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Winter Camping in the Gold Range
On March 13th, 2021, Titouan Chopin, Aaron Cooperman and I caught a 4 minute heli ride from Sol Mountain Lodge to an alpine lake North West of Mt. Odin. This destination would be home for the next 4 nights. This trip has been in the works since earlier this winter, a lot of time pondering over the map and waiting for a weather window. Our plan was to fly out with pre-made food (maybe a bit more than we needed), firewood, and our winter camping gear. After four nights we would make a long day trip back to Sol Mountain Lodge.
Camp with the north face of Mt. Odin behind. Photo by Titouan Chopin
Once we saw the weather window coming we knew we had to make it happen, high confidence in the snow pack and splitter weather was crucial for this camp. We were stoked all this preparation and planning was coming together into what would soon be a very memorable trip.
I have to say, you feel pretty badass and powerful flying through tiger country in a helicopter, but as soon as that heli takes off you feel a whole lot smaller. I quickly realized that these mountains are a little more serious than what I was used to.
Skiing down Saturday glacier, with Mt. Thor on the far right, Niffelheim in the middle, and Kelly peak on the left.
A quick afternoon tour gave us an idea of the terrain surrounding, and eyes on some ski lines. Our view of the south fork of Odin creek gave us an opportunity to scope an option to ski from the ridge of Mt. Odin. Titouan had seen this line in a book recently and was pretty psyched to get a chance at skiing it, though it would take some more investigation before heading up there. Nights at the camp were pretty simple. Make some water, make soup, make dinner, talk about skiing, then try to get some sleep. Sleepless nights were a common theme throughout the trip, luckily we had a lot of coffee.
On the 14th we headed up to Saturday ridge planning to ski down into the south fork of Odin creek. The run ended up being all time. Nearly 1,000 vertical meters of steep skiing surrounded by towering rock walls. This definitely set a tone for the trip, we’re going to have some great skiing. A walk up through moraines and onto a small glacier got us to a cul that would be a potential way home if we skied the Odin run. A bootpack and a bit of scrambling got us to ridge to see if it was a worthy option. With a quick rappel, or down climb to ski, this option would work well. To finish the day we had a gruelling 600m climb up a narrow treed shoulder that was guarded by cliffs on one side and rock slabs and ice on the other. Countless kick turns and slipper side hills later we made it to camp, this would definitely go down as one of the worst climbs I’ve ever done.
The sparsely treed shoulder in the centre of the photo was our express track home.
Another sleepless night, this time due to being covered in snow from the wind blowing the snow into our megamid. On the 15th we took it easy, we wanted to be well rested for our adventure up Odin the next day. Although it was a test day, we still had a phenomenal run down a steep, east facing bowl in the north fork of Odin creek. After that quick hit we got fogged out, for the rest of the day. Trying to find your way around with no visibility is not only hard, but very confusing. It was great to see our tracks when the fog finally cleared and realizing we were not where we thought.
Yet another sleepless night at camp, this time because of a pleasant surprise of -17 in the morning. We were definitely excited to get moving. A quick breakfast and coffee got us onto our skis by seven. By heading south and descending 600 meters we would be able to skin up and across the bottom of the south face of Odin. By heading east along the base of Odin we were able to gain the ridge via a low point that brought us onto the Frigg Glacier. From here we walked up the ridge until we reached our run, 150 meters below the summit. We walked along the ridge without skis for a bit, until Aaron fell into a vent hole. It definitely made him second guess if he was on the ridge or the cornice. Luckily, everything worked out and no one got hurt. It was a little alarming to look up the ridge and see Aaron shoulder deep in a vent hole. After a quick recovery from our little incident we analyzed the final step to the summit. After discussion between the three of us we were all at peace with turning around where we were. We were plenty stoked to ski the run we came here for. The skiing started with a steep open face off the ridge, then after crossing the Bergschrund the run mellowed out. The snow could not have been better, dry boot top pow the whole way down.
The run of the trip. North side of Mt. Odin. Photo by Titouan Chopin.
We took a long break in the afternoon sun before hopping back onto the uptrack that would take us up 600m back to camp. This was unfortunately the same uptrack as a few days earlier that would go down as the worst uptrack I’ve used. We were all very relieved to arrive back at camp, just in time to miss the sunset.
Walking below the south face of Mt. Odin.
The final night at camp was the best one, everyone slept for at least part of the night. Packing up camp went quickly. We were on our way back to sol mountain lodge before you even knew. One thing was a little different about this day, we had big packs with all our stuff on, not just day packs. This was my first time carrying overnight gear while skiing, Titouan and Aaron have had a fair amount of experience. If the whole day went like the first hour, I’m not sure if I would have made it back. But everything sorted itself out within a few hours so this is still a success story. Aaron led the charge as we circum navigated Ice Bound lake. A bit of boot packing, skinning, and skiing, and next thing you know we were walking home from peters lake. Arriving back at the lodge by 8:30pm equaled a total of 12 hours of skiing. It felt real!
Leaving Camp and beginning the journey home. Photo by Titouan Chopin.
All in all, there are many things we all learned out there. One that I would definitely note as significant is that a 4 minute heli ride is NOT a quick walk on skis, in our case it was a 12 hour walk. We were ever grateful to have the most perfect conditions for the trip. Without perfect stability and weather many places we skied would have been out of the question. We are already planning our trip back, this time with warmer clothes and potentially a two way helicopter ride.
The team. Titouan Chopin on the left, Seth Cooperman in the middle, and Aaron Cooperman on the right.