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Howse Peak

Difficulty: 
Mountaineering (Steep Snow and Glacier Travel)
Elevation [m]: 
3288
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
26.0
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1600
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
2300
YDS Difficulty: 
2
Ascent Time: 
6:30 Car to Valley, 4:00 Valley to Howse Peak
Bushwhackyness: 
Very Little
Tripdate: 
Saturday, May 2, 2015

In the lull between big icefield trips, Steven and I decided to stretch our legs and head up a less lofty (but still excellent looking), mountain, Howse Peak.  Highest peak in the Waputik Range.  I had previously seen the backside of Howse from the river below and thought it looked pretty straight forward (if a long approach slogging to the valley to access it) but Steven suggested and alternate approach over the shoulder of White Pyramid which would save time and energy.  A plan was afoot!  We budgeted 3 days just in case but ended up only taking two of them.

Setting off from the Icefield Parkway in the afternoon on the first day we followed a similar track to Steven's ascent of White Pyramid from a couple years ago.  Before long we crossed the Mistaya River and got high enough to put snowshoes on.  There were a multitude of tracks to follow towards White Pyramid and slowly we slogged onwards sinking a fair bit in the snow along the way (already I mourned not having skis instead).

 

Steven pointing the way towards the access col.

 

Me crossing the river, photo by Steven Song.

 

On Epaulette Lake.

 

Looking up the ascent route of White Pyramid, our col to access Howse Peak is in the top centre.

 

A bit of post-holing in the bush.

 

Before too long we go to the base of the big snow slope (the classic ski line on White Pyramid) and were travelling upwards.  We tried to time our ascent such that the steep slope on the other side of the col would be in shade by the time we hit it and sure enough this worked out.

 

Up the steep snow we go.

 

At the col looking down over the other side.

 

From the col the valley to the south looked like an excellent place to spend an evening and we quickly descended (not overly pleasent on 'shoes).

 

Great looking terrain for skiing on these thar hills.

 

Running water, what luxury!

 

The next morning we arose around sunrise and followed the rising snow slopes leading to the glaciated summit of Howse.  Along the way there was some big avalanche terrain to contend with almost all of which was subjected to overhead steep slidable slopes...  This is not a good place to hang out in questionable snow conditions!  The 'shoes got us upwards in decent time along a steep series of switchbacks broken up by picture breaks looking at the fabulous views of Mount Forbes and the Freshfields behind us.  As is true of most winter ascents, the true summit of the peak was obscured by a mighty cornice so we snuck up as close as we dared before snapping some pictures.

 

Night-views looking towards Fryatt.

 

The next morning heading up towards Howse.

 

Lovely views towards Forbes and Outram.

 

A wider look of the sunrise views.

 

Steven with Howse Peak looming in the background.

 

More great views towards the Freshfields.

 

Steven pretty much at the summit.

 

Looking across to the Freshfields.

 

Me on the final ascent slope.

 

Clouds boiling over a prominent false summit along the summit ridge.

 

First great summit pano.

 

Second great summit pano.

 

Zoomed in towards the Freshfields.

 

Looking further south.

 

Our descent was straightforward but still subjected to avalanche hazard (especially with the rising temperature and blazing sun).  While descending we agreed that tempting the steep south facing slope to get back over the col in the heat of the afternoon would be a bad call and opted for a nap until things started to cool down.  Hanging out in the valley made me think how nice this area would be for yoyo skiing, have to come back at some point in the future.  Once the slope was shrouded by nearby rock pinnacles and spared the blazing sun we packed up and started the slog back northwards up to the col.

 

Back down we go along steep slopes.

 

Looking back up at our ascent line.

 

Very warm in the valley around noon.

 

Looking back up at the steep snow to get back to the road.

 

Steven with the summit ridge in the background.

 

Great ski terrain around here.

 

After a few hours the slopes below the col were finally in shade.

 

Steven heading towards the col.

 

I was feeling pretty rough not having been on 'shoes for ages and slowed Steven down and great deal.  We made our way back to the car following our ascent route and we're surprised to see fresh ski tracks alongside them (who knows what they thought of snowshoe tracks leading off into the south!).  We ended up making it back to the car just as headlamps would have been needed and set course for Rocky Mountain House in search of grub.  Overall quite a decent trip, I'd be pretty stoked to return to this area to ski White Pyramid itself and some lines in the valley below Howse!

 

Up at the col looking back towards the road, still a fair ways to go.

 

Sunset on the lake looking towards Murchison.

 

Steven crossing back over the river.

 

Neat shortcut route, nice peak!

rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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