Frost Bite! (Forever Young Couloir)

So here goes my first post and I suppose I’m the bearer of bad tidings…..

I’m currently convalescing after getting frost bite on my toes after being benighted on the Illicillewaet Glacier two days ago. Not the most uplifting of posts but I suppose this blog is supposed to be warts and al’.

Forever Young

Forever Young

Skinning up the start of the 7 Steps of Paradise

Skinning up the start of the 7 Steps of Paradise

I was alert to potential slides and took a longer, more conservative route to get up the last section which avoided the Seventh Step. Very safe and low risk but a bitch to climb and I lost a lot of time boot packing in deep, faceted snow. When I got to the top of the bootpack, I realised I was on the wrong side to get to the summit ridge and had to descend the backside and skin back up. I had a bad feeling on this side and could see that a fair amount had ripped. It did not look good and I did not really want to be there. But now I was totally committed and was fast running out of time before it got dark. I still needed to find the entrance to the couloir which I found but losing more time.

The whole day just wasn’t turning out as I had envisaged: getting to the couloir had taken way too long, I was running out of day light and I was not feeling too good about the avalanche conditions. So, it was no surprise to get to the high side of the entrance  for it to rip down 15cm  about 30m across with me nicely sat on the bed. The first avalanche I’ve triggered of any real consequence and needless to say, I was pretty spooked. It didn’t make me want to enter the couloir but a purged couloir is also a safe couloir. Angelita was waiting for me a distance  away with a view of the couloir but couldn’t confirm via phone whether it had completely gone. With not much day light left, I had to make a decision: down the couloir or head down the Illecillewaet for the Youngs Peak Traverse. I just didn’t want to take the risk and decided on the Traverse, knowing full well that I might be benighted but hoping for a bit of luck in route finding.

No such luck. I’ve never been on the glacier before and could see it was fairly crevassed as I approached with hardly any light left, so the decision was an uncomfortable one but a no-brainer. Stay put and wait out the morning. Thank God for my space blanket. That really was a life-saver.



A long, cold night in a make shift snow cave but no big deal. I got down easily enough with the help of a skin track the next morning and made it to the Wheeler Hut in good spirits where Angelita was waiting for me. Unfortunately for me, we discovered that my toes had frozen overnight due to wet socks.

So here I am, going mad at the house waiting for my feet to recover. The official verdict is first degree frost bite with second degree frost bite on two toes but a full recovery looks to be on the cards. I’ve never been benighted but had all the necessaries just in case. I never thought spare socks would be part of that list but I will never leave without them now. It was a great learning experience under very forgiving conditions, with no wind and clear skies and a temp of ca. C -8. A real confidence builder if such a situation should ever arise again. Things don’t always go according to plan, especially in unfamiliar terrain and you’re not always going to have someone with you who’s done it before, so it’s essential to be prepared for the worse.

Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of time on my hands to get this blog going now which could be dangerous, so bear with me if I start going a bit off track!

Total Vertical skinned for the day: 1800m//6000 feet

For more trip reports around the Revelstoke area, click here.

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9 Responses to Frost Bite! (Forever Young Couloir)

  1. Bjørg-Elin says:

    I can’t imagine how you and Angelita felt as the snow tore…but I sure am glad you are ok. Good reading, looking forward to keeping track of you two. But please – no more avalanche stories. Ok? :o) Hugs from Uruguay

  2. LarsT says:

    Ouch dude! Hope your toes heal up!

    Have you searched ttips or tgr for partners?

    Blog bookmarked, greetings from norway :)

    • paulholding says:

      I’ve hooked up with a few people but no one on a regular basis who wants to get after it. Five weeks left. Get those toes healed and then hopefully something will happen. Look forward to touring with you when I get back.

  3. Sara says:

    I love to read your storys of places I oh know so well:) and oh miss o much! I also know how frustration feels not finding partners to play with! Good on you for being stuborn (? weird spell) going anyways, and im happy your thinking twice! being prepared for adventures :) im looking forward to your storys, even the way off track ones!

  4. Sara says:

    But no sad ones, so PLAY SAFE!!!! okey then,,

  5. Karen says:

    That’s some story. So glad you made it out okay… get better quickly kx

  6. Ewen says:

    It was you!! Haha.

    I followed your bootpack up the rightside of the Youngs Peak headwall….in crappy facets. Only to find it topped out on a ridge with nowhere to go. I then also faced the very steep downclimb on the far side in wet wet snow and the very sketchy (it was now noon on south facing slopes in hot sun) traverse across and up to the summit.

    That was quite an experience to do alone.

    At least I didn’t have to spend the night on the summit though. Hope your toes are ok.

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