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Unity Peak and Purple Peak

Moderate Winter Scrambling
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Not Bad
Thursday, December 13, 2012

I recieved a text from Steven that he was in Banff for a 3 day exam week peakbagging trip and looking for something to do on Thursday, as it happened I had already planned to try the Unity Peak to Liapallian Mountain traverse that day so teaming up made a fair bit of sense.

Setting out snowshoeing up the Temple Road just after sunrise (having to dodge snowmobiles and graders) it didn't take long to get to the ski hill and then even less time to pass the ski hill heading over into Wolverine Valley via the Skoki trail. We were lucky that there were some partially covered backcountry ski tracks up the valley which made travel much easier than it would have been going through pristine snow. After gaining a bit of elevation and getting a better look at conditions in the valley going directly up the slopes of Unity Peak seemed like a good call (we had previously read of a trip doing this). From most of the way up the ridge glimpses of Temple, Victoria and other peaks made for awesome views (at least between the everpresent cloud cover). The trip was also made more interesting by some avlanche control on nearby slopes, occasional mortar fire keeps you on your toes! Once on the ridge of Unity Peak its a short plod and boulder hop up to the cairnless (but plaque containing) summit which should boast excellent views but was pretty much lost in the clouds today. From the summit we started our descent down towards Purple Peak following the ridge which went great for a while until hitting a steep cliff band. We had heard of people doing this route from Purple to Unity in the summer and calling it a moderate scramble but descending blind with a thin snow layer made that seem like a death-trap so after a bunch of looking around for a safer line we turned back around, re-ascended Unity and went back down mostly the way we came (with a quick slide back down to the valley of course).

Steven had already been up Purple Peak and Liapalian in winter before and being on the tail end of a several day trip decided to stick down in the valley (and to feel like less of a jerk making him wait there I left my pack rushed to tag the summit of Purple then swiftly descended). Have to say Liapalian for a different day, ideally when it isn't completely socked in with clouds so the view can be appreciated! From the summit of Purple Peak (which actually does have lots of purple colored rocks explaining the name) the cliffs that blocked off our traverse seemed more reasonable for ascent rather than descent and would probably be a fair bit of fun in summer. Too bad the traverse in full didn't work out but still a nice trip nonetheless.

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