Friday April 15 to Sunday April 17, 2016
Participants: Sheri, Robert, Sue, Luca and Joad
Trip report writers: Luca and Joad
Our trip started with headlamps on Friday morning as we left Mosquito Creek trailhead at 4:30 a.m. with heavy backpacks and a few hours of sleep. We had fast travel to North Molar Pass in 5 hours, enjoyed some great turns down from the pass, had our first peek at the Drummond glacier in the distance, then descended tight trees on frozen snow to the Pipestone River. Most snow bridges had melted, and one of us slipped knee-deep in the water while attempting to step over slick rocks. Past the Pipestone River crossing, the skiing over a few kms on a flat meadow was pleasant, yet uneventful until we turned left in Fossil Creek drainage and reached the starting point of the Drummond glacier climb. After melting some snow and filling our bottles, we started climbing the steep slope towards the Drummond “ramp”. After 400 m of ascent, we were greeted by beautiful blue seracs and ice caves. Another 200 m further up, and after 11+ hours of skiing that day, our pace had slowed down and we decided to set up camp below the Drummond headwall. Our total elevation gain for the day was 1,500+ meters.
We started again early the Saturday morning and were blessed with a blue sky thanks to a high pressure system that had moved in for the weekend. The winds had been blowing hard overnight, and with the nominal protection of a Megamid for 3 of us it felt like a blizzard was going on outside. We took advantage of the overnight freeze to ski up the headwall with ski crampons while roped up. This offered some challenges due to the steepness and the expedition packs we were carrying. Now on top of the glacier 2 hours later, the Drummond offered some great views, and quickly, we were skiing down South-East towards the Red Deer River, enjoying some glorious ski turns along the way. The crux for us was then using the last patches of snow and finding a way down the headwall to reach the valley bottom. It took a solid 2 hours to do so due the group splitting up. Once in valley, we found a broken trail that was supportive, and the travel was fast again, even tough the temperatures were well above 0 C.
Still tired from the day before and feeling the effects of carrying heavy packs, our group divided into just before noon. Three in our group of five finished at Lake Louise 6 hours later through Deception Pass, while two went on to traverse the Bonnet glacier as originally planned. The group of two finished the traverse at Johnston Creek on Sunday but did have to walk in their ski boots for the last four hours.
Overall our trip benefited from a high pressure system, long hours of daylight, warm temperatures (-5C at night at 2,600 m), no major issues with isothermal snow during the day, and high-spirited participants. Plus, a guided group was a few days ahead of us, and set tracks that were reassuring at times. Undertaking this traverse in three days is recommended only for high-stamina, early-morning riser skiers who can enjoy some gruelling days (~12- hour days). That said the traverse is a beautiful tour. Hopefully this encourages others to get out and enjoy (at perhaps a more leisurely pace) this remote, yet accessible mountain area North of Lake Louise.