With so much snow in the hills it’s tough to put down the torch, when I got the call that a strong posse was eyeing up Mt Victoria I nervously agreed to meet in Lake Louise early the next morning.
My first gig ski patrolling was at Lake Louise ski resort a number of years back where I got my first taste of the Rockies. I was keen to get out on my days off and ski many of the lines on distant peaks I could see from the ski resort. Staring at Mt Victoria knowing people skied off it’s paired summits, left me a little bit in awe of the iconic mountain that may be one of the most photographed peaks in Canada if not the world.
Saturday morning after a less than ideal sleep I rolled out of bed at a very early 1:30 AM, kissed my pregnant wife as she looked content to sleep another 7 hours, brewed a coffee and had a light breakfast that I guess technically was more like a midnight snack. Pulling into the parking lot I met the rest of the team Ian, Jeff and Silas. We walked around the lake shore trail by headlamp, joking that usually there are hundreds of people milling about on a Saturday outside the Chateau.
A solid overnight freeze meant travel was fast to the tea house where the first bit of light started to poke out from the Lake Louise ski resort to the east. We made for a prominent upper bench transitioned to boots with crampons and mountain axes in hand. We started to get excited as the conditions softened and we reached the freeze/snow-line where the previous weeks stormy weather had deposited 15-30 cms of fresh snow on the face. The team decided to belay over the bergshrund and we committed to booting up the steep 1000 foot face. Luckily we brought a rope gun and once Jackson, who was fresh off a rest day(or so he kept telling us to make us feel better about being aerobically inferior) set to it, building a staircase to the top. We were thankful for the new snow as the old surface underneath was firm and didn’t take crampons that well.
Our plumb line brought us right the south summit and we took a minute to have a good look around at all the awesome looking peaks surrounding us. It was interesting to switch perspectives and to be looking back to Lake Louise from the summit that I’d stared at so many times. It’s interesting how mountain objectives can be like books, at the front of your mind then shelved for whatever reason to be dusted off and picked up again when you’re ready.
We skied one at a time off the top, straight down from the summit, from the first turn we were in it, 1000 ft of steep fall-line. Each one of us picked our way down, zig zagging back and forth to find the best snow. The crux was a rollover a third of the way down where the slope pitched into the fifties, whippet in hand I cautiously hop turned until the angle lessened and let the skis run settling into the rhythm of making a few turns and then ducking over and let your sluff go by.
The ski back to the snow-line went by quickly with a bit of skating and minor bushwhacking, dropping our packs to the ground at the shoe tree we traded boots for shoes and entered the throngs of tourists wandering around the lake. An hour and about 50 questions why we had skis later we were at the parking lot high fiving and planning an afternoon of greasy food and much deserved naps.