Since reading about Josee and Fabrice's trip up Boom Mountain in February it's been on my to-do list. I liked the idea of traveling into the Chickadee Valley since I'd never been in there before. Wietse had a rare Friday off on April 11 so we decided to do a nice easy trip up to Healy Pass - possibly bagging "Healy Pass Peak" while we there. I checked the avy ratings on Friday morning and was pleasantly surprised to see that the rating for Banff were actually lower than Kananaskis at "moderate / moderate / low". I did a classic Vern move and asked Wietse if he'd change his mind to Boom Mountain. After some consideration and quick weather / avy condition scanning on the cell phone while I drove, Wietse kindly agreed to a more aggressive goal.
[Google Earth image of our route. ++]
We got to the parking lot and noted a vehicle there ahead of us. But 08:30 we were headed up the well packed trail into Chickadee Valley. The approach trail to the valley is awesome! It's mostly uphill (makes for a fast exit) and the scenery is better than most valley approaches in the Rockies. I'll be coming back for the views / skiing opportunities soon.
We skied around 3.7 km up the trail before turning towards an obvious (and very large) avy path coming off the west end of Boom Mountain. On hindsight, this is the avy path that Josee and Fab came down, but one path east of where they went up.
[Wietse skis up the Chickadee Valley approach trail. Boom above him.]
[For a valley ski approach this is a very pleasant trail]
[Boom Mountain rises above us as we pass under an avy path. This is the closest the trail came to the mountain, we continued on about 1km or so from here.]
[Looking south at a dramatic outlier of Mount Whymper.]
[A great view of Boom Mountain and our avy route up via the avalanche path closest to the col at left. ++]
[Looking back as we ski through open forest towards the avy ascent path]
[Looking up the path. We basically wandered through the debris after skiing up the lower 1/4 slope. Near the top we went left and then we used the trees for safety before gaining the upper rib at left.]
The snow was locked up solid as we skid up the avy path. Almost too solid. The 5cm of fresh snow on top of the solid slab made the climbing on ski skins difficult - we kept losing our edges as we tried to switchback the slope. Eventually after we reached old debris on the slope we put the skis on our packs and started hoofing it up very steep slopes on foot. At first I wondered if it was worth carrying the skis but then we hit some nice open slopes near tree line and continued above tree line before ditching the skis finally where scree started showing through the snow, high on the west end of the south slopes of Boom.
[Gorgeous views south from the lower avy slope, looking towards Mount Whymper. ++]
[Looking down avy debris as I climb. We gained height very quickly here.]
[Higher up the avy path split. We took the left (climbers) branch and eventually got out of the gully and into thin trees. The slab was so hard I could barely kick steps in it!]
We picked the perfect day to climb Boom - the full power of the Spring sunshine was blocked by clouds and the weather was quite cool. The snow was locked up very tight - I had to kick hard to get purchase even in the trees. After dropping the skis we bashed our way up fairly steep and part rubble / partly snowy slopes to the upper plateau via the west ridge.
[Above the avy slope, traversing climber's left for the ridge, this is looking west to Chickadee Peak. ++]
[Looking up the scrambly ridge.]
[Wietse comes up the shoulder to the west ridge behind me.]
[Looking northwest off the west ridge at Bident (R) and Quadra.]
[Trudging up the west ridge, looking down at our ascent avy gully far below us now (2nd from right).]
[Looking back from a small chimney on the west ridge at Chickadee and Chimney Peaks at center with the Chickadee Valley at left and the Boom Lake Valley at right. Bident and Quadra at right. ++]
[Finally on the huge summit plateau of Boom, looking NW with Chickadee, Chimney, Little, Fay, Quadra, Bident, Temple and Bell (L to R) visible. ++]
I have to say that I almost wish we brought the skis all the way to the summit! We ended up crossing about 1km of deep snow on the upper plateau - certainly not the scree I was expecting. On hindsight we should have used the wind blasted scree right on the ridge and just gone up the first (false) summit but I tried avoiding unnecessary height gain and did some side-slopping. Oh well.
As expected, the views from the plateau and the summit were incredible and included Castle, Temple, Bell, Quadra, Bident, Hungabee, Whymper, Stanley, Ball, Beatrice and Storm.
[The Chickadee Valley is nestled between some gorgeous peaks - most of them unnamed believe it or not.]
[We should have lugged our skis up here! The endless plod along the summit plateau, because the peak is always the furthest point from where you come up - guaranteed. :) Whymper on the left, Fay on the right and the peaks of the Valley of Ten Peaks in between in the distance. ++]
[Huge terrain up here.]
[Summit panorama from Storm, Ball, Stanley and Whymper on the left to the Lake Louise peaks at center and on the right. ++]
[Mount Whymper is a lovely peak and fairly straight forward and short scramble.]
[Storm Mountain at left.]
[Ball, Beatrice and Stanley (L to R) were a great 2 day scrambling trip back in 2010.]
[Looking towards Vermillion, Haffner, Numa and Isabelle further down hwy 93 in Kootenay National Park.]
[Mount Bell rises above Boom Lake to the north.]
[Mighty Mount Temple shows up to the NW.]
[A view north off the summit includes the entire Castle Mountain massif from Armor and Protection on the left to Castle Peak on the right. ++]
[Deltaform just 'peaks' out to the left of Quadra]
[One of Chimney Peaks outliers looms over Chickadee Valley. Chimney is to the right.]
[Looking over at the Valley of Ten Peaks rising in the clouds behind Chimney.]
[Looking east towards Copper, Pilot and Brett (L to R).]
[I was majorly bummed out that the summit register was frozen so solid I couldn't pry open the book! I don't think many people do this peak and I wanted to know how many had signed it...]
We didn't linger too long at the summit - the wind was strong and very cool for mid-April. Also, we didn't want to wait too long for the sun to destabilize the avy slopes we still had to ski down. The descent was quick and fun. We skied down the upper slopes which were still so frozen that the few cm's of snow on top slid off as we skied down! We carried our skis down through the avy slopes that had slid and had a great time skiing down the lower slopes that were clear of debris. The ski back down to the car was very fast and fun! I'll be back to ski this valley again - it's fun and it's full of great skiing.
[Wietse heads down from the summit]
[Looking down our ascent tracks to the west shoulder and into Chickadee Valley far below.]
[Wietse plunge-steps the snow slope above me.]
[Gorgeous views down the west shoulder including our avy path just left of center.]
[Wietse skis the upper avy slope]
[Skiing the lower avy slope]
[Signs of spring in the valley]
[The valley is a beautiful and serene place to spend a warm afternoon on skis.]