Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Line of the Week: Purple Knob Couloirs

After missing last week's #lineoftheweek, I thought I would include a "zone" containing multiple lines for this week.

Hero Knob is the classic ski tour in Kananaskis, and while it is not in the book, the cat is certainly out of the bag. Due to the young age of the Rockies, the mountains are still steep, leaving few places for the cold, intermittent snowfalls to stick to. The Hero Knob area is a bit of an exception as there are lots of options for skiing, and certainly more variety than most spots. Skiing the Hero Knob traverse as a loop, the North facing lines off Purple Knob present an opportunity to add some more skiing to your day. With the right conditions and attitude, it is possible to add 2-4 of these lines to your typical Hero Knob traverse.

Dogleg: Good tree/avalanche path skiing. I typically traverse into this area from the Hero Knob road. Makes for a shorter walk at the end of the day if doing the full Hero Knob loop

Purple Knob Ridge Couloirs: Once in the big avalanche path coming off the south face of Hero Knob, you can start to make your way up a north facing avalanche path to the base of these two lines.

A post shared by Travis Brown (@personal_peak) on

Graupel makes for some interesting sluffing.

Two parallel side by side couloirs. Boot up!

Purple Knob Bowl. This is a good spot to get in a lap or two while you wait for some other sucker to punch in a track across the sketchy headwall that gains the hanging valley to the Hero Knob ridge. The Purple Knob col can also be accessed by ascending the bowl on its south side after skiing from near the top of the Dogleg. Watch out for the cornice at the top! The rest of lines can be booted up from the North Bowl! The approach to the north bowl is more in line with the typical Hero Knob circuit, except instead of heading up and to the right to gain the hanging valley, you go further left!

Black Prince Col. This area is similar to the North aspect of the Hero Knob col, but more wind affected and thin, especially at the top. The other lines off the col present some interesting options though! The first (and the second depending on your definition) couloirs on skier's left of the col can be accessed by climbing up the south side of the col. The rest require bootpacking up them or more creative scrambling on the col. The col can be gained from the North via the hanging valley, or from the south via an interesting traverse from the Black Prince parking lot described below.
Using the South side to access the first couloir adjacent to the col.

Thin at the top!
South approach to the Black Prince col.
Black Prince Col Traverse: Ski as you would if you were heading to the Black Prince tree triangle, but once in the bowl, head up the bowl and start climbing an avalanche path coming off the headwall of Mt. Black Prince. However, before getting onto steeper slopes, follow a creek to the right into the next avalanche path coming off the headwall. Continue up the ramp leading to the hanging valley and then continue up and to the right into the hanging valley. The col can be ascended by center punching it. The run down the other side of the col is usually more wind affected than Hero Knob and may be thin at the top.
Elevation gain: 1000m
Distance: 10km
Top Elevation: 2460m

Other Lines of the Week .
Other Kananaskis lines.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Line of the Week: Flower couloir and Pacman couloir double

I'm going to go with a more popular and classic line this week, but with an added twist. Either of these lines are a pretty short day by themselves considering the long drive to Bow Summit, but can be easily combined to make for a proper day, more in line with other "Line of the Week". More like "Line of the weak" if you just want to do one and call it a day...

The Flower Couloir is accessed by traversing along a bench above Bow Summit, in the mid section of the slope.  The "stem" of the flower is steep and narrow leading into the bowl of the "receptacle". I skied the north facing "petals", closer to the climbers left side.

Descend the Flower, then traverse back along the bench, all the way to the north end of the face above Bow Summit. Climb up the North ridge, and trend west into the north facing slidepath coming off of the Pacman couloir when available. The Pacman couloir is short and steep. After skiing the couloir, you could ski the avalanche path all of the way to the lake, or traverse back on top of the ridge and enjoy a nice NE facing run back to the parking lot.

Heading towards the Flower

Pacman couloir. Short and steep.

Total Vertical: 950m
Top Elevation: 2700m
Round Trip Distance: 7.5km
Line Length: 300m + 100m

Other lines in the area: There is lots of ski potential on both sides of the Icefields Parkway starting from Bow Summit, or from a couple of km north or south of the parking lot. Rumour has it that power tripping RCMP are ticketing vehicles parked along the highway that are not completely in the shoulder.
Hillmap route

line of the Week
Icefields Parkway

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Line of the Week: North Face of Mt. Lyautey

As spring days get longer, it is time to think about those bigger ski tours on your list. Of course with the warm spring weather, approach and access need to be considered. I like to think about lines that have good trail, creek, or open avalanche path access that can provide expedited travel to the alpine as they freeze better than densely treed areas. While Mt. Lyautey starts off with a long valley bottom approach, an open avalanche path provides access to the glacier, and there is the potential that the trail could be melted out, while the line has wintery snow up above. I first noticed Lyautey glacier in some summer skiing pictures and was intrigued with the spot. A week before this trip, while attempting Mt. Joffre, I was in awe of the couloir riddled SE face of Mt. Lyautey.
Start the day off with a 6.5km slog from North Interlakes Day Use, almost to the Forks campground. The map link might come in handy for determining where to leave the trail as there are a couple of avalanche paths and drainages that converge in a similar area. Once in the creek, we ascended the drainage to the moraine on the climber's left side. I believe there is a small waterfall that can get buried with snow under the climber's right side. Once on the moraine, it is an easy ski onto the glacier where a north face that is absolutely riddled with couloirs stands out.

Looking up the glacier. Summit is the high point on the right side
On the climber's left side of the face are two prominent couloirs and we even made an attempt before discovering windslab. They however, do not lead to the summit! The summit is accessed via a much less "walled-in" couloir further on climber's right.

The line to the summit with tracks down it. Obviously endless possibilities for ski descents!
Looking down the line from the top. Both glaciers are visible at the bottom.
On the exit, we skied down the skier's left side of the moraine (not the side we climbed up)

Round Trip Distance: 21km
Elevation gain: 1550m
Top elevation: 3045m
Line length: 200m
Other options in the area: Once you are committed to the drainage, there are options for more mellow skiing on either of the glaciers and the col to the west of Mt. Lyautey. There are many skiable lines on the North face of Mt. Lyautey. If you do not wish to commit to the creek heading up the moraine, you could ski even deeper up the valley to 3 Isle lake and attempt to ski north facing bowls on Defender Mountain, Mt. McHarg, and Mt. Worthington.
The equally "delicious" SE face of Lyautey
As you can camp at the Forks campground, the Lyautey glacier can also make an excellent summer skiing objective.

Hillmap route

Other Lines of the Week .
Other Kananaskis lines.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Line of the Week, South face of Eiffel Peak

I know, another line  that requires either a long approach or waiting until the road opens. Either factor keeps this classic line from being the highlight of the ski guidebooks.
Staring across to the SW ridge of Mt. Temple. Also skiable...apparently

From Moraine Lake, follow the trail to Larch Valley and Eiffel Lakes. I prefer to ski up the SE shoulder of Eiffel peak rather than center punching the slide path which may or may not have a couple of chokes to navigate. Once on the face, it's just a straightforward skin up to the top, with possibly a short bootpack through a choke. Pick the right day and the views at the top are incredible!
South facing powder at the end of May. What?

800m of fall line skiing awaits. Ski out the avalanche path all the way to the bottom. If you are lucky, the snow in the drainage will still have a supportive crust and you can surf your way down the moraines to the lake. Or slog it out if the snow has become isothermal.

While the top of the line had slid down to hard snow through the choke, we were content with powder turns in the main body of the line. On this outing, the base of the avalanche path had melted out, with only new snow on the grass, bushes, and rocks. made for an interesting exit.
Elevation gain: 1080m
Round Trip distance: 10km
Top Elevation: 3077m
Line length: 800m
Other options in the area: As mentioned the the Eiffel-Pinnacle Couloir article, there is no shortage of lines in the Moraine lake area.
hillmap route