I couldn’t resist sending another report from a superb trip I did yesterday with Garland Jonker.
Mt. Niblock is the northernmost peak in the peaks surrounding Lake Louise. As shown in the pictures, attaining its summit involves a lot more than skiing: crampons were needed for a short stretch of bulletproof snow leading up to the col, and the summit ridge was quite airy. Our stay on the summit was brief because heavy black clouds arrived just as we did. By the time that we were back to our skis we were in the midst of a snowstorm, which changed to rain about halfway down the mountain. Needless to say, I was in “survival skiing” mode the whole way.
Data: 4h20m to the summit; 1h50m to descend to the car. Elevation gain 1200m
Today Bev, Rob MacKenzie and I skied to a subsidiary summit (2820 m) of Crowfoot Mountain, which is located immediately east of the Wapta Icefields. It was cold (-8ºC) when we left the Num-ti-jah Lodge parking lot at 8:30. Up to treeline the snow was very crusty, even on permanently shaded north aspects — definitely late season conditions. Above treeline the snow improved steadily and the top 300 m of vertical, although a bit wind-affected (as shown in the pictures) was soft enough to make for excellent skiing (not at all “grabby”). The icy approach had softened by mid-afternoon, when we descended, but there are quite a few snow bridges over the creek in the canyon that you must negotiate that are not long for this world…. definitely late season conditions.
In summary: a fabulous day of spring alpine touring: no wind, no clouds, and great company!
The only picture that needs explanation is Crowfoot Summit View. It shows the terrain looking due south from our high point. Mount Balfour, the highest peak on the Wapta Icefields, dominates the right side of the picture. On the left in the far distance is Mount Temple. Quite a nice playground only a 1-hour drive from Canmore!
Yesterday Andy Paul and I bagged White Pyramid (3275m), a ski mountaineering gem in the Canadian Rockies. White Pyramid is immediately west of Mt. Chephren, a the very prominent rocky mountain just south of Saskatchewan Crossing. It is more of a mountaineering than a skiing objective, featuring big elevation gain (1680m) and a lot of time on foot scrambling over loose scree and postholing along the summit ridge. We were roped up for about half of the very windy ridge. The snow on the ski out — 1200 m of vertical from where we left the skis on the ridge down to tree line — was highly variable: from boot-top powder to grabby crust. We shared the mountain with a Calgary Alpine Club party of 4 that started hours before we did that we passed about halfway to the summit. Our car-to-car time was 8h 30m.
The attached pictures show highlights of this fabulous day in the hills:
Almost all of the route is shown — across the lake, up the moraines that are in the sun, then onto the ridge in profile on the skyline up to the summit at the upper left. Mt. Chephren is on the left edge of the picture.
The wind-blasted face that leads to the summit ridge. Two of the Calgary ACC party that we passed at this point give scale to this wild scene.
My companion at the point where the previous picture was taken. Andy is a powerful athlete who excels at anything he tries (right now he’s into mountain biking; he completed the Trans Rockies race last year…).
The view from the ridge on our descent. The Calgary ACC party is almost at the summit.
Everett and Andy on the summit, a very windy spot!
Now is the high season for ski mountaineering in the Canadian Rockies. Andy Paul and I enjoyed fabulous conditions when we climbed Mt. Field today. The picture was taken from the summit by Andy; that’s the Trans-Canada Highway 1300 m below. The run of 1200 m of vertical from the summit to the Takakaw Falls road was wonderful — boot-top powder almost all the way. As usual, Andy set a “take no prisoners” pace (5:40 from car to car), leaving me in serious need a day off….