20170529: Junction of the Arctic and Great Divides (Snow Dome, Icefields Parkway)

“Snow Dome isn’t a sexy peak…” – Steven Song (stevensong.com)

“Glacier-topped Mount Snow Dome is an 11,000-foot limestone-and-shale summit in the Canadian Rockies. With its four glaciers, the peak is quite picturesque, but to hydrologists—students of Earth’s water—it is more than that. It is unique. Snow Dome is more than 500 miles from the nearest ocean, but the weather at its peak can affect any of three different oceans… For a snowflake drifting down onto Snow Dome, three destinies are possible.” – Ken Jennings, Jeopardy champ

It’s a 28km round trip to the summit. “A long ways on snowshoes,” Gerry said.

Gerry, Stasys, Bert, and I started off on a searingly hot Saturday at mid-morning from the Icefield Parkway Visitor Center. Bert, who often becomes visibly impatient with mass migration of tourists, remarkably held it together as we hiked up to the toe of the glacier.

We soon passed the turnoff where visitors embarking on glacier tours would typically board the snow coaches. We were soon up the first icefall. A bit of navigation by trial and error, some rest breaks, and we were across and over the second icefall as well. Serac debris thundered down as we snowshoed up a snow ramp.

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Mount Snow Dome also marks the border between the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, and the boundary between Jasper and Banff National Parks. We camped on the BC side of the Great Divide (~9km from trailhead at ~3000m). The boys were tired so guess who it fell to, to shovel snow, set up camp, and cook.  😉

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We fell asleep pretty quickly, slept well, and were ready to go at 5:30am to tackle the summit only 4km away. A simple walk up on a day with little wind, and there we were. One crack we steered clear of, but nothing else appeared problematic. The sunrise heralded another hot day. Sunscreen? Oh yes.

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On the way down we retraced our steps; the snow bridges were softening and the seracs were making themselves audible. My back was starting to hurt, probably from all the bending required to break down camp.

I’ll call our descent a snow-ski as we slid with each step. We made quick work of the rest of the walk out.

All in all, a super trip with great company.

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