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Dolomite Circuit, The

Max Elevation (m): 2491
Trip Date: Sunday, March 15, 2020
Elevation Gain (m): 750
Round Trip Time (hrs): 6.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 16
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: A relatively easy backcountry ski tour in stunning surroundings. There are avy slopes to avoid and some potentially tricky whiteout navigation between Dolomite Pass and the Puzzle / Dolomite Peak col. Tree skiing towards Mosquito Creek can be horrid in bad snow.
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Skiing)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps


On March 01, 2008 I ended up on the Dolomite Circuit after starting and turning back on a ski attempt of Mount Hector thanks to spicy avalanche conditions. For some reason I never wrote up a trip report and decided a few years ago to redo it sometime. That time ended up being March 15 2020 with an entirely new group – all of whom I’d never met before. I knew Chantel from Facebook for a few years already but I’d never met Peter and Heather – not even virtually. It turns out that I would go out again with any of these fine folks after spending a very enjoyable day backcountry skiing in paradise with them. But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself.

The Dolomite Ski Circuit Route Map

I was a bit apprehensive about Sunday’s plan to ski the circuit. Originally I was going to try a repeat of the East Ridge of Panorama Ridge with Chantel. At the last minute on Saturday evening, the plan changed to the Dolomite Circuit with Heather added. An hour or so later and Peter joined the fray! Why was I apprehensive? Chantel is skiing on a torn ACL and is awaiting surgery to repair it. Honestly, I’ve never heard of someone with that particular injury skiing – especially backcountry. Based on previous trips she seemed to have no issues other than simply keeping the skins on for descent and taking it as slow as possible on the downs. In the end I figured the Dolomite Circuit might actually be safer and easier than Panorama Ridge, so it ended up making more sense to do this objective. Another reason for my apprehension was the freaking cold overnight temperatures. March is being a b-tch just like last year with very cold mid-January temperatures. It was destined feel like -30 at our 08:00 planned departure time from hwy 93! Arg.

Sure enough. As we prepared to leave the very narrow parking spot along hwy 93, it felt freaking, bloody cold. I was a bit grumpy about it at first but put my head down and tried to keep up with a speedy Chantel as we followed an old skin track from the hwy up over the southeast end of Crystal Ridge. I could barely keep up but eventually we all settled into a reasonable-but-speedy pace and slowly started getting used to the bitter cold. My camera stopped working about 5 minutes into the trip and didn’t awaken until we hit sunshine! Thankfully my iPhone still worked for photos in -30…

We dropped into the Helen Creek drainage and continued following the old skin track as it worked its way up towards Lake Helen and Dolomite Pass. Eventually the skin track stopped for some reason and we were left to our own devices to find the correct route as it steepened to the south end of the ridge running from Cirque Peak. I had a track on my phone and it pretty much worked perfectly guiding us through some trees and finally into the open and much needed WARM sunshine!

Working our way up the SE shoulder of Cirque with Dolomite at left and Hector, Bow, BowCrow and Crowfoot to its right.

After skinning some wind-hammered slopes up and over the ridge we were treated to the best part of this traverse – the stunning Lake Katherine environs which I’ve enjoyed many times in both summer and winter conditions. This was Chantel, Heather and Peter’s first time back here and they were suitably impressed. As we skinned down and over Lake Katherine I greeted old friends such as Cirque, Bobac, Watermelon and of course, Puzzle Peak. It was humbling to look at the giant SW face of Puzzle and our route up that loose, nasty terrain. 

Gorgeous views into the Dolomite Pass area with Cirque Peak at left, Bobac at center and the north ridge of Dolomite at right. The team is just approaching Lake Katherine below me.
Chantel skis down a bump on our way up to the Puzzle / Dolomite pass.

Skiing from Lake Katherine to the Puzzle / Dolomite col is the trickiest navigation of the circuit. In the clear conditions we had, it was no issue but I know people can get a bit turned around here in whiteout conditions. There are some small avalanche slopes in here to watch out for in elevated conditions. I really enjoyed breaking trail for part of this traverse – it reminds me of being back on our farm growing up and exploring on my xcountry skis.

An untouched wilderness awaits! I love breaking trail through terrain like this. Our col at right under Puzzle Peak. Bobac and Watermelon at left.
Peter breaks trail up to the Puzzle col.
Heather and our skin track with Cirque Peak at center.

Once at the col we realized we were making pretty good time. This group doesn’t mess around with breaks! 😉 I finished my Starbucks while the rest of the group started skiing the gentle terrain into the lovely hanging valley between Puzzle and Dolomite. As I skied down towards the choke point I wished the slope was just a bit bigger, but beggars can’t be choosers and the weather and views towards Noseeum, Andromache, Little Hector and Mount Hector were absolutely stunning in the brilliant sunshine and fresh white snow.

Skiing down the valley between Puzzle (L) and Dolomite (R).

After skiing through the natural choke we continued down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek, sucking in the views and the gorgeous weather. We noticed folks skiing the OXO / Puzzle SE shoulder that’s gotten so popular lately and also spotted where the rock slide occurred in 2018. We continued following the valley until it exited towards forested slopes leading to Mosquito Creek. Here we had a choice. Descend steeply to the creek and follow that trail out to hwy 93 or do a gentle downhill traverse aiming south towards the distant highway and avoid Mosquito Creek altogether. We chose the later option which worked out really well for Chantel since she was still using skins. The skiing was pretty easy where it was steep enough to actually grab a turn or two.

We exited the trees a bit too far north of Mosquito Creek but it was no big deal and we skied / walked to the parking lot under a very warm sun. The temperatures at the end of our trip were pretty much 30 degrees warmer than the start!

I was very satisfied to ski this circuit again after 12 years. It was easier and simpler than I remembered – this would make a great beginner backcountry ski tour with limited avalanche slopes and pretty easy navigation in clear weather. The company made this day even better. I don’t travel with new trip partners very often but this trip reminded me yet again how accommodating and easy going most backcountry folks are. I would do another trip with Chantel, Heather or Peter again any time.

The Dolomite Circuit
Peter leaves his van along hwy 93. Parking was kinda tight to the main road here.
Peter leaves his van along hwy 93. Parking was kinda tight to the main road here.
Chantel is frosty this morning!
Chantel is frosty this morning!
Heather is chilly in the -30 temperatures.
Heather is chilly in the -30 temperatures.
Skinning up Helen Creek.
Skinning up Helen Creek.
Skinning up Helen Creek.
Skinning up Helen Creek.
Skinning up Helen Creek.
Skinning up Helen Creek.
Peter
Peter
Chantel
Chantel
Heather
Heather
Skinning up Helen Creek.
Skinning up Helen Creek.
Skinning up Helen Creek, starting to head up the south ridge of Cirque Peak.
Skinning up Helen Creek, starting to head up the south ridge of Cirque Peak.
Skinning up Helen Creek, starting to head up the south ridge of Cirque Peak.
Skinning up Helen Creek, starting to head up the south ridge of Cirque Peak.
Peter takes photos of our approach valley.
Peter takes photos of our approach valley.
Peter, Chantel and Heather ski up the south ridge of Cirque.
Peter, Chantel and Heather ski up the south ridge of Cirque.
Heather and Chantel with Dolomite looming in the bg.
Heather and Chantel with Dolomite looming in the bg.
Peter, Chantel and Heather ski up the south ridge of Cirque.
Peter, Chantel and Heather ski up the south ridge of Cirque.
Skiing over the south ridge of Cirque towards Dolomite Pass.
Skiing over the south ridge of Cirque towards Dolomite Pass.
Grunting our way up the south ridge of Cirque Peak.
Grunting our way up the south ridge of Cirque Peak.
Skiing over the south ridge of Cirque towards Dolomite Pass.
Skiing over the south ridge of Cirque towards Dolomite Pass.
Chantel takes in the wonderful views over Dolomite Pass towards Cirque (L) and Lake Katherine (C).
Chantel takes in the wonderful views over Dolomite Pass towards Cirque (L) and Lake Katherine (C).
The group skis over Lake Katherine.
The group skis over Lake Katherine.
The group skis over Lake Katherine.
The group skis over Lake Katherine.
The group skis over Lake Katherine. Bobac looming above at left.
The group skis over Lake Katherine. Bobac looming above at left.
The group skis over Lake Katherine. Bobac looming above at left.
The group skis over Lake Katherine. Bobac looming above at left.
Skiing down towards Lake Katherine.
Skiing down towards Lake Katherine.
The group skis over Lake Katherine.
The group skis over Lake Katherine.
Skiing across Dolomite Pass towards the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing across Dolomite Pass towards the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Fresh wilderness to the col!
Fresh wilderness to the col!
Chantel skis down a bump along the way to the col.
Chantel skis down a bump along the way to the col.
Chantel skis down a bump along the way to the col.
Chantel skis down a bump along the way to the col.
Chantel.
Chantel.
Peter.
Peter.
Hard to believe I scrambled the SW face of Puzzle! It's not really recommended due to loose rock.
Hard to believe I scrambled the SW face of Puzzle! It's not really recommended due to loose rock.
An unnamed peak north of Bobac.
An unnamed peak north of Bobac.
A brilliant day to be out on the snow sticks.
A brilliant day to be out on the snow sticks.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Heather looks tiny in the big terrain as we continue up to the col.
Heather looks tiny in the big terrain as we continue up to the col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Skiing up to the Puzzle / Dolomite col.
Looking down Dolomite Creek from the col.
Looking down Dolomite Creek from the col.
Quill Peak is at distance right of center over Dolomite Creek.
Quill Peak is at distance right of center over Dolomite Creek.
Mount Hector from the col.
Mount Hector from the col.
Heather prepares to ski down from the col.
Heather prepares to ski down from the col.
Skiing down towards the pristine hanging valley between Puzzle (L) and Dolomite (R).
Skiing down towards the pristine hanging valley between Puzzle (L) and Dolomite (R).
Skiing down towards the pristine hanging valley between Puzzle (L) and Dolomite (R).
Skiing down towards the pristine hanging valley between Puzzle (L) and Dolomite (R).
The slope from the col is very mild - maybe 25 degrees.
The slope from the col is very mild - maybe 25 degrees.
Heading towards a choke point just above the hanging valley.
Heading towards a choke point just above the hanging valley.
Peter skis through the choke.
Peter skis through the choke.
Chantel skis the choke with her torn ACL complicating things a bit (she's wearing skins).
Chantel skis the choke with her torn ACL complicating things a bit (she's wearing skins).
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Peter and Heather skiing out of the valley with Noseeum and Hector in the bg.
Peter and Heather skiing out of the valley with Noseeum and Hector in the bg.
Peter and Heather skiing out of the valley with Noseeum and Hector in the bg.
Peter and Heather skiing out of the valley with Noseeum and Hector in the bg.
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Views to the rock scour which slid off the mountain in 2018. People are skiing the fresh snow today.
Views to the rock scour which slid off the mountain in 2018. People are skiing the fresh snow today.
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Skiing down the hanging valley towards Mosquito Creek.
Looking back at our exit route - avy slopes to the left.
Looking back at our exit route - avy slopes to the left.
The tree skiing isn't bad with enough room to turn and a gentle angle.
The tree skiing isn't bad with enough room to turn and a gentle angle.
The tree skiing isn't bad with enough room to turn and a gentle angle.
The tree skiing isn't bad with enough room to turn and a gentle angle.
Skinning back along hwy 93 - we exited a bit too far north.
Skinning back along hwy 93 - we exited a bit too far north.

3 thoughts on Dolomite Circuit, The

      • I had to double check my garmin as i felt it was very close to this day (before it all got shut down). It was one of the best turn zones ive seen, and not half as scary as it looks from the bottom

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