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Lookout Mountain and Youngs Peak

Moderate Ski Mountaineering (Glacier Travel, Steep Snow)
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Ascent Time: 
4:30 Car to Lookout, 2:00 Lookout To Youngs
Saturday, February 28, 2015


At long last actually skiing in Rogers Pass!  After several succesful trips to the area (snowshoeing up Grizzly Mountain, Ursus Minor Mountain, Mount Rogers and climbing Mount Sir Donald) weather and conditions aligned for a ski trip to experience the fabled powder of The Pass.  Steven, Vern, and I decided upon the Youngs Peak traverse  (along with 'ascent' of nearby Lookout Mountain as well as Youngs Peak itself) heading up the Illecillewaet glacier summiting Youngs Peak and down the Asulkan glacier.  Leaving from Calgary dark and early we arrived at the trailhead just as it was getting bright and set off along a very well travelled approach trail.

One immediate concern (about 10 minutes into the trip) was that Vern's binding broke.  Specifically the back binding on one of his skis which would make it impossible to use heal lifts on that ski and possibly not allow for being locked in on descent.  After a bit of duct-tape/voile strap surgery we got a 'workable' solution which seemed to at least keep the binding from getting any worse and kept on heading up.  The avi report for the last few days mentioned a 'bulletproof' snowback below ~1800m and that proved to be true on our approach, much of the elevation gain was partly on edges rather than skins!


Vern setting off on the trail up the Illy before his binding broke.


Steven and Vern not too stoekd about the icy conditions down low.


Doesn't take long to have views open up.


The ridge of Sir Donald looming above.


Another look up to the Sir Donald/ Uto col.


It didn't take long to get above the trees and start taking in views of Sir Donald, Uto, Avalanche Mountain and many other great peaks in the surrounding area.  One thing to note was on the way up we came across another group who was aiming for the Youngs Peak traverse and neither of us seemed to know if we should stick to the climbers left or climbers right of the creek flowing from the Illy.  They went left, us right.  For future reference, stick right. the icefall on the climbers left looks pretty gnarly higher up (and as we didn't end up seeing the other group till hours later in the distance they might have backtracked and crossed over to our side!).  Higher up the snowpack got even icier with travel conditions slow but steady.  A chill wind was blowing and all of us were anxiously looking towards the sunny glacier above hoping to warm up.  Thankfully there was a well defined path up the glacier (and a known deep snowpack!) so we didn't feel too concerned about traveling unroped and were swiftly in the sun and feeling much more comfortable.


Me with Sir Donald in the background, photo by Steven Song.


A closer look at the ridge.


Higher up we go, almost on glacier.


Looking back down the valley.


Up on the glacier with Lookout Mountain on the right.


Looking back towards Sir Donald and Terminal Mountain.


Looking towards the peaks north of Uto.


Once on the glacier we started to come across powder and signs of lots of recent turns, exciting times ahead no doubt!  Heading up Lookout Mountain is a very small detour off route and after getting the views well worth the effort if skies are clear.  "Lookout Mountain" while quite mountainous from down below is actually below most of the icefield and has maybe 10m of prominence from where we left the traverse trail.  Ten minutes of travel out to the official highpoint revealed good views of the peaks above the valley below.  Soon after we were back at it, heading towards Youngs Peak which loomed above looking quite steep in places!  The traverse over to Youngs was straightforward with a bit of gain/loss but great views towards Dawson and the peaks to the south (where the Bugs to Rogers traverse would come up) which kept us motivated.  The last bit of elevation up to the summit of Youngs Peak we handled on boots as the snowpack was getting pretty icy for skis and a slide would have had not too pleasent consequences.


Almost on the ridge leading to Lookout Mountain.


Wide views up on the icefield.


Not far to the official summit of Lookout at the end of the ridge.


Steven and Vern trudging along.


Good views from Lookout, likely hence the name.


Zoomed in pano of nearby peaks.


Steven and Vern discussing the views.


Vern with Youngs Peak in the distant centre.


Down south, the Bugs to Rogers traverse comes up this way.


Steven leading upwards towards the summit of Youngs Peak.


Across the valley to Sapphire Col.


From the summit of Youngs Peak a whole sea of interior BC mountains and distant Rockies giants were visible.  The views from this patch of snow alone make the 7hr drive from Edmonton worthwhile!  Be sure to look at the panos below in detail to get a feel for the area!  After snapping many pictures and enjoying the sun we reckoned we might as well start the downhill (can't let all that powder get tracked out by the guys we could see coming up from the Asulkan hut!).  The first slope below the summit was steep, pushing over 40 degrees in places which gave Steven and I some hesitation but Vern dived right into it (broken binding and everything!).  After a couple kick turns to gauge the snow I started turning down and man that was a sassy run, excellent powder compared to anything I've skied on in the Rockies backcountry previously (though the snow below Peyto Peak the previous weekend was excellent too).  Vern and I were having a ball heading down the slopes, stopping in a couple places to snap some pictures.  Soon enough we were down at the hut setting up to get some pictures/videos of Steven skiing down the last bit.


Excellent summit views from Youngs Peak.


Zoomed in more excellent views.


Looking down towards Sapphire Col and the highway.


One last pano for good measure.


From the Asulkan Hut looking up towards Youngs Peak.


After seeing the location of the Asulkan hut firsthand I can easily see why it is so booked up during the winter.  There is phenomenal ski terrain around here, especially just after a bit of fresh snow conditions would be divine.  Vern was chatting with some of the hut's denizens trying to gauge what the least icy way down would be.  Apparently the tree triangle was "chewy" in the last few days whatever that meant.  We opted for a line between the wide open slopes on skiiers left and the trees on skiers right which ended up being a decent blend of powder over old icy tracks (which certainly kept life interesting cruising down at speed!).  Before long we were getting low enough that powder turned to ice and thus began the edge-fest cruising down fast packed tracks dodging bushes and avoiding sliding down into the creek which was fast but mentally tiring.  The last bit of the trail after leaving the creek (and rejoining the track up towards the Illy) was quite swift and Vern and I held as much speed as possible before coming across the flat poling section (and challanging eachother to stay locked in, we ended up both doing it staying locked from summit to car which was hard on the arms in places!).  Excellent introductory trip to skiing in Rogers Pass.  From talking to locals snow conditions were 'horrible' for The Pass this weekend so I can't imagine how awesome things are on a 'good day'.  Have to come back to find out!



Looking down the rest of the valley, still decent snow at this point.


Vern enjoying some turns and Steven in the background.


Looking up at some of the terrain below the hut.


Vern on the icy approach trail.


Great skiing, have to come back when things arn't so tracked out!


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