Healy Pass Peak
January 13, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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)…
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.
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.
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.
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.