On December 22, Wietse and Dave did a snowshoe ascent of Rawson Lake Ridge. Wietse kindly let others in our group know that they had laid a snowshoe track up the ridge, which lies just to the north of Rawson Lake, and that we should take advantage of it since it was earned with a lot of sweat (and swearing?!). I was too busy spending time with family over the holidays to get to it earlier, but finally on the last day of 2014 I had a few hours to spend alone in the mountains again.
Calgary was a balmy -4 degrees but by the time I parked at the Upper Kananaskis Lake my car thermometer was displaying '-17'. Yikes. Good thing I was prepared and soon I was sweating my way up the Rawson Lake Trail. The trail was hard-pack and I didn't even need the 'shoes for anything other than grip. Near the top I started passing hikers. After snapping a few photos of the lake I back tracked to the fishing survey box that is just before the lake and went north of the trail over the small dam that Wietse had mentioned, which goes across Rawson Creek near the lake outlet (maybe 50-100 meters downstream of the lake).
[Brrrrrr! It was bloody cold down at the lake shore. Rawson Lake Ridge is straight ahead, up the treed ridge in front of Mount Sarrail.]
[Rawson Lake doesn't see much sunshine during the winter. Mount Sarrail rises impressively at the far end. Rawson Ridge is out of sight to the right, South Rawson Ridge is on the left.]
From this point I followed a very faint track towards the ridge - there was about 10cm of fresh snow concealing it, but just enough outline to follow. The track was much more supportive than the sugary mess on either side. I must warn the reader that if you're not following a track expect to take longer than I did on this short trip - and exert a lot more energy! Wietse rightly compared conditions on Rawson Lake Ridge in winter, to another snowshoe 'delight' - Mount Fortune. I followed the track as it went around the nose of the ridge before finally cutting steeply up the northeast slopes to tree line. There is very little avalanche terrain on this route but you MUST follow this route in winter! Any routes (including the summer route) that tackle the ridge directly from the lake shore are dangerous in winter and should be avoided unless you are avy-aware and trained and equipped for rescue in case of an incident. Near tree line the track disappeared in fresh and wind blown snow and I grunted my own way up the last 200 vertical meters or so.
[In the trees, the track was easily visible and made a huge difference, giving me a semi-solid base to walk on.]
[Stunning views north and east off the ridge from near tree line. ++]
Once I eclipsed tree line the views were stunning in almost every direction. This little outing is certainly a good bang-for-your-energy-buck. There were a few false summits before I finally spotted the high point and made my way along a slightly narrow and exposed ridge towards it. I enjoyed a much warmer summit than the parking lot was, with no wind and a pleasant sunshine. After snapping pics and panos of the Kananaskis Lakes and surrounding summits I started a fast descent down my uptrack which had me back in the parking lot rather quickly for a round trip time of just under 4 hours. I think with trail breaking this is a 5-6 hour ascent, perfect for a short winter day with stunning views, no difficult route finding and very little avy concerns. This would be a viable route in summer, but the bushwhacking is most likely not as pleasant as the trail up the avy path that most people take. The sting in the tail on the summer route is getting to the true summit at the top of the avy path - see Sonny Bou's report for details.
I really enjoyed my last summit of 2014 and I highly recommend this snowshoe ascent.
[The ridge gets fairly steep once you start breaking tree line. I also lost the track here...]
[Upper Kananaskis Lake is directly below with Lower in the distance. Mount Indefatigable directly across the Upper Lake. ++]
[Stunning summit views. The summer route comes up from the left on difficult terrain. Many familiar summits in this shot, including Sarrail, Hidden Lake, Nomad, Invincible, Indefatigable, the Opal Range and the Turret at far right with Fox rising beyond. ++]
[An outlier of Mount Lyautey rises steeply above Hidden Lake - the access to the Aster Lake region goes past this lake.]
[Mount Lyautey in the distance.]
[Looking over Upper Kananaskis Lake towards Warspite, Nomad, Invincible and Indefatigable]
[Mount Indefatigable was among my first scrambles - a fond memory]
[Looking over Lower Kananaskis Lake towards the Opal Range including Packenham, Hood, Brock, Blane and others.]
[I did The Turret in the late fall of 2014 and enjoyed stunning views from it as well.]
[Mount Rae rises over Pocaterra Ridge to the east.]
[Wintour, Tombstone, Gap and Elpoca]
[The impressive walls of Mount Sarrail]
[The NE face of Sarrail]
[The summer route comes up from the lower left, Sarrail's east and northeast faces rise steeply above.]
[The views are no worse as I start my descent down the ridge. ++]
[Steep avy slopes lead down to Rawson Lake. I would avoid the temptation to either ascend or descend this obvious hazard unless you're very confident in conditions and your abilities to judge them properly.]
[Upper Kananaskis Lakes from the ridge ++]
[Photo up Rawson Creek towards Rawson Lake from the dam crossing]
[Another shot looking up Rawson Creek to Rawson Lake]