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Mount Aberdeen and Haddo Peak

Difficulty: 
Winter Mountaineering (Steep Snow, Low Grade Mixed Climbing, Glacier Travel To Haddo)
Elevation [m]: 
3157
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
28.3
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1400
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
1800
YDS Difficulty: 
4
Ascent Time: 
7:15 Car To Aberdeen, 1:00 Aberdeen To Haddo
Bushwhackyness: 
Very Little
Tripdate: 
Sunday, March 8, 2015

Another weekend of decent weather was taking shape in the Rockies so Steven, Vern and I set to planning a trip but what to do (our premade 'list of winter daytrip peaks' was starting to be quite thin).  Vern suggested a plan which he had been considering for a while ascending Mount Aberdeen via Paradise Valley  (the side people normally descend for the popular alpine route accessed from the north glacier).  The plan called for skiing up the old Paradise Valley trail and weaving up a massive avalanche path and as such required the most stable snowpack possible.  Thankfully the drought that had been affliction the hills for the past few weeks worked in our favor and snow conditions were as locked in as we could hope for.  Steven had also done an ascent of Cathedral Mountain a few days prior and reported rock hard snow great for kicking upwards.

Setting off from the Moraine Lake road (closed in the winter but didn't apparently stop a person we saw in the trailhead from attempting to drive around the gate trapping his car in the process..) we made quick progress up to the start of the trail along cross country ski tracks.  Soon after passing the 'ski touring past this point boundary' we were swiftly rambling up the valley on what we assumed was the new trail (complete with much frustrating gain and loss) crossing several bridges.  On the way back we resolves to just stick near the creek to avoid the extra hight changes.

 

Skinning up the Paradise Valley trail.

 

Very impressive views already.

 

An outlier of Mount Temple along with PInnacle Mountain and Eiffel Peak.

 

Zoomed in towards Pinnacle.

 

Soon enough we were passed to new trail and traversing below avalanche gullies descending from Aberdeen's slopes above.  Our route originally was going to head up the dense bush climbers right of the normal descend gully but after evaluating the snow we decided to ski straight up the open slope.  This is not a decision to take lightly unless you are very certain of the snowpack.  Travel in the gully was pretty quick but with numerous switchbacks to counter the steep slope.  Higher up we were faced with a decision continue up our planned line (following the huge gully to the SW ridge or aiming climbers right for a treed slope which would mitigate some of the avi hazard and looked less steep).  We took the treed slope on the right aiming for rock above confident that traversing left or right would have some way to bypass the menacing cliff bands.  Travel was quite arduous as the sun was blasting down on the slope softening the surface so that skis wouldn't grip sufficiently and boots would sink far down.  Vern and I stuck with boots and trudged upwards slow but steady.  Steven, being on snowshoes, just walked up a nearby slope which Vern and I thought looked perilously steep from our angle.

 

Vern, past the trail and about to head up the gully.

 

Looking up at the ascent terrain trap.

 

Not to be trusted unless conditions are ideal.

 

Vern enjoying the views of Mount Temple.

 

Vern and I skinning up, photo by Steven.

 

Higher up the gully is still big terrain!

 

Vern at the treed ridge we chose to ascend.

 

A bit of a wider view looking down the valley.

 

Vern wallowing through deep snow towards scree above.

 

Eventually all of us joined together at the windblown scree band below the cliffs and plotted our next moves.  We knew that to the climbers left was the normal ascent gully and a "easy walk off" so trended that direction to see what we could find.  We discovered several things.  First, several gullies would have to be traversed before finding a way to the summit block.  Second, our original route was indeed subjected to cornicefall from several different locations (see image below).  That gully should only be ascended with great care in solid conditions.  After some discussion on routes we pressed higher with Steven leading kicking steps across a couple snow slopes.  Our pace was quick enough that we didn't linger in any one treacherous place for long and moved between solid scree patches shielded from cornices by rockbands.  The last slope was the steepest (and hardest snow), cresting a cornice to reveal the summit block.  Having come at Aberdeen from this angle we had to contend with some snow covered 4th class rock to gain the summit which was more awkward than difficult.  Once on the summit a chill wind but good views awaited us.

 

Vern negotiating a balancy section.

 

Awesome views towards Mount Lefroy.

 

Steven with cliffs from Aberdeen false summit above, we traversed climbers left.

 

Steven and Vern about to traverse one gully over towards our route to the summit block.

 

A very exposed looking view of me crossing the slope, photo by Steven.

 

Not far to go but not a good place to slip!

 

Looking down the last bit of ascent before gaining the ridge, photo by Steven.

 

The boys a few vertical meters from the true summit.

 

A narrow snowband to be crossed.

 

Wide reaching summit views.

 

Zoomed in towards Mount Temple.

 

Zoomed in towards the north.

 

Time was going by quickly and we didn't linger on the summit for long before heading back down the summit block to bag Haddo.  The traverse to Haddo took less than an hour including stashing our packs and was straightforward glacier walking followed by hiking on scree.  Fairly similar views from Haddo but it is worth the slog to look back towards Aberdeen.  From this point we retraced our steps and eventually made it back to where Vern and I stashed our skis.  Between the summit of Haddo and getting our skis the air temperature dropped by 10 degrees and a steady chill wind was blowing.  This had the benefit of making the descent slopes less prone to sliding but made for rough skiing.  I rode my edges pretty much all the way down the gully until the slope lowered such that some jittery turns over icy debris were possible.  

 

Looking down at the impressive unnamed peak below Mount Aberdeen.

 

More impressive views.

 

HDR of the same.

 

The boys descending snow from the summit block.

 

Traversing over to Haddo.

 

Summit views from Haddo looking south.

 

Summit views from Haddo looking north.

 

Great views of Mount Temple.

 

Back towards Aberdeen to make our descent.

 

Steven almost back where we stashed our skis.

 

Vern skiing down through the gates to the gully, photo by Steven.

 

Thankfully snow down in the bush was fast and turnable making for good travel.  Steven had ditched his skis much earlier and went off to grab them while Vern and I followed tracks beside the creek.  We met up at the next bridge and carried on the journey carwards.  Before we reached the last bridge it became headlamp time, and the hard packed trail snow had become very icy.  Skiing down the trail by headlamp had about a 2 second visibility window making for very focused turning.  Once back on the road Vern and I skated the last bit of distance (my GPS clocked me as going 26km/h which gives an indication as to how hard the snow on the road was) making for a speedy trip back to the car.  All in all a good trip but not without risks.  We came across pretty much every kind of avalanche hazard possible during the route and even a day after any line up from Paradise valley would be perilous due to the warming trend.  I would not recommend this line unless snow conditions are exceptional and your party acknowledges the risks involved.

 

Looking up at Little Temple from the creek just before sunset.

 

Night-skiingdown the trail was fast and focused.

 

Bigger day than anticipated, good views.

 

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