Wolverine Ridge And Purple Mound

On 21 January 2017, Zosia Zgolak and I ascended Wolverine Ridge and Purple Mound near Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta's Banff National Park.  Vern Dewit and others had ascended Wolverine Ridge the week before, and we hoped to take advantage of their broken trail as well as their conservative route selection since the avalanche danger was rated "Considerable" on this day.  After the usual preliminary grind up the ski-out to Temple Lodge, we very briefly continued along the trail to Skoki Lodge before turning off onto an obvious track heading steeply up to Wolverine Valley.  Somewhere in the valley, we inadvertently started following the tracks of a large group of skiers taking a more direct line up Wolverine Ridge than the one Vern describes.  We eventually caught up to this group just below tree line, and they appeared to be some sort of backcountry ski touring course.  While Zosia and I continued to ascend Wolverine Ridge, they turned around here and skied back down into the valley.  Above tree line, we climbed up a shallow bowl which had some potential to slide, but the snow pack felt very stable with no evidence of "whumphing" or settling.  Once on the ridge crest, we skied over the high point of Wolverine Ridge and continued to the northwest end where we took a well-deserved break.

During our break, we began eyeing the approach to Purple Mound via its northwest ridge and had some concerns about the steep slope just below the top.  Given how stable the snow had felt throughout our ascent of Wolverine Ridge, we felt that the questionable slope was worth risking a closer look.  After our break, we skied back along the length of Wolverine Ridge and dropped briefly into a dip before climbing up the broad northwest ridge of Purple Mound.  As we would learn, the upper slope is indeed steep, but again, the snow felt very stable with a thin layer of fresh powder overlying a bomb-proof hardpack.  I was already anticipating some nice ski turns even before we both reached the summit of Purple Mound.  Although Lipalian Mountain looked enticingly close, waning daylight precluded extending our trip, and we simply turned around and skied back down the northwest ridge.  Well before the dip, we veered to skier's right and coasted down gentle powder slopes into the heart of Wolverine Valley.  We eventually regained our up-track near the entrance to the valley, and after a brief but challenging descent through the trees, we turned west along the Skoki Lodge snowmobile track which took us back to the ski runs above Temple Lodge.  An ice flow across the ski-out on this day required some care to get by, but otherwise, our return to the parking lot was uneventful.

Zosia and I later met up with Aga Sokolowska and Daniel Dufresne at Melissa's Missteak in Banff townsite for dinner to cap off a thoroughly enjoyable day in the mountains.
Boy, I'm tired already after climbing up the Temple Fire Road! Zosia waits for a snowboarder to go by before traversing across a ski run above Temple Lodge.  Behind the ski run is Wolverine Ridge.
Ahhh...sunshine! Zosia enters Wolverine Valley with Unity Peak on the left.
I had some concerns about this slope, but the snow felt really stable. Zosia breaks trail on her way up Wolverine Ridge.
Wow. We couldn't have picked a better day to be up here!

Zosia gains the crest of Wolverine Ridge.

Just wanted to show off some "skin"! Sonny and Zosia balance on the high point of Wolverine Ridge (2429 metres).
How many peaks can you name? Most of the great peaks of the Lake Louise area are visible to the southwest.
Dreaming about Balfour... Notable peaks that are visible to the west include Mount Carnarvon, Mount Bosworth, Mount Niles, Mount Daly and Mount Balfour.

Hey, Snoopy!

Zosia continues skiing to the far end of Wolverine Ridge with Whitehorn and Mount Hector dominating the view to the northwest.


Richardson Ridge is something I would like to check out one of these days... Mount Richardson (centre) and Pika Peak (first bump to the right of Mount Richardson) round out the view to the north.
Great lunch spot! Zosia stops for a break near the far end of Wolverine Ridge.
Unity Peak apparently is named in honour of members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP. Now I wanna climb it! Zosia retraces her tracks along the top of Wolverine Ridge.  Unity Peak commands attention to the east.

My favourite view of the day.

Zosia begins to descend from the top of Wolverine Ridge and heads for the connecting ridge to Purple Mound (right).


Alpine touring at its finest! Zosia approaches the northwest ridge of Purple Mound.
I can't believe no one else is up here today! Sonny climbs up the northwest ridge of Purple Mound.  Visible behind Wolverine Ridge (left) are Whitehorn, Mount Hector, Mount Richardson, Pika Peak and Redoubt Mountain.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Heel lifts are your friends here! The slope gets steep higher up.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Skiing back down this is gonna be awesome! Zosia climbs up the steepest part of Purple Mound's northwest ridge.
Purple Mound is looking pretty white on this day... The angle of the slope finally relents near the top.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Where are your skis, Zosia??

Zosia takes the last few steps before the summit of Purple Mound.


Best ever birthday present: standing on a very scenic summit with my girlfriend! Sonny and Zosia stand on the summit of Purple Mound (2670 metres).
Just not enough hours of daylight at this time of year...but we'll be back! Lipalian Mountain is about a kilometre to the west.
I've got the orange pants, but I need an orange jacket before I can do the Pumpkin Traverse! Notable peaks to the northeast include Fossil Mountain, Unity Peak, Mount Douglas and Mount St. Bride.  Part of the route for the famed Pumpkin Traverse is also visible here (heading to right below the southeast slopes of Unity Peak).

Enough scenery! Let's strip off the skins and do some turns!

The spectacular cliffs of Protection Mountain dominate the view to the southeast.  Also visible on the horizon at far right is Mount Assiniboine.


I actually look like I know how to ski!

Sonny makes a few turns coming down from the top of Purple Mound.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak


Sick and tired of this amazing scenery yet? Zosia skis down the northwest ridge of Purple Mound and heads for the bowl at far right.
Look at all this untracked powder! The sun slowly disappears behind the ridge.
See you later, Wolverine Ridge! The whole of Wolverine Ridge can be seen to skier's left of the exit route taken by Zosia and Sonny.
Heavenly! Zosia glides down pristine powder.
See you at the parking lot! Zosia flies down the ski out late in the day.
Sto lat, sto lat, Niech żyje, żyje nam... Zosia and Aga are eager to try the Brownie Conspiracy at Melissa's Missteak.
A great end to a perfect birthday! Daniel helps celebrate Sonny's birthday.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

My favourite alpine ski tour so far! Total Distance:  17.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours 42 minutes
Net Elevation Gain to Wolverine Ridge:  727 metres
Net Elevation Gain to Purple Mound:  968 metres

GPX Data