After wanting to for 3 years, I finally had a partner and the right ski conditions
to ski Surprise Pass near Lake Louise. May 12, 2012


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We had an early start (up at 5am) in order to beat the sun affecting our travel. It's much safer to
be traveling on exposed southern slopes earlier in the morning. Here is Louis getting his gear together
at the Lake Louise parking lot. Definitely more services at this trailhead than most.


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We were worried about having to hike extended sections due to a lack of snow. As you can see from
where Louis put his skins on, it's pretty much right outside the car. That's the Chateau Lake Louise
behind Louis.


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The trail starts at a reasonable pace and makes its way aroudn Fairview Mountain. Here's Louis
enjoying some morning sun.


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These are some of the south-facing slide paths that can pull out with wet slides.


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Louis caught me mid-stride with Saddleback Mountain to my left. That line looks pretty sweet,
but it's also a little committing.


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A bit better shot of Saddleback Mountain showing the slope we thought was cool.


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The entire day, I only had my soft shell on for the first 10 minutes and then skiing down the Pass.
A pretty warm spring day for sure.


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This is the big open field of snow you can see from the Trans Canada Highway. It sits in between
Fairview and Saddleback and I'm pointing out the slope that's skiable on Fairview Mountain.


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Here's Louis with the tracks on Fairview behind him.


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We got really nice views of both Mt Sheol and Mt Haddo from the saddle.

Video of the area around the saddle



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Both Louis and I thought Mt Sheol looked pretty sweet with this huge triangle-looking chunk
of rock on the left side and some decent ice flow on the bottom right.


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Louis and some larch trees on the way up to Surprise Pass.


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We weren't completely sure which couloir to skin up so we trolled around a little bit to assess the
area. It was not this couloir.


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Here's Louis skinning up a little knoll with some debris on top of it to the right.


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We skinned up a little further into the Upper Sheol Valley. The glacier to Louis' right looked
a little older and a little beat up. It likely won't be around much longer.


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Here I am looking back the way we came.


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I thought this glacier still looked cool, even if it was old. Maybe it's a 'cougar' glacier.


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Once we found the appropriate couloir, it was quite obvious that it was the right one. The 'Surprise'
bit of this ski is the fact that you don't see this couloir until you're almost past it. Louis really
wanted to try out his rental crampons with his ski boots. We could have likely kicked boot steps into
the sun-exposed area, but we decided to use our ice axes (too short) and our crampons (worked fine).


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We approximated the angle here at 40 degrees up the couloir to the Surprise Pass.

Video of Louis using his crampons to get up Surprise Pass



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Here's Louis at the top of Surprise Pass.

Video of Louis at the top of Surprise Pass



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I really like this photo. This is also at the top of Surprise Pass. It wasn't a hard ski approach
but you still always feel satisfied when you reach your goal.


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I think Surprise Pass is really strong!


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This is also a cool shot looking across the valley from Surprise Pass.


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Louis and I and the upper Sheol Glacier (or possibly Haddo) from the top of Surprise Pass.
We waited around at the top waiting for the snow to soften up a little while we had lunch.


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Looking down from Surprise Pass, you can see our matching boots and crampons. Louis dug out
a bench for us to chill out and wait for the sun to affect the top of the snowpack.


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Here is Louis skiing the top bit. It wasn't that terrific for the first few turns but it softened
up and was actually quite skiable the rest of the way down.

Video of Louis enjoying some spring skiing


Video of me skiing Surprise Pass



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Here I am pointing the way to Surprise Pass. We decided not to ski down skier's right even though
there were old tracks here. Good thing - it cliffed out and looked terrible from the bottom.


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Here is all 700 vertical metres of Surprise Pass from the lake.


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Louis said that the snow quality far exceeded what he was expecting. Me too dude. A good day all around!

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