2014 December Rockies Trip

From December 1st to the 11th I spent everyday in the Rocky Mountains climbing, snowshoeing, skiing, exploring and immersing myself into the landscape around me. We filled every single day with early mornings and beautiful views, although it is hard to get a bad view of the Rockies.. :-)

Here is a outline with photos of my trip with photos below.

Day 1 - Arrive in Calgary and drive to the first mountain the you really get to see on route to the Bow Valley, Yamnuska. The area had just received a good amount of snow and the temperatures were matching standard winter temps, so we didn’t know what to expect other then be prepared for everything. We left the car around 3pm and hiked up the standard route on the SE side of Yam. The going was good as snowshoe tracks had already been up to the tree line. Leaving the tree line we ditched the Snowshoes and with Ice axes in hand made our way up the talus and scree slopes towards the summit. We were chasing the last bit of light in the sky and really needed to just stretch our legs after a day of flying and traveling. We made it back to the car with only about 30 min of headlamp time, so that was good. Dinner was well deserved and at the Grizzly Paw.

Day 2 - The first few days we were lucky to stay at Ryan Atkins girlfriends sisters fiancee’s house (wow thats a mouthful). I am very thankful for them to offer up their spare bedroom for a few nights:-).
Today we decided to head towards Lake Louise and figured we could spend the day exploring my old stomping ground. We pointed our snowshoes towards Mt. St Piran and once we got to tree line we were stopped quickly as the Avalanche hazard was very high. With all of the fresh snow that the area had received over the past weekend and onto a weak layer of hoar frost from Nov. 6th, the snow was sliding very easily. We did a quick snow pit test and given the conditions we decided to turn around and go somewhere else. We ended up traversing over to the Plain of the Six Glaciers where we were greeted to close up views of Ptarmigans and Mountain Goats. We also witnessed a very large avalanche rip down the face on Mt. Lefroy. We ended doing about 18km in total of shoeing today.

Day 3 - With all the deep snow around and the avalanche hazards very high we were somewhat uneasy travelling in serious avalanche terrain as there were still natural slides happening and very high potential for human triggered slides. We headed up the Ice Fields parkway to Helen Lake and ultimately Cirque Peak. We knew that there was a good chance we would’t make it to the top of the peak, but with all the fresh snow it was magnificent just being out there! Again we were lucky to have some snowshoe tracks 5km of the way in and up to tree line. After that we had to traverse some avalanche terrain towards Helen Lake. Most of the potential slides had already slid and that was a relief as the going was tough and the snow was very deep. We took turns breaking trail for 400m sections in waist deep powder. We made it just above Helen Lake and once again were turned around as we would of had to cross a heavily loaded slope to gain the summit ridge. Never the less the views were unreal and was worth the effort to just be the only ones out here. We made it back to the car after roughly 6hrs and 17km.

Day 4 - We met up with a new friend, Simon Donato. We went for a full day of fat biking and did a tour of Mt Rundle. We rode to Banff for lunch and back to Canmore. It was super fun riding a 5 inch tire in the snow! We did roughly 60km before we had to return the rental bikes at sundown.

Day 5 - After yesterday’s big ride and a week filled with kcals burned we opted for a close and easy day before we headed into the backcountry of Yoho tomorrow. We did a quick hike/run up Ha Ling and were treated to wonderful views of Canmore and the Bow Valley.

Day 6 - Today we headed into Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. Lake O’Hara is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Canadian Rockies, anytime of the year. It is so beautiful that in the summer they have a bus service that goes the 12km into the lake from the highway to control the amount of people that visit it. In the winter the road is closed and is mainly used by skiers. We skied into the Lake with our packs loaded for the night. We set camp and began exploring the area until sundown. We were sound asleep by 7pm and fell into a sleep that would last 13hrs!

Day 7 - We awoke to world class views of the Lake O’Hara region. We made breakfast and went for a ski across the lake hoping for a beautiful sunrise and it was worth the scurry hurry to get out because it was gorgeous! We did a bit of exploring before breaking camp and heading back to the car. The ski out was fast and fun. When we got to the car we made a quick drive into Lake Louise for coffee, sandwich and a treat. After that we headed to the parking lot for Takakaw Falls as this was our next destination. We skied the 14km into the campground in around 3hrs taking turn breaking trail for most of it. There was no sign of anyone and we had the entire area to ourself. We set up camp in the cook shelter, got a fire going and as soon as the cabin warmed up the roof started to leak a nasty brown water that was melting from the roof. It was super gross and was staining our gear and covering everything. I quickly opted to go step up the tent in the event that the dripping did not stop and almost exactly after I got the tent set up, Ryan announced that the dripping stopped… Never the less it was a great sleep in a warm cabin, especially in a -29 sleeping bag. Although most of the day was cloudy, the stars managed to come out for a bit before we went to bed and I got out to grab a few photos pf the moonlit sky before it clouded in again.

Day 8 - We awoke to grey skies and warmer temps. We made the quick 2 hr ski back to the car, which was made much much easier because we had broke the trail the day before. We again drove Lake Louise and had grabbed some good food and coffee before heading back down towards Canmore. We had a few hours of daylight left and decided to make a quick run up Heart Mountain. With the warmer days some of the snow had started to melt and especially the mountains in the front ranges, which made the going much easier. We hit the top of ridge as the sun had already gone over the range to the West and took a couple quick pics before the fun run down. The next few nights we were again lucky to have a friend offer up their place for us to stay at, as they were out of town (thanks Simon!).

Day 9 - Hmmm what did we do today…? Oh ya, we made our way down to Kananaskis Country. We decided to head towards Mt Fortulent, which is across Spray Lake and accessed from Shark Mountain. We walked across the frozen ice to the base of the mountain and made our way up the South ridge towards the first summit (Mt Fortune) and in 80km/hr winds continued up to the summit of Fortulent. This peak was uber rad as I never had been here before which made it that much cooler! It was awesome. On the decent we ran into a group of Big Horned Sheep that were wondering what the heck we were doing out there.

Day 10 - Today was Ryan’s last day here and he had to be at the airport for 5pm. We again headed down to K - Country and this time hoped for good going and safe terrain on Grizzly Peak. After 500m of ascent and just above tree line we were once again turned around due to sketchy terrain and loaded slopes that were just waiting for a trigger. We enjoyed the view at our turn around point and made our way back down to the car. After dropping Ryan off at the airport I had a great visit with friends in Calgary.

Day 11 - This was now my last day of the trip and I wanted to fill it with as much as possible. I woke up early and headed up the Ice Fields Parkway to Peyto Lake hoping to catch the morning light rays hitting the peaks and instead I was greeted to snowy skies and 20cm of fresh snow. I did a quick snowshoe before heading back down to the clear skies over the town of Banff. With only a couple hours before I was due at the airport I decided to make a quick run up Sulphur Mountain and upon reaching the top I was greeted with blue skies. The trail up Sulphur is a great 6km one way route up to a great view of the peaks around. After a brief visit at observation station for a bit I made it back to the car in roughly 90mins (car to car). I finished stuffing my bags in the Canmore visitor centre’s parking lot (it was the only dry ground I could find to lay the duffel bags out) I was tired and excited to see my wife Eden and dog Rambo that were back home.

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