Quartz Hill

In Chic Scott's guidebook, Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies, Quartz Hill in Alberta's Banff National Park is mentioned briefly as a challenging extension to the ski ascent of Quartz Ridge.  Zosia and I had previously skied up Quartz Ridge in 2016, but high avalanche danger that day precluded an attempt to climb Quartz Hill.  Avalanche danger was rated as low across the board on 31 March 2019 when Zosia and I returned for another go at Quartz Hill.  The climb up the ski-out to Sunshine Village was mundane as always, but once we left the resort near the top of Strawberry chairlift, we were once again enthralled with the sublime beauty of Sunshine Meadows.  We had a convenient ski track to follow most of the way up Quartz Ridge, and this part of the ascent went without a hitch.
Could probably do it in my sleep now... Sonny prepares to climb up Sunshine Village Ski Resort's ski out for the umpteenth time.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Two humps that always get me excited!

Quartz Hill (left) and Quartz Ridge (centre) look amazing as always from near the top of Strawberry chairlift.


Looks like a storm is coming...

Sonny follows an old track across Sunshine Meadows with Mount Bourgeau in the background at right.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Avalanche hazard was low across the board on this day. There has been some recent skier activity on Quartz Hill and Quartz Ridge.
Great for tobogganing! Zosia climbs up the broad northern aspect of Quartz Ridge.
Last time, Zosia skied up here with her light touring gear! Zosia reaches the summit of Quartz Ridge (2532 metres).
From the top of Quartz Ridge, we could see some old tracks going up Quartz Hill, and the steepness of the climb looked quite intimidating.  Zosia decided to forego the attempt on Quartz Hill, but she was willing to wait for me in the shelter of some rocks just below the top of Quartz Ridge.  I subsequently dropped down to a broad saddle and began climbing up the north ridge of Quartz Hill.  The increasing steepness soon prompted me to drop my skis and resort to boot-packing.  Initially, this worked out well as I followed the old tracks zigzagging up the steepest part of the ridge.  Unfortunately, I began encountering deeper and more unconsolidated snow higher up, and I started to flounder quite badly.  In hindsight, I should have kept my skis with me which would have alleviated much of my post-holing on the upper mountain.  After a lot of effort and swearing, I eventually muddled my way up past a false summit, and much to my relief, the short hike to the true summit was relatively painless.
This is a bit tricky to ski down with free heels and skins on. Zosia walks down the south side of Quartz Ridge but would soon stay put here to await Sonny's return from Quartz Hill.

I feel so small...

Sonny is well on his way to Quartz Hill.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak


It's a good thing the avalanche hazard was low! Floundering in deep snow, Sonny moves excruciatingly slowly up the ridge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Definitely somebody skied from the very top! The true summit is only a short distance beyond the false summit.
I'm the King of the World! Sonny stands on the summit of Quartz Hill (2569 metres).
Some very long days will be required to tag some of these summits... The view to the southeast includes Fatigue Mountain, Nasswald Peak, Golden Mountain and Citadel Peak.
A remote valley which I may never visit in my lifetime... Simpson River valley stretches out to the southwest.
It's high on my to-do list this year... The Monarch (right) remains the most prominent mountain to the west.
Doesn't "Sunshine Landing" have a nice ring to it? Mount Howard Douglas and Sunshine Landing are visible to the northeast.
How about "More Fatigue Mountain"?? The massive unnamed mountain to the east is considered an outlier of Fatigue Mountain (far right).
Once I took my requisite summit photos, I promptly retraced my steps back down the north ridge of Quartz Hill.  Of course, descending was a lot easier than ascending, but I regretted not skiing some of the really nice powder on the ridge.  After retrieving my skis, I skied across the saddle to reunite with Zosia, and together, we climbed back over the top of Quartz Ridge before skiing easily down to Sunshine Meadows.  I am always a little annoyed with the slight uphill climb to get back to the ski resort, but all is usually forgiven (or forgotten) once I am cruising blissfully down the ski-out.

Quartz Hill was the end of a fun but hectic 9.5-day spring break road trip for Zosia and me which saw us drive over 3100 kilometres, visit 3 US states, ski or hike up 6 mountains, and camp out of my car for 7 out of 9 nights.  For me, it felt really nice to sleep in the following morning before going back to work!
I'm still alive! Sonny emerges from behind the false summit on Quartz Hill.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

It's a real shame that I didn't ski back down this ridge. Here is a look at Quartz Ridge from the upper slopes of Quartz Hill.
It's not too difficult to skin up this slope, but boot-packing works too.

Zosia climbs back to the top of Quartz Ridge.

The snow was a bit too sticky for my liking, but it was skiable nonetheless.

Zosia enjoys a glorious run down the broad north side of Quartz Ridge.

Mostly corn snow skiing which is still better than icy tracks.

Zosia descends the deserted ski out late in the day.

A much more serious endeavour than ascending Quartz Ridge. Total Distance:  22.2 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  7 hours 47 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  977 metres

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