On April 15, 2012 I was joined by Kev Papke and Jason Wilcox for a ski ascent of Ramp Peak in Banff National Park, just to the east of highway 93 up the creek near the Mosquito Creek hostel.
We were a bit apprehensive on the drive to the mountains. The weather forecast was rather dull for everywhere but a patch of hwy 93 and we were a bit doubting about the accuracy of it. Avalanche ratings were low and I needed some exercise but was also suffering the lingering effects of a cold / flu from the previous week. Originally we had planned a long day trip up Mount Baker but given the energy levels and the weather forecast we decided to try Ramp Peak instead.
Last year Wietse, Kev and I had scrambled Mosquito Mountain and enjoyed it so we were planning on coming back for Ramp and Quartzite anyway. Doing them on skis just made much more sense.
We got ready at the hostel parking lot as the sky started to clear. Right away we made a bone head move and got off route which cost us time and energy. We followed a well-defined skin track up the creekbed and up the right hand bank, while we should have known better and simply followed the summer trail on the left (climbers) of the creek bed right from the road. Basically you shouldn't be in the creek for at least an hour or two from the road! The creek narrows and forces you to exit quite quickly. Although scenic, it's a pain. Literally.
[If you're doing this at the start of your trip you need to back up and go up the summer trail on the left hand side of the creek! :-)]
[Kev comes up the creek behind me. Note the cougar tracks in the snow?]
[Our objective comes into view. Isn't the weather horrible though? :-) For a "snow showers" day this is turning out pretty darn fine. From right to left we have Mosquito Mountain, Ramp Peak and Quartzite Mountain hiding behind the trees.]
As we approached the mountain the weather continued to improve until it was almost too sunny and warm! We didn't want the bottom to fall out of the snow pack and we were a bit concerned about avy hazard on the main mountain but decided to keep going and get our noses in the slopes before making any decisions. The west slopes looked plenty steep as we approached! From the campground we trended up and climber's left through open gladed forest on a very firm snow crust. Travel was quick and fun as we broke tree line about 30 meters too high - basically perfect navigation.
[After the camp site we started climbing steeper terrain through fairly open forest on a nice hard crust. Amazingly the crust held up for us all day. In the background is Noseeum Mountain.]
[We popped out of the trees slightly too high, but not by much! The trick is to contour around the treed bump on climber's left. Both JW and Kev wanted to go right, but remember that the access drainage for both Ramp and Quartzite is quite far north of Mosquito - probably further than you think. This bowl would be fun yo-yo skiing too.]
[Climbing out of the bowl. Ramp Peak is just visible over the ridge line.]
[We took a lunch break in the warm sunshine. Kevin regalled us with wild tales of his past... He's almost 50 you know!! :D]
After a quick break in beautiful sunshine in a nice alpine bowl (worth skiing in just to ski this bowl!) we pushed on. JW broke trail across a suspect (loaded) slope and then we started the grunt up the main mountain. Trail breaking was a bit of work in 8-18" of fresh snow on a very solid base. Kevin heard a settlement low down and higher up JW heard a settlement when we got close to the thinner snowpack near the summit but other than that the snow was very solid and quiet all day. The sun was cooking but the air temps were around 0 degrees - breaking trail was still plenty warm though! :-)
[What a glorious day!]
[Getting above the bowl the route becomes obvious. For Quartzite angle left, for Ramp either go straight up or contour around the bumps. We contoured. As usual with wide-angle pictures it's much steeper than it looks.]
[JW breaks trail towards Ramp. These slopes were probably the most hazardous. They are wind loaded but don't get much sun, which is a good thing. From right to left it's Quartzite, Ramp and Mosquito. ++]
[Breaking trail in 6" of fresh pow]
[An awesome spring ski day. Looking back at our ascent tracks / route. ++]
[Kev grunts up the steep west face of Ramp. Mount Hector is just visible on the left.]
[See? I broke trail too! ;-)]
[JW is all smiles as he approaches the summit of Ramp Peak.]
The summit views were stunning, especially with the cloud and blue sky mixing it up for dramatic effect. The clouds were welcome as they kept the snow stable. We didn't linger too long in the cool summit breeze and soon we were strapped in and ready for a great ski run down the west face. What a great ski run!! We whooped and hollared all the way down in ankle to knee deep snow - one of the best ski runs I've had in a while! It had some length to it and was fairly steep so we could get some speed. It was almost worth another go but we weren't about to push our luck.
[Mount Hector is buried in clouds.]
[From left to right, Willingdon, Tower and Crown.]
[Peaks across the Pipestone Valley.]
[Summit view to the north, east (Pipestone Valley) and south (Hector). ++]
[Summit view towards Mosquito Mountain, Hector and Noseeum Mountain. ++]
[The ski run down the west face was fantastic!!]
[Kev links turns down the west face with Mosquito Mountain in the background.]
[Nearing the bottom of the face.]
[Continuing our descent around the bumps near the base of the west face.]
[JW takes a break on descent. Voluntary of course! :-)]
[Our tracks are visible right in the center of the west face.]
[The snow stayed surprisingly firm in the strong spring sun - the air temps stayed cool enough.]
[Closeup of our tracks.]
Soon we were back at tree line. We were a bit nervous about the descent through the trees but again, the snow held up amazingly well! We managed some nice fast tree skiing to the back country camp ground. From there is was a fast run back to the road on the regular summer route - the snow holding up very well the entire way (as long as we stayed on the well-beaten ski tracks).
[The ski back along the summer trail was very quick. Looking back at our mountain from the depproach.]
[A highly recommended outing in stable, spring conditions. Just make sure there's enough snow!]
We 'stole a day' and came away with one of the best ski runs I've done in a while. A very satisfying day out - and it was nice to get out with JW again, it's probably been a few years!