On Jan 31st Chris Moneypenny and I planned to start a take on the Ski Big 3 Loop I did back in 2013, we had planned to do the second half (SSV to LL) with Kaitlin Paris and Kieran Crimeen. These plans were made a couple of months ago but with the incoming cold weather the second half seemed debatable before we even started. Regardless we packed our bags and headed out on the Sawback Traverse, (Lake Louise to Norquay).
Jan 31 we started at the ski hill, I took the lift and Chris met me at Temple Lodge, (Anna Elkins skied his bag to the lodge). We skinned up to Boulder Pass rather quickly before heading towards Redoubt Lake. We followed the drainage below the lake to Baker Creek before working the trees on the northern ridge of Mount Avens to cut the corner of Wildflower. We stopped about 4km north of Pulsatilla Pass for camp.
Feb 1 we skinned up to Pulsatilla Pass where we were met with strong head on winds and near whiteout conditions. From the high point we skied down the drainage as far as we could before nightfall in deep powder snow, very tough going. We made camp about 1.5km north of the Luellen Lake turn off just before dark.
Feb 2 we packed up camp and decided to bail from the traverse. The trailbreaking had become very deep and we could already feel the temps dropping a bit. Up to this point it had been very warm and some of our gear would have required a good amount of “ironing time” in order to be useful as it got colder. We also had very poor vis and heard avalanches coming down, Mystic Pass seemed like a poor choice in such conditions. We sent a message to Anna for a pickup at Johnston’s Canyon and began the long march out arriving at the parking lot around 3:30pm.
Many of the paths north of Pulsatilla Pass seem to have slid during the last cycle, several going full runout. South of the pass seemed different but could only see the lower runout. This morning (Feb 2) we heard 4 separate large avalanche events while eating breakfast. Overnight it snowed a lot! I dug our shelter out 4 times during the night. The trailbreaking became extremely hard at times mostly due to the new snow. The lower faceted snowpack was mostly bridged but when you went through it was a struggle to keep going. Lots of whumpfing and shooting cracks with the new snow.