Twin Cairns

December 22, 2011

2545m

Banff – Sunshine Village, AB/BC

On the second day of my solo Christmas peak-bagging adventure, I decided to do a real snowshoe objective. Thank to the accessibility, the scenery and the relatively low hazard associated, Twin Cairns is one of the must-do objectives for skiers and snowshoeers. I had no idea how fast I could walk on the snowshoes considering the fact this’d be my first ever time strapping ’em on, so I decided to take a gondola ride to Sunshine Village, to save the 6.5 km boring hike with 500 m elevation gain. Sunshine Village is one of the most frequently visited ski paradises in Canada, and probably, in the world. Indeed, I saw hundreds of skiers on that day, but few of them ventured into backcountry.

Ascent route for Twin Cairns, Wawa Ridge and Standish Hump

Ascent route for Twin Cairns, Wawa Ridge and Standish Hump

To get to Twin Cairns, I had to snowshoe up directly beneath Wawa Chair Lift, and then cross the backcountry border. After venturing into backcountry, the snow hadn’t been touched by others, and things became bad. As in December, the early season of skiing and snowshoeing, the snow was very unsupportive. I had to give my snowshoes an extension of 5’, but even with the “tails”, I still sank in a lot which was much different than what I was expecting from the idea of “snowshoeing”. I thought I’d be floating on the surface but apparently not….

The clouds provided some awesome scenery in the morning. The peak is unnamed.

The clouds provided some awesome scenery in the morning. The peak is unnamed.

Eagle Mountain, aka. Goat's Eye Mountain

Eagle Mountain, aka. Goat’s Eye Mountain

Mount Assiniboine on left; Quartz Hill on right

Mount Assiniboine on left; Quartz Hill on right

Snowshoeing directly beneath Wawa Chair. Wasn't sunrise yet

Snowshoeing directly beneath Wawa Chair. Wasn’t sunrise yet

Sunrise time

Sunrise time

Mount Bourgeau

Mount Bourgeau

Now I was at the ski area boundary

Now I was at the ski area boundary

The view after crossing the ski area boundary

The view after crossing the ski area boundary

This will be my first objective, Twin Cairns

This will be my first objective, Twin Cairns

Instead of following the route described in Chic Scott’s Summits and Icefields, I chose to directly aim the northwest skyline ridge, then directly ascend the true summit. There was avalanche danger on one section. The book’s route is safer but longer. After gaining the final ridge, the wind became considerably stronger.

An interesting piece of cloud

An interesting piece of cloud

Panorama view from partway up

Panorama view from partway up

The low angled December sun

The low angled December sun

Once on the ridge it was a mix of snowshoeing and scrambling. I scrambled up to a small outlier first, which involved a moderate step. The traverse to true summit was more serious, since I had to cross a steep snow slope, followed by a narrow ridge with drop-off on one side and steep snow slope on the other side. It’s not too bad though, but since I wasn’t that experienced at that time, I felt a bit nervous. Approaching from south ridge (the normal route) will not give these problems. On the summit, I got a full panorama view towards each direction. Mt. Assniboine was do doubt the majectic one, so was Mt. Ball and The Monarch. To the south, Mount Bourgeau dominated the view.

I climbed up this outlier first

I climbed up this outlier first

A panorama view from the saddle

A panorama view from the saddle

Panorama view from the outlier

Panorama view from the outlier

The pointy peak on left is Split Peak

The pointy peak on left is Split Peak

Another panorama view. True summit is visible on right

Another panorama view. True summit is visible on right

Mount Ball

Mount Ball

Mount Brett

Mount Brett

Mount Assiniboine

Mount Assiniboine

Fatigue Mountain is the 3rd mountain from left

Fatigue Mountain is the 3rd mountain from left

Eagle Mountain

Eagle Mountain

Cascade Mountain

Cascade Mountain

Mount Bourgeau

Mount Bourgeau

It was windy and cold once I topped out on the ridge

It was windy and cold once I topped out on the ridge

Panorama of Sunshine area.

Panorama of Sunshine area.

Partial Summit Panorama. Note the low clouds

Partial Summit Panorama. Note the low clouds

The Monarch

The Monarch

Time to go down.

Time to go down.

Since it’s still pretty early, the day continued with an ascent of Wawa Ridge.

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