I’ve heard of the Observation Sub Peaks for many years as a pretty tame but highly recommended ski objective along the Icefields Parkway near Bow Summit and Bow Lake in Banff National Park.
On Sunday March 27, 2011 So Nakagawa and I skied to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain and on Saturday March 16 2019 I repeated it with Wietse Bijlsma. I always figured I’d repeat this mountain since it’s relatively easy and a surprisingly short day despite being over 1200 meters of height gain and almost 20 km of distance from the Bow Lake parking lot.
I forget when I first heard of BowCrow Peak but it’s been on my never ending and never shrinking list of Rockies summits for years. Something that was frustrating me was that even though I had a general idea where it was located, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how anyone bagged it!
After braving fairly cold temperatures the last weekend of February 2019, I was ready for some more bravery on the first weekend of March 2019. When I say “ready”, I really mean I was desperate enough to get my ass off the couch and out of the city to suffer -30 temps – frostbite be damned! When I contacted Ali to find out what she was up to, she mentioned Matt Clay was planning something.
After missing out on a gorgeous day on Family day, I was absolutely determined to try something (anything!) on the following weekend. The weather forecast wasn’t looking ideal with 2 hours of sun and overcast conditions but I decided to follow Matt and Alison’s ascent tracks up Helena Ridge East no matter what the views might be. This was a bit of a shame because their photos from Monday were spectacular!
Since my last ill-fated trip with Dr. Phil in an ill-advised November 2018 attempt of Stenton Peak with an immediate subsequent follow up failure on an unnamed pile of choss nearby, my mountain mojo has been sitting somewhere between a 0 and a 1 with 10 being the amount of mojo required for peaks like McConnell or Cataract and 8+ being the amount required to get me out of bed at 04:00 on a weekend morning.
Most of my Wapta summits have had brilliant blue skies and views to die for. Mount Rhondda was not one of those peaks. When I first ascended it back in April of 2007 we had very windy conditions with limited views. I set out to rectify this injustice on Thursday, April 26 2018 on a brilliantly sunny and warm Spring day. I was joined by Liz and Alison, both of whom had not done this central icefields peak before.
After skiing to the summit of Mount Field the day before, I was ready to enjoy another perfect winter day on skis before returning back to the drudgery of another work week in the concrete jungle. Since I haven’t been out much on the snow sticks this winter, I was certainly feeling a bit stiff the evening before! On our drive to Mount Field, Wietse had pointed out the East Ridge of Panorama Ridge to me and I thought it was the perfect winter solo ski objective for elevated avalanche conditions – provided I could drag my butt out of bed early enough.
Finally on March 10 of 2018 I managed to ski a peak that’s been on my hit-list for many years. 13 years ago, I’d scrambled Mount Field in Yoho National Park from a weird approach (the Stanley Mitchell Hut) with the infamous Dave Stephens. Since then a lot of my mountain friends had skied the peak from the opposite side and highly recommended it to me. Of course, because I’m a peakbagger I don’t normally like to repeat summits, but if the mode and route of the peak being bagged is completely different, it can be worth a second trip. In this case it was certainly worth it.
Quartz Hill has been on my radar ever since I first skied the Sunshine Meadows way back in 2007 with a large group trip up Twin Cairns. Well, almost exactly a decade later and I was back for my first real attempt. I briefly considered scrambling up the ridge while backpacking along the NE face of it on my way towards Howard Douglas Lake and Citadel Pass back in the fall of 2016 but a closure forced me to reconsider that idea.
Finally, on May 9, 2015 I managed to summit South Twin Peak on my third attempt of this beautiful mountain. I have some history with the north end of the Columbia Icefield, and with South Twin in particular.
Summit Elevation (m): 3340Elevation Gain (m): 2500 (from parking lot)Round Trip Time (hr): 10 (from high camp)Total Trip Distance (km): 48 (from parking lot)Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain somethingDifficulty Notes: Glacier travel in an extremely remote location and some avalanche risk to the Cromwell / Stutfield NE2 col make this a peak to be taken seriously. No technical difficulties to the summit – beware the cornice!GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: MN7; YDS (I)Map: Google Maps The winter of 2015 […]
Chickadee Peak has been on my radar ever since seeing Raf’s trip report on it. Back when Wietse and I did Boom Mountain, I remember looking at all the skiable terrain further up the Chickadee Valley and wondering if there were any other peaks we could ski in the area. Well, it turns out that there is! As Wietse, Ferenc and I drove to the parking area, Wietse started asking what we’d do if there wasn’t any snow on the approach! We weren’t laughing so hard when we finally parked. There wasn’t a lot of white stuff around anymore… 😉
On Sunday, April 19th we awoke in -15 degrees feeling pretty darn good with ourselves. The previous day we’d skied into our camp beneath Mount Columbia and even managed to ascend the peak before collapsing into our sleeping bags after a long and hard 17 hour day. There was a cloud cap covering Columbia as we struggled out of our warm sleeping bags and slowly started breaking camp. The sky soon cleared completely off – we were going to have a bluebird day on the ice fields. Even though our views would have been clearer on Columbia this day, we were still glad to have climbed the face with some clouds rather than a relentless spring sun heating things up. As we packed camp we made decisions on what to attempt.
Summit Elevation (m): 3747Elevation Gain (m): 2000Round Trip Time (hr): 23Total Trip Distance (km): 41Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break somethingDifficulty Notes: Crevasses, avalanches and a remote location in the middle of a large ice field are the main difficulties when climbing Mount Columbia. Don’t underestimate this trip just because it’s not technically that hard!GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: MN8; YDS (II)Map: Google Maps I have been waiting many years to climb Alberta’s highest mountain and the 2nd highest […]
It seems that every time someone posts a trip report about climbing Mount Aberdeen (and Haddo), folks inquire about an easy ascent via the south slopes – the alternate descent route. While this probably seems anathema to most climbers, it makes perfect sense for folks who simply want to enjoy stunning views from the top of a very well placed peak in the heart of the Lake Louise group without all the messing around with ice climbing and usually taking 2 or 3 attempts to get up the darn mountain since everyone seems to under estimate the ‘short’ approach the first time around!
It was finally time. It was time for me to give in. After years of temptation, years of friends cajoling and battering me over the issue and years of resistance, it was finally time for me to ski at Roger’s Pass in the Selkirk mountain range of British Columbia. Steven had already fallen in love with the area and has climbed quite a few of the mountains in and around the pass. Last weekend, while we were settling in for the evening in the cozy Peyto Hut the topic came up again. We should do the Youngs Traverse in Rogers Pass next time the weather and avy conditions were good for a high level, exposed alpine ski traverse. I agreed that it sounded fun.
Finally the weather, our schedules, and back country avalanche conditions lined up over a weekend, allowing Ben, Steven and I to plan a 2 day excursion to the northern end of the Wapta Icefield. I am rapidly closing in on a long-sought summit list of all the Wapta peaks and only one peak remained for me on the hard-to-access northern end – Peyto Peak. As is usual for us, original plans varied from Youngs Peak to Lilliput (I was willing to repeat it for exercise) and finally we settled last minute on the Peyto Hut area. The plan was to leave Calgary around 04:30 and hopefully arrive at Peyto Hut with enough day light for Ben and Steven to bag Mount Baker on Saturday. Sunday we would ascend Peyto Peak before heading out. For the most part, this plan was executed flawlessly.
Summit Elevation (m): 2984Elevation Gain (m): 1780Round Trip Time (hr): 10.5Total Trip Distance (km): 25Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you sprain or break somethingDifficulty Notes: Very steep snow climb, exposed to cornices followed by very steep snow traverse with severe exposure to the summit. Stable snow is required for this trip!GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: MN8; YDS (II)Map: Google Maps The last week of April and first few weeks of May, 2014 were a ski mountaineer’s dream in the Alberta Rockies with […]
Steven and I found ourselves back in the very familiar confines of the Bow Hut on Wednesday evening after work, May 7 2014. We were hoping to beat a system moving in the next day by staying at the Bow Hut on Wednesday night. We planned on rising very early on Thursday morning to cross the Wapta Glacier in the dark, before climbing Ayesha Peak in advance of the strong spring sun / warm temperatures that could destabilize the steep snow slopes that guard her infamous summit block. Ayesha has been on my radar for many years already, ever since I heard stories of her beautiful snow arete and challenging summit block from friends who had done it already years ago. I didn’t pay quite enough attention to the parts about her summit block that included 4th class rock, but wouldn’t realize that until I was about to start up it myself.
On Tuesday, April 29 2014 I joined Steven and Ferenc on a long desired day trip of Mount Collie on the Wapta Icefield in Yoho National Park. Ever since I first started climbing the peaks on the Wapta Icefield, there were five summits that I thought I’d never have the skills (or guts?) to ascend. They were Balfour, Patterson, Ayesha, Peyto and Collie. Balfour due it’s big terrain and the broken glacier to Balfour Col. Patterson due to it’s dire approach avalanche slopes. Ayesha due to avalanche approach slopes and low 5th summit block. Peyto due to it’s 5th class summit block. Mount Collie due to its infamous summit cornice that has turned back many ascent parties over the years.
On Monday, April 21 2014 I joined Steven Song for an alpine ski tour up Little Temple in Lake Louise, Banff National Park. Ever since hearing about the trip from Bill Kerr, I had decided to ski it one day and was saving it for a time when other, bigger and more remote options were out of shape or not feasible. I think the word “little” in its name fooled me into thinking that this was going to be a very easy and short day trip. Well, it IS technically pretty easy and timewise pretty “short” but at over 1100 meters of height gain and around 20km distance, it’s not really THAT short or easy! 😉
On Saturday, April 19, 2014 a group of us took advantage of low avy hazards and warm spring temps to attempt the Pumpkin Traverse near the Lake Louise ski resort in Banff National Park. The Pumpkin Traverse usually involves ascending three summits, but due to conditions we didn’t bother going for Unity Peak (I completed that one with Mike Mitchell in early 2016). We started up the ski out in much warmer temps than we were expecting. The forecast had called for -8 but it was almost 0 already at 08:30! We made good time and were soon crossing the ski run above Temple Lodge. Lipalian and Purple can be done quickest and easiest via the Larch ski run up to Lipalian and then traverse to Purple and out via the Purple Bowl between Wolverine Ridge and Redoubt Mountain.
After talking to Steven and Wietse about their recent trips up Powderface Ridge (Steven ‘shoed and Wietse skied) I decided that with avalanche danger too high again, I had to so something – even if it was just another easy objective. I’ve been getting some smack talk lately from friends on my “lowly objectives” this winter. I know it’s all in good nature, but trust me – I’d rather be off bagging some more serious stuff. I made a pact with my wife a few years ago when she started catching on to the fact that a lot of people were dying each year doing exactly what I do – backcountry skiing. The pact was simple. I would not intentionally go into the backcountry if avalanche ratings were ‘considerable’ or higher for that area. Period. No exceptions, unless I’m out for a few days and the danger spikes while I’m out there. Ironically this year I even bought an avalanche air pack to make things even safer, but the ratings have been too high almost every weekend.
On Saturday, February 15 2014, Steven Song and I completed one of very few ski ascents of “Spoon Needle” in Kananaskis Country, east of the Fortress Ski resort. There was many years when this lowly, but striking, peak saw only 1 ascent per season, but thanks to the internet and both it’s easy nature and prominent appearance from Hwy 40, the peak is gaining in popularity. Alas, since most people choose it as an off season objective, there are almost as many routes as there are ascents.