On Saturday, February 10 I finally bagged my first summit of the year 2007 and first summit since October 14 2006! That's almost 4 months without a summit. No wonder it felt so good. ;-) The skiing was fantastic and we took about 5.5 hours for the ascent / descent.
We knew the day was going to be fantastic when Jay announced "I don't have my avi transceiver", about 5 minutes before getting to Lake Louise! ;-) Luckily we had left later than normal and the one sporting goods store in Louise had just opened and rented beacons! After spending a ridiculous amount of money on AA batteries for the transceiver Jay declared himself ready to ski again!
It was obvious right away from the parking lot that we were in for an excellent day of skiing. The cloud cover was fairly heavy but with fresh snow falling and at least 1 to 2 feet of fresh snow on the ground we weren't too concerned. The snow layer underneath the fresh stuff was very firm and consolidated so the avi danger also didn't seem too high. Skiing Paget is a bit tricky because you are looking so ski up a fairly narrow gully between two rock bands and as luck would have it we ended up skiing too far towards Sherbrooke Lake, and ended up high above the lake on some tricky and very steep terrain with a 500 vertical meter runout straight to the lake!
[Jason struggles in the deep snow.]
After negotiating carefully off this terrain, Jason led us up the gully and to the rocky final ascent slope. Up to this point we had noticed some slight sluffing of the fresh surface snow on top of the hard bottom layer but other than making out upward journey a good workout, nothing major had slid yet and no naturals were occurring either.
Once you get to the rocky terrain just above the fire lookout, you should try to stay on your skis as long as possible. It turns out that we cost ourselves a really good ski run down from the summit. If you stay in the trees to climbers left above the lookout you should be able to access the upper slopes which will have much more snow than it looks like from below. You will benefit from about 200 meters more powder if the conditions are right! We ditched our skis at the rocky slopes and continued up on foot.
[Jason makes his way to the summit cairn - just visible to the left in the clouds.
We had to stick to the east side of the ascent ridge to avoid the snow (!!) so this made things a bit more challenging. Other than a brief moment where we didn't know if we were on a cornice or not, things were quite simple and straight forward - but very windy and cold. At the summit I kept getting the 'barfies' as I would thaw my fingers out just enough to snap a few more pictures and then they'd be frozen again! We dug around for the register and actually found it! We were the first ascent party in 4 months and the first of 2007.
[Vern at the summit of Paget Peak. In a whiteout! ;-)]
[Jason struggles against the cold as he scribbles something in the summit register.]
[The west side of the continental divide is covered in clouds.]
[Cathedral Crags look very dramatic from the summit of Paget Peak.]
[Cathedral Mountain and a shaft of light.]
The run down was AMAZING. After getting to our skis we skied back to the fire lookout for a bite to eat and then it was time for KNEE DEEP POWDER! I couldn't believe how great my skis were in the deep stuff and I will be searching HARD for more fun like that! ;-) We made it to the car in less than 30 minutes from the lookout. Too fast - but what a day! Highly recommended as a ski trip if the avi ratings are reasonable for the area, otherwise stay off the approach slopes.
[Jason makes his way back along the wide summit ridge of Paget Peak. We stayed right on the ridge to avoid the snow. Next time (yeah right) I would ski right to the summit and forget about walking any of the ascent.]
[Another view across the valley, this time from the Paget fire lookout.]
[Jason is stinking up the fire lookout. No wonder the place is so well vented I guess!]