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Miette Pass Peaks Ski Touring

Difficulty: 
Moderate Ski Touring
Elevation [m]: 
2366
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
55.2
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1171
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
3100
YDS Difficulty: 
2
Ascent Time: 
10:30 Car to Bivy, 1:20 Bivy to South Peak, 2:30 Bivy to North Peak
Bushwhackyness: 
Dense In Places Though Overall Quite Decent
Tripdate: 
Sunday, February 15, 2015

With reading week upon us, Steven and I were anxious to get out for some sort of sizable trip.  Conditions and weather meant that bigger objectives on the icefields probably wouldn't be the best idea so we changed gears and focus on less aggressive options, with longer approaches.  Eventually plans converged to heading out towards Miette Pass, in the north-western corner of Jasper National Park (and the eastern border of Mount Robson Provincial Park).  There is relatively little information avaliable about the Miette Pass area, especially in winter so we were confident that a decent adventure would be in store.  Our confidence improved when we came across a trip report from Reiner describing a group heading up the "North Great Divide Traverse" last year.  We aimed to follow their route to the pass and head up the two ridges to scout out future peaks in the area over 3 or 4 days depending on snow conditions and feasibility of objectives.  Steven was less than certain about ski travel in the bush so opted for snowshoes while I stuck with skis.

 

Setting out from the Yellowhead Mountain trailhead at around sunrise on the first day (accessed off the Yellowhead Highway heading up the Old Lucern Road [~30km west of Jasper], past the campground to a small pullout beside the railway) ski conditions at first seemed pretty grim due to the recent tropically warm temperatures having ravenged the valley level snowpack.  After a bit of ski carrying (I'll use "ski" throughout here even though snowshoes were also involved) we managed to get to the Mount Fitzwilliam viewpoint after which snow became less rare and ski travel was more feasible.  After this point our mood improved and snow conditions steadily started to improve the higher we got.  When nearing the top of the trail we heard sounds from behind and it turned out another group was approaching!  It turned out a group of 3 Jasperites including Dana Ruddy and Sean Elliott (the guys who are trying to get a ski cabin at Rink Lake cleared by parks) were out scouting more possible lines in the area.  After a quick chat comparing our beta to theirs (thanks for that guys!) we were futher motivated to head onwards towards the pass, which Dana had affectionatly termed "The Promise Land" for the quality of ski lines that abound in the area.  Descending down from the shoulder of Yellowhead Mountain began the first of three loss/regain cycles to break through the ridges seperating us from the pass.  Each ridge involved between 200-300m of loss/regain which isn't that much but does add over time!  Travel in the bush was a bit gnarly in places but was overall much better than expected.  There were some sections where Steven's snowhsoes proved to be more effective but skis had no real problems (and made for fun bush descents!).  There were a few clearing along our route which granted views of nearby Mount Bridgland across the valley and towering outliers of Caledonia Mountain to the west.  Our line did travel underneath a few big avi slopes but generally stuck into the deep bush to minimize terrain hazards.  Along the way there were some solid viewpoints at small lakes below Caledonia Mountain which would make fabulous bivy locations (summer or winter).

 

Setting out from the Yellowhead Mountain trailhead around sunset.

 

Not the greatest snowpack at the start...

 

Looking south across the valley.

 

Looking up at Yellowhead Mountain.

 

Other people in the area!

 

Dana and his crew leading the way with me trailing behind, photo by Steven Song.

 

Some decent views from the clearing on the first ridge.

 

Not very dense bush for most of the approach, photo by Steven Song.

 

Steven about to enter a bigger slope.

 

At last the south pass is in sight!

 

After defeating the ridges and following up a creek leading to the pass we got out first glimpse of the pass (the south pass) itself and we pleasently surprised to see that the topo maps were correcct and we could easily pick a gentle line up (avoiding the perilously steep avi slopes below Razorback Mountain to the west, which would offer groovy ski lines in better snow!).  We reached the pass at around sunset and after crossing over into BC decided to set up a bivy in a nearby patch of trees which would promise nice sunrise/sunset views in the following days.  While setting up camp a snow squall rolled in for about 20 minutes but after that skies cleared off and a sea of stars arose above.

 

Looking back south towards the road.

 

Mount Fitzwilliam looked quite majestic.

 

Atop the south pass just as darkness fell.

 

Clear, cold night looking towards Salient Mountain.

 

The next morning we awoke a bit before sunrise with the aim of reaching the south ridge (which we took to calling Miette Pass Peak, South) for alpineglow.  This plan worked out fabulously and we even took a brief detour to the slightly more northerly highpoint to catch a glimpse of alpineglow of Mount Robson!  After getting up the true summit (and finding a sizable cairn) we headed back to our camp for breakfast, refuling for the trek over to the northern ridge (which we took to calling Miette Pass Peak, North) in the afternoon.  Heading towards the north peak we wern't entierly confident on how steep the other side of the ridge between us and the valley was so opted for a slightly more bushy line downwards (this had the advantage of a nice ski descent in fabulous snow!).

 

Great views south from the pass at sunrise!

 

A hint of a moon rising above Mount Fitzwilliam.

 

Mount McNaughton (left) and Salient Mountain (right) are very impressive peaks.

 

Looking south and east towards Caledonia Mountain (right), Mount Bridgland (left of centre) and Mount Mahood (left).

 

Steven heading up the subpeak north of the South Pass Peak with Salient Mountain and Moutn McCord in the background.

 

The start of alpineglow from the ridge.

 

Me setting off for the true summit of the South Pass Peak.

 

Glow on Mount McNaughton (left) and a sea of unnamed peaks.

 

Even the mighty Mount Robson catches some glow (in the distance at the centre of the image).

 

The Miette Pass area in full daylight.

 

Back at camp for some breakfast after getting back from the South Peak, photo by Steven Song.

 

Off to the North Pass Peak we go.

 

Wonderfull ski conditions.

 

From low on the slope we traversed towards the peak eventually hitting the wide clearing that marks the main pass.  Fantastic ski touring terrain around here with towering peaks make this an area to certainly come back to!  Further on towards the north peak the slope started to steepen and I was having a few more concerns about the sun-blasted slopes above.  Thankfully the angle never got excessively steep and soon enough we were atop the summit plateau which was likely corniced so we stayed well back from the edge not seeing any rocks nearby.  Views from the summit were suberb and that along made the trip worthwhile.  The ski back down to the valley was fast and fun, a few minutes later Steven regrouped and we started back for the camp for an early dinner and catching up on some sleep.

 

From Miette Pass looking up to the North Pass Peak.

 

A super impressive outlier of Salient Mountain.

 

Steven leading the way up to the ridgecrest.

 

More great views from the North Pass Peak.

 

Steven with Mount Mahood in the background.

 

Me with Salient Mountain in the background, photo by Steven Song.

 

Salient Mountain and its impressive outlier.

 

Skis were a wee bit faster than snowshoes here...

 

Looking back towards Salient Mountain.

 

More great views from down in Miette Pass.

 

Making our way back to camp.

 

Not a bad place to hang out for a while.

 

Last rays of light looking west.

 

Astounding aurora above Salient Mountain and Mount McCord.

 

The last day we woke up a little bit later (sunrise-ish) and set off for the deproach.  Thankfully today (as on the approach day) was fairly overcast so temperatures stayed sub-tropical avoiding excessive sweat and destabilization of the slopes above!  On the deproach we didn't want to get too far seperated so ended up having the worst of both worlds in terms of skis vs snowshoes (waiting for eachother at sections where one is more swift than the other).  I ended up breaking a seperate ski trail most of the way back as crusty snowshoe tracks are fairly gnarly to ski through.  Not much to say about the deproach, we folloed our tracks all the way and carried on at a good pace for most of the route.  After hitting the top of the Yellowhead Mountain trail things started to get less ideal.  The warm temperatures the previous day melted the low elevation (and sun-blasted) snowpack which froze to avi-debris hardness.  What would normally be a pleasent zoom back down to the car was a side-slipping edge-riding gnarl-fest.  Snowshoe crampons allowed Steven to get a fair bit ahead and I eventually caught up to him where the snow changed to mostly dirt a little above the Fitzwilliam viewpoint where I finally switched to boots.  The rest of the way back to the car was a simple plod under increasingly clearing skies.  All in all an excellent trip and likely the best thing we could have done given weather and conditions.  Tons of great looking peaks back in the Miette Pass area to tackle in the future!

 

Looking south towards the road the next morning.

 

Skis were a wee bit faster here too.

 

Lots of regain but still decent views kept spirits high.

 

Looking up at an outlier of Caledonia Mountain.

 

At last back at the Mount Fitzwilliam viewpoint after a gnarly icy ski descent.

 

Not far now to the road.

 

A fairly lengthy approach but totally worth it to reach an excellent area.

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