at the top to slushy, isothermic snow over top of ice near the lower elevations — but there was snow all the way down.
"We had to blow like 20 feet of air to get to safer exposures on the glacier because of all the crevasses," he says.
Spricenieks and Jungen dedicated their effort to Peter Chrzanowski, the Canadian extreme skiing pioneer who attempted to descend Robson four times, and Jerry Garcia who motivated the boys to higher heights.
"It's a real gnarly place and if the weather came in it would be almost impossible to get off the mountain," Spricenieks says. "The cosmic forces were definitely with us." He says their success can also be attributed to the fact that they called the mountain by its original Indian name — Yuh-hai-has-hun — and did their adventure during the Indian Summer.
"It's really important to remember the original Indian name," he says. "That's what these mountains should be called, not under some name of some Hudson's Bay dude who walked into the area to make cash off the natural resources."