Summit Elevation (m): 2760
Elevation Gain (m): 1200
Round Trip Time (hr): 7
Total Trip Distance (km): 14
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break 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: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps
Since reading about Josee and Fabrice’s trip up Boom Mountain in February it’s been on my to-do list. I liked the idea of traveling into the Chickadee Valley since I’d never been in there before. Wietse had a rare Friday off on April 11 so we decided to do a nice easy trip up to Healy Pass – possibly bagging “Healy Pass Peak” while we there. I checked the avy ratings on Friday morning and was pleasantly surprised to see that the rating for Banff were actually lower than Kananaskis at “moderate / moderate / low”. I did a classic Vern move and asked Wietse if he’d change his mind to Boom Mountain. After some consideration and quick weather / avy condition scanning on the cell phone while I drove, Wietse kindly agreed to a more aggressive goal.
We got to the parking lot and noted a vehicle there ahead of us. But 08:30 we were headed up the well packed trail into Chickadee Valley. The approach trail to the valley is awesome! It’s mostly uphill (makes for a fast exit) and the scenery is better than most valley approaches in the Rockies. I’ll be coming back for the views / skiing opportunities soon.
We skied around 3.7 km up the trail before turning towards an obvious (and very large) avy path coming off the west end of Boom Mountain. On hindsight, this is the avy path that Josee and Fab came down, but one path east of where they went up.
The snow was locked up solid as we skid up the avy path. Almost too solid. The 5cm of fresh snow on top of the solid slab made the climbing on ski skins difficult – we kept losing our edges as we tried to switchback the slope. Eventually after we reached old debris on the slope we put the skis on our packs and started hoofing it up very steep slopes on foot. At first I wondered if it was worth carrying the skis but then we hit some nice open slopes near tree line and continued above tree line before ditching the skis finally where scree started showing through the snow, high on the west end of the south slopes of Boom.
We picked the perfect day to ascend Boom – the full power of the Spring sunshine was blocked by clouds and the weather was quite cool. The snow was locked up very tight – I had to kick hard to get purchase even in the trees. After dropping the skis we bashed our way up fairly steep and part rubble / partly snowy slopes to the upper plateau via the west ridge. I have to say that I almost wish we brought the skis all the way to the summit! We ended up crossing about 1km of deep snow on the upper plateau – certainly not the scree I was expecting. On hindsight we should have used the wind blasted scree right on the ridge and just gone up the first (false) summit but I tried avoiding unnecessary height gain and did some side-slopping. Oh well.
As expected, the views from the plateau and the summit were incredible and included Castle, Temple, Bell, Quadra, Bident, Hungabee, Whymper, Stanley, Ball, Beatrice and Storm.
We didn’t linger too long at the summit – the wind was strong and very cool for mid-April. Also, we didn’t want to wait too long for the sun to destabilize the avy slopes we still had to ski down. The descent was quick and fun. We skied down the upper slopes which were still so frozen that the few cm’s of snow on top slid off as we skied down! We carried our skis down through the avy slopes that had slid and had a great time skiing down the lower slopes that were clear of debris. The ski back down to the car was very fast and fun! I’ll be back to ski this valley again – it’s fun and it’s full of great skiing.