Burgess Redux

Not many peaks in the Rockies can boast two classic couloirs – but Mt. Burgess sure can. On new years day, Joel, Chis and I skied the iconic and technical north couloir. Later that same month, we came back for the much more moderate south (having swapped Chris for Kieran due to work requirements). My buddy Luke Seed has the only other mention of this line that I can find on his blog so give that a read for his process on scoping it out.

We knew it was in, because I drive past it and look nearly every time I head east to ski. A ridge of high pressure had been sitting on the range for a while and we weren’t expecting great ski conditions, meaning light crampons and a single axe were our tools of choice. Joel took the lead on the approach, dispatching it in no time, and with exactly the pace you’d expect from a man trying to outrun -25 temperatures in the valley.

Now, normally you’d be a fool to hope for an inversion on this line. The south facing overhead would feel the warmth long before you did – which is obviously not ideal. But the weather had been so stable lately that it hardly mattered – plus it was ridiculously cold – so an inversion is what we hoped for and an inversion is what we got.

After skinning as high as we could, we transitioned to booting just below the couloir proper. This thing is long, and we traded leads in perfect travel conditions. I was feeling good, so after I while I just took over and got rid of as much of the 800m bootpack as I could manage. Thanks to the aforementioned inversion, the day was glorious. Beautiful views of Field far below, sparkly wisps of cloud and warm sun on our backs. Nothing was moving above our heads. We hadn’t even needed to pull out the sharp stuff. If boot pen was anything to go by, ski quality was looking to be a bit better than anticipated.

A perfect day above the town of Field.

The three of us lounged at ridgetop for a while to enjoy the views, then set about finding a definitive answer to the question of ski quality.

Turned out, it was pretty damn good.

Certainly not powder, but nice, consistent styrofoam that allowed for great turns at some speed. We were back at the visitor’s centre and trying to convince Kieran to share his donut stash by lunchtime.

Kieran takes in the view to the west, with the upper portion of the couloir stretching out below him.

Maybe it was just the experience of fast travel and serviceable skiing on a bluebird day, but I really think this one deserves more attention than it gets. It’s so much fun to ski, a full 800m long and one of the best “above town” lines in the range. The angle never gets above 45 degrees (if that), and, though it’s got plenty of solar overhead, it’s well suited to mid winter stability windows. Throw in a laughably short approach with a few quality eateries near the parking lot and you’ve got all the makings of a classic.

As viewed from the parking lot. Factor in the summer trail and approaches don’t get much easier than this one.


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