It was nice to see so many folks out enjoying a beautiful late summer day. Bow Lake has gotten more and more popular as a summer destination – likely overflow from a way-too-busy Lake Louise area. It deserves the attention but for those who want a little more peace and quiet with a lot more views, The Onion is a great escape.
On Monday, April 21 2014 I joined Steven Song for an alpine ski tour up Little Temple in Lake Louise, Banff National Park. On Friday March 31, 2023 I repeated the trip with Wietse Bylsma under very similar conditions – cool and cloudy with questionable ski conditions.
Swooping down the Peyto Glacier with views of giant snow covered peaks – every one of them a familiar sight – I reflected how freaking lucky we are to live where we live and have the fitness and health to enjoy this sport.
It felt really good to ski out along Hector Lake in t-shirts under a blue sky with a gentle, cool breeze at our backs. I cannot stress enough how much more pleasurable this day on Hector Lake felt in comparison to my previous 5 crossings. I never felt rushed all day and the conditions were so good that I didn’t feel my usual exhaustion at the return lake crossing either. And this was all while in the middle of a 25+ hour fast too! I guess conditions really do affect mood and energy more than we think sometimes. Turquoise Peak will sit among my favorite ski tours of winter 2021/22 for a great many reasons.
As the 3rd weekend of April 2022 approached I was more than a little keen to bag another peak on skis before the season of snow sticks comes to an end for another year. The Preacher was a highlight ski trip that carried me through a month of no-adventure weekends but a rib injury courtesy of a family ski trip to Sunshine knocked me out longer than I was happy with. Finally as the 4-day Easter long weekend approached, I felt ready to test the injury. I started with double laps on Prairie Mountain for Friday and Saturday before deciding it was time to push the injury a bit further. I contacted Sara Mclean and she was in for a Sunday ascent of Storm Mountain.
Holy buzzoly. Cripes on a cracker. Hot damn. How in the heck do I manage to forget the feelings of despair, misery and plain physical suffering involved in these length ski tours across the frozen middle of f’ing nowhere?! I must have a busted brain or something. Any normal humanoid would maybe try it once and thenceforth swear it off for the rest of their life but not me. For some unknown and unfathomable reason I continue to come back again and again to the same threshold of pain and misery. And I keep thinking, “it won’t be that bad”. And yet, it’s always that bad – or even worse! I must admit that I do enjoy pushing my mind and body to the edge. There’s a strange energy lurking at the edge of human endurance and the only way to experience it is to get there and the only way to get there is to suffer your way over to it. I’ve only managed to push myself to this place at the edge of conscious, controllable thought a few times in the mountains but it’s always left an impression that the trip was worth every moment of pain it demanded. The Preacher may not be the tallest, the most prominent or the most challenging peak in the world but it’ll always stand out in my memory as one of the good ones. Thanks to Sara and Wietse for greatly assisting me in making this one happen!
The chick-a-boom ski traverse is a classic for a reason. The views and positions along the entire route are stunning on a clear day like we enjoyed. We all said we’d definitely repeat it some day. My advice is leave early for this tour if you want to be at the front of the pack or leave slightly later if you want to follow. Just beware of the south facing exit from Boom col and manage risks appropriately.
It took me 8 years but on the 2nd weekend of February 2022 I finally managed to ski a peak that’s been on my list ever since 2014 when I climbed its neighbors, Mount Collie and Ayesha. I knew Chapel Peak as “Collesha” for many years before reading David Jones Rockies West (pg. 55) where the more proper sounding (still unofficial) name comes from.
Sitting at the bottom of the run in warm sunshine enjoying a coffee and chatting with friends reminded me why I love winter so much. Sometimes, while sitting in my home office in the concrete jungle I crave the sounds of chirping birds and warm sunshine on my neck. But when I get time to spend outdoors on a beautiful winter day like we had on Saturday I have a hard time remembering why I ever thought I hated the season of frozen rain and cold air.
It was most excellent to feel sun and wind on our faces in the alpine again, without feeling like we were standing at one of the earth’s poles in a hurricane of frozen air. I needed a day like this and am super stoked about finally getting into the alpine on a clear, warm(ish) winter day again.
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 highly recommend this tour for those days when you just want a low key, safe day in the hills with some good fitness training.
Despite skin troubles on the ascent I enjoyed skiing Ochre Spring Peak more than the hike and would highly recommend it for a winter ascent.
What a day! Elaphus may never be high on anyone’s list – especially for a ski objective – but it feels great to have survived the experience and proved it can be done “reasonably” as a day trip.
It felt good to be out near the Wapta again with the wild scenery it always gives us.
Wolverine Ridge is a nice ski objective when the weather isn’t perfect or when you aren’t sure about snow conditions. There are enough sheltered and reasonably angled runs to be safe in all but the worst conditions and steeper options when conditions allow for it.
It’s been a while since I skied to Burstall Pass. It used to be my go to spot for early season or shorter day trips but over the years we found many other spots and BP sort of dropped down the list. On a cold Monday in late December 2020, Wietse and I decided it was finally worth a repeat trip in our new ski gear that we bought way back in early November already.
Summit Elevation (m): 2865 Elevation Gain (m): 1050 Round Trip Time (hr): 8.5 Total Trip Distance (km): 19 Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 2 – You fall you sprain something – unless you’re in an avalanche. Then you could definitely die. 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: OT4; YDS (Skiing)GPS Track: Download Map: Google Maps I can’t believe it’s already been 8 years since I […]
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.
Summit Elevation (m): 2560 Latest Trip Date: Monday, December 30, 2019 Elevation Gain (m): 1100 Round Trip Time (hr): 5 Total Trip Distance (km): 16 Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something Difficulty Notes: A very easy backcountry ski or snowshoe trip with minimal exposure to avalanche terrain. Technical Rating: OT2; YDS (Skiing)GPS Track: DownloadMap: Google Maps As the year closed out in 2019 the avalanche ratings were still fairly high and the weather was bitterly […]
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.