They say that everything is good for you in moderation, and few ski lines I’ve been on embody that sentiment better than the linkup of Haddo Peak and Mt. Aberdeen that Ian, Andrew and I skied on Victoria Day. On the way up, a little bit of steep snow, some exposed spots, and a fun scramble. On the way down, everything from cold powder, to ice, to five star corn. Plus stellar views all day, because you can’t have too many of those.
On a holiday Monday, it’s important to arrive early at Lake Louise to ensure a good parking spot. With that in mind, it was around 3:30 we set off from our prime real estate next to the Chateau towards the back of the lake. At the end of the trail, we threw our skins on and headed for the northwest facing slide path beyond Surprise Pass that marked the beginning of our route.
An awkward crust slowed our progress as we tried to decide between skinning, ski-cramponing and bootpacking. By the time we reached the base of the north facing couloir which would afford us access to the glacier above, we had concluded that all three methods sucked equally.
Travel was easy in the steep confines, as the snow under our feet consisted largely of very firm runnels. We hoped that the sun would soften it up a little for the descent but given the polar aspect, we weren’t holding our collective breath. The real goods were still above us anyway.
On top of the couloir was the crux of the route from an objective hazard standpoint. A long, leftward traverse in steepish terrain led out over the cliffs next to the couloir. Adding to the issue was the line of seracs looking down from above. For obvious reasons, our pace was fairly inspired for a few minutes as we hurried across. Then just a quick bootpack and we were on the col, looking out at Mt. Temple and the Moraine Lake area from a great vantage point.
A quick break for some alpine sunbathing and we were back on our skins, cruising up and down Haddo’s easy summit ridge without bothering to transition.
Then up towards Aberdeen. Skinning gave way to some fun scrambling through reasonably solid blocks. One could also traverse snow to the summit, but with the sun beating down and exposure below none of us were particularly keen to chance it.
Soon enough we pulled onto the peak. The view from there is awesome, encompassing a sea of classic peaks and ski lines. Our stay was brief though, as the snow was warming fast and we knew that waiting too long to drop in could prove hazardous to our health.
I left the top first, skiing quickly in the excellent warm pow back down to the col. As I looked back I saw my sizable slough rolling away off the cliffs and seracs below – reinforcing both our early start and quick departure from the top. Andrew and Ian soon joined me and we headed off for the next pitch of cold powder on the north facing glacier below.
With a keen eye out for any movement in the steep ice, rock and snow above we reversed our traverse back to the top of the couloir. Sure enough, the top was still bulletproof, but some pockets of pow gave hope. Right around the choke the firm snow caught some sun and some great turns were had through variable, but soft conditions. From there 500m of perfect corn delivered us back to the valley and our mandatory photo ops and exit interviews with the many, many tourists lining the shore of the lake.
A great day out with a little bit of everything that makes something as bizarre as ski mountaineering so rewarding. Also, as promised, a video of something a little more interesting than last week’s whiteout: