Martin Lefebvre just got back into cell service yesterday, and whispers of his latest big mountain achievement have already trickled their way into the ears of the Western Canadian steep skiing community. He and his partner Ali Hogg, a fellow ski patroller from Sunshine Village, just nestled themselves in the Wrangell St.Elias Range and managed to put a couple of tracks down the south face of University Peak.
Another party attempted to ski the sustained south face in 2001, but they were forced to rappel for 200 feet down an ice flute from the ridgetop. Martin believes that he and Hogg took a slightly different line through the crux at the top, navigating back down their bootpack in an icy chute between two seracs.
“The whole thing was pretty tense,” says Lefebvre. “But the most was at the start of the ski when Ali slipped out just below the seracs on some ice but managed to self arrest with skis and ice axe.”
“That’s in the section that nobody skied before,” he adds.
Lefebvre and Hogg ascended and descended in an 18 hour push, leaving camp at 6pm and climbing through the night. He attributes part of the success of the line to the late springtime window and the fact that they were working within the melt freeze cycle. Though he does maintain that they got some nice dry pow turns on the upper portion.
Around this same time last year, Martin put a first descent down Mount Clemencau with Kevin Hjertas and Cris Rubens.
Paul Klaus, the pilot who flew them in from the town of Chitina, said that he hadn’t seen the south face of University Peak looking that good in over ten years.
Martin is humble about the experience, and feels the need to verify details before claiming it as a first descent. Either way, the thing’s on the cover of the Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America, so you know that this is an achievement worth talking about.