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Ringing In The New Year At Berg Lake: 2017 Edition

Moderate Ski Touring
YDS Difficulty: 
Very Little
Wednesday, December 28, 2016

As 2016 drew to a close it was time to head back up to Berg Lake for New Years.  Like New Years last year, we would have a merry crew of skiers, splitboarder, and snowshoers making the ~20km trek into the Hargreaves amidst chilly temperatures and lots of snow.  Most folks would be staying for four nights heading out on New Years while Josh, Zach, and I planned on sticking around an extra day (it is always hard to leave Berg, especially in the winter).  The three of us aimed to climb some ice this time around and packed rope, tools, and screws with our sights set on the mighty Emperor Falls (which is notorious for lots of flowing even in the depths of winter).  Setting out from the parking lot at the not so dark and early hour of 8ish travel on the road up to Kinney was quite quick (if a little back-breaking from grub and equipment weight).  


Thankfully there was no-one else in the parking lot when we arrived, the shelter could be a busy place with two groups!


Zach the one horned reindeer.


The ice on Kinney was pretty good, except for near the inlet and outlet.

With a decent coating of ice we were able to ski across Kinney Lake cutting off a bit of extra up/down and time.  After waiting to re-group with other folks at the cook shelter we split up into two waves with Jake, Josh, Zach, and I heading in the first group to break trail, get the fire started, and maybe even have some soup ready for folks traveling at a more regal pace.  There were some fairly recent snowshoe tracks leaving the Kinney shelter that helped a bit with trail breaking but it was still slow going.  Once we hit Falls of the Pool the tracks stopped altogether and progress became woefully slow (while the sky became woefully dark).  My group managed to make it to the Emperor Falls viewpoint a little after sunset and did the rest of the trudge by headlamp.  The final ski across Berg Lake itself seemed to go on for ages (with the only real visual references the surrounding peaks if you turned off your headlamp).  Eventually we made it to the Hargreaves and were pleased to find a little bit of wood to get a fire going.  At least it was only -15 or so this year overnight, not -36 like the last year!  The second group rambled in a few hours after and the shelter came alive with the roar of campstoves for grub and grog to restore some civility.

The route on Emperor Falls is called 'Emperor Reigns' for a pun. :)


Nice when the snow on this bridge isn't above the railings.


The morning the next day no-one was really that motivated to do anything too energetic (it is a long way in!) so we ran the first round of the backcountry competitive cookoff Liam and I had been planning for a while (stay tooned for the video, I hauled in cameras, wireless mics and everything!) which pitted Cara, Jake, and Liam against each other in a battle of culinary wits.  In the afternoon I rambled out for a little cross country skiing, views were pretty marginal so a lazy day seemed to jive quite nicely with conditions.


Certainly not a bad view from the front porch.


The next day being nicely rested we reckoned that it was worthwhile to try to go for something larger.  Snow conditions were kind of spooky with widespread signs of instability so our aim of skiing up Gendarme Mountain was likely not going to work out, but there was certainly still some safe skiing in the trees to do!  The cold snap from earlier in December really did a number on the snowpack, with lots of unsupportive facets meaning that rocks, trees, and other nastyness was far too easy to ski into making for very focused turns.  We ended up skiing a fair bit of the way towards Gendarme stopping before hitting the avi slopes draining off Mount Anne-Alice.  A fierce wind certainly made it feel like winter, but the snow was good enough for us to yoyo a few laps before heading back to the shelter.


We are a very colorful crew!


Josh breaking trail upwards.


The Helmet is very much on the radar for 2017.


The crew works its way up the summer trail ascending the basin.


The Robson Group is a lovely set of peaks.


Looking towards our access col to the Mural Icefield and Gendarme Mountain.


More interesting lighting on The Helmet.


Some pretty good tree-skiing up here.


Quite the frosty wind while taking our skins off here.


Josh trying a booter and sinking a bit..


The next morning we had a New Years tradition to sort out, the Polar Bear Swim in Berg Lake itself.  Getting into the lake it a burly undertaking with more than 40 cm of lake ice standing between the surface and frosty waters below.  Jake was a monster and bashed open the hole all by himself (which ominously was refreezing on the upper surface within about 5 minutes of breaking it open!).  After putting in a ice screw/safety sling folks drew cards to decide who would take the dip first.  The water itself was as refreshing as last year!  The rest of the day was mostly spent warming up and playing games as we waited for New Years to arrive.


Pretty frosty.  Photo by Liam Harrap.


Most of the group very focused on Bannanagrams.


The next morning most folks would be heading back down to the road and got a reasonably early start.  Thankfully with a good trail packed down (and being mostly down-hill) getting back to the road is a much more swift process (last year I made it in a little over three hours shelter to car).  Everyone got together for a group picture before setting off.  After folks had rambled Liam, Josh, Zach, David, and I went in search of something skiiable across the border into Jasper to the north (thankfully the caribou closure doesn't start right at the border so there is still some accessible terrain).  With a bit of careful pruning last summer the warden cabin north of the shelter now has a lovely bush-free view of Titkana Peak and Lynx Mountain.


A group picture before most of the group headed down.


Heading out north towards Jasper.


A real short run from the hill above the warden cabin.


After crossing the border we could see a decent line of snow sneaking up a creek draining in the valley to the north of Titkana and decided to check it out.  Looking back along the way the views of Rearguard Mountain and Mount Robson were pretty impressive.  Being able to directly ski across Adolphus Lake meant we could get some cool views from there too.  After crossing the north shore of the lake we followed a small creek up the valley which was slow going (and quite open in places).  In better snow following the creek would be pretty snazzy but we reckoned heading further north might have better travel and sure enough came across the base of the gully we saw and worked our way higher.  Eventually the slopes above looked quite steep and we decided to switch into ski mode and head back down before things got darker.  Snow coverage and support was lacking which meant that rock and trees that were partly burried were still a real concern for the way down but we did manage to get a few good turns in.  Heading up here to ski later in the season would be pretty great.


Looking back at Rearguard and Robson with some cool clouds.


Crossing the Adolphus Lake, who says Jasper doesnt have nice views. ;)


Josh heading up the creek towards our ski slopes.


Josh and Liam heading up with Mumm Peak on the right.


In more supportive snow this would be a really fun run.


The brothers Dunn about to start the descent.


Looking back across Adolphus Lake on the way back to the shelter.


The last morning it was time to pack up and do a final sweep of the shelter before heading down.  It would be pretty easy to stay up at Berg for another week or two (maybe a bit back-breaking hauling in all the food for that though) but other commitments called so we reluncantly got on our way.  It was clear but cold on the way down and views of Whitehorn and Robson were particularly fine.  This was probably the most fun I've had skiing down the Emperor Hill with just enough snow beside the track that controling speed is straightforward so you can really dive into the hairpin turns!  Crossing Kinney Lake down below a few more patches of water had opened up but our tracks still seemed decently sturdy.


Liam was the last to leave this time, hard to go away from these views.


Looking up at Whitehorn Mountain on the way down.  Great trip up there with Josh last spring.


Back down across Kinney Lake.


Josh cresting the Cinnamon Peak slide path.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


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