For the past few years, I've had Smutwood Peak on my radar. I originally wanted to do it in the fall, due to the stunning location and the two Birdwood Lakes that make fall photos look amazing from this area.
Alas, fall season (and larch season in particular), only lasts about 1 month if you're LUCKY so this peak got relegated to a ski trip since I'm running out of peaks I can attain in 1 day on back country skis from any roads! :) Originally Wietse and I planned to ski Smutwood the week previous but thanks to a brain fart on my part we ended up discovering a ski circuit that we didn't know existed and bagged Pig's Back instead... ;)
On this particular Saturday morning it was three of us leaving the parking area alongside the Spray Lakes road; Bill, Wietse and myself. The morning was considerably warmer than the week previous and the weather promised to be clearer as well. From Pig's Back a week earlier, Smutwood became pretty socked in by early afternoon since it sits right on the divide. We hoped for some great views from its summit!
We had no incidents on the ski into the Smuts meadows and up Commonwealth Creek. Wietse broke trail alongside the creek and up to the towering NE face of Mount Birdwood. There was some evidence of sluffing off the face (probably cornice failure) and high winds looked to be blasting the summit but we forged ahead - conditions seemed pretty tight. Wietse led the way up the hard packed snow at the end of the Smuts Valley to climber's right and up towards Smuts Pass.
[The moon sets over CEGFNS as seen from the Burstall Pass parking lot while we wait for Wietse to get lighter...]
[High winds look to be blasting Mount Birdwood's summit as we ski across the Commonwealth Creek flats below The Fist and Mount Smuts.]
[Interesting shadows off the summit of Mount Birdwood]
[Working our way up the steep avy slope beneath the towering NE face of Birdwood.]
[Bill with The Fist peaking out on the right.]
[Wietse and Bill putting the skis back on beneath towering Mount Smuts after taking them off briefly to cross some wind blasted scree slopes. The scramble route for Smuts goes up the obvious gully and then traverses onto the scary looking rib on climber's right.]
Once we were at the scrambler's turn off for Mount Smuts we had to take the skis off temporarily before skiing a bit higher to the top of the pass. From there we had excellent views of Smutwood and the very skiable terrain around the two Birdwood Lakes which were obviously buried in many feet of fresh powder. It was hard not to simply break trail into that bowl and start making turns! I'll be back there for sure to do just that! It even looked very possible to ski right into the bowl from between the false and true summit of Smutwood which would be rather cool.
Wietse again broke trail on the supportive snow pack to the col between Smutwood and Birdwood. From this col we skied towards the long ridge leading up to the false summit. Before getting too far up the right we stopped for lunch to some jaw-dropping views of Mount Birdwood and Snow Peak over near Burstall Pass. Some low cloud mixed with brilliant sunshine added to the winter drama - totally worth doing this trip on skis!
[Wietse and Bill make their way up to Smuts Pass]
[Wietse is a speck in the far distance. Smutwood's two summits (main on right) and Smuts on the far right. Look at all that FRESH POW.]
[Almost at the pass between Birdwood and Smutwood.]
[Looking back at our tracks coming from Smuts Pass. Mount Smuts on the right.]
[View from our lunch spot. From left to right includes Smuts, Birdwood, Snow Peak and Leman and King Albert in the far distance. ++]
After a delicious lunch we started back up the ridge. We didn't get far up the ridge before we had to drop the skis and proceed on foot. The snow on the west side of the ridge varied from packed (which was great) to mostly sugary, unsupportive crud. Thank goodness it wasn't too deep or we would've been really working to get up the ridge!
The views were amazing as we progressed higher and higher. I broke trail around the west side of the false summit. The first head-on views of the true summit were a bit intimidating as we went down to the col between the false and true summits. It looked like a full-on climb but as with most climbs, once we poked our noses in it, the slope was pretty tame right up to the summit.
[Looking back at Mount Birdwood and Snow Peak from the lower ascent slopes on the summit ridge of Smutwood. ++]
[It looks like the plane crashed right into the summit of Birdwood!]
[Views off the ridge.]
[Wietse and Bill coming up the ridge.]
[Apparently there's a ski tour that comes up from Birdwood Pass behind us and comes over the Smutwood / Birdwood col and then down our ascent route.]
[Wietse comes up a bump in the ridge as we're enveloped in clouds.]
[Bill comes over the col between the false summit and the true one. Birdwood looks awesome from this angle.]
[Wietse breaks trail for a bit - we're getting closer to the summit but not there yet! We also have to watch out for large cornices on our right.]
[Getting higher. The weather is sublime. Feels like spring!]
[Bill follows us up the ridge. This section reminded me of the summit ridge on Balfour.]
[Vern on the summit of Smutwood Peak.]
[Pano looking west over to Mounts Warre, Vavasour and Leval. ++]
[Pano looking north over the summit cornice towards Banff. ++]
[Looking towards Lemon Lake again - the clouds are clearing a bit more now. Summits include Birdwood, Snow Peak, Sir Douglas, Leval, Vavasour, Warre, Currie, Redman, Lemon. ++]
[Mount Smuts and Birdwood from the summit. We came over the pass between them on lower center and right. ++]
After too short a time on the summit we started down again. I took my time on the descent - the views were so gorgeous and the weather was so nice I didn't want to rush too much. We had no incidents getting down to Smuts Pass and then descending slabby crud snow to the bottom of Smuts Valley before heading out on a great ski track to the vehicle.
Our round trip time of 7 hours included some nice breaks and should be easily attainable for most parties with decent snow conditions. I HIGHLY recommend this trip on skis - just make sure the avy conditions are low because you will find yourself on more than one tricky slope before the end of the day.
[Great views on descent]
[Descending the main summit ridge.]
[Wietse and Bill re-ascend the false summit on descent.]
[In the center of the photo, Mounts Leman, Queen Elizabeth and Albert become more visible.]
[A pano of the false summit. ++]
[Bill at the col between Birdwood and Smutwood.]
[Skiing down to Smuts Valley from Smuts Pass wasn't the best skiing we've ever done. But it sure beat snow shoeing!!!!]
[Looking up at Pig's Back and the gully we descended a week ago!]
[A gorgeous sunset from the parking area along Hwy 1 at the end of a perfect winter day that felt a lot more like a spring day.]