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“Haig Ridge” & FHR Ski Traverse

Summit Elevation: 2840m
Trip Date: Saturday, April 17, 2021
Elevation Gain
(m): 1150
Round Trip Time (hr): 7
Total Trip Distance (km): 24
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: A fairly straightforward ski tour with some easy glacier travel and some snow scrambling to the summit of Haig Ridge. The route to the Sir Douglas / Robertson col has obvious avalanche potential and stable conditions are required.
Technical Rating: OT4; YDS (Skiing)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps


Wietse and I have been planning a return to the classic “FHR” ski traverse in Kananaskis Country for years. Way back in 2008 we joined TJ and Meghan for a very enjoyable trip – I think it was Wietse’s 3rd time on skis or something like that. 😉 Ever since we’ve had the tour added to our winter / spring schedules and for some reason or another it kept getting supplanted by other ideas or other trips and just didn’t get done. In the summer of 2020 while day tripping Mount Jellicoe and Prairie Lookout I happened to notice a ridge stretching north of Mount Maude that looked like a fun little ski tour. I wondered if it could be combined with the FHR ski traverse to make things a bit more interesting and once again it got added to the itinerary for spring 2021. I decided “Haig Ridge” was a suitable name for this minor peak considering the glacier it abuts. After missing a perfect day for this objective on Easter Monday we finally got things sorted for a few weekends later during the largest blue sky weather block of the season so far. Jason Wilcox would end up joining us – it’s been years since I did a trip with him and we were looking forward to getting out together again.

Haig Ridge and the French / Haig / Robertson Glacier Route Map.

Thanks to nuclear temperatures forecast for Saturday April 17th, we decided to get up at 03:30 and leave YYC by 04:00. We met JW at the Burstall Pass parking lot at around 05:45 and proceeded to gear up as dawn slowly broke to the east. It had been over 13 years since I last skied up the French Creek valley and I forgot how undulating and convoluted the ski track can be in there! We set a pretty fast pace – something we agreed we had to do if we had any hopes of doing the traverse over the Robertson / Sir Douglas col and back down the Robertson Glacier to Burstall Creek for our exit. We were prepared to return our ascent route if conditions got too dangerous for the FHR traverse.

We followed an obvious ski track up French Creek, crossing it several times on dicey snow bridges that weren’t going to be there very much longer. The sound of our skins on the icy track was so loud it was almost impossible to converse so we settled into a methodical pace. It took a bit longer than I expected (just under 2 hours) to reach the moraines along the French Glacier. We ascended steeply on climber’s left of the glacier, roughly following the same line I used to access the Haig Glacier for my Mount French and Jellicoe scrambles. Near the top of the moraine the snowpack thinned out enough that my skis were touching rocks in several places and caution was required. We continued to follow the track under the steep west face of Prairie Lookout and the NW end of Mount French as it curved onto the Glacier and finally up towards the distant French / Robertson col.

Roughly 3 hours from the parking lot we were finally ascending the infamous wind scoop at the col and the head of the Haig Glacier and breaking into brilliant sunshine and wide open views. The north end of Haig Ridge looked awesome with the summit block looking a bit spicier than I remembered. For some reason I was convinced to bring glacier travel safety gear on this trip despite not using it on any previous ones including a solo excursion up Mount Jellicoe. I carried the rope in my pack but we donned harnesses for the crossing, just in case. I personally don’t think this is necessary for the Haig Glacier but take my thoughts with a grain of salt. Any travel on any glacier should involve a rope and rescue gear by default and if you really want to be safe the rope should be attached to you and your partners. The views stretching out around us as we skied on firm snow towards Haig Ridge were exactly what I was hoping for on this trip!

Skiing across the Haig Glacier towards the north end of Haig Ridge. From L to R are Mount Jellicoe, Maude, Haig Ridge, Leroy, Monro and Sir Douglas. The Robertson col showing a lot of dirt at distant right.

There were no complications skiing up the north end of Haig Ridge and soon we were approaching the somewhat intimidating summit block where it was obvious we’d be dropping the snow sticks and continuing up on foot.

Views back down our approach with Sir Douglas at left, Robertson at center and Mount French rising at right. The Robertson col shows a lot of dirt at left with the French col snowy at right.
The summit block rises over JW and Wietse with McHarg, Worthington and Temperance Peak to the right at distance. Leroy Creek valley at lower right.

From the ski drop it was good fun easy snow scrambling up a snow arete and over some slippery rocks with moderate exposure before finally arriving at the cairned high point. Several of the high points before the highest were also cairned, implying that some parties choose to turn back a bit earlier than we did. There was evidence of previous parties ascending the ridge more recently too so I guess I’m not the only one who noticed this would be a fun ski objective.

Views from the summit were stunning – just what the doctor ordered and just what I needed this objective to offer. Mount Maude was the obvious nearby looker, but other more obscure peaks such as Leroy and Monro also stole the show. The royal group and Mount King George dominated next to Mount Sir Douglas.

Summit views include (L to R), Mount Maude, Beatty, McHarg, Worthington, Temperance, Princess Mary, King George, Leroy, Monro, Sir Douglas, Robertson and Mount French (R).
Views SE include Jellicoe (L), Maude (C), Beatty, Worthington, McHarg, Temperance, Prince George, King George (R).
Summit views over the entire Haig Icefield include Monro (L), Sir Douglas, Robertson, French, Jellicoe and Mount Maude (R).

After enjoying a short break on the summit of Haig Ridge it was time to get back to the skis and make short work of the Robertson col which we decided was still viable despite the warming temperatures. We enjoyed the easy ski off the north end of the ridge before making a beeline for the sun baked and pinwheel-infested south slopes to the Sir Douglas / Robertson col. We had the option of using dirt and scree to ascend rather than snow but decided that since the snow was still locked up pretty tight it offered the most efficient travel and proceeded to skin up.

JW skis up steep slopes off the Haig Icefield to the Robertson Col. The pinwheeling you see here is from yesterday but we do have to get off this slope sooner than later. Peaks include Jellicoe (L), Haig Ridge, Maude, Beatty and Monro (R).

It didn’t take long before I gave up on the skis and transitioned to a bootpack with the skis strapped onto my pack. I was following the steps from the earlier party we’d seen ascending to the col while we were on Haig Ridge and this made for a pretty easy ascent. It was bloody HOT on this slope!!

After a quick ascent to the col we enjoyed another break with more spectacular views. The Robertson col is actually a few meters higher than Haig Ridge so the views are very decent. Mount Beatty and Joffre are more visible from this angle than from Haig Ridge, although many other peaks are hidden from view thanks to the towering nearby Sir Douglas and Mount Robertson.

We followed tracks up above the col towards Mount Robertson where it’s an easier drop onto the Robertson Glacier. From here the run down the glacier to a distant Burstall Creek looks exhilarating! Unfortunately for us the conditions were decent until about half way down the glacier when a breakable crust conspired to makes things more “interesting”. Oh well. Survival skiing is what Spring in the Alberta Rockies is all about. The views were stunning and the day was beautiful and nobody was complaining too much. We exited towards Burstall Creek on rapidly warming snow and made our way along the lovely Burstall Lakes before joining with the regular trail back to the parking lot.

We arrived at the surprisingly sparse parking lot 7 hours after leaving it. It was neat to chat with a couple of climbers who’d been after Sir Douglas but turned back when the overnight temperature didn’t drop low enough for safe conditions on the NW glacier. I highly recommend this variation of the appropriately popular “FHR Traverse” ski tour for fit parties who want to spend a few more hours on the Haig Glacier than the tour normally entails. Just make sure you time it so that the ascent to the Robertson col can be made safely – and that might mean getting up earlier than most of your neighbors!

Haig Ridge & FHR Ski Traverse
Skiing up French Creek.
Skiing up French Creek.
Skiing up French Creek.
Skiing up French Creek.
The ski track up French Creek undulates through the tight terrain.
The ski track up French Creek undulates through the tight terrain.
The ski track up French Creek undulates through the tight terrain.
The ski track up French Creek undulates through the tight terrain.
Skiing up French Creek.
Skiing up French Creek.
Approaching the moraines along the French Glacier.
Approaching the moraines along the French Glacier.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
Views back down the French Creek valley to Mount Burstall.
Views back down the French Creek valley to Mount Burstall.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
Skiing up moraines on climber's left of the French Glacier.
The snowpack thins near the top of the moraine. Prairie Lookout rising at left.
The snowpack thins near the top of the moraine. Prairie Lookout rising at left.
Traversing towards the French Glacier with the French Col visible at distance now.
Traversing towards the French Glacier with the French Col visible at distance now.
Traversing towards the French Glacier with the French Col visible at distance now.
Traversing towards the French Glacier with the French Col visible at distance now.
Skiing onto the French Glacier. It's ~9km from the parking lot to the French col.
Skiing onto the French Glacier. It's ~9km from the parking lot to the French col.
Skiing up the French Glacier. It's ~9km from the parking lot to the French col.
Skiing up the French Glacier. It's ~9km from the parking lot to the French col.
Skiing up the French Glacier. It's ~9km from the parking lot to the French col.
Skiing up the French Glacier. It's ~9km from the parking lot to the French col.
Finally at the French / Robertson col.
Finally at the French / Robertson col.
Skiing through the French Col onto the Haig Glacier.
Skiing through the French Col onto the Haig Glacier.
Views back through the col.
Views back through the col.
Skiing through the French Col onto the Haig Glacier.
Skiing through the French Col onto the Haig Glacier.
Breaking onto the Haig Glacier and spot our first objective ahead with Mount Maude to the left.
Breaking onto the Haig Glacier and spot our first objective ahead with Mount Maude to the left.
Wide open views to Maude (L), Haig Ridge, Monro (R).
Wide open views to Maude (L), Haig Ridge, Monro (R).
Mount Maude to the left of Haig Ridge.
Mount Maude to the left of Haig Ridge.
Mount Maude.
Mount Maude.
JW enjoying the sunshine. We brought glacier safety gear - but really didn't need to.
JW enjoying the sunshine. We brought glacier safety gear - but really didn't need to.
Wietse dons glacier gear with Jellicoe over his head.
Wietse dons glacier gear with Jellicoe over his head.
Skiing on firm snow towards Haig Ridge with the expansive Haig Icefield spread out around us.
Skiing on firm snow towards Haig Ridge with the expansive Haig Icefield spread out around us.
Jellicoe (L), Maude and Haig Ridge.
Jellicoe (L), Maude and Haig Ridge.
Two skiers make their way to the Robertson Col.
Two skiers make their way to the Robertson Col.
Mount Leroy.
Mount Leroy.
Skiing up the gentle north end of Haig Ridge.
Skiing up the gentle north end of Haig Ridge.
Views back over the Haig Glacier to Sir Douglas (L), Robertson (C) and French (R).
Views back over the Haig Glacier to Sir Douglas (L), Robertson (C) and French (R).
Skiing up the gentle north end of Haig Ridge.
Skiing up the gentle north end of Haig Ridge.
Skiing along the top of Haig Ridge. The summit block rises ahead.
Skiing along the top of Haig Ridge. The summit block rises ahead.
A fun snow arete along the summit ridge.
A fun snow arete along the summit ridge.
A fun snow arete along the summit ridge.
A fun snow arete along the summit ridge.
A fun snow arete along the summit ridge.
A fun snow arete along the summit ridge.
JW poses on the summit of Haig Ridge.
JW poses on the summit of Haig Ridge.
Mount Maude lies just SE of Haig Ridge.
Mount Maude lies just SE of Haig Ridge.
I ascended Mount Jellicoe in 2020.
I ascended Mount Jellicoe in 2020.
Mount French rises over the Haig Glacier.
Mount French rises over the Haig Glacier.
Mount Robertson lies in between Sir Douglas and French (R).
Mount Robertson lies in between Sir Douglas and French (R).
Mount Sir Douglas. It's east face has several alpine climbing routes.
Mount Sir Douglas. It's east face has several alpine climbing routes.
Mount Maude. Worthington and McHarg at distant right.
Mount Maude. Worthington and McHarg at distant right.
Mount Prince Henry (R) and Prince Edward (L).
Mount Prince Henry (R) and Prince Edward (L).
Mount King George rises over Prince Albert and Princess Mary (L).
Mount King George rises over Prince Albert and Princess Mary (L).
The Canada xcountry ski team trains on the Haig Glacier at lower left.
The Canada xcountry ski team trains on the Haig Glacier at lower left.
Views over the Robertson col to Sir Douglas (L) and Mount Robertson (R).
Views over the Robertson col to Sir Douglas (L) and Mount Robertson (R).
Wietse and JW cruise down the north end of Haig Ridge.
Wietse and JW cruise down the north end of Haig Ridge.
JW follows up to the Robertson Col on yesterday's pinwheels.
JW follows up to the Robertson Col on yesterday's pinwheels.
Wietse follows me up to the Robertson Col.
Wietse follows me up to the Robertson Col.
JW grinds his way up to the Robertson Col with Jellicoe (L), Haig Ridge and Maude in the bg.
JW grinds his way up to the Robertson Col with Jellicoe (L), Haig Ridge and Maude in the bg.
Sir Douglas towers over the Robertson Col and JW.
Sir Douglas towers over the Robertson Col and JW.
Views down the Robertson Glacier to Birdwood, Pig's Tail and Commonwealth Peak.
Views down the Robertson Glacier to Birdwood, Pig's Tail and Commonwealth Peak.
Sir Douglas towers over the Robertson Col and JW.
Sir Douglas towers over the Robertson Col and JW.
Views over Mount Beatty towards Joffre and Onslow (R).
Views over Mount Beatty towards Joffre and Onslow (R).
Haig Ridge in front of Mount Maude with Mount Beatty and Joffre at right.
Haig Ridge in front of Mount Maude with Mount Beatty and Joffre at right.
Mount Monro has a very distinctive look.
Mount Monro has a very distinctive look.
Sir Douglas towers over the Robertson Col and JW.
Sir Douglas towers over the Robertson Col and JW.
Skiing down the Robertson Glacier on a mix of good and terrible Spring snow.
Skiing down the Robertson Glacier on a mix of good and terrible Spring snow.
Skiing down the Robertson Glacier on a mix of good and terrible Spring snow.
Skiing down the Robertson Glacier on a mix of good and terrible Spring snow.
Skiing down the Robertson Glacier on a mix of good and terrible Spring snow.
Skiing down the Robertson Glacier on a mix of good and terrible Spring snow.
Skiing down the Robertson Glacier on a mix of good and terrible Spring snow.
Skiing down the Robertson Glacier on a mix of good and terrible Spring snow.
Exiting the Robertson Glacier towards Burstall Creek with Birdwood and Commonwealth in the bg.
Exiting the Robertson Glacier towards Burstall Creek with Birdwood and Commonwealth in the bg.
Views back up the Robertson Glacier with our ski tracks visible.
Views back up the Robertson Glacier with our ski tracks visible.
Exiting towards Burstall Creek.
Exiting towards Burstall Creek.
Exiting towards Burstall Creek.
Exiting towards Burstall Creek.
Skiing out via the Burstall Lakes. Gusty and Fortress in the distance.
Skiing out via the Burstall Lakes. Gusty and Fortress in the distance.
Skiing back to the parking lot along the Burstall Pass trail.
Skiing back to the parking lot along the Burstall Pass trail.

One thought on “Haig Ridge” & FHR Ski Traverse

  1. A former biathlete skied up Haig Ridge on xc skis. On the way down, he straight-lined it because he didn’t want to ruin the edges of his skis (at least in the version of the story I was told…). It didn’t work, he crashed, broke a ski and a collarbone, and won a helicopter flight off the glacier. The broken ski is still on display in the main building of the camp, 10-15 years later.

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