Ascend Splitboardfestival 2014

Ascend Splitboardfestival
Jasper National Park Rocky Mountains

Lukas and Geoff made the same experience over the last years, but they thought, why don´t bring all the splitboarders together – make a festival were you can meet other splitboarders, talk and share experiences and have fun together. So they created the Ascend Splitfest.

Splitboarders are a minority in the backcountry. A growing minority but most people still explore the backcountry on skies.

Around 30 splitboarders came together to celebrate their passion for the backcountry. The whole group was divided into three smaller groups to fit everyone’s abilities. For every group there was a guide who knew the area and was keen on having a good day. The destinations were all along the Icefields Parkway, Hilda -, Parker – and Destiny Ridge.

While travelling in the backcountry we put our life in the hand of others and they rely on our help in case of an accident. So it is very important to practise the basic skills and to make sure everyone can use their beacon, probe and shovel. After a short recap we were ready to go.

I joined the group heading towards Destiny Ridge. There were people in the group who had years of years of splitboard experience and there were some who had just bought their board. It was great to share the knowledge and the joy of being out in the mountains.

[slide]Ascend Splitboardfestival [/slide]
[slide]Ascend Splitboardfestival [/slide]
[slide]Ascend Splitboardfestival [/slide]

Jasper National Park it the biggest National Park in the Rocky Mountains and therefor a great touring destination. The Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper offers stunning mountain views and great access for touring. The best thing was, that we had it all for our self, no one had been there, at least since the last snowfall.

Before we finally reached the ridge, we had a steep shoulder in front of us. Matt did a great job in putting in a low angled skin track, but he had to use kick turns. For some it was just another kick turn, but for other it was the first kick turn in their live.

At the top of the ridge, the mountaineer in some of us broke through and we hiked a few meters to reach a small sub peak. Lukas was more than happy because he had seen the ridge before, but never went there. It was a great place offering plenty of opportunities for nice turns.

We all reached the peak and it is always a nice feeling to be on the highest point. The view is stunning and you know that it is going down from here. We stood on top for a moment and enjoyed the view. The weather wasn´t the greatest but we could still see the silhouette of the huge mountains around us.

Finally it was time to put our boards together and adjust them into riding mode. Now it was
really obvious that there were no skiers with us. No one rushed and we all took our time. But we also didn´t wasted time because now it was time to do what we were here for – ride some untouched powder.

No surprise he was smiling. It was a enjoyable run down and we all were happy with the day. I was very happy to go out with a guide who knows the area, because I personally would have never gone where we had gone. It is also always nice to talk to professionals about avalanche danger and terrain, because there are endless things to learn.

[slide]Ascend Splitboardfestival [/slide]
[slide]Ascend Splitboardfestival [/slide]

After the last run we went back to Jasper and got ready for the evening program. We all had dinner together and went to the museum for presentations about Parks Canada, mountain guiding and the local splitboard scene. To finish the evening there was a ruffle for the CAA (Canadian Avalanche Assosciation) with great prices.

Another day, another destiny, another group. For the second day the guides had planed
three trips but most people were tempted by going onto a glacier. They changed their plans and two groups were heading towards the Boundary Glacier, again on the Icefields Parkway.

Lead by our guide we worked our way towards the glacier and through the crevasses. Because of the bad winter there was less snow than usually in mid march, but luckily there was enough snow to cover most of the crevasses and so we were able to get to the glacier plateau.

Looking up those icefalls and glaciers you feel small – you are small compared with the endless ice and snow around you. Maybe that´s the fascination about glaciers and the open icefields.

Glacier ice has an unreal colour. A colour which is hard to capture on a picture. Also the size of the ice is larger than it looks. Ice maybe taller than the highest building in your town and for sure higher than the tallest building in Jasper.

The bad winter made it a little more difficult to climb the glacier, because the crevasses had only a thin layer of snow on top. Our guide managed to find a proper way through the glacier. To be on the safe side everyone got a harness and we roped up.

Once we had ascended over the icefall it was time for a break to have a bite and enjoy the view. After we were rested it was time to continue towards our goal. A col just below Hilda Peak on the other side of the snowfield. Before we got there we had to cross a huge plateau.

Like the day before, we wanted to get as high as possible and even though the first couple of meters shouldn´t be great riding, it was worth the effort. From here we could see towards the other side and behind the col the mountain fall down into a steep valley.

Time to ride, time to enjoy the snow. After a few clouds had covered to sky at noon, the sun was shining again for our way down. The light revealed the stunning surrounding and covered it all in beautiful lightning.

We rode down beside the uptrack in order not the fall in any crevasses, but the wide open slope still had more than enough fresh powder for all of us. It was a long day but everyone seemed to be very happy about the day. A great finish for an awesome weekend.

Thank you Lukas and Geoff for organizing this weekend.

It was great to exchange experiences with so many other splitboarders and to pass on some knowledge and joy. My high expectations were even toped. The touring destinations were a perfect choice and I think no one even imagined to go on a glacier, considering the bad conditions. On top of all was a great evening with interesting presentations and a raffle which made not only the CAA happy, but also the numerous winners. I would love to came back next year, but there is an ocean in between…

©All text and pictures by Julian Hölldorfer
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