Black Prince to Murray Creek: Alpine Touring in KCountry

Early January is not the usual time for doing this "complex" route, but the snowpack in the Canadian Rockies this year has been reasonably stable. So eight of us ventured from Black Prince, in Kananaskis Alberta, to try and do an alpine ski traverse over two high cols to Murray Creek, and back out to the Smith Dorrien road, where we left one of the vehicles. The route requires good visibility, and we had a bluebird day, albeit starting out cold (-21C). This route requires about 4000 feet of climbing on skis, and some steep descents.

Everybody in the group is experienced, and solid. Fortunately, we did not have to break trail, as there had been a party who did that work for us the previous day(?). That said, the track has some very steep switchbacks, requiring tricky kick turns, and contact of the climbing skins on the snow. Up higher, we found some sunshine, which is tough to encounter on these north slopes that are below huge headwalls. Lunch was in order! Soon after, we were looking down a very steep slope on the other side of the first col (Purple Knob). It's steep enough that it rolls out of sight, and all you see is the valley below.

Everybody skied the slope without incidence - it wasn't Hero snow! But we weren't worried about avalanches either. We dropped down about 1000 feet to the cirque below, and found an up-track to the next col. Climbing skins back on! Within an hour, we were on the second col (Hero's Knob) - climbing skins off! Again, a very steep descent - this time for a couple of thousand feet to the valley below. At this point, you follow a tricky route along a creek that is still managing to stay open in places. Very bad to fall in! At last, we reach the main valley creek where we have a narrow snow bridge that we built back in November. Everybody makes it back safely! Another great day in the Canadian Rockies!

For a short slide show: