A long awaited journey up one of Banff’s more remote and hard to access mountains.
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.
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.
I don’t think either Ben or I really cared if we summitted another peak on the Brazeau Icefield or not, after two grueling days spent ascending Brazeau and Warren in marginal conditions. We already had the two 11,000ers and obviously the best views, but did we have ALL the best views? We suspected that there were still a few more good views we didn’t have yet. Most people traverse from Brazeau to Valad and Henry MacLeod on their way back to the high bivy. We had already noticed that there were a number of crevasses on Valad and we didn’t feel like traversing back over them, but Henry MacLeod looked dead easy from our camp. Since we were already at 3,000 meters, MacLeod should only be around a 300 meter height gain and my GPS put it at only around 2km distance. After a leisure breakfast (still in that infernal cold west wind), we set off for one last peak before getting off this melting icefield for good.
Once we descended from Christian Peak and looped back to our traverse tracks from the day before, we decided to give Arctomys Peak a try. I think we all underestimated the amount of effort required to get all the way over to the eastern edge of the Lyell Icefield from the south ridge of Christian Peak, never mind the effort to then descend 400 vertical meters, cross another small icefield and then re-ascend to the summit of Arctomys. Now reverse it all the way back to the Lyell Hut!! Sometimes we are just suckers for punishment.
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.
I had the whole week of September 1-7 off, but ended up working a couple of days on Tues / Wed due to bad weather. By Thursday I was ready to resume my break. Steven, Ben and I had plans for Fri-Sun so I had an extra day to do something myself. Originally I had a peak in mind but after thinking about it I decided to hike into the Woolley / Diadem bivy area by myself on Thursday and spend an extra night just chilling and reading or taking photos at one of the best bivy sites in the Rockies.
On the shortest day of 2012 I was joined by Wietse and Kelly on an ascent of Mount Gordon on the Wapta Icefields in bitterly cold but clear conditions. Of course, this wasn’t my first time ascending this peak. It was the very first summit on the Wapta for me, back in 2006 on a bitterly cold January day. The afternoon before, we had skied to the Bow Hut in marginal early season conditions across a groaning Bow Lake and barely enough snow in the canyon. We made it to the hut with just a few minutes to spare before dark and enjoyed the hut entirely to ourselves.
Ever since reading the Nugara’s trip report on snow shoeing Castleguard Mountain I’ve wanted to attempt it as a day trip on skis. Kevin Barton was also very interested and since Ferenc and I were turned around due to thick cloud cover in February 2012 while on a Columbia Icefield camping trip, Ferenc was also keen on a day trip attempt. Originally we thought that we’d have to camp at the trail head or even stay in the Saskatchewan Crossing hotel just to give ourselves enough day time to complete the peak, considering that the Nugara’s took 18 hours to do their trip.
On Friday, August 26 2011, So Nakagawa and I ascended Cathedral Mountain under a gorgeous early morning sky from our bivy site near the glacier. Cathedral is one of the most picturesque mountains I’ve ever climbed and this makes it into a top summit for me. Given the very cooperative weather over August, I knew that I wanted to climb something with a glacier and a bivy on the weekend of August 26th. Originally I was contemplating Mount Wilson but after thinking about it for a while, I realized that Cathedral Mountain was even higher on my ‘hit list’. Why? For the past 3 years I’ve been trying to find perfect conditions to ski Cathedral but every time those conditions arose (not that often) I had other commitments and couldn’t do it.
After an approach to the des Poilus glacier and an ascent of Yoho Peak, I found myself oversleeping my alarm on Sunday, August 14 – our planned ascent day for Mount Des Poilus. The moon was so bright as I emerged from my bivy sack, that I was casting a shadow! The full moon would only make our ascent of the glacier easier. Raf and Alan were getting up too, and soon the water was boiling for breakfast. It was very warm, around 8 degrees at camp as we roped up and set off up the glacier by 04:30.
On Good Friday, April 22, 2011 I took my brother in law, Mike up his very first Rockies peak. He chose to attempt his first peak on alpine touring gear, which I thought was very admirable considering you can’t really find a more physically challenging way to climb a mountain than with huge skis and boots attached to your feet! 🙂
On Sunday March 27, 2011 So Nakagawa and I skied to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain under a clear, nearly windless spring / winter day. I haven’t stood on a peak since I scrambled Midnight Peak way back on October 30 2010! I think that 5 months between peaks has to be some sort of new record for me. The last few outings I’ve had to the Rockies have been marked by cloud, wind and dreariness. So and I were both looking forward to a nice spring day with sunshine and melting snow but we knew that this was unlikely.
I woke the entire hut up at 07:00 on Sunday morning by turning on the stoves and lighting the lanterns. I paid for it by being recruited to help change the outhouse barrel!. I won’t go into detail on this except to say that the best way to ruin your morning appetite is to change an outhouse barrel. That is some nasty business my friends… By 08:30 we were packed up and ready to re-ascend the high col with heavier packs than the day before. I took some medication for my cold, hoping that it would be enough to get me through the day.
On Thursday, February 18 2010 a group of us lit up the interweb with a flurry of emails regarding the upcoming weekend. The reason we were so excited was the weather forecast’s promise of an imminent stretch of bluebird days over the Rockies, specifically in the Wapta Icefields area. The Wapta is like any other ice field in the Rockies. If there’s even one measly little cloud in the forecast, chances are very high that you will be experiencing a white out once you get onto the glacier. It’s just the way the weather patterns work with large expanses of snow and ice when there’s any moisture around. Another bonus was the very favorable avalanche reports – somewhat of a rarity for a February snow pack in Alberta.