Exploring the Mica Tenure: Tsar Mountain

In the eastern corner of the Mica tenure lies a sleeping giant that only few lucky skiers have had the opportunity to lay eyes on. Clear skies and good stability are required to make it out to this majestic piece of ski terrain, making it a coveted area for both guides and guests to visit.

Tsar Mountain and the glaciers that surround it, are very special features of the Mica Heliskiing tenure. With only three named runs; Khumbu, Warning Light and Charlie’s Horses nearby, Mica President Paul Norrie says "Tsar offers arguably some of the most remote heliskiing in BC. Its location and the high alpine runs we have there make it only accessible when conditions are perfect. It has been visited by only a handful of skiers making it a very challenging and unique place to ski. There is still much left to explore".

Tsar Mountain, Mica Heliskiing
The mighty Tsar. [photo: Chris Rubens/@chrisrubens]

Standing 3424 meters tall, the grandeur of the peak has drawn in dedicated alpinists for nearly a century. Its secluded locale and stature are what initially captivated surveyor Arthur O. Wheeler, whose work in the area earned himself an iconic reputation in Rocky Mountain history. He named the peak "Czar"  in 1927 while surveying the area, and wrote " When I saw it, so strikingly dominating its surroundings in isolated majesty, I named it 'Czar', but later, when recording it, the spelling with  'Ts' seemed more appropriate."

The first ascent of the mountain was completed a young Alfred J. Ostheimer while guided by Hans Fuhrer in 1927.  Ostheimer climbed 30 peaks in the Columbia and Clemenceau Icefields that summer,  27 of which were first ascents. "We came to explore little known and unknown country; we came for first ascents and the acquisition of scientific knowledge" writes Ostheimer in his journal.

Eric Hjorleifson, Marty Schaffer and Chris Rubens roped up and scoping lines on Tsar Glacier, Mica Heliskiing
Chris Rubens, Eric Hjorleifson and Marty Schaffer roped up and scoping lines on Tsar Glacier while filming for Sherpas Cinema's Into the Mind. [photo: Chris Rubens/@chrisrubens]

"Tsar was, in 1927, the outstanding rock of the main range that remained unclimbed. To reach it was the main reason for the very careful organization of this expedition, because both the inaccessibility and natural difficulties of the mountain presented a problem that required more than casual thought." Careful preparation, cooperative weather and determination all came together to help the two mountain men completed their mission.

Tsar Mountain lies in the south-eastern edge of Mica Heli's terrain, looming above Tsar Glacier just east of the upper Kinbasket River. Its prominent alpine features have captured the attention of many Mica guests, including professional skiers Chris Rubens and Eric Hjorleifson who have visited the lodge to film for various projects over the years. On a heliski trip that took place during Mica's early years, the peak caught Hjorleifson's eye from a distance. A photograph was snapped and the image was stored in his memory until 2012, when unseasonably warm temperatures near Revelstoke and in the Coast Mountains had him and Chris Rubens scrambling to find filming locations for Sherpas Cinema's feature film "Into the Mind".

They were forced to look north to the promise land of huge peaks and even bigger glaciers in the Rocky Mountains. The old photograph of Tsar Mountain had resurfaced, and it is ultimately "what inspired the trip", says Chris Rubens.
"The terrain in the photo looked incredible and soon enough we were putting the logistics together for a basecamp just south of Tsar Mountain. It was still the beginning of April, which meant Mica Heli was still flying. We managed to catch them for one of the best flights I have ever done in the mountains."

Flying into Tsar Mountain, Mica Heliskiing
Flying in to Tsar Mountain with Mica Heli. [photo: Chris Rubens/ @chrisrubens]

Despite careful planning and lots of ambition, multiple storms and unstable snow conditions defeated Rubens' and Hjorleifson's crew. "Much of our time at Tsar was spent teepee bound or shoveling snow" tells Rubens, but something is still drawing him into the area. "I would go back there any day."

For more photos of Mica terrain, check out our updated Terrain Page.  

A blue sky evening on Tsar Glacier, Mica Heliskiing

A rare blue sky evening on Tsar Glacier. [photo: Chris Rubens/ @chrisrubens]
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