Healy Pass Peak

January 13, 2013

2577m

Banff, AB

The objective for this weekend changed a dozen times, from Mt. Michener to Windy Point Ridge and then to Massive Mountain, but eventually we decided to go for an unnamed peak that had been on my radar for a while. The reasoning for naming this peak “Healy Pass Peak” is the same as how “Burstall Pass Peak” was named by Andrew Nugara. Since we had a high pressure system moving in, a peak with inspiring views would be appropriate. I had been to the nearby Monarch Ramparts before, but didn’t get any view from the top, so I always wanted to come back to this area. Sandwiched between Massive Range and Ball Range, the Healy Pass area guarantees great views.

Ascent routes for Healy Pass Peak and Monarch Ramparts

Ascent routes for Healy Pass Peak and Monarch Ramparts

I was joined by Ben and Mike from Edmonton. I was debating between skiing vs. snowshoeing but neither Ben nor Mike had skis at that time so we’d all go on snowshoes. We left Edmonton Saturday evening, and slept in Canmore ACC Hostel. The avi condition eventually downgraded to “moderate” which was always a good sign.

We started the day from Sunshine Village parking lot with just enough daylight, and quickly started the lengthy approach. The first 0.5km was following Sunshine Ski-out. Due to the massive amount of snow (30cm+) fallen in the past few days, we were concerning if the trail was broken or not. Post-holing all the way in didn’t sound that appealing to any of us. Luckily, the trail was broken! The next 1.5 hours was merely trudging up the trail in the trees. The elevation gain was very gradual until Simpson Pass junction, and after that, the trail became a little steeper, but still gentle enough that we didn’t even bother using the heal-lift. Eventually we made to Healy Meadows, and got our first view of the impressive The Monarch, and the long ridge of Monarch Ramparts.

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Panorama from the first opening area.

The Monarch

The Monarch

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A long shot of Monarch Ramparts

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Healy Meadows

On my solo trip to Monarch Ramparts in December, the ski tracks ended at the meadows, but this time we were lucky to have tracks all the way up to Healy Pass. The forecasted inversion didn’t happen and we were treated with coldness all day. We didn’t have thermometer, but based on my experience, the temperature must be below -20 degree. It was tough to take photos. My battery worked fine, but I had to warm-up my fingers frequently. I’m not used to take photos with big gloves on.

"Healy Pass Peak" in the distance

“Healy Pass Peak” in the distance

We left the tracks before the actual Healy Pass and ascended straight towards the peak. The slope was foreshortened and to get to the top, you have to get up higher than all the bumps nearby. It is overall a 2577m summit and the view was needless to say, awesome towards each direction. I especially like the impressive Mt. Ball, and the mighty Mt. Assiniboine dominated the skyline looking south (someday)…

Ben breaking trail up the peak

Ben breaking trail up the peak

The Sphinx is an interesting looking summit to bag

The Sphinx is an interesting looking summit to bag

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Panorama of Ball Range from partway up

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Looking towards Massive Range from the summit.

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Summit Panorama.

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A zoomed in view of Massive Range. Pilot Mountain and Mount Brett on right side.

Mount Bourgeau

Mount Bourgeau

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Mount Assiniboine Area

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The impressive Mount Ball

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Pharaoh Peaks

Due to the coldness, we didn’t stay long. We were far ahead of schedule so we decided to go for Monarch Ramparts. You would be looking down on that flat ridge from Healy Pass Peak, and wondering why bothering with that. But that’s overall named officially, and it situates on the boundary between Banff, Kootenay, and Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Parks. So there’s something special. We decided to directly traverse to Monarch Ramparts. Once leaving Healy Pass, heavy-duty trail breaking began, and there is one steep slope (steep enough to raise some concern) involved on the direct traverse. We ascended that slope one by one and after that, it was just a walk over a couple of bumps to the summit plateau.

This bit is the only steep part that causes some avalanche concern. We did it one at a time.

This bit is the only steep part that causes some avalanche concern. We did it one at a time.

I love winter! What an awesome area to hang around

I love winter! What an awesome area to hang around

The plateau was broad enough that you need to walk around to soak in the views. The views were almost the same as from Healy Pass Peak so I didn’t bother to walk around. The wind picked up and I took out my balaclava and ski goggles, and even so I still felt cold. So we quickly moved down.

The Monarch is always the impressive!

The Monarch is always the impressive!

Ben on Monarch Ramparts

Ben on Monarch Ramparts

Mike approaching the summit of Monarch Ramparts

Mike approaching the summit of Monarch Ramparts

From my ski trip up here, I knew there’s a short-cut down one of the gullies so we took that direct route to save some time and energy. The wind disappeared but it was still cold. After a break at the meadows, we walked down the long long trail, trees, trees, and more trees. Eventually we could hear the gondola lift, and then cross a bridge, one last uphill section, I took off snowshoes and walked down the final 0.5km on the ski-out. There were 3x more snowboarders than skiers passing us.

Mike descending Monarch Ramparts

Mike descending Monarch Ramparts

More of this beautiful area

More of this beautiful area

A rainbow in winter?

A rainbow in winter?

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Panorama looking down at Healy Meadows Area

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Sunshine Village Peaks – Eagle, Howard Douglas, Brewster Rock, Twin Cairns

Ben slogging back, with Eagle Mountain behind

Ben slogging back, with Eagle Mountain behind

Look at this larch!

Look at this larch!

Mount Bourgeau

Mount Bourgeau

"Bourgeau Side" is a challenging ice climbing objective

“Bourgeau Side” is a challenging ice climbing objective

Back to Sunshine Village parking lot

Back to Sunshine Village parking lot

Overall, it was an awesome day in the mountains again, and thank Mike for the driving. I’d highly recommend Healy Pass Peak for skiers and snowshoeers looking for some “mellow” places with great views. The ascent is largely free of objective hazard and the view can be exceptional on a clear day.

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