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post #1 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 05:01 AM Thread Starter
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Default Burstall Pass Peak

Trip #34 in Nugara snowshoe guide.

I didn't plan on it. One of targets for this winter was ski-trip to Burstall Pass, which I never visited in winter. Problem is that area lies on Continental Divide & will often attract clouds when other parts are clear -- so you have to wait for ridge of high pressure. It finally came; but nursing rattled rib cage from fall on icy Canmore streets that is barely getting better after > 2 weeks, I didn't think skis would be good idea. So I just strapped snowshoes and figured I'd take it easy and soak some sun at the pass. But after all that bluebird glory opened up, I needed more. I realized I never went to south Burstall Pass, so that looked like agreeable alternative -- specially as you have majestic Sir Douglas in your face entire time! There was no trail, but I didn't sink much & in about 40 minutes I was having lunch at little rise above South Burstall pass with views to die for:
[Sir Douglas from South Burstall pass environs]

Turning gaze westward towards ridge above I recalled that Matt Clay recently ascended it & did not report any problems. Well it was right there & it was calling me -- so I went for it. It is fairly straightforward from this side -- you have 2 steep rises, separated by flat bench. First rise was windblown and had some goat trails on, but second had snow & I had to make diagonal ascent which was a bit exposed but no real issues. Final summit ridge is wide and flat -- takes about 45 minutes from South Burstall pass to summit cairn:


[Palliser Valley and Leman Lake from South Burstall Peak]

[Summit ridge looking north. Note how Snow peak appears almost level at this point]

[Summit ridge looking south towards Sir Douglas]

Now if you just skim through these reports looking at pictures, it might be worth reading next part. I did not do any research as this was not planned & did not have Nugara book on me, but I figured I could traverse the shelf directly below summit ridge, and then find my way to Burstall Pass, thus forming loop of a kind. Initially it went well -- I was able to string set of shallow gullies bypassing minor rockbands and descent fairly stable snow without problems. Here are the views as I dropped from the shelf to broad plateau directly above Burstall Pass:
[Views back to the shelf. Note my tracks in center right part of the photo]

[Snow Peak (left) and Mt. Birdwood (right) from the plateau above Burstall Pass]

Now came the hiccup. I figured I'd just be able to drop to the pass, but everything looked too steep for my liking. I even circled west looking at possibility of descent towards trail that drops to Palliser Valley but that had rock band and did not appear feasible either. Finally I found the most promising spot, but it was still steep and there was considerable cornice on the top. I hesitated & simply did not feel comfortable with it. I have ~150 summits in Alberta & BC, and main reason they all went without any accident is that I err on the safe side. If I ascended this side it might have been different but like this - no. Most people would probably just jump and slide; I also see now Vern & his crew climbed through this but I finally turned back deciding it was better to be safe than sorry. I climbed back to the shelf, but did not need to go all the way to South Pass ascent slopes -- about halfway I noticed slope that was still steep, but looked feasible & I was able to descent safely. Even for this snow conditions need to be favorable as it could slide.

This all meant about 2 hours behind schedule & I spent last 1 1/2 hour with flashlight. Reward though was amazing star lit skies while crossing flats below Commonwealth peak -- haven't seen this many since trip to Nepal some years back.

I will post more pictures but wanted to file this if someone decides on this trip coming weekend. Conditions wise, you have compact trail that needs no snowshoes till flats, just odd skier track after. You will have my tracks for South Burstall Pass and Peak over next couple of days. I will also say that skis are favorable to snowshoes, but you must have considerable skill to ski safely on steep part above Commonwealth flats (I understand some people even ditch skis and transfer into snowshoes here!) Finally here is view of Burstall Pass Peak as you enter meadows below Mt. Birdwood -- looks still very far at this point:


My total time was 9 hrs, including these 2 hours lost on the shelf. I see now Nugara quotes 8-10 hrs and this is probably generous as trip can be done in under 8 hours on 'shoes, less on skis.
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Last edited by zeljkok; 02-26-2016 at 05:04 AM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 12:28 PM
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Seems like a popular summit this year. Brings back some memories from my early stage trips, except for I didn't get much views at all. I also did the alternate descent and finding a route down that slope in a near white-out was interesting..
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 03:52 PM
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Nice looking day you had! It's a great area. I'd like to get to Leman Lk one day.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2016, 07:16 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys!
Steven -- wish I had your enthusiasm (and youth). Things from the top are just not the same as hiking in the valleys...
Candy -- ditto for Leman! Not sure if there is backcountry campground there, but think it can be accessed as day hike from 93 (Banff - Radium highway), followed by drive on some logging road...


Here are some other visuals from the trip:
[Tracks -- one can appreciate what a long haul this actually is!]

[Tracks in Google Earth on "exploring" of that upper bench -- I see now I retraced maybe 3/4 of the way back]

[Check out the size of that cornice on Snow Peak!!!]

[View back while hiking towards South Burstall Pass; pleasant going as shoes didn't sink much, as seen from the tracks]

[Visual highlight of the day -- Sir Douglas on approach to South Burstall Pass]

[Pano of Palliser Valley from the summit. That is Royal group distance center left. Mt. King George far left, prominent peak just left of center is Mt. King Albert]

[Surreal view of that snowy ridge while hiking upper shelf]

According to GPS, total time was 8:40 with 22.4 km and 1050 vertical -- including wondering on the shelf. So total time on shoes via South Burstall Pass would be comfortable 7 hrs return.
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Last edited by zeljkok; 02-27-2016 at 03:33 PM.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 01:17 AM
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those pics are super, our weather sucks ( on weekends, when most can actually attempt to go backcountry)
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 01:34 PM
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Great photos as ever. That cornice on Snow Peak is incredible. Definitely a favourite place of mine for lazing around on a hot summer day. Great to see it in a very different condition.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 01:52 PM
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Jack: regarding the label of that panorama. It's Royal Group indeed left of center. Mt. King George (not Sir George) on the far left and what I believe is Mt. King Albert the big one on the center/right.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 02-27-2016, 03:43 PM Thread Starter
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Phil - right on! Easy walk-up, escape the crowds, and what a view. Think best (summer) full day-trip in the area is loop Smuts Pass -- Burstall Pass, with side ascent of Snow Peak.

Steven - thanks! Fixed the label. Was under the spell of Sir Douglas, thus "Sir George".

btw just looked at your and Vern' trip; was interesting to see for approach you went up and over that rib that spills off Whistling Rock Ridge. I thought "they had to lose quite a bit of elevation if they went down and under on the right side" while having break at South Burstall Pass.


Full report including more high-res images, map and downloadable GPS track here.

Last edited by zeljkok; 02-28-2016 at 04:36 PM.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 03:33 PM
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Nice report and pics. I have fond memories of skiing BP Peak back in 2010 with a large group.

There is a campground at Lemon Lake, but even better is the 'private lake front property' that awaits the diligent bushwhacker at Warre Pond...
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 03-01-2016, 03:54 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vern.dewit View Post
There is a campground at Lemon Lake, but even better is the 'private lake front property' that awaits the diligent bushwhacker at Warre Pond...
Very interesting, missed that trip of yours. This pic in particular is "what else could you wish for":


Looking at map for that trip, wonder if loop was option ie. instead of returning via Mt. Shark continue south & go back via Burstall Pass (with side trip to LemOn lake perhaps). Of course, there would be transport issues from Burstall to Mt. Shark parking.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 03-02-2016, 02:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zeljkok View Post
Looking at map for that trip, wonder if loop was option ie. instead of returning via Mt. Shark continue south & go back via Burstall Pass (with side trip to LemOn lake perhaps). Of course, there would be transport issues from Burstall to Mt. Shark parking.
Yeah - the loop would be a great option. Like you said though, issues with parking etc.

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post #12 of (permalink) Old 03-02-2016, 08:59 PM
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This is a bit peripheral, but might be worth mentioning here... I've been looking at a trip into Whiteman Pass and the valley to the west of Warre Pond. It accesses the same general area and there are many scrambles in that area. It might be possible to loop from there south to Leman Lake.

This year, however, the Skyline Hikers are holding their giant camps at Whiteman Pass. http://skylinehikers.ca/2016camp.htm Any trip into the area this summer and you'll probably have company, and potentially a lot of it. They do, however, often do a lot of trail maintenance, so in late summer or fall after they've left the trails will likely be in good shape and the usual solitude would be there too! I'm hoping for a bridge or two as well!
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 03-03-2016, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mclay1234 View Post
This is a bit peripheral, but might be worth mentioning here... I've been looking at a trip into Whiteman Pass and the valley to the west of Warre Pond. It accesses the same general area and there are many scrambles in that area. It might be possible to loop from there south to Leman Lake.

This year, however, the Skyline Hikers are holding their giant camps at Whiteman Pass. http://skylinehikers.ca/2016camp.htm Any trip into the area this summer and you'll probably have company, and potentially a lot of it. They do, however, often do a lot of trail maintenance, so in late summer or fall after they've left the trails will likely be in good shape and the usual solitude would be there too! I'm hoping for a bridge or two as well!

Wow! Never heard of them before but they must like that area because they were pretty close to there last year too.

Vern Dewit

Last edited by vern.dewit; 03-03-2016 at 06:35 PM.
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 03-07-2016, 02:45 AM
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Beautiful pictures with great lighting.

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