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Snow Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 2789
Elevation Gain (m): 950
Trip Time (hr): 7
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Winter ascent includes serious avalanche risks. Learn how to manage these risks and perform avalanche burial rescues before attempting this trip.
Technical Rating: OT4; YDS (Skiing)
Map: Google Maps


I did something on Saturday, May 16th that I’ve never done before. I bagged a peak on skis on the May long weekend! Wietse and I had already made two halfhearted attempts at Snow Peak near Burstall Pass in Kananaskis Country over the winter of 2009. Finally on May 16th we decided that we’d had enough of this ‘easy’ peak and ended up summiting in perfect conditions in around 7 hours, round trip.

Snow Peak Route Map

We were very surprised that we were the only 2 people to make the pass on this perfect spring day and we even broke trail from the French-Haig-Robertson traverse cutoff point. In the AM we were on hard snow on the flats and about 2-4″ of fresh snow in the trees. There were massive cornices hanging off the easterly side of the peaks in the Burstall Pass area, we expected some of them to collapse during the heat of the day but most of them held on stubbornly. There were some wet slides throughout the day on South and East aspects.

A gorgeous day as we start the ski up Burstall Creek from the parking lot.

There is no rocket science involved in this peak but you do need some energy reserves and some decent snow conditions as there is significant avalanche terrain, especially as you get high on the mountain. We ended up probing with an avi probe near the summit because we weren’t sure where the summit stopped and a massive cornice began! Once the probe stopped hitting ground we decided that we were close enough to call it an official summit success.

After a steep grunt through forest, we popped out at the upper Burstall Meadows. Snow Peak on the upper right here.
We’ve turned climber’s right and are now gaining final slope to Burstall Pass. This is looking back our ascent slope to the SE – Mount Sir Douglas at center and Burstall Pass Peak at right.

There were some very steep rolls on the upper mountain that approached being vertical. With any more freezing we would not have gotten up these without crampons so I would suggest bringing those if you do this peak in the winter.

Incredible views back down to South Burstall Pass from our ascent.
We started getting nervous here, and probed for cornice edges and unstable snow. Thankfully we didn’t find either. Talon, Soderholm, Leval and Vavasour (R) visible.
Birdwood (L), CEGFNS, Murray, Prairie Lookout, French, Whistling Rock, Zeke’s Peak, Sir Douglas, Burstall Pass Peak, Royal Group, Queen Elizabeth, Leman, Talon, Soderholm, Leval, White Man, Vavasour (R).

The run back down the mountain was superb, excellent snow stability with about 6 inches of corn snow on a hard base. After whooping down from Burstall Pass I actually went back up to the pass for another quick run down while Wietse grabbed a quick nap in the (very) warm sunshine.

Exiting the upper Burstall Pass meadows with Snow Peak rising above.

We were fully expecting the ski back out to the parking lot to be isothermal hell but it wasn’t. We were on someone else’s tracks (they followed us in but not even to the pass for some reason – they missed the nicest part of the trip by about 15 minutes!) and since this is such a popular destination in the winter even the creek bed was packed enough to support us all the way back to the flats. The snow was just sticky enough that we didn’t slide on the slight uphill sections to the parking lot but still fast enough that we made pretty decent time.

I highly recommend this trip as a winter destination for experienced parties. There is an option to ski off Snow Peak and short cut the pass on the way back down, but you really need to be sure of snow stability to do this option, as you’ll be skiing right down a huge avalanche gully that slides all the time.

Snow Peak
47 photos
A gorgeous day as we start the ski up Burstall Creek from the parking lot.
A gorgeous day as we start the ski up Burstall Creek from the parking lot.
The wide approach trail is still well covered in snow this late in the season.
The wide approach trail is still well covered in snow this late in the season.
On the Burstall Ponds with Commonwealth looming high above.
On the Burstall Ponds with Commonwealth looming high above.
This is a view of Sir Douglas (L) and Whistling Rock.
This is a view of Sir Douglas (L) and Whistling Rock.
Very impressive views up the Robertson Glacier towards Robertson (L) and Sir Douglas (R).
Very impressive views up the Robertson Glacier towards Robertson (L) and Sir Douglas (R).
Robertson Glacier from the Burstall flats.
Robertson Glacier from the Burstall flats.
After a steep grunt through forest, we popped out at the upper Burstall Meadows. Snow Peak on the upper right here.
After a steep grunt through forest, we popped out at the upper Burstall Meadows. Snow Peak on the upper right here.
Ascending a draw towards Burstall Pass, looking back at Snow Peak (L) and Mount Birdwood (R).
Ascending a draw towards Burstall Pass, looking back at Snow Peak (L) and Mount Birdwood (R).
The views from the Burstall Pass area never disappoint! Snow Peak at left, Birdwood at center, Wietse at right.
The views from the Burstall Pass area never disappoint! Snow Peak at left, Birdwood at center, Wietse at right.
We've turned climber's right and are now gaining final slope to Burstall Pass.
We've turned climber's right and are now gaining final slope to Burstall Pass.
Sir Douglas steals the show every time I visit this area!
Sir Douglas steals the show every time I visit this area!
Above the pass now, looking back at Sir Douglas and Burstall Pass Peak on the right.
Above the pass now, looking back at Sir Douglas and Burstall Pass Peak on the right.
Wietse starts up steeper snow slopes on Snow Peak.
Wietse starts up steeper snow slopes on Snow Peak.
Wietse starts up steeper snow slopes on Snow Peak.
Wietse starts up steeper snow slopes on Snow Peak.
This is big terrain - you really need stability to be on it with this much snow!
This is big terrain - you really need stability to be on it with this much snow!
This is big terrain - you really need stability to be on it with this much snow!
This is big terrain - you really need stability to be on it with this much snow!
Incredible views back down our ascent route.
Incredible views back down our ascent route.
Looking west over Lemon Lake (R) and Mount Lemon and Leval to the left and right of it respectively.
Looking west over Lemon Lake (R) and Mount Lemon and Leval to the left and right of it respectively.
The striking form of Talon Peak to the west.
The striking form of Talon Peak to the west.
We ditch the skis and start boot packing the steep slope.
We ditch the skis and start boot packing the steep slope.
Panorama over South Burstall Pass to Sir Douglas and the upper Spray River Valley.
Panorama over South Burstall Pass to Sir Douglas and the upper Spray River Valley.
We started getting nervous here, and probed for cornice edges and unstable snow. Thankfully we didn't find either.
We started getting nervous here, and probed for cornice edges and unstable snow. Thankfully we didn't find either.
Steep snow slopes at the summit.
Steep snow slopes at the summit.
Steep snow slopes at the summit.
Steep snow slopes at the summit.
Birdwood (L), CEGFNS, Murray, Prairie Lookout, French, Whistling Rock, Zeke's Peak, Sir Douglas, Burstall Pass Peak, Royal Group, Queen Elizabeth, Leman, Talon, Soderholm, Leval, White Man, Vavasour (
Birdwood (L), CEGFNS, Murray, Prairie Lookout, French, Whistling Rock, Zeke's Peak, Sir Douglas, Burstall Pass Peak, Royal Group, Queen Elizabeth, Leman, Talon, Soderholm, Leval, White Man, Vavasour (
Lemon, Talon, Soderholm, Leval, White Man and Vavasour.
Lemon, Talon, Soderholm, Leval, White Man and Vavasour.
Talon with Soderholm at right.
Talon with Soderholm at right.
Looking over tiny Burstall Pass Peak at French, Robertson, Whistling Rock, Sir Douglas, King George, Back and Prince Albert (L to R).
Looking over tiny Burstall Pass Peak at French, Robertson, Whistling Rock, Sir Douglas, King George, Back and Prince Albert (L to R).
Wietse on the summit.
Wietse on the summit.
The snow slopes at the summit are definitely steep enough to slide.
The snow slopes at the summit are definitely steep enough to slide.
Royal Group at left with Back and Craddock at right.
Royal Group at left with Back and Craddock at right.
The Royal Group includes Prince Albert, King George an Prince Henry (L to R).
The Royal Group includes Prince Albert, King George an Prince Henry (L to R).
Sir Douglas is a beast! Both glacier routes are visible here, the North Glacier on the left and West Glacier to its right.
Sir Douglas is a beast! Both glacier routes are visible here, the North Glacier on the left and West Glacier to its right.
Great shot over South Burstall Pass to Whistling Rock Ridge (L), Zeke's Peak (C) and Sir Douglas.
Great shot over South Burstall Pass to Whistling Rock Ridge (L), Zeke's Peak (C) and Sir Douglas.
Looking east to the Chester Lake area includes Gusty, Fortress, Chester and James Walker (L to R).
Looking east to the Chester Lake area includes Gusty, Fortress, Chester and James Walker (L to R).
Telephoto of CEGFNS (L) and Murray (R).
Telephoto of CEGFNS (L) and Murray (R).
White Man through the Leval / Vavasour col.
White Man through the Leval / Vavasour col.
Descending Snow Peak.
Descending Snow Peak.
Descending Snow Peak.
Descending Snow Peak.
The corn snow was fun to ski.
The corn snow was fun to ski.
The corn snow was fun to ski.
The corn snow was fun to ski.
Skiing down from Burstall Pass.
Skiing down from Burstall Pass.
Skiing down from Burstall Pass.
Skiing down from Burstall Pass.
Skiing down from Burstall Pass.
Skiing down from Burstall Pass.
Surprisingly good snow conditions despite being mid-May and warm on the Burstall Lake flats.
Surprisingly good snow conditions despite being mid-May and warm on the Burstall Lake flats.
Near Mud Lake and the parking lot.
Near Mud Lake and the parking lot.

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