Summit Elevation (m): 2456
Trip Date: December 29 2015
Elevation Gain (m): 800
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1/2 – you fall, you sprain something – i.e. your ego
Difficulty Notes: A very safe back country ski objective with minimal exposure to avalanche terrain.
Technical Rating: OT1; YDS (Skiing)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
Despite a very chilly forecast, Wietse, Bill and I decided that we’d brave the -20 degree temps near Sunshine Village in Banff National Park to give the Monarch Ramparts a go on our skis. Wietse and I had been up Healy Pass Peak almost exactly 2 years previous and at that time we’d gone up the north end of the Monarch Ramparts, but not far enough to claim the summit which lies towards its south end.
We left a very chilly parking lot by around 09:30 and quickly made our way up the ski-out and down the Healy Pass trail where it loses elevation right at the start – always a favorite spot on the return without skins on the skis! The day was cold but I felt great as we made the long but easy trudge through the Healy Creek canyon to the meadows about 7km from the trail head. Back on November 21, Raf, Wietse and I were also on this trail when we completed the Healy – Simpson Pass – Sunshine circuit. I think I’ve done this trail enough for the next little while as it is pretty darn boring!
We were the first ones for the day to reach the meadows. I followed the trail up Healy Creek and started breaking a side trail once the main track headed up to Healy Pass. Wietse and Bill had previously been up the lower Ramparts in a whiteout so they knew the safest route to gain the upper ridge. The weather was so bad the last time they were up there, they had no idea if they had made the high point or not. On hindsight, they hadn’t. There was some serious surface hoar at the meadows – up to 1 or 2cm long crystals head formed over night.
Wietse broke trail up the steep lower section of the ramp and I took over from there, leading up to the ridge. Mind blowing views had already started in the Healy Meadows, but now that we were above tree line the views were unbelievable. The views of Mount Assiniboine, The Monarch and the Pharaoh peaks was especially spectacular. We made our way along the ridge, working our way about 1km along it to the high point on the southern end. The views in all directions were great and the sun actually started feeling warm at one point.
After taking in the views it was time to head back – we wanted to beat the ski crowd rush from Sunshine Village. The ski down was quick but there was a ton of other people on it – I was especially surprised by the people on xcountry gear and snow shoes. IMHO, there are much better trails for these activities with better views closer to the parking lot (i.e. Rummel Ridge, Little Lawson etc) but it was good to see so many people out considering the weather. Too bad they chewed up the ski track but again – I guess it’s good they were out.
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