Helen Lake Trip Report - November 14th, 2016 - with video

Words By: Simon Coward

After a rocking start to the early (early) season, we have just endured a heat wave that basically nuked everything aside from the steepest of high elevation north faces.  With that we headed out with trepidation this past Monday Funday, figuring we may be in for a bit of suffering and had mentally prepared for a day of exploring and exercise.  As we headed further west however the scene became more and more wintry.  By Lake Louise the sun had also popped out, and the snow covered trees painted a very different picture than what we had left in Calgary 1.5 hours earlier.

So, with renewed vigor we drove north and settled on a trip up towards Helen Lake and Cirque peak.  There was about 5 - 10 cms of fresh in the carpark, though the lower (below) treeline elevations had received very little under their sheltered canopy.  The first climb up to the ridge top was pretty bare, with us walking much of the way.  Once we dropped into Helen Creek for the ascent proper we were greeted with more snow, though a largely unsupportive temperature crust which would only partially hold our weight.

After much grafting we attained the alpine and from then on it was a very different day!  A supportive crust (enough that you could walk on it without punching through) was buried between 10 and 20cms beneath the newly fallen (and wind transported) snow.  We found really great turns on a number of aspects (SE, W, E) at an elevation range of 2550m and 2300m.  Once below that the exit out of the creek could only be described as 'desperate survival skiing'.  I think to realistically head up this drainage and ski out the creek you want to be pretty comfortable at high speed, in gross unsupportive snow in tight trees with little snow cover (sounds delightful right??.. ha ha).  We also had a number of creek crossings throughout the day!

Overall and absolutely brilliant day in the mountains, it was still warm up high, but definitely had a look and feel of winter arriving soon!  It also looks like avalanche.ca have started to post bulletins with some regularity now.  Check them out as it looks like the alpine has received a whole bunch of snow with more on the way.  Looks like we are in a changing trend as far as stability goes!

We hope you enjoyed the video and happy shredding!