Canadian Rockies Ski Mountaineering
While winter is still a ways off, snow is starting to pile up in the hills of BC. Here’s a short trip report from some Canadian Rockies Ski Mountaineering last spring on which you can ruminate.
Peter and I have skied quite a bit over the past few years. He’s been interested in improving his backcountry skill set and exploring bigger terrain.
Last winter was an especially deep winter in the Rockies and April provided some excellent conditions for ski mountaineering. We met up in Lake Louise to capitalize on a stable snowpack and some late season fitness.
The first day we decided on the Chick-a-Boom traverse with a bonus pitch on the south side of Bident Mountain. The spectacular tour through the Chickadee Valley yielded some incredible views and a great run down towards Boom Lake. However we spied excellent pow on Bident and so we indulged in a bootpack to the Bident col. It’s not often that you get to ski boot top pow on south aspects, but that day we got to savour a rare treat.
From the top of our final descent back into the Chickadee Valley, we got a view of Mt Stanley’s Kahl route. It looked perfect—virtually no wind effect, and signs of sloughing on the lower face. Our next objective beckoned.
We met up at 430 the next morning and set out in the dark, brisk -20 Celsius air. The cold overnight temps caused near surface faceting and dissolved any lingering slab properties in the surface snow. We didn’t waste any time getting to the top of the run as we had to pass under some overheads hazard on our route up. The early start and cold temps granted us a safe passage. By 1030 we were dropping into the 50 degree face and we’re back below tree line by noon.
While we looked back up at the incredible descent and the Stanley head wall we discussed our plans for the following day. We decided on Cathedral Peak and it’s north couloir.
We met at five am the next day and set out at a leisurely pace. We moved steadily through the solar crux before it warmed up too much. Crispy cramponing led us up the couloir to an excellent snack perch. Nobody had been up there in since the last snowfall, so we enjoyed the blank canvas that laid before us.
After an undulating tour to the summit, we transitioned and started our descent into the north couloir. The conditions transitioned from buckle deep powder to engaging firm wind board above the waterfall. After a short rappel, the run opened up into a huge slide path that drained us back to the Trans-Canada.
Spring skiing in the Rockies is an early rising affair, and this stint was par for the course. For our final outing we decided on skiing Mt. Whymper. Another five am start took us to the summit and back to back at the car before noon. As we sat in the parking reminiscing about the days we’d just enjoyed together, we could hear the distant rumble of the beginning of the diurnal avalanche cycle. After four days of prime shredding conditions, it was time to take a rest and let the mountains transition from a winter to a spring snowpack.
Arctos Guides offers small group, custom ski experiences in BC and beyond. We have a number of awesome trips lined up for this spring, on the Coast and the Rockies.
If you’re interested in booking a trip this winter or heading to South America for some austral pow next year, check out Backcountry Ski Patagonia