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Saddle Mountain and Surprise Pass Ski Touring

Moderate Ski Touring (Steep Avalanche Slopes), Easy Scramble to Saddle
Elevation [m]: 
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Ascent Time: 
2:30 to Saddle + 1:45 to Surprise Pass
Sunday, December 6, 2015

After having a surprisingly good pow day at Crowsnest Glades the day before, Meghan and I were looking to take advantage of good conditions on north facing snow.  After rummaging through Chic Scott's book we came across the route for Surprise Pass, a circumnavigation of Mount Fairview that ends with an excellent 700m vert run right down to valley bottom.  Normally this trip would be saved for spring but with the conditions we had the day before we were optimistic that it would go snazzily.


Leaving the trailhead at the Lake Louise parking lot we first slogged up the Fairview/Saddleback trail following a medely of boot, snowshoe, and skis tracks (which thankfully faded into only ski tracks as we got higher).  There was one fork in the trail with a steeper line possible which we took to reach the Pass more quickly.

Early in the morning before the lot was busy we could ski right from the car!


On the official trail traversing beneath the slopes of Mount Fairview.


Nice to get some variety from the standard brown Parks signs.


Once at Saddleback Pass we were way ahead of schedule and thought that we might as well head up something.  I had previously been up Fairview and suggested the mighty Saddle Mountain (which itself is only a 130 vertical meter detour) which Meghan and I then slogged up (pretty much entierly bootpacking given the thin snow).  We later thought that we should have actually gone up Saddle and Fairview itself as we ended up having a fair bit of extra time.  While ascending Saddle another group was visible heading up the valley so we could even avoid trailbreaking for the next bit of the skin track, what luxury!


Up at Saddleback Pass heading up to Saddle Mountain.


Good views from the summit of Saddle Mountain.


Looking across the valley, Mount Fairview on the left.


Like the name implies, Surprise Pass is a bit of a surprise when you reach it.  The route winds upwards towards the base of the Aberdeen Glacier before turning up towards the cliffbands to the north one of which (the 'pass) allows for reaching the northern side of the ridge with only a short bookpack.  While working out way towards the pass we ended up overtaking the previous group as we raced along trying to get down the run first before 5 folks track it out!  There ended up being a trail heading all the way up to the pass including a few partially filled in steps on the bootpack section.


The route to Surprise Pass heads up towards the head of the valley near the Aberdeen Glacier.


Haddo Peak looks impressive from this vantage point.


Hidden Pass really is quite hidden, no idea it would be around the corner without the book directions.


Almost time for the bookpack up to the 'pass'.


Decent snow for kicking steps.


Meghan with the other group we ran into behind.


Once at the top of the pass it was time to get ready for the run.  The top of the gully was a little bit indimidating with some wind induced slab and big rocks poking through, but the lower part of the run looked great.  Jumping into the gully, sure enough the first few meters were pretty gnarly but quickly the pow arrived and turns started to flow together almost effortlessly.  In good snow this is a fabulous run!  Down in the valley a few minutes later my legs were certainly feeling the strain of all that vert but it gave enough residual stoke from the turns to float back down across the lake in great spirits!


Skins off, time for the run!


Really fun run down, for sure in my top 5 runs in the Rockies so far!


Back down at the creek, only a few minutes from Lake Louise itself.


Really great loop, in stable snow in the spring doing two laps could be fun endurance training!

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